Hello and Good Bye

by moonwatcher on March 15, 2014

Baby Tomatoes from Eric

Last Fall, probably in November, there was a knock on my door just around the time I got up from my nap. It was my good neighbor Eric, with a little envelope of heirloom tomato seeds he had painstakingly saved for me.

heirloom tomato seeds Jean C Flamme

As usual, he declined an invitation to come in, saying he needed to catch a bus to get to work as a cook at a sorority on the Washington State University campus. Eric wasn’t one to stick around, but he was always one to surprise with a gift of the garden, often borne of his years of expertise working with seeds.

We didn’t often get together, because my need to plan and his need to wait until the very last minute when his depression might provide him with an opening didn’t add up well to regular visits. But we found each other often enough on our neighborhood sidewalks to develop a friendship over our mutual love of plants and food. Neither one of us owned or used a car, but our opportunities to meet on the sidewalk made our friendship possible.

My post Wild Mushroom and Two Rice Pilaf would not have happened without Eric–he taught me the fine points of identifying the mushrooms that I picked to go into that dish. Always conscientious about mushroom safety, he even made a comment at the bottom of the post, the first and only one ever on my blog. Here’s our exchange:

Him: “A caution: The Mushrooms pictured are indeed Meadow’s edge or Forest Edge Agaricus Campestris mushrooms. Their cousins are the button mushrooms in the grocery store from Europe (Agaricus Brittanicus). This particular fungus may give some folks an upset stomach or slight reaction. Always use caution when gathering wild fungus. It’s advisable to at first tag along with an experienced mushroom hunter.

A good addition to the beans is Summer Savory.

Remember, always watch for GMO’s in your ingredients for healthier living. Increasing evidence shows they alter the flora and fauna in your lower digestive tract to harm your health.

IMHO”

Me: “Thanks, LIttle Al, and welcome! Good advice. I learned from the best. :)

Eric did more than that to make that unique post and meal possible. He introduced me to lovage, saved me some seeds from his big grandmother of a plant, and taught me how to make the sage flower vinegar that is so delicious with this meal.

Grandmother lovage in my neighbor's yard

Grandmother lovage in my neighbor’s yard

Baby lovage plant in my yard

Baby lovage plant in my yard

My neighbor's flowering sage

My neighbor’s flowering sage

Pint jar full of sage flowers

Pint jar full of sage flowers

After just a few days in the fridge, a beautiful pink vinegar is ready to use

After just a few days in the fridge, a beautiful pink vinegar is ready to use

I was sad to discover last year that his landlord’s wife had  these beautiful plants obliterated in a pique of ire at Eric for not weeding and pruning them to her satisfaction. I’m hoping that the lovage root ball I rescued and planted with Eric’s permission and the baby one that came up from the seeds he gave me made it through our cold winter to carry on that fine culinary tradition in our old neighborhood.

About a month ago, I e-mailed Eric to tell him these little tomato babies were actually coming up, sure and happy signs of Spring. Sometimes he takes a while to answer, so I waited, and then wondered. Wrote again. Now I’m extra extra sad to have to tell you of the passing, not only of some of the plants he tended, but of this wonderful neighbor himself, who once called me a “kindred spirit” in my love of nature. There might have been more times our paths would cross in our neighborhood, if more time had been in the stars. But I am grateful for the time and the knowledge Eric passed on to me, and for the twinkle in his blue eyes that was always there, no matter how hard things were for him. For his simple way of life and his unique style of generosity. His corny sense of humor which included calling himself “Eric Weird.” I will miss him very much. I hope, as tomato season comes on, I’ll be able to finally finish a post on tomatoes I never quite managed, in which Eric’s generosity also played a lovely–and funny– part. So maybe we will celebrate tomato season is his honor when the time comes.

My dear readers, cherish your good neighbors and friends. Each one is unique and irreplaceable, and we are blessed to find each other for the time we are given, however long or short it may be. I’d like to close with a poem by Denise Levertov I’ve loved nearly all my life, and which I copied into a special journal for poems I liked a long time ago. My handwriting looks like I might have been 19 or 20. It’s as beautiful a poem to me now as it was then, and I think Eric would have liked it, too.

Living by Denise Levertov

Maria (moonwatcher)

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{ 18 comments… read them below or add one }

1 Melissa C. March 16, 2014 at 8:37 am

I am sorry to hear of your loss. How lucky you were to have had such a wonderful friend in your life, and even luckier are you to have those seeds and plants. They are even more special and his memory will live on.

xoxo Melissa

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2 moonwatcher March 16, 2014 at 9:26 am

Thank you, Meissa, Laurel, and Jeanne, for your kind sympathy and understanding. Laurel, it brought tears to my eyes to think of you planting lovage in your garden this year in honor of Eric. That is very moving to me. Maybe someday we’ll both have grandmother-sized lovage plants in our yard to honor him!

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3 Laurel March 16, 2014 at 8:38 am

Beautiful post, Maria. I will be planting lovage in my garden this year in honor of Eric.

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4 jeanne March 16, 2014 at 8:54 am

Hi Maria,

Good Morning!

What a lovely tribute to your friend Eric. His memory will be with you forever as you will be surrounded by the many wonderful gifts he bestowed upon you. Thank you for sharing these gifts with all of us. Love, Jeanne

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5 Veronica March 16, 2014 at 11:07 am

My condolences, Maria, for your loss of a friend. It’s nice you remember him for the things he loved, and his memory will carry on in the things he shared with you. And I’m going to go look up lovage, and see what I can do with it.
Thank you for sharing the poem. And for the reminder that each moment is precious, as is each and every one of our friends, neighbors, and loved ones. xoxo

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6 moonwatcher March 16, 2014 at 4:27 pm

Thank you very much, Veronica. Yes, each moment IS precious. And I have no doubt you will find something fun to do with lovage, you are such a talented cook!

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7 Angie March 17, 2014 at 2:04 am

Maria, Thank you for writing such a lovely post, and for sharing this poem with us. I’d never seen it before, and it has arrived at a very opportune time for me. Thank you again.

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8 moonwatcher March 17, 2014 at 8:08 am

You’re welcome, Angie. Thank you for letting me know that you read the post and that the poem in it came at an opportune time for you. It’s really nice to read that.

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9 Michele March 17, 2014 at 5:16 am

What a great poem, I read it out loud a few times and savored the realization that each moment is precious, each person we interact with and every experience is special. Maybe that is the secret to happiness, being in the moment and appreciating whatever it is that we are experiencing. Thanks for a great post. So sorry for the loss of a precious friend.

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10 moonwatcher March 17, 2014 at 8:09 am

Hi Michele, so glad you loved the poem too. Thank you, too, for your lovely articulation of what the secret of happiness might be, and for your kind words on the loss of my friend.

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11 Carollynne Kelly March 17, 2014 at 7:57 am

So sorry for your loss of a very good neighbor!! You bless us all with your posts and I love these pictures too!

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12 moonwatcher March 17, 2014 at 8:10 am

Thank you, Carollynne–really appreciate your kind words and your faithful readership.

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13 Peggy Duenas March 17, 2014 at 9:01 pm

Aloha Moon watcher,
I’m sorry to hear about your special friend neighbor.
I too feel we should always take the time to share with others and to let them know we care in a world that is so into themselves.
Take are and god bless

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14 moonwatcher March 17, 2014 at 9:45 pm

Welcome, Peggy, and thank you for your very kind words.

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15 Karen Thompson March 19, 2014 at 4:02 pm

Hi Maria
I am so sorry about the loss of your friend. What a beautiful tribute to him. I am inspired by reading your blog to make betterr choices in my life.

Thanks
Karen

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16 moonwatcher March 19, 2014 at 4:54 pm

Hi Karen, thanks for these very kind words and for letting me know that reading my blog has inspired you so.

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17 Sweetfeed August 24, 2014 at 5:23 am

How would I make that lovely vinegar ….I am new to all this:)

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18 moonwatcher August 24, 2014 at 7:59 am

Welcome Sweetfeed! Here are two places on my blog you can learn about how to make your own infused vinegar:

http://fatfreevegan.com/slowmiracle/2013/06/06/plant-based-dyi-basics-infused-vinegar/

http://fatfreevegan.com/slowmiracle/2013/06/25/wild-mushroom-and-two-rice-pilaf/

The sage vinegar only involves a day or two in teh fridge–the flowers are fragile–so just until the vinegar turns bright pink.

Enjoy!

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