I only know his name through others who have mentioned it in passing. However, in the 12 years I’ve lived here, I have often seen him wandering the numerous trails surrounding our community (although increasingly less so as the area is developed and green space replaced with housing). His presence is most often announced through the plume of sweet tobacco smoke that always accompanies him on his walks. Often you see him sitting in amongst the trees and plants, head set on, legs crossed, thin, quiet. He acknowledges you but I rarely got the sense he wanted to chat. So I would nod and move on. Sometimes I would see him early in the morning sitting on a log, lost in thought, headset on, taking in the view from the top of the hill that overlooks Indian Arm. Wherever I found him, either deep in the forest, often in the company of a neighbour’s dog, or out front, sitting surrounded by the tall summer weeds, it felt to me that nature was necessary for him. That he needed to be a part of it.
His property stood out from others for the extraordinary beauty of his garden. Large, wild, exotic, beautiful plants flourished under his care. I imagined that he spoke to them, urging them forward. Be bold, he would say to them. And they were. His garden was so beautiful it was almost outrageous. How could that much wild beauty exist in one small place. I often walked by his place feeling as though I was looking at a painting or a piece of art work. And I imagined that all the time he spent meditating in the forests he was gathering strength and inspiration to breathe life into his own family of plants and flowers, his own creation.
I heard through the grapevine that he was sick. Already thin, he seemed to get thinner, smoke with a bit more fury. Still I would see him in all his favourite places and then I heard he had passed away.
I never really spoke with him, I barely knew him. I only benefited from his unique gifts as I think many of us here did.
I often think about how we all live in these neighbourhoods passing each other every day like ships in the night. And then suddenly you realize someone is gone. They’ve left. I was inexplicably sad to hear that Randy had died. We had gone through multiple rotations of spring, summer, winter and fall together, cells mutating, bodies changing, anonymously passing each other.
I like to shout out the names of people who have died when I’m driving, or walking or thinking. To me it’s the only tangible thing we have of those who leave. Their names, out loud connect me to what they offered in beauty, laughs or love. Randy was an artist. That’s how I think of him. And when I say his name I’ll conjure the natural beauty he ushered forth year after year in the little space that he called home.