Some people I carry with me when I travel. I try to see sights through their eyes, knowing they would love them, they’d share an appreciation no one else quite has, and they’d bring something new; a side I haven’t seen, idea I would never think of, delight I couldn’t feel without them.
My Aunt Ruth is one of those people. I think she would so love some of the places I’ve seen, and imagining her there enjoying them makes me enjoy them more. She lent a shine and depth and fascination to everything she turned her attention to. One of the biggest joys of my life has been when she turned that attention on me. Sometimes being in her company felt a bit like being a rubber dinghy bobbing along in the wake of some amazing, anarchic, entertaining, benevolent ship in full sail, off on an adventure. But one of her great gifts was to make me (and so many other people, I know) feel so special and promising, like I were reflecting back some of that brightness and generosity and fun. It was such a privilege to feel like that.
Today in Somerset people are gathering to mourn Ruth’s loss and celebrate her life, and I am a thousand thousand miles away in China. I wish I could be there with people who loved her. But she helped give me the confidence to be where I am.
She was such a lavish giver of gifts, and I can’t begin to sum up everything she gave me. I think how she would enjoy some of the people and places I’ve encountered on my travels. I hope she knew that she herself and the garden she made in Somerset are among the most absolutely wonderful and inspiring of them.