A July Walk
I just returned from my morning walk along the marshes. For years, my walking partner was a colleague who as the years passed became a close friend and confidant. Although she died in November, I feel her absence the most now; our daily walks were a part of my summer for years. Her birthday is this month, and in honor of her, I’ve included my comments from her January Memorial service:
As a colleague and friend of Katherine Krall Guy, it is a privilege to welcome you to this Celebration of her life. Yet if I am to be honest, I must admit that this has been challenging to write. It has been hard to say “celebration of life” because like many of you, I feel Kathy’s loss so acutely. Like many of you, I still reach for my phone to text her or find myself thinking, “Wait until I tell Kathy this…..” Like all of you, I have stories about Kathy that are forever imprinted on my life.
And so as I struggled to find the right words to honor and to celebrate our friend, I kept returning to our walks and what I learned from Kathy on the short loop, a local favorite walk that skirts the Parker river. You see, our friendship was forged on the short loop. When I moved onto campus almost ten years ago, Kathy and I would walk almost every day in almost every season. As she grew increasingly ill, our pace slowed until finally she just couldn’t do the short loop any more.One of Kathy’s gifts was her ability to see the beauty in people, places and pavement. Yes, pavement. She would stop, point to a shape on the road, and say, “Look, its Belgium! See it?” She saw great works of art in the cloud formations. She would draw my attention to the changing colors of the marsh; her phone was filled with photographs of the reeds and the grass and the water. Kathy started a collection for me of heart shaped rocks. She could see one yards away, and I would carry the hearts home to sit on my window sills and my desk. She gave me heart earrings and a colorful heart-shaped ornament, knowing, she said, that I would love it.
Kathy was that friend to whom I could share my deepest fears or disappointments or questions or failures. She listened with not only an open and compassionate heart, but with a brilliant and open mind. To students and colleagues, she was our sounding board, our mentor, our sage, a deep listener. And she taught so many of us to see. To see injustices, inequities. To see the student who felt invisible. To see beauty and the best in others. And to see Belgium in the pavement.
The morning that Kathy died, the Christmas cactus that she gave me bloomed with beautiful heart shaped blossoms. It was stunning. Kathy died on November 9th, the day before my birthday. On November 10th, I wore my winter coat for the first time that season, and when I reached into the pocket I found the gift that Kathy had given me the year before: a perfect, polished heart shaped stone.
Now most days I walk alone. With summer here, the pace of my life has slowed down, and as I walk I am “seeing” all kinds of things: how the shade of green on the marsh reeds changes daily; the bright red feather on the black bird balancing on the reeds; cloud formations. And heart-shaped rocks. I don’t pick them up anymore. I just look for them the next time.