Sunday, April 10, 2022

Falling Water: The Last Trip

With Covid limiting so much, Michele only had one item on her "bucket list" -- a trip to see the Frank Lloyd Wright "Falling Water" home in Pennsylvania. We made the booking online because Covid meant there were fewer tours and smaller numbers. Mercifully, tours had opened up again.

And as things played out, it was this trip more than anything else that made me realise just how absolutely fundamental and central to Michele's life the dimension of aesthetics was. 

Because Michele was long past being able to drive, I drove the trip, and we made the 350 miles with 2 or 4 stops, arriving in the evening ahead of the tour the next morning. By the time we arrived at our accommodation Michele said it was hard to walk. She moved very slowly but thought it was just from having sat too long as a passenger.

The next morning we arrived at Falling Water in good time, but Michele said she was feeling sore and would have to move slowly. I informed the tour guide but Michele said she did not need a wheelchair.

She made it through the tour, albeit with difficulty. There was a second tour of four more FLW homes in a cluster nearby scheduled for the afternoon. Michele wondered if she should call it off. I asked if she might regret that, and later wondered if I should just have said nothing. Again, a talk with the tour guide meant that all accommodations would be made, and Michele completed the tour, happy to have seen more houses and got a wider sense of Wright's architecture.

The trip back to New Jersey became increasingly wretched. Michele could not bear to stop and get out of the car, even with the powerful prescribed pain relief medication. By the next day she was in a very bad way and with much difficulty we got her to the car and to an emergency appointment at the clinic. After scans I was told to get Michele home, pack a bag, and get immediately to the emergency section at the hospital in mid town Manhattan. 

We got there around 10pm and I was able to stay with her and she was eventually admitted to the hospital ward. After a while the specialist came and explained to us that a tumour had fractured Michele's hip, and that to keep her as comfortable as possible for whatever time she had left they were going to do a hip replacement. That duly happened and a week later Michele was back home, learning to function with a walker and with crutches. Although she was expected to live for maybe 4-5 months more, she died less than 6 weeks after the surgery.

While we were waiting for the surgery we were talking about the trip to Falling Water and whether it seemed like a mistake in retrospect to have pushed through the pain and kept on. Michele just looked me directly in the eye and said "I'd go through it again every time. It was ABSOLUTELY worth it."

It was then that I really began to understand just how much "the aesthetic" meant in Michele's life. There could have been no more graphic an explanation and, for me, no more grounded an understanding and appreciation.

The following are a fulsome selection of  the final photos Michele took. There are quite a lot of them for a blog post, but I have decided to include more rather than fewer, for pretty obvious reasons.  They are a testimony to Michele's openness to wonder and her sense of the wonderful, and a tribute to the depth and 'totality' of commitment to and appreciation of aesthetics.

Wednesday, January 05, 2022

Some coffee photos after a long hiatus

 This post comprises some photos from the early phases of my 2022 coffee production activity -- the first coffee harvest and production since Michele's death. It was our first shared blog, cheekily named after Michele's middle name, Joy -- a name she often complained about being given; yet a name that encompasses magnificently the way she approached life. And Joypix was intended to serve as a kind of personal record for us, in photos, of some the joyous moments we experienced together.

We did not post to it from the time Michele was diagnosed, almost all of which time coincided with the Covid 19 pandemic. During that period, up until almost the very end, we captured trips we made, walks we did, and the time we spent together using the small "faux Polaroid" Fuji camera Michele gave me three Christmasses ago. We filled a small album and got into a second in the time we had -- photos too poignant and personal to publish. Although with one exception, which I will post when I muster the wherewithal to do it, in all its tragic wonder and beauty: the trip to Frank Lloyd Wright's Falling Water creation -- the only item Michele had on her bucket list

After making that post I will have to decide whether to continue with Joypix -- there are things Michele and I planned to do, which we could not do, like some road trips in Matilda. I may very well do some of these, in which case Michele's spirit will certainly accompany me. And I think it would be OK to post any photos that might be taken on the road.

For now, one thing I do know is that the coffee was always a highlight of Michele's year. She would come down to Mexico for a month and immerse herself as fully and frenetically as she could -- the Mexican life that remained to her after she went to live in the US to have her academic career. And the coffee harvest was always a central part of that. So, for now, here are some records of where the 2022 production has got to thus far: to the first pick of beans drying on the roof.

The sequence moves from beans on the plant, to some of the pickers picking, to the pickers having lunch in the shade of palm trees near to a small garden plot, to the process of using a hand-cranked "despulpadora" to get the skin off the beans, to the process of leaving the beans in a tub of water for 48 hours to remove the slime so they will dry more quickly ("fermenacion"), to setting the beans out to dry under cover up on the roof of the house.


Subsequent phases, for later in the year, will include rough husking the dry beans using a bench top hand cranked grinder, and then finishing the husking of the beans using a small electric "morteador", and after that roasting the beans, grinding the beans and, finally, bagging them.