A man died at the farmers' market this morning. We were just arriving, just before 7 and a group of men were standing to one side, some kneeling, some crowding and one doing CPR. They were taking it in turns, but one could tell by their faces and by their constant motion that it was not working. Across the way a group of people were looking, hands to their mouths. I knew the men who were there, and then someone came running across and said it was Frederick. Frederick was a regular at the market, always there early, always smiling, as strong as a bull. Tall, lean, in his late 60s I think. He'd built bicycles in India and for the Contras in Nicaragua, he was a poet and a wordsmith, and he was incredibly strong. He'd built his house way back in the jungle, off grid, a huge wooden structure tall with a complicated roof and no walls. We had been neighbours for a year. His heart just stopped and he was already dead by the time he hit the ground. They loaded him onto the back of a pick up and took him to the clinic. Someone went to fetch his wife. The market was subdued, quiet. The mothers took their children away quickly after buying their groceries. It was strange and awful to see them load him into the pick up. He was wearing the clothes he always wore, but already he had lost all his colour. His groceries lay where he'd been repacking them. After 20 minutes the market got very lively, a lot of people laughing like a wave of positive energy came through. I don't know if it was relief, or people were recovering from the shock, or if it was the energy of Frederick himself, but the market was buzzing. Gradually it faded and the normal hubbub took over, people coming and going, oblivious to what had happened. Someone set up with a box of puppies for adoption in the same place Frederick had fallen. And so life continues, for us, today.
After the market I worked on a new vegetable garden we're starting. Laying out contour lines, planting madera negra sticks and vetiver to keep the slope steady, heaping up mulch and hauling rotten tree branches and small trunks. Frederick was in my mind almost constantly. Just smiling and nodding. It's not that we were close at all, it's more that this man who was so energetic was gone, but his energy was there, palpable.
As we were leaving the market I saw the wife of another neighbour who had taken his life in September. We were away and had missed the wake and the funeral. It was the first time I'd seen her since his death. She had been talking to one of the market vendors and she was crying. We hugged, she looked lost and very far away. The image of her face came to me while I was working in the garden too: the ones who leave and the ones who remain, vastly different experiences of the same phenomena.
God Bless you Frederick and Juni, and warmth and love to you Eva and Beate . . .