Saturday, April 03, 2010

Last week the gardener/writer Elspeth Thompson died, at the too-young age of 48. She was a wonderful writer, with a gift for seeing beauty and possibility in everything. Everything she touched was transformed into something extraordinary. Her blog chronicled her rehabilitation of two dilapidated Victorian railway carriages on the coast of Sussex into a cozy, charming home nestled into a Paradise-like garden. Elspeth's latest project was about "gardening against the odds," creating glorious Edens in the most unlikely of places, in tiny London balconies or in the barren soil of her own seaside garden.

Elspeth often wrote about fragrant white flowers; in the wintertime she had vessels of narcissus bulbs everywhere, and one of the photographs from her last post showed pots of blooming hyacinths, one of my favorite flowers. Earlier today I walked to Marigold & Mint, a new flower shop several blocks away, and returned with my arms full of sweet-scented hyacinths and heirloom daffodils, as well as a stalk of flowering rhubarb and a bundle of pink jasmine. At least I think it’s pink jasmine. These flowers are for Elspeth.

I don’t know the whole story - most likely I never will - but her obituary tells of a dark depression that descended in recent weeks, and in the end, she took her own life. My heart breaks for her young daughter, and her husband. That someone who looked and sounded so happy, who saw the beautiful in the ordinary, who could conjure up small patches of Paradise in the bleakest of surroundings, could be overcome by such despair that nothing could bring her back from the brink is beyond comprehension. The sadness I feel must be magnified a hundred thousand times for her family.

What I understand now is that the people who rage and storm and speak of their grief, who stand on cliffs and howl at the wind, who write about the black despair that leaves them shaking, unable to get out of bed, these are the people who give you the chance to talk them back into the world of the living. These are the people who are asking for help. Not the ones who slip away silently and leave you with a million questions left unanswered.

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