June 17, 2017

Ruth's Garden
Wildflowers from Ruth’s garden—feverfew, Canterbury bells, scabiosa (pincushion flower), sweetpeas, and larkspur (Watercolor on cold-pressed illustration board). This is a photo of a color copy as I gave the original to Ruth years ago.

Who is a special person in your life?

Is there someone in your life you were destined to know and did fate bring you to that special person? Is there someone in your life you’ve met over and over again, with a kind of questionable randomness? That was my destiny/fate with Ruth.

I grew up in the Silicon Valley before it was called the Silicon Valley. Back then my dad was an electrical engineer and he worked at various start up companies in Sunnyvale, Mountain View and Palo Alto. During this time semi-conductor chips (known as Silicon chips) were actually made there. For fun, my family would pile into the station wagon on a Sunday afternoon and drive around the area looking at new tracts of homes that were being built. I vividly remember the fruit trees they were taking down to put in these huge developments. And I can definitely see in my mind’s eye the amazing tufts of blossoms of the cherry, apricot and prune plum trees–floating a few feet above dark trunks sticking out of the ground.

When I was 10 or 11, my family and I were living in San Jose. A friend from school had family in the Paso Robles/Atascadero area and one summer I went with them to the San Luis Obispo County Fair (now known as the Midstate Fair). My friend’s grandma was in charge of the fruit and vegetable building during that event. Her helper was a handsome, tall woman with sandy-colored hair. Her name was Ruth. I don’t remember much else about Ruth, but I was impressed with her knowledge regarding the fruits and vegetables the people were bringing in to be judged for the fair.

Fast forward past my graduation from Lynbrook High School in San Jose, and then to my final quarter at Cal Poly, San Luis Obispo. I was getting my teaching credential (to teach elementary school) and was assigned to a kindergarten class in Atascadero as a student teacher. Guess who was the classroom aid for that assignment? Yeah, it was Ruth! And I hadn’t seen her since those couple days at the fair 10 plus years earlier. She was still a tall handsome sandy-colored hair woman. Now, this time I actually got to know her, and went to her house and met her daughter. Ruth lived on the top of a hill in Atascadero. There, she tended her walnut trees and drifts of brightly colored flowers tucked into every possible sunny spot in her garden. Her husband was a mason and had built their house to look like Noah’s ark. I can still picture in my mind that great ship floating in a sea of roses, golden sunflowers and hollyhocks of every color.

Fast-forward another 10 years. Now I am back in school studying engineering at Sac State, because I don’t really want to be an elementary school teacher. My lab partner in a physics class was a very cute tall young man with sandy-colored hair and he told me of his Aunt Ruth who lived in Atascadero. Could this be the same Ruth I had previously met in two completely unrelated events? And the answer was YES! It was she. So, a couple years later I married the cute guy with the sandy-colored hair, and became her niece by marriage. And to seal the deal we had a son (with sandy-colored hair) and now she and I are linked by blood through him. She was one of the first people that came to see me after he was born. I have an amazing photo of him visiting the ocean for the first time (he was a year old) on the beach in Cayucos in front of her darling red-shingled house on the small cliff above the sand.

Her nephew and I got divorced, but that doesn’t change the fact that a series of seemingly random events connected me to her forever. And I am forever grateful that the fates brought us inexorably together with my cute tall handsome sandy-colored haired boy. I love you Ruth!

Note about Ruth and her garden: Ruth is an amazing gardener and has more great grand kids than I can count. She takes flowers from her garden to sell at Farmer’s Market In San Luis Obispo most Thursday nights and has been doing that since the mid 1970s. I remember her telling me that one morning she cut over 300 daffodil stems to sell at Farmer’s Market. I can almost picture that tall handsome woman, with the sandy-colored hair, standing under the huge walnut tree next to her ark amongst the steel flower buckets filled to bursting with bundles of bright yellow. I hope you are lucky enough to have such an amazing person in your life too.

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