My friend Katherine Trewitt, 92, has died. If you live in Lakewood, she's probably your friend, too.
I met Kate when, walking by her house on Sunnyland one hot day, she thrust some seeds into my hand. That’s larkspur, she said, and you just toss the seeds on the ground…no planting. That’s my kind of gardening, I thought, and made some thank-you noises. She interrupted sternly: Never thank a gardener for something they pass along to you. So, I push-pinned a baggie of homemade cookies to her door the next day, and our occasional friendship began.
For years, I would see her sitting under her “magic tree” in the front yard, so-called because, once outside, she could lure passersby to her side for a chat. At first, her husband Manny sat with her, then she sat alone…but not for long. Neighbors and joggers and dog-walkers and children were drawn to her yard, especially in the spring, by the untidy profusion of blooms there…and the kindly red-haired lady working her magic.
After breaking her hip a couple of years back, she stayed inside. I would get emails from her, with a KERA program tip, or her version of a life hack, or information about an alternative remedy she had tried. It took some time before she invited me to come inside; her eagerness to show me her artwork eventually beat out concerns about negligent housekeeping.
She made cards from what she grew in her garden or acquired with the help of more mobile friends. Driving by on her way to Albertson’s, she would see something blooming in my yard, then email a request for some bluebonnets or quince. In her 80’s, she got a Mac and drove to the Apple store on Knox to learn how to use it to make painting-sized images with the plants and blooms she scavenged. Her living/dining rooms served as a gallery.
I last saw Katherine in the fall, when I dropped by uninvited after she failed to answer my emails inquiring about her health. As usual, she was sitting in her corner chair, her work close at hand. And as usual, she wanted me to plunder her yard for bulbs and cuttings to take home with me. Leaning on her walker, she led me through her kitchen to the back door and pointed to what she wanted me to take. Then she sent me to the front yard. I had no idea what I was doing, but I pulled up plants left and right, enough to fill two plastic grocery bags.
As I was walking off, she came back to the door and called to me. I returned, and instead of larkspur seeds, she handed me a signed book by an author she knew and admired, someone we had discussed. I sniffled a bit walking home, because I knew what that gift meant.
This spring, as every spring, I will think of her when the sea oats outside my kitchen window come up, and again in September, when the schoolhouse lilies bloom. I’ll be eager to see what emerges when those last bulbs she gave me pop up. The ones I never thanked her for…until now.