Rufus and Maya at sunset, July 2007, Kawanhee Inn on Webb Lake, Weld, ME. . .
This morning, I'm remembering someone who left us too soon. . . My mother's boyfriend/partner of 13 years, Rufus Hellendale, died this past week in a tragic and senseless accident that we're all still reeling over. Apparently, he was pruning a tree on a 16 foot ladder that was quite rickety in the woods near his cabin when he fell and broke his neck, dying.
He was so much to so many people, it's unbelievable to think that he's gone at age 53. He was a rebel, a wild, untamed spirit, in so many ways, and while he died doing something he loved, which was working on his many acres of land in Cape Rosier, Maine, I wish we could've gotten a phone call on Friday saying that Mom had found him in the woods, alive but badly injured, or that in a passing way she could've told me that he had had to leap off his ladder when it broke, spraining his ankle or even breaking it.
Not the way it really went down. . .
Rufus was the love of my mother's life, and they should've been able to grow old together. He loved gardening, and working with his hands, building things out of the cedar trees from his own beautiful property. He loved fine foods, traveling and learning about new cultures, getting exercise in so many ways. But most of all, he loved the outdoors, nature. He died doing one of the things he loved most, which is a small consolation, I suppose, but I know we'd all rather just have him here, perhaps limping around for a while on an injured ankle, alive and well.
He could be infuriating sometimes, to me, but I adored him. We sometimes had a bit of friction, such as the time I told Jon I didn't want him to have Rufus teach him to paraglide because I felt it was an unsafe sport--boy, he was pretty ticked off at me! (and vice versa!) But we got through it, and many other things, and in the last three to four years, we'd been getting along famously, aside from minor, petty things. (He was always rearranging stuff in my house when he came to visit, and I STILL can't find my favorite attachment to the Zyliss cheese grater that he was the last one to use two years ago! lol!)
Rufus windsurfing (another passion) on Webb Lake when we stayed at Kawanhee Inn last July 2007. . .
Rufus and I had so many incredible conversations. . . We talked about everything from photography (my passion) to slow food, global warming, politics, being a parent, gardening, my mother, travel and life in general. I wish I'd recorded every conversation because I always came away from them feeling uplifted. Rufus had a fascinating perspective on life. . .
I had an amazing dream about him on Friday night after Mom called me about his death:
Rufus was showing Mom, Maya, Jon and I around this beautiful little cedar house he'd built in his inimitable style--live edge boards, peeled cedar poles as supports, everything looking like it grew that way as opposed to being physically crafted.
We were following him up this beautiful spiral staircase in the center of the house and rich, golden sunlight was pouring through every window, as though it came from every direction. he seemed radiantly happy and at peace as he showed us knick knacks and things that had been meaningful throughout his life: books from his childhood, cups and trinkets.
The last thing he showed us was this bar of handmade lavender soap that was wrapped in lavender colored paper and had another piece of paper wrapped around it with the logo of the company that had made it with a nice drawing of lavender and some text on it. He let us all smell it, and unfortunately, I woke up before we could get to the top with him.
I told Mom the next day and it was very meaningful to her, but it became even more meaningful to us on Sunday afternoon. We had visited his cabin and laid lupines on the spot where he fell, and visited the lady slippers that grew all over his woods as he'd always wanted us to do. Maya took a swim in his lovely pond, and we all drank a cup of delicious water from his well.
When we left, we stopped at the Bucks Harbor Market to get a few groceries we needed, and when we got up to the front counter, I looked down and saw THE SAME SOAP Rufus had shown us in my dream, stacked up with a few other scents of soap from the same company.
I showed Mom, and she was really surprised and shocked, because last year, she and Rufus had gone to the woman who owns that soap company and spent a pleasant afternoon of soapmaking lessons with her. One of rufus's favorite scents was lavender. . .
There's no doubt in my mind that both incidents, the dream and seeing the soap, were a message to all of us that he is in peace now. Whether or not it's really true, it means a lot to me and I will treasure my memories and many pictures of Rufus always.
You left us too soon, man. . .
Rufus with Maya, her first Thanksgiving, November 1999. . .
You will be missed. . . .