in memory of Helen Gee 1950 – 2012
They came in the night on the solstice eve and a waxing moon. Three trumpeting blossoms of translucent white announcing inner fragrant cores of several hundred pale yellow green stems of fertility doing their best to entice any passing moth into their inner sanctums of arousal.
On this same night I received a phone call telling of a friend’s passing away. Waking to these cactus flowers eased the sorrow of the loss of such a passionate and constant environmental activist, artist and writer.
Not for a moment do I believe that Helen’s death had anything to do with the cactus’s exquisite blossoming, but the synchronistic aspect of the timing did bring a smile to my heart. It reaffirmed for me that despite the fragility of “all” life on earth from the smallest to the largest; that despite whether one’s cycle of birth through to death is a brief two days (as were the cactus flowers) or a longer life span of 62 years, each and everyone of us has the potential for being beautiful. The flowers do it easily.
Helen Gee did it easily.
I stalked her
in the grocery store: her crown
of snowy braids held in place by a great silver clip,
her erect bearing, radiating tenderness, watching
the way she placed yogurt and avocados in her basket,
beaming peace like the North Star.
I wanted to ask, “What aisle did you find
your serenity in, do you know
how to be married for fifty years or how to live alone,
excuse me for interrupting, but you seem to possess
some knowledge that makes the earth turn and burn on its axis—”
But we don’t request such things from strangers
nowadays. So I said, “I love your hair.”
We honour best those we love (and secretly admire) by carrying on with their work — which is now our work — of creating a thriving community of happy people gainfully employed, tolerant of each other’s complexities while always remaining constant in keeping planet Earth habitable.
Most of all, though, we honour the lives of others by daily rejoicing in the wonderful opportunity we are given to experience being alive in our very own fleshy, earthy bodies. Bodies wonderfully made up of star dust and the millions upon millions of those other deaths and births preceding ours.
So go ahead this Christmas and touch yourself. Marvel at the gift of life that is you.Your precious spirited body is the best present you’ll ever unwrap.
Thank you Helen for reminding me of how to live a life of grateful obligation.