Richard missed the early days on the commune, but he fit right into Total Loss Farm,
a haven for writers, artists, actors, and tillers of the soil. I remember him impersonating
Ethan Allen, threatening to lay our rebellious Guilford “as low as Sodom and Gomorrah,
We married on bedrock in the front yard. A year-and-a-half later, on Richard’s birthday
in 1981, after a jolting truck ride in mud season, I gave birth to another daughter, Emily.
When his job as a “public-sector bureaucrat” running the Comprehensive Employment
and Training Program ended, he happily stayed home with the baby while I plied my
Richard brought a fleet of old Saabs to graft together in the dooryard. Our daughter
imitated the two-stroke racket. He kept the farm tractor, a 1949 Fordson Super-Dexta,
running until he died. Even in the hard years when we lived apart and later divorced,
Richard came home to tinker and mow.
SET DOWN YOUR ROOTS AND ROAM.
THERE’S NO PLACE LIKE HOME.
I live where Rosie Franklin did. Richard and I tore down her house in 1989, and
had a new one built, probably the third house on that stone foundation. During the 1990s,
friends drifted away; the commune evolved into a land trust. Thirty households: family,
commune alumni, and intimate friends, surround me. They are at the heart of this story.
May Day 2014, Richard and I remarried at our annual spring gathering, 35 years
after our first wedding. From the chuppah, a wedding canopy, to the icing on the cake,
our friends provided everything but the weather and the tent that sheltered us from it.
Two hundred guests danced around the maypole on the hill, weaving our fates together.
Sipping cava, we sang, and called out the names of our ancestors, the recent dead.
Footloose, giddy, Richard and I traveled to islands: North Haven in June, Crete in
November, Dominica the following March. In the tropics, Richard felt suddenly weak.
We figured it was the heat.
In April 2015, the diagnosis: metastatic pancreatic cancer, stage 4. Brittle syllables.
Richard said, “At least, I can stop practicing law.” Life morphed into illness. Nothing
made sense but the note from a friend: “We are old trees. Things grow in us.” I pictured
the great northern tooth fungus rotting the heart of a hedgerow maple. A stiff wind could
snap its trunk.
On May Day 2015, with little mention of Richard’s symptoms, we read our vows
again: “I will share the joys and sorrows of growing old by your side.” I saw the word
W-I-D-O-W spelled out in the trees. We changed course from chemotherapy to comfort