Lying back on her pillows, satin cases that she bought in the Thrift Shop that had been a part of the elegant bedspread ensemble used in a nearby model home, Libby studied the swaying branches on the Hickory tree, just outside of the cage that enclosed the pool of their southern Florida home. She couldn’t believe that it was done – over – accomplished – finished. In the past seven months she had recuperated from a Total Knee Replacement, suffered through a heart attack, turned seventy-four, had her first great grandchild and moved, which ranked 3rd amongst the most difficult phases of life - just after death and divorce, from her two decade residence on a classic trawler in Honolulu to the home of her dream – a residence occupied by a small dwelling and eighteen magnificent trees.
Libby had always loved trees and considered them living friends, each with its own personal identity, just as her human friends. When she had been a small child, growing up during WWII in Richmond, her mother had delighted in spreading out a large handmade quilt under an enormous elm in their back yard. There she spent many hours on her back, feet and hands in the air as she walked through space, in time with the rhythm of the leaves blowing, in unison with swaying branches, in their own private dance. Surrounded by baby toys, then toddler toys and then her very own storybook dolls, she much preferred the movement of various waves of clouds moving overhead to the direction of the orchestration of surrounding trees.
Later on, when her family moved to Chevy Chase, as her father received yet another promotion with an upward mobile pharmaceutical company, Libby found comfort across the street, in a lovely park maintained by the city, where there was one special tree with a large bench swing attached from a strong overhead branch. Settled in with a comfortable throw pillow and her collection of trading cards, Libby would swing for hours while studying the trunk and outer casing of the wide oak. Watching ants and an occasional lizard, she would internalize stories as to the imaginable world that they each encased. Other planets, insect in size, would zoom through her head with dramas as to the survival of the fittest in an insect vs. insect world.
The family’s next move was to Dallas where Libby would enter the world of adolescence and become a teen. Totally taken up with the surroundings of school, dating and diaries, she really didn’t have time to indulge in a favorite tree. However, as she would ride through the woods on Saturday mornings, during her horseback lessons, she would always take the path closest to the trees – holding out her right hand in salute and patting the branches as she rode under. Her instructor warned her against this as he was afraid she would hurt herself but Libby never cared – she would do it anyway when he had turned away to help another student.
It was here, in Junior High, when she became fascinated with leaves and their various shapes, collecting them in a paper sack as she walked home from school or through the park. She would spend evenings coloring over them with the side of a crayon in order to transfer their design onto a paper which she would then use to cover her textbooks. She loved doing this and it could be rightfully said that this love for leaf design helped to guide her into a later career in art.
In Evansville, her final move before college as this mid-western city was where the parent company of her father’s company was located, she had a total epiphany. One lovely spring afternoon Libby took a nature walk with her friends Bonnie and Barbara. They decided to hike through a small forest that lined the banks of the Ohio River after packing a lunch to enjoy while out. As they walked, in single file, through the large trees sheltering them from the overhead sun, Libby looked up to see huge beams of sunlight coming down in wide rays engulfing the entire forest.
It was as if God was personally summoning her from heaven – the glory and the brightness of it all seemed to accompany the silence interspersed with a choir of forest animals making for an entirely new realm into which she was walking. It was as if she had been transported into another dimension, one in which the life she currently lived had no importance whatsoever. She was alone in the natural world, embraced by a mother quite superior to her own, and loved with a love that spanned ages, if not eons.
This image never quite left Libby and later, when she was to go through the New Age movement, she would look back and remember this feeling, feeling herself bathed in sunshine and radiance, while meditating.
Thereafter followed marriage, children, wonderful careers – filled with exciting challenges, divorce, lovers and yachting. It was this last category that reminded her now of her love of nature and the greenery of the natural world.
In 1968, her husband was transferred to Keesler AF Base in Biloxi, MS where he headed the Orthopedic Department. This was during the Vietnam War when dozens of young men were being flown into military hospitals all over America to receive trauma treatment. Because Bill was away from home so often, Libby decided to learn to sail. One of her friends gave her their 12’ wooden moth, when he was transferred, and she would often sail it out from Biloxi Bay into the gulf.
It was here she learned her love for the wet side of nature – winds, seas, waves, tides and all of the many nuances of life on the water; she had always loved the sea and was what one would call careless in her desire to sail in almost any weather. Having experienced several NDEs while sailing, those who knew her best recounted that she got her love of cats from the fact that she shared 9 lives with them.
After her sons had graduated from high school and gone off to either college or lives of their own, Libby decided that it was time to follow. Realizing the aloneness of an Empty Nest Syndrome, she brazenly loaded up her Bronco wagon and headed to southern Florida where she boarded both her and the car on a freighter heading for the Caribbean.
For the next quarter century Libby lived and worked on boats – all types of vessels. She became both a nanny and cook on charter sails, she became a crew for delivery skippers and she finally took the plunge and purchased her very own 37’ sloop, where she live aboard for seven years. During this time she met her current lover, Dave, who introduced her to even more sailing adventures. Selling Antares, her sloop, she joined resources with Dave to purchase a 60’ classic trawler that the two named Swan Song.
During the following 15 years they cruised the western hemisphere spanning the Caribbean, South America, Panama, Central America, Mexico and finally Hawaii. By this time, Libby had aged – the years had been physically kind to her as she had kept her long blond hair, which she always wore in a pony tail, and her resilient spirit had kept her young - but she was tired.
Living on the water for several decades takes its toll on those who love the greenery of nature. Libby missed green side of life and longed to live where she could rest among the trees in a hammock, chaise or lawn chair. Because she had lived most of her “Bucket List” desires, it was not surprising that during her hospital days of recuperating from a heart attack she had another epiphany – that of being surrounded by trees.
Libby turned her head on the satin pillow looking out of her bedroom window in appreciation of her surroundings. Her entire world was now green. The eighteen trees on their property all seemed to dance in unison to the setting sun. She really didn’t know how she had acquired the energy necessary to make such a long move, from Hawaii to Florida, but she had done it. She had accomplished the final event in her life. Smiling, she saluted her new world of greenery with the lifting of her arm to cover her face. She was discovered hours later with a smile on her sun-kissed countenance