Remembering a friend

Sitting in the stuffed, upholstered chair that I grew up in, reading now as I did as a child, curled up in the chair, I am sad that my parents are gone, but pleased to have rescued this chair from my childhood. I had it repaired and recovered a few years ago by a skilled friend.

I’m reading a book by Jhumpa Lahiri, one of my favorite authors. It’s called a novel, yet each very brief chapter reads like a short story, expressing some feeling, regret or self-deprecation, occasionally delight at a landscape or neighborhood, or an interaction with a stranger. I’m inspired by her voice, introverted and insightful, by the way she looks around at her world and how her writing reflects her inner self. I pause to look outside the big windows on either side of my house, visible from my perch.

I walked by the lake this morning while the sun warmed the air, but it’s chilly now. A breeze is blowing, clouds are gathering, an afternoon shower probably on the way. The leaves of the quaking aspen that surround my house tremble; it’s mesmerizing to watch. Lean and graceful, white bark glowing in the waning light marked with black lines that sometimes look like eyes, slender branches reach out into the yard and the cool air, as if pointing or gesturing. The evergreen tree that graces the window over my desk is also moving, brown and black mottled trunk motionless, with long branches of green needles bowing up and down. There are no birds or squirrels in the trees right now. It’s quiet but not still.

A dear friend passed away last week, fading slowly with Alzheimer’s, interacting with the world and the people in it less and less. My father suffered from the same disease and I watched its slow progression change him. Barbara was a vibrant person, vivacious, irreverent, creative, an artist. One of her paintings hangs on my wall. Her clothing was as colorful as her personality: black jeans and tops with a dazzling splash of a scarf of many hues, handmade beaded earrings dangling, boots below and spiky blond curls above, red leather gloves in winter (she had many pairs). I befriended her after her husband died, soon after mine had passed. I had met her and her charming historian husband at a gathering in my town, and asked if I could visit her, feeling that we had much in common.

Besides being a fun-loving friend, she was my art mentor. Her artist’s sense guided me when I worked on my digitally altered photographs (Altered Landscapes) to prepare them for my first juried show submission (I had two accepted in the exhibit). She knew everyone in the art scene in her hometown of Fort Collins, where she had taught at the university; we’d pop into shops and studios to see their work. And wandering the galleries of Taos with her was to see it through new eyes.

The last time I saw Barbara, pre-covid, I went to her town to visit, a two-hour drive from my home, and took her out to the funky, off-beat eating joint near her house we had been to many times before, giving her in-home care aide a break. The first time she brought me there, a swing band was playing and we danced along with a dance club; we were the only ones who didn’t quite know what we were doing but it didn’t matter. We usually walked the few residential blocks, chatting along the way, but this time I drove, fearing that the disorientation would be unpleasant for her and unsure of her physical stamina.

At a bare wooden table by a window, I ordered my usual grilled ahi tuna soft taco while she looked over the menu, bewildered. “I’ll have the same,” she declared, confident that whatever I chose would be all right. She asked me the same questions many times. I gladly answered, describing the daily doings of my life at a time when she rarely left the house. And we laughed and laughed, happy to share each other’s company, even though nothing was all that funny.

Nestled in my reading chair, watching the trees dance, I’m reminded of a poem I wrote when I stayed at her house once. She had a cozy second home in my mountain town, and generously invited me to use it whenever I was back for brief visits while teaching abroad.

Barbara’s window

two stand together
branches entwined as if
holding hands

he tall dark sturdy trunk
needles sharp and straight
she pale white barked
round fragile leaves
dancing in the wind
gracefully bowing branches
in rhythm

he will stand guard for her
covered in heavy snow
while she sheds her tresses
and sleeps naked
to regenerate with bright green
energy to perform again

Out my window

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Published by rkrontheroad

Writer, photographer, traveler

55 thoughts on “Remembering a friend

  1. So sorry…. loosing a special friend is always hard. My sincerest condolences and I wish you a lot of strength in this difficult period. Your friend will live on in your heart forever.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. My deepest condolences to you, Ruth. Having lost several loved ones within the past two years (one due to COVID), I can imagine that a day goes by without thinking of them. Remembering the good moments spent with them, as well as their character and life lived, can be a meditative experience, to think back on fondly– and to heal. Here’s to a happy, fulfilling life– I’m sure they would want that for you.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thank you for these lovely thoughts, Rebecca. My warmest sympathies go out to you for your recent loss as well. I am no stranger to loss, although it has been many years since the hardest ones. Wishing you well as you continue on through your own journey.

      Liked by 1 person

  3. I’m so sorry for the loss of your friend and to such a horrible illness too (my mother had it, I know how tough it is). Your poem, and this post, are both wonderful tributes to her.

    Liked by 1 person

  4. Ruth, your writing is magnificent. I so love the way you paint images with your words and explore human feelings so beautifully. I too lost a dear friend in July so your thoughts were a treasure. Our friends will continue to wrap us in their memories. Stay well.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Good to hear from you, Bonnie! And thanks so much for your kind comments. Sorry that you have lost a friend recently, they are so precious and will live on as we remember them. Take care.

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  5. What a lovely memorial to your friend. Your last day together was full of joy. I have a friend who no longer remembers me and I can’t visit. My mother in law had a long journey with Alzheimer’s disease that we struggled to deal with living thousands of miles away. Eventually she no longer truly recognized me, either, but her care staff looked after her with love and respect.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. It’s such a difficult progression. Perhaps it was best that I couldn’t visit in her later days. I had moved my parents to a care center in Colorado from the east coast, which made it easier to be there for them. My father slowly lost his speech and recognition, but oddly not his sense of humor. He seemed in good spirits, so the visits were pleasant in spite of it all. We do what we can. Thanks, Kerry, for sharing your experience.

      Liked by 1 person

  6. This is such a heartfelt post i cannot really take all these emotions in. I actually did not even fathom the way this post started, took me in. May be i will read Jhumpa someday, fellow Indian, heard a lot about her words. but here Ruth, sending you my care and love however in whatever form may reach you.

    Barabara’s brief account is moving and very emotional. Beautiful images.

    Thank you for sharing this
    Nara x

    Liked by 1 person

  7. How moving Ruth. I’m so sorry for your loss, but glad to have learned about your friendship with Barbara. I hope one day, if I ever get a permanent place of my own, that I could fashion such a space, sit in such a chair and enjoy such a view. The poem is wonderful: elegant, dignified and melancholy, all at the same time. Take care.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Leighton, I so appreciate your thoughtful message. Do you imagine settling down somewhere? I hope you will find another opportunity to teach remotely for now. I seldom write poetry but I’m occasionally moved to do so. This was one of those moments. Warm thanks to you.

      Liked by 1 person

      1. Maybe one day Ruth, if we can find the right place. I figure 1-2 more years of vagabonding and it’ll be time to lay down roots. Currently we are launching our own teaching business, so hopefully that will provide long term stability on the work front.

        Liked by 1 person

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