In Memoriam: Elizabeth Winder

“Study for Empyrean” by Elizabeth Winder copyright Elizabeth Winder, from her blog

I am thinking about my artist friend Elizabeth Winder today, who passed away on the feast of St. Lucy (December 13), patron saint of television, and all things related to sight.  She was a breath of fresh air to me, a woman who knew the names of birds, flowers, and trees.  She studied Jung, and could help me unravel my dreams.   Painted and wrote every day.  A love of color, especially yellow and cream.  She liked brushstrokes and marks too, creating paintings that were as dense as a thicket or watery and delicate as a sunset over the Skagit Valley that she adored.  She was effervescent and giggled like a young child, though she was past 70.  Her grey hair was always frizzy, and glasses framed her twinkly eyes.  It was a shock to see her photo as a young woman on the memorial booklet yesterday–she was breathtakingly beautiful.  I have rarely felt such a connection with anyone, much less with someone twice my age…we were the kind of friends who met every few months for tea and a conversation that always went beyond the level of distraction in which I usually live to a rare level of illumination.  Refreshment.  Vitality.  Joy.  She nourished my soul and gave me hope for my journey, not to mention buying one of my paintings and including me in a fantastic exhibition “The Spirit of Prophecy” at St. James Cathedral that she curated.

Elizabeth spoke tirelessly for peace, while apologizing to her friends on facebook for yet another statement against violence.  She liked people.  She liked everyone–rich, poor, pagan, religious.  Her backyard soirees included her Mormon housekeeper and the gardener, artists, writers and members of all classes.  Her writing den: simple, spare, Zen.  Sumi ink paintings on the wall.  Books read carefully and often.  Our conversations–the ongoing attempts to stay true to our path as artists and people of faith.  The unanswered question: where does our work belong?  And why do we bother to make it?  We were both transplants–she from England, via Australia, then Alaska and Florida to Seattle.  Me, Seattle via Thailand, Bellingham, Illinois, Bellingham, San Francisco, Seattle.  Both adult converts to Catholicism.  Both former practitioners of Buddhist meditation.  Both introverts.  I felt honored each time she met me for tea because she left home in these last years of her life.  She was too busy working on her memoir “Trencadis” and her paintings.  She knew a profound sense of urgency–her time was running out.  This was her last chance to make her mark, and she made some of her best paintings in her final years while struggling with cancer.  Yet, I am struck by how alive she was while “in the midst,” as she liked to call her difficult times.  She didn’t spread herself thin, she lived the depths.

The past year, I have often grieved my loss of contact with her.  As her health deteriorated, she was unable to keep up with acquaintances like me…yet she refused to “friend” me on facebook because she had enjoyed our exchanges in person so much…In the end, she was only able to maintain her relationships on facebook apart from a few close family members and friends.  Thus, I missed her announcement of her ailing health on facebook, and then of her passing.  The day after Christmas, I got an email from her daughter saying that Elizabeth had died.  I had thought of her so often in recent months, yet I was afraid to “bother” her.  I did not want to intrude on her privacy, yet I longed to say goodbye…So goodbye, dear Elizabeth…

Please send me big heaping spoonfuls of

1)Your courage and hope in the midst of darkness
2)Your honesty
3)Your humor and delight
4)Your willingness to stay true to yourself
5)Your discipline and joy in the making of your artwork right up to the end of your days
6)Your attention to the beauty that surrounds us: the earth, music, poetry, painting
7)Your generosity to all

You are missed.


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