February 19, 2012

Memoria ligna

Translation: "memory trees".

I took these photos on a walk this morning, but I pass these and similar trees every day. They are types of eucalyptus, and their bark is always evocative, for me.

About 15 years ago I lost a very dear friend to cancer while she was in her early 40's. She was a shining star in my life, and taught me far more about living life to the full than I can ever hope to put into practice.

For many years a noted breeder of both Great Danes and Rhodesian Ridgebacks, her house was arranged for both these space-occupying breeds, with stable doors between all the rooms so that the dogs could see what was happening while being prevented from drooling all over guests, each of whom was offered a small towel, just in case.

Her rambling garden was open to the public because of her imaginative interlacing of David Austin heritage rose bushes with Australian native plants. She also had a Welsh Mountain Pony who could hold a beer can in her lips and drink from it with noisy satisfaction.

Sue was a breathtakingly talented artist, whose works sold out in the few exhibitions she bothered to attend. I cherish the one painting of hers that I bought, but her charcoal sketch of my own dogs is one of my most prized possessions.

She was an immensely memorable hostess, and I have admittedly hazy recollections of a number of long afternoons under her garden trees, with an assortment of friends and a succession of bottles and plates of food appearing from nowhere.

We all have faults, and hers was an inability to finish a conversation. A trademark departure involved her husband Bob sitting in the car tooting the horn half an hour after they had both said their "final" farewells.

She also had the enviable knack of instantly understanding what someone really thought about an issue. This could be a little unnerving, because we like to think our less charitable thoughts are private. Case in point: my brother is a terribly successful corporate lawyer who has a very unfortunate tendency to condescension. When I graduated as a doctor, Sue's comment was "Well he can look down his nose all he likes, but he'll never be DOCTOR Anybody". Indeed.
In the same vein, she famously asserted that I only became a doctor to annoy a particularly cliquey dog club of which we were both members at the time. Almost true.

I miss her a lot.

Not long before she died, she said how much she wanted to visit my bush property and paint the wonderful bark of the Wandoo eucalyptus trees. She never made it, so every time I marvel at their patterns, I remember my friend.

Vale, dear Sue.

Laugh, run free, enjoy your departed dogs, and have some chilled strawberry champagne ready for me when I get there.


Related Posts with Thumbnails