Sunday, August 30, 2009

Verda's Memorial

Here is the slide show, part 1. And here is part 2. These pictures are an attempt to represent different aspects of Verda's life.

Putting together the slide show was an interesting challenge. Verda’s hard to find in pictures. She wasn’t often captured by photographic film. There seemed to be years where her presence lay just beyond or behind the lens. Yet...she is present in the pictures.

Often you’ll see something made by her – here’s me going off to a dance, in a dress she made, one-of-a-kind. Or to a senior prom, to my wedding. Thank goodness there were no pictures of the bright green bikini she crocheted for me. And not because the bikini wasn’t incredibly cute and creative!

You’ll see an experience unfolding that was created by her.

Granddaughters fascinated by sheep shearing. And her love of making observations would show up even there. Of course there were cute pictures of the kids and their sweet expressions. But as well, there were careful “Before” and “After” pictures of the ewe.

Coloring easter eggs. She seemed to have just as much fun coloring eggs with little Erin as she had with me well over forty years earlier, and all the kids in between. Always fascinated with the way those colors would overlap or blend on the smooth white curve of the eggshell.

Indeed, Verda had a special affinity for the natural world. She noticed and appreciated colors and forms in nature, especially unusual or non-classical ones.

When driving us kids around Farmington to yet another activity, we would pass by a tall, elegant vase-shaped elm tree, bearing a beautifully scripted sign: “The Perfect Tree.” A bit further down the road some wag had tagged up on a huge, gnarly and extremely unsymmetrical old oak tree an unevenly letter sign: “More Interestinger Tree.” This always made her smile, and I knew her heart was with the oak.

Most of all, her art. Her weaving gave her a venue for that eye she’d been developing all her life. And fellowship and adventures galore.

Verda appreciated the way organisms grow and develop.

I have an especially vivid memory of her tadpole collecting expeditions in the spring. Back home in the aquarium, it was fascinating to watch those tadpoles lose their tails, sprout hind legs, and then front legs, and become little frogs.

She liked to garden, and she’d take the initiative to create a bit more unusual environment. When we moved out to the suburbs, all the yards surrounding our new houses were bare dirt. That part of Michigan was a glacial moraine, and there were stones and rocks everywhere. Verda didn’t see them as a nuisance, as most did. She encouraged us to search for fossils, and in fact helped me find an almost complete little brachiopod amongst the rubble. Then one day she flagged down a worker driving a back hoe. She had him push all the big rocks into a heap in our backyard. Years later, that rock garden sported tiger lilies and a tree shading trilliums she’d saved from the bulldozer’s blade. Everywhere you’d find interesting and unusual plants in that yard. In addition to the forsythia and pussywillows, we had a huge nutmeg bush. And our rhubarb patch was like the creature from the deep. No one could kill it! She loved to watch things grow.

Most of all, her children, and then her grandchildren. She was an incredibly nurturing grandparent, and since now there are other camera-wielding adults on the scene, you’ll see more pictures of her in action.

These pictures show a woman who was engaged with the world in many ways – family, friends, and craft.

Pied Beauty

by Gerard Manley Hopkins

Glory be to God for dappled things –

For skies of couple-colour as a brinded cow;

For rose-moles all in stipple upon trout that swim;

Fresh-firecoal chestnut-falls; finches’ wings;

Landscape plotted and pieced – fold, fallow, and plough;

And áll trádes, their gear and tackle and trim.

All things counter, original, spare, strange;

Whatever is fickle, freckled (who knows how?)

With swift, slow; sweet, sour; adazzle, dim;

He fathers-forth whose beauty is past change:

Praise him.