Wednesday, July 6, 2016

Back in Sointula

Wendy's cottage at sunset

I am back in my summer residence in Sointula, this time for July and August. It is comforting to look out at the same scenes, to see many familiar faces, to be greeted by so many people with "You're back!" I have brought with me a great stack of books on Goethe -- the airline charged me a big sum and attached a tag to my suitcase reading "Heavy." The one thing I forgot was the cable that links my camera to my laptop, so I am unable to download the photos I took on the way here, in Vancouver. This morning, however, I discovered that I can take photos on my iTouch and download them. So, herewith a few new photos from today.

Wendy (right) at Salmon Days 2013
One of the biggest changes in the past year has been the death of my neighbor Wendy Case, whose beautiful cottage is just below my own. Our first encounter was in 2013, when I attended the “Culture Shock” conference in Sointula, at which I was a speaker. The day before I was to return to New York, Heather Graham and I went to say hello to an attendee at the conference who was staying in the “Big Rock” cottage adjacent to Wendy’s house. It was that visit that inspired me to return again to Sointula the following year — and the year after that and now this summer as well.

Big Rock cottage
 When I later took up residence in Big Rock cottage, I would work at the table at which Wendy sat that first morning and from which I could look out the window at her house. Although the idea to return the following year was hatched at that moment of our first meeting, I did not anticipate the role that  Wendy’s presence would play in my life in Sointula.

I last saw Wendy in early September of 2015. As at my departure the previous year, Wendy invited me for a farewell dinner. Heather was also present, and we all agreed that we should make the farewell dinner an annual event. Little did we imagine that would not be the case, and I was shocked when I learned in January that she was sick and, then, of her quick passing from our lives.

Her cottage is for sale, but so far no one is in evidence. I went down to her garden this morning and cut some flowers, but this year there will be none of the vegetable bounty that I enjoyed in recent summers. Wendy was always generous and ready to be helpful. She had an inquiring mind and loved to discuss things. But it was her person that attracted me. And, although in the meantime something similar has been replayed in my experience in Sointula, the house she built and her beautifully cultivated garden were analogous to the devotion and care by which we also maintain friendships and love. Wendy radiated these qualities. I was privileged to live within the ambit of her aura, if only for a short time.

So, now I begin work anew without her lovely presence nearby.

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