Tuesday, March 27, 2018

Writing on the Deck (is Exactly the Right Thing Right Now)

I discovered today, as I was ending my work day, that someone I knew and admired in my old town of Altadena died last night. She hadn't been public about her cancer, but I also hadn't been nearby enough to know what was going on. And then, this afternoon, I heard. I told my friend and coworker, then went to my office and cried for a while.

She and I weren't close; when we first met, I wasn't sure that she even liked me because I was giggly to her deadpan, diplomatic to her "French slip." But, after time I learned—that was just her way. I could tell you a lot about her because she told a lot about herself as she was an incredible story-teller, but I'll tell you one main claim, and in my writing-teacher way, back it up with facts.

She did whatever the fuck she wanted.

She quit the regular workday early and sold enough of what she had acquired to live; she bought a house that made her spine sing; she worked as a race horse exercise rider; she learned to fly a plane; she rode her own horse deep into the mountains where her horse once (or thrice) threw her and she bled alone on the rocks; she loved more than a few men; she made animals her family; she built a garden, tore up the garden, and rebuilt the garden; she walked a lot because she wanted to, not because she needed to (or maybe her body and mind needed to—about that I don't know); she wrote what she wanted when she wanted and sometimes did it for money; she jumped on a trampoline once with me at a party, holding on to my hand, laughing with me, laughing, laughing, laughing until I peed a little from laughing and jumping so hard and we laughed and jumped some more.

She was not generous with her praise, but she gave me two compliments I'll always remember. Those are mine, not to share.

Now I'm crying some more.

But, now it's time for me to take her lessons and use them. I'm doing two things.

First, I'm sitting in the evening sun and wind on the deck of the house that made my own spine sing the first time I met it, drinking a G&T with a splash of St. Germain (because elderflower always reminds me of the canyons in which she and I both spent so much time walking), and trying to remember everything I know about her.

Second, and she'd wholeheartedly approve of this, because she loved her garden and her garden was one of the many ways she and I were connected, I am finally doing something I've wanted to do since I've moved here. I'm building my gardening community. In Altadena, both my friend and I participated enthusiastically in a monthly produce bounty-swap from our generous Southern California gardens. The community that resulted became deeply interwoven into my daily life. Through it, I taught a lot, learned even more, and built a network of neighbors who became both friends and community grocery store. I've missed that collection of people terribly since moving a few years ago.

For the past few months, I've noticed members on my neighborhood digital bulletin board asking gardening questions and wondering what to do with their excess lemons. Tonight, I did what I had been meaning to for a while. There's no time to put off that which is good. On the network, I created a monthly garden meet up in the neighborhood park, where we can share our questions and answers, our excess produce, our successes and failures, and most importantly, our stories, because swapping stories is what glues a community.

Oh woman. I'm going to miss those stories.


Terry said...

Christina, Marion and I didn't get to know her nearly as well as you did. We only connected through the written word. But we knew her to be smart, funny, sarcastic, independent, loving and full of life. We are stricken by the sudden loss of this wonderful person we just assumed we would meet one day. Thank you for this beautiful tribute.

Unknown said...

So sorry for the loss of your special friend. So glad you had someone so unique to add a little more sparkle to your life! Love your post, I felt like I was enjoying those Altadena moments with you. Can’t wait to hear more about you becoming the doyenne of your new gardening community. Your friend would smile upon your journey!

HooplaEmporium@blogspot.com said...

Such a loss for all of us. Hugs, Christina.

Karen said...

Thank you for the beautiful summation of her life. Yes, she did exactly what she wanted. Which is some comfort as her friends try to process what happened over the last several months and why none of us knew what was going on. That’s the way she wanted it - obviously. A group of us raised our glasses to her last night and will continue to talk about a more lasting memorial to her.

TheChieftess said...

This is such a lovely tribute to her....

Ann Erdman said...

Thank you so much for this. Like you, the rest of us who knew and loved Karin are nonplussed by the news of her passing and know the world, through our humble lenses, is a different place without her presence in it.

Petrea Burchard said...

Thanks for this, Christina. At last I am inspired thanks to Karin, to do whatever the fuck I want. I hope I remember it when the grief softens. Now, I want to grieve. I also want to spend time with friends, walk the trails I love, smell good things, and be happy.

Last night Linda told us the trampoline story. What a great story.

Christina said...

Sorry for my delay in responding--I've been traveling. To everyone who posted here (and those who were more private), thank you. To those of you who knew her, may you find peace in your grief. I'm so glad we all knew her.