born January 28, 1985
Dear Friend of MEF,

This birthday newsletter shares some memories of Michelle from those who knew her. It is by no means conclusive. The idea of sharing memories came late to the publication deadline, so anyone wishing to contribute now or later may do so by writing to info@michellesearth.org or replying to this email. Your memory will appear in a subsequent newsletter. Your thought does
not need to be a literary masterpiece, just from the heart. Special thanks to all those who participated or who will participate.
I remember a particular ski trip I took with Michelle.  We were riding the lift together and I was commenting on some skiers and snowboarders who were ruining the snow for everyone else, sliding sideways all the way down the slope and pushing all the fresh, good snow with them to the bottom of the hill.  I was pretty perturbed and showing it.  Michelle simply laughed at me and told me to calm down, be patient.  I remember her laugh and the calmness in her demeanor.  She couldn't figure out why I was getting so worked up.  She was such a kind, forgiving person.  I still remember the look she was giving me - she couldn't believe how impatient and irritated I was...she thought it was hilarious and couldn't stop laughing!

- Paul, Michelle's brother
I can't pick just one memory of Michelle.  I have many happy ones--sitting at Java Shack for hours on sunny afternoons, wandering around looking for some kind of inspiration for our photos for Joan's photography class, thrift store shopping, eating food that she hoped was vegan but was so tasty that she didn't want to double check, or driving downtown on an adventure of some kind or another.  All of those memories include Michelle's fabulous laugh, which I like to remember not just on her birthday, but all the time.

- Georgeanne
There was a stand of bamboo in Michelle's back yard. It was on a hill and grew very thickly except in the center where it was open. This magical opening became a playhouse and a place for picnics in the bamboo forest. Up through elementary school Michelle and friends covered the ground with blankets, pots and pans, magnifying glasses, trowels, books and art materials. In the winter she marveled at each snow covered leaf bending under its weight. I loved to see her playing there and sometimes joined in. These were very special moments.

- Diane Gardner-Quinn, Michelle's mom
It's the blank pages I remember, awaiting the words Michelle wrote from her heart so eloquently -  "This I Believe" being one example. Michelle and Ian were at our home in Falls Church, VA In mid-August 2006. Her last weekend in Virginia before leaving for Vermont.  They were making 'paper.' Hand made paper they inserted into old book covers to hold  the written expression of their dreams. So much happy, innocent anticipation, living in the moment, looking forward to the future. Michelle left with blank pages - pages intended to share. Times shared only in parallel universes. From here to you - Happy Birthday, Michelle!  

- Gail Fendley
It is hard to surrender to the world the subtle intimate moments Michelle and I shared, and probably harder still to take them in as an outsider, because they were personal, special, mine and hers. The world wants to know what made Michelle beautiful to the world, but all of my fondest memories are wrapped in nuance and shared glimpses into the best sort of void, in short, what made Michelle beautiful to me. It is us collapsed in a hotel hallway. It is leaving Richmond for a weekend, exchanging a knowing and perfect glance, each with dark sunglasses on. It is me sitting on the couch, staring at the opening DVD screen for a Harry Potter long after the movie has ended, because Michelle is sleeping on my lap and I don't want to wake her. It's just staring into her smiling eyes. It's us trying to gather the mutual courage to grab our laundry a quarter mile away in the deep midnight dark of Prince William Forest Park. It is us finding the courage to move together apart time and again since long before we were 'together', and after as well. It is every memory of every courageous change she chose to make in her life, and all the things she managed to fit into it, a memory of the humble pride it brought me to be one of those things. I cannot pretend that the memories of losing her aren't often the strongest, but when I think of Michelle, always, I see only her smiling face staring into mine, giving me her courage and reminding me of what is possible, no matter how dark the night.

- Ian
When I think of Michelle and our many years of friendship, the image that comes immediately to mind is that of her warm smile and infectious laugh, often accompanied by a crinkle in her nose and joyful throwing back of her head as she laughed. Michelle was one of the most fun and free-spirited people I've been privileged to know, and she always knew how to make others feel at ease. Somehow she seamlessly married this playfulness with a wisdom and insight beyond her years, which is something I still reflect upon and admire today.

One of my favorite memories that illustrates this playfulness-plus-wisdom trait she so gracefully embodied is from a trip we took together to Busch Gardens in seventh grade. We had just gotten onto a ride neither of us had ever ridden before, in which we would spend some amount of time suspended upside-down (the Pirate Ship for those of you familiar), and we were both admittedly a little nervous. We sat next to a fifth grader who bragged that he'd been on the ride a million times and that it wasn't a big deal. He made fun of our nervousness, making me even more anxious and self-conscious. Michelle, without missing a beat, turned to me and said, "Well you know what we're gonna do now? We're going to sing Old McDonald Had a Farm, and everything's going to be just fine." When I hesitated at first, simultaneously confused about why we would do that, and embarrassed to sing a children's song like that in front of this other child, she said, "Who cares? It's fun!" and laughed her signature laugh. That's all it took for me to start singing along with her, just as the ride started to get going. By the time it got to the upside-down part, we were both laughing so hard that we had forgotten what we were even worried about in the first place. The upside-down part, it turned out, was a piece of cake. Of course, we then rode that same ride several more times, just for good measure.

Though I may not have realized the profundity of her lesson to me that day right then and there - being simply caught up in my own joy and newfound freedom from fear - I now look back with such fondness at the deeper messages in her reaction that day. She showed me a way not to react to others' taunts with fear or retaliation, but instead to turn to yourself and do something that lifts you up, without worrying what others may think of it. She showed me how to face a fear through playfulness and positivity. She led by example, always in kindness and fun. I am eternally grateful for the many times she comforted and lifted my spirits back then, and for the way she continues to inspire so many of us today in our treatment of the earth and all within it. Thank you for teaching us, Michelle. I love you.

W e have not forgotten our friendship with Michelle, and she continues to inspire us to this day. Julia and I have continued a tradition of meeting up at Michelle's tree at Slade when we find ourselves in Burlington at the same time - we actually did this when I was visiting VT in September. Also, when Julia, Kate, and I find ourselves in Vermont at the same time we always make an effort to take a hike in honor of Michelle and the amazing time we all had together on transfer trek. I feel so lucky to be able to pass on all the positive energy she gave to the world.

Here are two of my favorite memories:

When we were on transfer trek, it rained with no breaks for about 5 of the 6 days we were hiking through the Green Mountains - nothing would dry out and it ended up being kind of hilarious how soaked and miserable we were, which ended up being awesome because it brought us all closer together. Anyway, I have this distinct memory of watching Julia and Michelle during the decent from the summit of Mt. Mansfield, both soaked to the bone in their rain gear, giving up on going down the mountain with any grace because it was so slippery... Michelle was just laughing so hard while both of them were getting covered in mud, sliding on their butts down all the rock faces along the trail.

Then I remember walking over to Williams Hall to say hello. And I just remember her getting excited when she saw me and gave me the best hug ever, which was so simple but great. I just remember thinking she was all-around awesome and being thankful that she was my friend.

- Hannah
I met Michelle one time, and I will never forget it. I had heard so much about her from John-Charles and seen many pictures, and felt like I already knew her. J-C used to say that we were cut from the same cloth, and with me being ten years older, that he could picture in me how she would grow up. I was taking guitar lessons in Arlington, and one day on my way out, Michelle and John-Charles walked in. My jaw dropped. I had no idea that she took guitar lessons, but with all of our similarities, it was so perfect, I laughed out loud. She was adorable with her hair in two low pigtails, and she acted surprisingly shy. And those eyes. She had the brightest, most expressive eyes. I just remember walking out of there and thinking if I reminded someone of that incredible girl, that was a huge compliment.

- Christine
I have vivid memories of Michelle, as I had multiple opportunities to observe and work with her. 

Caving: Michelle was very athletic, but in a cave, her athleticism showcased her fearlessness. She moved around the caves with an agility and intrepidity that amazed me. She made it seem that climbing over boulders and squeezing through incredibly small openings were the most natural actions that a person could do.

A larger view: My memory is that Michelle spent time overseas. This engagement with others in other countries had a counterpart in the classroom. She was always willing to work with anyone in the class and other students admired Michelle's ability to energize a group and motivate it to do quality work.

AP English 11: In the AP English classroom her reading and writing skills were proficient. Her expository style was clear and mature. This was most evident in her work on the Primary Source Paper Project. Over many months, she read the works of Joyce Carol Oates and wrote journal entries reflecting on what she had read. The journal entries revealed an intellect fully engaged with both Oates' style and themes. Her final three-thousand-word paper lived up to the expectations created by her journal entries.

Michelle: intelligent, athletic, intrepid, joyous. I feel blessed to have known her.

- Michelle's former H-B teacher Randy McKnight
Thank You
Thank you for giving me life,
Thank you for nursing me,
Thank you for watching me grow,
Thank you for being there,
Thank you for your support,
Thank you for guiding me,
Thank you for being my light,
Thank you for your love,
Thank you.
Happy Valentine's Day,