Monday, 17 December 2007
By Rabon Saip of Elder Times
Waltz Gardens was a fuchsia nursery situated behind a large private home on a back street between Kentfield and San Anselmo. The neighborhood had an old and elegant Marin County feeling. Quiet cultural ghosts lived in that architecture of a world gone by.
My need for pocket money had inspired me to answer an ad on the employment bulletin board at Marin Junior College. But, when I first saw Muriel Waltz, whose elderly parents lived with her in the large house, I wondered if I would last.
Before she came into view, I could hear the sound of her dragging right foot as she scraped through the loose gravel in the large back yard. Her body was twisted by cerebral palsy. Her face was distorted. Her mouth was pulled over to one side. She had difficulty talking. And aside from the dragging limp, her right elbow bent sharply upward to support an apparently useless, dangling hand. She was often twitching and shaking. I wasn’t quite sure how to handle the sight of her.
At first, her white-haired mother was around to help me understand Muriel’s pronunciation but then, I was left on my own. It was difficult to deal with her and I wasn’t at all sure I wanted to stay. Then, something quite amazing happened.
One day after I had completed one of my tasks and was walking past the greenhouse, I glanced through a clear spot in a pane of glass and came to a sudden stop. The woman sitting at the small wooden table inside was definitely Muriel; but not Muriel. This woman wasn’t shaking, or at all twisted and distorted. In fact, the serene calmness of her soft, even features was stunning; she was utterly beautiful. There was an aura of light around her, a pure angelic quality that made me feel as though I was spying on something sacred, and private.
The two flowering creatures on the table before her were vibrantly alive, but perfectly still, as though breathlessly awaiting her touch. She was engaged with such total concentration I could feel the energy of her focus. I soon realized that I was witnessing the delicate marriage of arranged pollination.
She was not only a rapt participant, but a purposeful creator, facilitating the inception of new life. The needle thin instruments in her now steady hands were manipulated with surgical skill, and with all the caring passion of a faithful lover. I later learned that Muriel Waltz was well known in the fuchsia world for the rich varieties she had developed.
That sacred moment would completely change my way of being at Waltz Gardens. I couldn’t wait to get to work in the afternoon after class. I found excuses to talk to her, to be around her. And I understood every word of our conversation. She was well informed on a wide range of topics. Her thoughts were complex and interesting. The physical distortion of her disease no longer mattered. That mistaken appearance was now transparent. All I could see was the magically beautiful woman I had seen through the pane of glass. I had the most profound crush on her.
It was devastating when her mother died and Muriel closed the nursery for an indefinite period. It was not until the last day we worked together that our eyes met in a way that I knew she understood what had happened to me. The naked honesty that was shared in that brief glance was one of the most intensely intimate and exciting sexual experiences of my young life.