Miriam and I first stayed at Azure Gate in 2012. We became friends. What is so special is that the friendship started right away. In the first visit, we walked in as two strangers and walked out a week later as friends.
Christine and Dennis, nature, warm and welcoming hospitality, friendship, love, fun, hikes. We could visit once a year but Miriam and Christine would email and phone, keeping in touch, staying connected. With Christine (and Dennis) it has always been an easy friendship. It was just there, pretty much from the beginning.
Some of our best memories are from the hikes we took together getting to see great places we wouldn’t have found on our own. Molino Basin, Juan Bautista De Anza National Historic Trail, Las Cienegas National Conservation Area, little treasures along the drive up Mt. Lemmon. Christine and Dennis made it special for us, sharing their memories and experiences. The joy of discovery and the surprises from each hike.
It has been more than the hikes. We shared Thanksgiving Dinner for several years, thankful for the friendship and connection. We concentrated on enjoying each other’s company, something Christine seemed particularly good at, skipping turkey (and the work for Dennis) and enjoying Miriam’s favorite mail order ribs. Sitting, talking, relaxing. Outside when it was warm enough.
There is so much to be thankful for. One of Christine’s many strengths that has stood out for me is her clarity and appreciation of death as part of life. I know that too, but Christine’s strength was to see this not even remotely as cliché but as a genuine and matter-of-fact recognition. As coherent as the sun coming up in the east and setting in the west. I take strength from Christine’s ability to live that belief with grace and dignity. I thought of this earlier this week. The night before I sat down to write this appreciation, I read a piece in the NYT on the artist Laurie Anderson, which includes this about the death of her husband, Lou Reed:
In 2013, Lou Reed died. It was late October. The last thing he asked for was to be taken outside, into the light. Anderson, of course, was by his side.
“I have never seen an expression as full of wonder as Lou’s as he died,” she wrote afterward. “His hands were doing the water-flowing 21-form of tai chi. His eyes were wide open. I was holding in my arms the person I loved the most in the world, and talking to him as he died. His heart stopped. He wasn’t afraid. I had gotten to walk with him to the end of the world. Life — so beautiful, painful and dazzling — does not get better than that. And death? I believe that the purpose of death is the release of love.”
Dennis, I thought of you and Christine. Of the visible depth of your love for each other and of its strength and clarity.
We are so sorry that we cannot be with you this weekend to celebrate Christine. We miss seeing all of you and know that Christine somehow is with us. Special as always.