Copyright 2014 by Isabel Bearman Bucher
had been a hard year. These fifth graders had tested and used every
asset, every fuse, every alternate mental wellspring I had. On the
last day of school, at the evening graduation ceremony for all the
fifth graders and their families, I took my turn at the lectern, only
to be interrupted by an unexpected ceremony - my entire class stood
as one of the fathers came down the aisle and handed me a large
thick brown envelope. Inside was a check for $150, and a note signed by
all my kids, saying, “We know we were hard, but we
worked for this. We want you to buy something wonderful just for
Inside the envelope, signed by each child’s
parents, was an accounting of which jobs had been done by each to earn
contribution to my check.
lowered my head, and then, unable to stop, rushed out into the
middle of all of them and embraced each kid. It was mayhem. When
the audience quit clapping, and I got control of myself, I approached
the podium again.
“Thank you dear Bucher’s Brains,” I
slowly. “I will go to every natural garden place from here
all the way Anima Cabin, and I will buy Rocky Mountain Columbines. I
will say your name,” pausing again to lock each
child’s eyes, “and plant each of you beside my
It was a wet evening in the high desert that late May.
weeks later, I kept my promise arriving at the tumbled down wooden
cabin with four flats of wild students whose beautiful, graceful,
cornflower and white heads nodded cordially off thin, but tough stems.
Anima, sitting at 10.000 Northern New Mexico mountain feet, had always
lived up to the old cliche: if
sompin’can go wrong, it will,
taking care to supply yearly cabin calamities.
June snow melt from Wheeler Peak and its companions
- highest in New
Mexico, last hurrah of the Rocky Mountains.
I whispered each name, remembered each child’s
antics, their progress, the good times I’d had with each, the
rough goes, and mostly - I remembered their love, those individual
hearts, so strung together in this fine necklace I now wore made of
Years have gone by. The children, grandchildren, and
grandchildren of those flowers have continued to seed and bloom,
enduring through flooding and dry years, super freezing winters. Rising
always, full of hope and fragile beauty.
Last summer was the first time in a very long while that
I was able to
go to Anima, and be there just for myself. I had seen my husband
Robert, go to a better place, nursing him through years of Lewy body
dementia. When I took down the shutters, opened the back door and
emerged onto the deck, there before me was an unbearable symphony of
beauty - Rocky Mountain Columbine - my kids - crowding the Lake Fork,
nodding in the breeze, greeting me. I made my way down to stream side
and sat amongst them, inhaling their delicate fragrance, treasuring
their faces. I took handfuls of water to my own face which was now
muddied and tear-streaked, rose slowly and went inside Anima to make it
Over the weeks, I’d put down the mop, quit the
dusting or window washing, often to just visit my kids - speaking and
singing to them. One afternoon, the thunder boomed, the lightning
crashed and the rain gushed off the metal roof. When it passed, I went
outside and saw all the kids bent down from the storm. One columbine,
head almost under water in the now muddy stream rush, was near to
like me,” I whispered. “I’m so sorry for
you. You were so beautiful. Now you’re so beaten
||Of course the water blew
and the toilet overflowed, a critter - a pine martin - had wintered
over, had a family in the broom closet, and a tree was down over the
driveway. So days later, with everything righted, for the moment, that
is, was in memory, one of the happiest of my life. I stood beside the
white wedding veil Lake Fork Stream of Taos Ski Valley, and kept my
promise. Each child was planted in that rich, mountain loam, close
enough to water, but back far enough not to be swept away by the
was the beginning of my lessons from my kids, who were now my teachers.
The little one taught me me it takes time to stand again after a
terrible storm, and we do it, not without injury. But stand I must I
did. No choice. No hysterics. No buts.
“No, I’m not moving,” I told my
daughters. “What for? This is my home.”
||That next day, when the sun wandered
effortlessly down the steep
mountain side, lighting the
stream, I saw the kids standing once more, but the
little one that had
been caught in such a tempest, was still bent. By mid-afternoon, she
had pulled herself up to a somewhat better place, but not without
injury. Her petals were stained, and drooping. I found a Y-stick, and
carefully propped her up thinking
I should move her, but it would
probably be too much of a trauma.
“Sometimes, little one, we just need a bit
of help to stand
I have a new life now. Just yesterday, I was on a hike
with a group in
a Santa Fe, New Mexico Wilderness. It was lunch and I was eating a
peach, perched on a high mossy rock beside a waterfall. “If
somebody took me to the most expensive restaurant in town,” I
said to a new friend on my right, “It wouldn’t even
come close to this, here, on this rock, with this peach that is now
dripping down my elbow!”
the gal answered, laughing. “I
don’t know how, but every time I see a stream, or a
waterfall, or the mountain, the clouds, the gift of a wild moss garden,
June columbines, it’s as if I’ve never seen any of
it before ... it’s not dementia either,” she added.
“No, I replied. “I’ll tell you if it
I’ve got experience.”
We both chuckled. They all knew my story.
“When did we start living in the moment?” I
“Everything new? More precious?”
“Wisdom of age, of the trail,” she said
“If we’re lucky, we see with new eyes?”
“Like the columbines,” I responded. “Always
through the best and worst of times - finally - bursting into bloom.
It’s like a great organ cord - a symphony, isn’t
I am comforted that the children, grandchildren, and
grandchildren of those first pilgrims
have continued to seed and bloom, enduring through flooding and dry
years, super freezing
winters. they grow in impossible places, in rock
crags, on wild mountains, under logs, curling up, finding the sun.
Rising, always, full of hope and beauty. In the years I’ve
got left, I want to make everyone glad because I’m here -
just like them, I hope. I want to give people joy sharing who I am,
just like them, I hope. I want to live in beauty, nodding in the
mountain breeze, gentle, being completely open - just like them, I
hope. On a SLIM stem - I hope.
|Through the weeks, the kindness and love of my
children, my friends, my
neighbors, who mowed my grass and toted my heavy garbage cans to the
curb, propped me up like a Y-stick. Young bankers were patient with my
tutoring, Social Security people always told me how sorry they were for
my loss, and I felt they really did care because so many listened to my
story. I learned that the world is full of wonderful and truly kind
people, and I learned that I could actually ask
for a V-stick, no longer afraid of causing trouble. People wanted,
needed to help. In time, I removed it, standing strong, once again.
And, my little bent over columbine? She lived her life -
over the stream, nodding gracefully, looking this way and that, a
little bit muddied, petals bent, like me. In the end, she made seeds.
Some fell into the Lake Fork to begin their journey, perhaps spreading
beauty in other spaces and places. She will always be my greatest
teacher, for now and ever - my guiding light - never gone. And, perhaps
like her seeds, this story will grow and bloom in the hearts of other
spaces and places - I hope.
the years, my school kids have kept in touch through Facebook, emails,
phone calls and now texts. In that summer of 2013, Isabel placed
Robert’s ashes under the bench he’d built for her
years back, naming it “Just for Two.”
was taken 40 minutes after his death, and today, the dozens of slides harvested
from his donation teach University of New Mexico medical classes daily.
When I think of this, I know he’s going on in beauty, like
our marriage, like my life now, and like the columbines. We have all
become a part of ongoing life, forever ... I know.
line of the
Story List and Biography
Foundation, Inc., A Nonprofit Book Publisher