Isabel Bearman Bucher 


© Copyright 2014 by Isabel Bearman Bucher 

Photo of a colombine in the wooes.

It 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 yourself. Inside the envelope, signed by each child’s parents, was an accounting of which jobs had been done by each to earn their contribution to my check.

I 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 said 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 stream.”

It was a wet evening in the high desert that late May.

 Two 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.
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 yearly 
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 personal 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 remembering pearls.

Years have gone by. The children, grandchildren, and great 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 home again.

Over the weeks, I’d put down the mop, quit the vacuum, stop 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 breaking.

 “You’re like me,” I whispered. “I’m so sorry for you. You were so beautiful. Now you’re so beaten over.”
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 again.”

 That 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.”
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.

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!”

“I know, 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 is - I’ve got experience.”

We both chuckled. They all knew my story.

“When did we start living in the moment?” I asked. “Everything new? More precious?”

“Wisdom of age, of the trail,” she said quietly, “If we’re lucky, we see with new eyes?”

“Like the columbines,” I responded. Always trying, through the best and worst of times - finally - bursting into bloom. It’s like a great organ cord - a symphony, isn’t it?

I am comforted that the children, grandchildren, and great 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.

And, my little bent over columbine? She lived her life - curved 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.

Over 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. Robert’s brain 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.

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