On Susan Amos

There was a mother bear in the language department at my university.

There was a mother bear in the language department at my university.

I don’t know what I expected from Weird Things Agriculture and Mayhem University (though judging by the name, they at least had their priorities straight). I can tell you it was not a fierce woodland creature teaching me how to pronounce “oso.” When I looked around at the rest of the class, I saw they weren’t even fazed, just copying down verb conjugations because they were going to be on the test. Duh, pay attention, Vera.

She was a mother bear not only because she had two sons for whom she would level armies with a single swipe of her mighty paw. It was also because she protected her students from the other wild things that roamed the halls. It turned out that to get around in the Business Department, you had only to keep up a steady stream of Spanish numbers in order to pass through safely, but they couldn’t be the same numbers twice. I learned this when she accompanied our class the first time, down the stairs past the Business floor. The entire time, she growled melodic accounting figures as some kind of patchy shadow thing skirted around us, hissing and spitting because it could get no closer.

I worked to commit the foreign words to memory. Someday, they might save my life. More importantly, though, they could get me that A. My bear teacher was more than willing to award good grades to those who survived the semester.

And her tests.

On Jenette Baker

When I was still a small creature, she steadied me on the back of a horse, like a solid anchor at my back, one that could never be unseated. The day I held the reins for the first time, she placed her hand over mine to help me guide our mount. If I fell off, she picked me back up, dusting me off and checking for injuries.

When I was still a small creature, she steadied me on the back of a horse, like a solid anchor at my back, one that could never be unseated. The day I held the reins for the first time, she placed her hand over mine to help me guide our mount. If I fell off, she picked me back up, dusting me off and checking for injuries.

She had a healing way about her hands. All the neighborhood kids would bring little injured animals to her, asking her to save them. Half the time she knew it was too late, “but I will try,” she would say. She’d cup the baby bunnies and mice in her warm palms and feed them every couple of hours. All day, all night. When they didn’t make it, she shed tears for them. When they did, she joyfully released them back into the wild.

I learned how to dig small graves in a corner of the property, but it wasn’t a very big graveyard. She saved most of her patients.

Hands wrapping wire around a t-post. Hands digging holes to plant flowers. Hands playing with puppies, petting horses, clasped in my dad’s hands. Wrapped around me in a hug. These are my memories of her and of her strong, capable hands. With them, she could do anything.

On Acacia Munn

If my sister was a tree, then this woman was the wild wind in her branches.

If my sister was a tree, then this woman was the wild wind in her branches.

How she soared. Like an oil-slick Camaro down an empty, lamp-lit highway, all contenders eating her exhaust fumes. She had cool factor in spades, from her black eyeliner to her skinny jeans to her mouthy attitude. You might tell her how to live, but she wouldn’t listen. She had her own way to go.

A woman like that, raising a couple of kids… I know someday, she and her family will be hell on wheels, burning rubber on their way to global domination along the world’s fastest racetrack.

On Sara Fuller

At first she was a friendly face, existing in a liminal time, just outside of everyone else’s clock. I’m not sure when she arrived, but it was sudden, with a splatter of toner ink on my purse and profuse apologies. (Personally, I thought it made the thing look cool and grungy.) Once she did show up, however, it was as if she had always been around, a half hour’s conversation I could sometimes look forward to at the end of the day.

At first she was a friendly face, existing in a liminal time, just outside of everyone else’s clock. I’m not sure when she arrived, but it was sudden, with a splatter of toner ink on my purse and profuse apologies. (Personally, I thought it made the thing look cool and grungy.) Once she did show up, however, it was as if she had always been around, a half hour’s conversation I could sometimes look forward to at the end of the day.

She was a peaceful warrior, ready to improve the world with patience and understanding, no matter how small an action it took. She shared what she had with a smile and an open hand of giving to those in need. Hers were bright eyes, full of nebulae and galaxies and planets. The greatest gift she gave to me was the chance to look through a powerful telescope at the distant cosmos, the home of her heart. To her, I think, there under an overturned bowl of stars, it wasn’t a gift at all. Just an understanding that of course she would share this beauty with me.

Of course.

On Bob Baker

The steady hum of the ballgame on TV in the other room, or the distant banging of a hammer against a nail, always let me know where he was. Sometimes, on summer evenings, his song rang out over the open countryside, his fingers strumming an accompanying rhythm on his guitar strings. When I walked in the door, he greeted me with a booming hello. When I had to leave, he never said goodbye, just “see you later.” Because of course he would see me later.

The steady hum of the ballgame on TV in the other room, or the distant banging of a hammer against a nail, always let me know where he was. Sometimes, on summer evenings, his song rang out over the open countryside, his fingers strumming an accompanying rhythm on his guitar strings. When I walked in the door, he greeted me with a booming hello. When I had to leave, he never said goodbye, just “see you later.” Because of course he would see me later.

He taught me how to sing and he taught me how to swear. He taught me how to use my voice to stand up for what moves me. He lived loud and allowed me space enough to yell.

He was the sound of home.

On Michael Sanders II

He was a point of stillness in a maelstrom. To find him in a whirling, busy crowd, you had only to look for the one anchored to the earth like a steadfast pillar. When he smiled, and stretched out his hand, it was to the quiet ones, the displaced ones, the rejected ones. He helped us up and brought us into his place of peace.

He was a point of stillness in a maelstrom. To find him in a whirling, busy crowd, you had only to look for the one anchored to the earth like a steadfast pillar. When he smiled, and stretched out his hand, it was to the quiet ones, the displaced ones, the rejected ones. He helped us up and brought us into his place of peace.

We conversed for hours, me and him and others, well into the night. Puns, jokes, silly things. Measuring out minutes with his warm voice, so that it felt like no time passed at all. He made us feel welcomed, accepted. Capable of facing the storm again when we stepped back out into the world. His wave and murmured “good luck” were enough to get us by for a while, until someday when it would be time to come back.

On Destiny Perez

She was a tall tree, strong as an oak, with wisdom flowing through her branches and a sense of home stretching into the earth alongside her roots. Her trunk was hollowed out by adversity and time, a comfortable space for the passing weary traveler to rest, a place to forget your troubles for a while.

She was a tall tree, strong as an oak, with wisdom flowing through her branches and a sense of home stretching into the earth alongside her roots. Her trunk was hollowed out by adversity and time, a comfortable space for the passing weary traveler to rest, a place to forget your troubles for a while.

Her leaves sighed and whispered in the breeze like a telephone conversation in the middle of the night. Or they pattered and chattered as she told those seated at her feet stories she’d heard on the wind. Her protective canopy provided equal parts shade from the sun and cover from storms.

I found when I felt lost in my journey, my steps often turned toward her. When I needed comfort, that hollow space would squeeze my shoulders just enough to be a hug. I wasn’t the only one, either. Many others bided their time with me, with her. She was our tree. We knew she would always be there for us.