Friday, March 16, 2018

Saying Goodbye to a Beautiful Friend

Dear readers,

I apologize for my long absence. The last few months have been full of uncertainty and tough decisions; my father’s dementia has deteriorated further after a long urinary tract infection. Thankfully, he is currently free from the infection at last and safely residing in an assisted living facility.

Unfortunately, I have recently lost a dear friend and avid reader of this blog. I met Christine Grovenstein several years ago when a friend introduced us because of our shared love of organic farming. Christine ran an organic blueberry farm in Lithia, Seeds of Love, and you may have had the chance to try her beautiful berries at your local grocery store. It was always a treat to go to the farm, not only to learn from Christine, but also to snack on these delicious fruits that I knew had been cultivated with love and care.

Seeds of Love blueberries

Not only were her blueberry bushes gorgeous and prolific, but Christine devoted a lot of her efforts to preserving the wildness of her acreage. Unlike other farmers in her area, Christine’s land was bursting with life and diversity. The land was home to stands of enormous trees—scrub oaks and laurel oaks—as well as other native and edible landscaping. She had built a labyrinth and a Medicine Wheel. In the 25 years or so that she was the caretaker of that land, she allowed herself to be enriched by every living thing that shared that space with her. For most of her time on the farm, she lived there alone. Christine was incredibly in tune with nature and her connection to the plants and wildlife was something to behold. The land was sacred to her, and working it was a ceremony that she did with love every single day. She called the land her source, and indeed it was a source of inspiration and beauty to every person who walked upon it.

Christine overlooking her land, her source
When she wasn’t taking care of her beautiful land and farm, she was off traveling. She had been a Peace Corps volunteer in Guatemala when she was in her 40’s and she returned to Central America often. Her partner Dan had a boat and they had many adventures together at sea. She loved elephants and had traveled to many far corners of the world to care for them. By the way she worked the land and lived her adventurous life, it was hard to believe that Christine was in her 70’s.

She went through hardships, too. In the last years of her life, she valiantly battled Chronic Lymphocytic Leukemia. She was treated unfairly by the National Organic Program, even after 25 back-breaking years as a small organic grower. But she never let any of that get in the way of her dreams and goals. She continued to pour her heart into the land. This past September, Christine wrote to me about her experience of losing nearly 80 trees to Hurricane Irma: “The petrified wood of old laurel trunks reminds me of the strength I must have that comes from all storms in life.” Indeed, she had weathered many storms, but she had learned and grown wise by withstanding them.  

Enjoying the full moon at Seeds of Love farm
Over the years, Christine and I became very close. I introduced her to as many women friends as I could, wishing to share Christine’s passion and energy with them. She was a fierce fighter of justice, and I told her often how inspiring she was to me. Ours was a special friendship, and I know that her spirit will continue to live on in me. I will continue to be inspired by the beautiful and ambitious way that she lived her life until the very end. Age, illness, and injustice did not stop her. She was always generous with her time, with her land, with her energy, with her knowledge, with her spirit. I hope to give as much to the world as Christine did. I feel very lucky to have known her.

I will never forget the connection that we shared. Her words will continue to guide me as I move forward in life.

“I see such goodness in you with a wonderful life ahead full of adventure, love, and service. It is a spark in me to have shared what we have. I want to say that so that you go knowing the admiration I have come to have for you. It is a blessing to have a friend as you in life. It just makes life warmer.

Thank you, Christine, for your life, your love, and your friendship. 
Having a friend like you in my life has also made my life warmer. 
I love you.

Thank you for your life, Christine. We love you and miss you.

Most photos have been taken from her Facebook page. Some are from my own collection.