You just don’t know. I got the news that John Patterson — the “Farm Art” guy about whom I wrote an article published last month — died this morning. I want to close the book on this for now so I’m writing this post.
When I saw John at the Potato Festival on September 8, I was sure he recognized me as a person he kind of knew but not really. I mentioned this to my friend Lois who’d just bought something from him and she used my name, “Martha something something.” Then John knew who I was. We chatted — not small talk though still the usual thing about how I ended up here. Everyone is curious about that. I told him that I felt I’d been put here somehow. I told about having painted the area that is the Refuge before I’d seen the San Luis Valley. He said he thought that kind synchronicity happened a lot but people weren’t aware of it. As we were walking back to my house, I thought, “I’ll see if the magazine wants an article about John.” It seemed very important.
As we know, I’m afraid of men at a certain level of my being, and I was a little leery that John might think something that wasn’t the case. I was actually nervous about that when I went out to interview him. He had a strong and magnetic personality that most people felt. I felt it. But ever onward… Still, I couldn’t explain why I felt I MUST write about John. It was a feeling propelled by a kind of urgency.
Our interview lasted two hours and we had a lot of fun talking. He was just that kind of guy who probably never met a stranger. The article wasn’t hard to write even though I had nearly 2 hours of verbiage to condense into about 1000 words. I didn’t make that and the editor asked me to cut 400 but I kind of made her meet me in the middle and it ended up 1200 words.
And so, John, who was in a terrible car crash on November 12, and who has been in the hospital most of this time, died today. The cause of death is not known. I suspect his heart might have given out resulting from the challenges he’s had getting enough oxygen, but I don’t know. And now my article is a eulogy. It’s creepy, like a giant mind — the one that brought me here — reached out and said, “This person has only a couple months left, but he needs his story told BY YOU.” The story helped raise some money for what will now be final expenses. Is that why?
The world is full of good people who are loved by others, most of whom no one ever knows about. They’re not famous except maybe locally. They’re not empty fucks like Elon Musk or the younger royals or the Kardashians. People like John are legitimate human beings, good people, who work, and love, and create from the lovely vision of their minds and eyes. They are part and parcel of their community, home and family. Brilliant, thinking people who aren’t jonesing for empty notoriety. Some call them “ordinary people,” but there’s nothing ordinary about them. There was a moment — after I had written a novel that is actually fucking brilliant, complex, meaningful, inspiring, and beautiful — that I knew that I was one of THESE people. I knew that there were millions of us all across the generations and I was proud — AM proud — to take my place among them. As a young person, I maybe had different ideas, but 38 years in the classroom taught me some important lessons.
A lot of people will miss John. I will. His family is planning stuff like the now popular Life Celebration somewhere down the road (literally). As for me, I’m stunned by the inscrutable power of what John called “Synchronicity” that drove me (and my car) down the road to spend a couple hours with him just two months before he died. Crazy, but that I’m here in this place is also a little crazy.
Here’s the article I wrote about him and shared here on WordPress not long ago.
To find a little solace, the dogs and I headed out to the Refuge. As we were leaving I was struck by the changing light over the San Juans. I stopped Bella — my Jeep — to watch it, and Cheech and Chong’s silly Santa bit from the olden days came on the radio. I put the Bella in park and took photos of the changing light through my windshield while I listened to that antediluvian silliness and laughed.
That helped more than anyone would expect.
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