Born Again

I decided that I needed an orchard. I have planted a couple of trees here and there, mostly ones that have died, but this year I decided to get serious. After dropping five and six-figure sums on the house itself — I don’t want to add it up — dropping two-figure sums on a few trees just seemed overdue. So I got two almond trees, two apple trees, two plum trees, a fig, a yuzu. a persimmon, an apricot and a white peach. They are all doing well. I see Bellinis in my future.

For the last few months I have wondered what to do with Robert. He has been languishing in a box in one closet or another for six years now. It’s a long time for me but of course he’s outside time now. I’m sure he’s been okay with it.

He used to talk about how he loved the Gravenstein apples that he ate on family vacations in the Russian River valley. So I found a local nursery that sold Gravensteins — but not online and I had to head back to Paris, so I sent Julien over to pick one up. This guy also had the only persimmons of the variety I wanted, so tracking him down was a must.

Julien is starting to love these wild goose chases. He found the guy, who is not online because he retired a few years ago. He still has a few trees, though, so he dug up what Julien wanted and traded them for a little cash. The prize was the Gravenstein. No one here knows what they are, so for a bargain price, Julien was able to bring home a full-size tree. You can sort-of see it through the mirabelle blossoms in the photo. We could have apples this year.

I came back down from Paris about a week ago. As I say, the trees are doing great. It has been a warm spring. Everything looks fabulous. So, having bought the memorial tree and seeing that it will survive its first year at my house, I dug Robert into the roots. Jacques displayed his usual excellent social skills. Instead of chasing after trucks, birds, airplanes, whatever, he stayed right with me, curious but not too much, until Robert disappeared into the mulch. And then, Robert being a gin man, I made myself a stiff G&T.

Birthday Boy


Robert would be 80 today. His birthday was always fun,though it took a few years for him to admit that he was looking forward to it. He had a favorite colleague, Ted, who shared his birthday and would always send us a message. Bless his heart, Ted continued that tradition after Robert’s death, obviously writing to me instead. I hope to hear from him today.

But, you never know. Life changes. Robert and the life we shared is gone. This photo for example, is of Christmas dinner in 2010. It shows Robert’s younger son Edward, his daughter Tracy and two of his grandchildren, Moses and Zachary. I never see and rarely hear from them any more. Now you may be thinking well yes, dear, you moved to France. But really, psychologically, the distance between France and their homes is no farther than the distance between their homes and the Berkeley hills, where we used to live. Would I see or hear more of them if I were still in that house? I doubt it.

I thought that this year I would shift from writing about Robert on his death date to writing, if I do, on his birth date. Death is so depressing. Birth, new beginnings, all that life, that’s better. As I sit here, wondering what to write, all I can think is that I should have made this shift last year. This year whatever new life I may have going is well established.

My life has more or less been shaped in chapters, usually marked by a significant death, one that sends my life in a completely different direction. Always before I was glad for the change. This time, no, I wanted the old life to go on forever. Too bad. Think again.

No question, though, this is a new chapter. I hope it won’t remain as bumpy as it has been. We shall see. I am blessed to have a few good friends who have made the transition with me. Friends that I have made since I moved to France are delightful, valued more than they may realize. I think when I look back the bumps will not seem so serious — still no completed house, for example, but completion is bound to happen, some time — and I will be able to focus on the many blessings that I have received.

Recently I read that in most traditions the belief is that the spirit moves from earth to the spirit realm, whatever a given society believes that to be, by the end of three years. Could be less but rarely more. My life has had that feeling to it. I could call up Robert to help solve a problem, help me fall asleep, face a difficult issue, whatever. Toward the end of three years, that feeling faded. Robert was never one to stick around unnecessarily or have any trouble adapting to a new situation. I think he’s on his way now. If a major issue comes up, can I call on him again, bring him back from wherever? I don’t know. I sure hope so.

So happy birthday, to someone who is now outside time, to whom a birthday has no meaning. You are loved and missed, every single day. When days and birthdays no long mean anything to me, I hope to see you again.


Deux ans, déjà!

Robert Colmar

So Robert has been gone for two years, now. It’s hard to believe, partly because it feels like forever, except when it feels like I just saw him yesterday or else like I made our whole dozen years up. This is him in Colmar one holiday season. Did we really spend that Christmas in Colmar, laughing at our belief that the Christmas market would be interesting, or would I just like to have done that? The Baroque music concert in the church, the near-hour spent with the panels of the Isenheim altarpiece, lunch at L’Atelier du Peintre, really? Yes, I think so, really. I think so.

The question is, what if he came back? What would he think of the changes I have made in my life? Some would infuriate him. “But honey, I thought you were dead.” I don’t see that flying, as I try to explain why I sold the California house. Some he would love, like the house I bought here. Some he wouldn’t notice, like the improvement in my French. Bless his heart, despite the evidence, he always thought my French was terrific. I’m sure we’d work it out — unless, of course, I took a few photos, maybe downloaded them from the internet, then wove a 12-year story around them. I could look at the stamps in my passport but those can be forged, can’t they?

So, as I head into my third year of this strange new life, I thank the man who made it possible. I think that’s how I got here. Next year, as I head into a fourth year, will I do another memorial post? I don’t know. We’ll see. Maybe it will feel too weird.