The color purple & organic friendship

by stacy on December 7, 2010

In the last week, I have lost two dear friends.  One an old-family friend the other a writing friend.  The writer, Susanna, had been sick for 4 years.  Richard, the old-family friend had a stroke and died within a month of complications.  Tonight I lift my pen (or keyboard) for both of them.  My writing buddy loved the color purple, purple shoes, purple jackets, purple caftans, purple hats, purple beads, and so on.  I hasten to add that her purple was a dignified purple that looked stunning against her dark brown skin.

One of our friends called Susanna, Ms Purple.  Susanna had an unusual gift for going deep with people quickly or not really going at all.  In the two years that I knew her, I felt like I had known her forever.  What is it about some relationships that grow sturdy, and others that stay thin and on the surface forever?  When she died a week ago Saturday,  I decided that the color purple would serve as a reminder of her.  Purple would be a talisman.  I see purple everywhere, even when I’m not specifically looking for Susanna, I see her.

My friend Richard died last night at age 77.  I didn’t expect him to go.  I expected a long and winding recovery that would leave him a little slower, but with the vigor and strength he had even after fighting cancer.

I imagined that my family and I would go to visit him next summer on his family farm in Napavine.   We’d  take the kids to see what you can do when you put your hands in the ground.  We’d take them to eat corn fresh and warm from his garden.  I believe that he grew ‘honey and pearl’.

Richard was the first one I knew to talk about organic farming.  He started, I believe, in the early 70’s.  I remember learning about his ducks that he used to fertilize his garden.  Their job was to control the slugs that could decimate the garden.  I learned about garden rotation.  I learned that he favored turkey manure over chicken manure for its nitrogen content.  I learned that corn could be a lot sweeter than anything that I had from a grocery store, at least in the 70’s and 80’s.

In the 90’s he won an award for sustainable tree farming from the Washington State Tree Farmer’s Association.  I still have an article about the award ceremony and the speech he gave upon acceptance in my files.  I need to reread it.  He was ahead of his time in just about everything environmental.   I credit him with opening my eyes to a concern that was no more on my radar than football is now.  (Doubtful that football will ever be on my radar.)   When I found Rachel Carson, and her book,  Silent Spring, the book that Monsanto wrote a parody of entitled, A Desolate Year, I called Richard.

Just the other day, I made a note to myself in my journal to ask Richard about genetically modified corn.  Is there any corn left that is not GMO?  Is it true that farmers are breaking the law if they plant seed that is not licensed by Monsanto.  What about the seeds that we buy to plant in our gardens. I also wanted to ask him what kind of apple tree to plant in our yard on Camano Island.  What will grow close to salt water? I’m not sure whom I’ll ask now.  Maybe my friend Yen in Hawaii.

Richard I will see every time I eat an apple or apple pie, go to a farmer’s market, eat garden fresh produce, look through seed catalogues, walk over a nurse log on a hike, or see a slug eating a strawberry in my patch.

Gone does not have to mean lost and certainly not forgotten.

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