Love Letters on Actual Leaves

rebellious old ladies and an escape to Iceland

ROCK PAPER RADIO is a dispatch for misfits & unlikely optimists by your favorite hapa haole, beet-pickling, public radio nerd. It’s a weekly email newsletter that shares three curiosities every Thursday - something to hold on to (that’s the ‘rock’), something to read (that’s the ‘paper‘), and something to listen to (you guessed it, that’s the ‘radio’). Themes include but are not limited to: rebel violinists, immortal jellyfish, revolution. Thanks for subscribing and spreading the word.


Climate change has come for Texas, the United States of America has confirmed that insurrection is within the rights of presidents, and Valentine’s Day came and went and we still have no explanation as to how Gwen Stefani and Blake Shelton’s love bloomed against all odds and logic.

If you’re still making your way through that box of Russell Stover’s, I have good news - over here at ROCK PAPER RADIO unexpected romance is celebrated year-round and I have a story for you. From KUOW’s RadioActive, here’s a 17-minute ode to secret-spilling elders and love in lockdown by youth producer Diego Villarroel: My grandma’s first kiss happened in a Chilean prison. If you want to get right to it, I recommend skipping ahead to the 3.50 mark.

Spoiler alert: Diego’s grandma and her imprisoned beloved WROTE LOVE LETTERS TO EACH OTHER ON ACTUAL LEAVES that they exchanged through the bars of his cell. What?! Is this some kind of real life Gabriel Garcia Márquez novel?!? YES IT IS. And guess what else - she still has those love letters and she reads from them in this piece and now we’re all dead.


If approaching the one-year mark of Covid isolation has you feeling a bit exasperated with meal prep, couch sitting, and homework helping, you’re not alone.

In Rain Shadows from The Sun Magazine, Steve Edwards offers us a sweet and sad glimpse into his family life in quarantine. The essay opens and closes with a heartbreaking but human disclosure from his young son, and then throughout there’s the author’s own reckoning with how much he can endure as a person and as a parent. There’s also rose water. And lying down in a storm.

By the last lines, I was flooded with nostalgia—both for my own son’s babyhood and also for this slowed down pandemic present, both of which were/are utterly overwhelming and unexpectedly beautiful. Enjoy.


I recently learned that a friend that I deeply admire is embarking on a significant shift. After realizing that work she’s poured her huge heart into for the last fifteen years is no longer serving her, she’s made the terrifying and exciting decision to pivot.

Restless lifelong learners are absolutely ROCK PAPER RADIO’s people, and so this gorgeous photo essay is for her and all of us: Monitoring the Weather at the Edge of the World by Marzena Skubatz for the New York Times.

In 2012 Skubatz had just wrapped up her photography studies in Germany and decided she needed a change. After reading a one-sentence call for help at a weather station and sheep farm in Iceland, she decided, hey, why not.

Skubatz’s staggering images are the star of this story, but watch out, because her words are like a quietly mighty poem that could lead to a rewrite of all of your exactly mapped out plans.



That’s a wrap for issue 29, friends. Thanks for listening/reading/holding on. And thanks for spreading the word about our misfit dispatch and forwarding our newsletter onto your curious crew members! Every time I see your social shout outs and thoughtful notes my unlikely optimism swells. Thank you, thank you, thank you.

And just FYI, if you missed my KUOW YouTube conversation that I was crowing about last week on Asian erasure/“bisexual people of color”/my family’s parking management company, you can check it out here.

See you next Thursday.


You can find ROCK PAPER RADIO on Instagram and Twitter @RockPaperRadio. You can help spread the word about our community of misfits and unlikely optimists by sharing this issue on the social medias with a comment that says HOW TO WRITE LOVE LETTERS AND MOVE TO ICELAND. Or something like that.