The first painting I saw was of carrots printed on a card she sent me right after our meeting. “This is what organic carrots do underground,” she wrote. The back of the card read “All proceeds go to support low income membership in Peacework Farm.”
I got her second card, the apples, at Christmas the same year. “Wishing you a Merry Christmas and a Fruitful New Year,” her message read. We started off 2009 corresponding with some frequency and began to get to know each other. Again.
You see, Christine Mori — that was her maiden name — and I went to high school together. She was not a painter then, but was one of the smartest girls in my class. She excelled in science, math, languages and English.
Chris graduated from UC Berkeley, met her husband Vince while they were both in the Peace Corps in Africa, got married, had two sons and worked for the Forest Service. For a while in the ‘80s we both lived in Oregon but we never managed to get together. After that I lost track of her.
Our first real connection since high school was at our 40th reunion in 2008. A small group — just six of us — met at the hotel I was staying at the night before the reunion. Chris was there. It was a really good visit. She said she’d come to Crescent City the next time she was in California.
In January, Chris sent me a link to her journal on a web site called Caring Bridge. For months she’s kept family and friends updated on her treatment, but now it’s Vince who does the writing. Chris has been in the hospital, in ICU, for a while. We all hoped she’d be back home on Brick Schoolhouse Road by now, but Vince says they are selling the farm.
In an email exchange this past May, Chris and I discovered our mutual interest in Tai Chi. “My favorite other activity is folk dancing,” Chris wrote, “ a very tribal event, especially the Greek and Turkish dances from the Black Sea, where we hold arms parallel and tight. You could be staggering drunk in a line like that and not fall down — or all go down together. Love the freedom of some of the gypsy dances. I think I am a gypsy at heart.”
I am holding on tight.