Remember Sarah Bishop
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Kate Brandy

Something new I am coming to understand is that on some level, Sarah's new inaccessibility will never make sense, at least not to me. I am surprised to come across things of hers every few days, like the tail-end of walnuts that she bought for me when she was here, fearing for any household that did not have a supply of them. I also accidentally clicked onto the 100% Portland site a couple of weeks ago accidentally. It was on my computer file below the Google listing from when she was here and checking in with her group.

I came upon a stack of photos in which there were several of the trip we took to New York. Of the dozens that were taken, and the few scattered in the pile, the one I came upon that day was black and white, of Sarah in the foreground, lying in the grass, asleep on Joseph's lap, and Joseph leaning back on his elbows in the background.

It made me think of that trip, how we took it to support Jill Winder, another Whitman graduate, and how Sarah and I didn't really know her well and so went jauntily along with the crowd of rascally kids (including the infamous Isaac, and the Dangerous Eddie,) through the streets of New York City, and the parks, and how on one curb we got to braiding both Ben and Joseph's hair at their request, and what fun we had doing it. Something about not knowing Jill as well as the rest of the crowd permitted Sarah and I to tag along with the group like two mischievous kids, poking our fingers through metal park fences, and to admire secretly the sweet and comical way that both Ben and Joseph wore overalls, and to laugh when New Yorkers would ask us what country we were from, assuming the UK or Israel—we knew not why.

For a break from the larger crowd, and because Sarah and I were driven to see "some Broadway thing" we met Patricia, who was living in the City then, and spent an evening going to see the play "Rent". We forged what felt like an important and revolutionary bond then that allowed us both the possibility of adventuring outside of the farminess of the boys and into adventures together of which they showed no interest. It was a relief, as we were already feeling ourselves destined (or even predestined) to live in some sort of community. I was glad to have some camaraderie in my misadventures and deviant indulgences. This kinship continued.

Because of our proximity and unique relatedness, I was able to witness many different scenarios with Sarah and Joseph and watch them learn to articulate their togetherness, as Ben and I articulated our own. Ben and I called ourselves the whimsical, eccentric, not-so-practical artsy couple, prone to fits of supposing. We joked that Sarah and Joseph were the practical ones, Sarah with her no nonsense business sense, and Joe with his farm-or-die utilitarianism. They even seemed practical about their adventures, conspiring over maps & coffee. Brian and Asha were characterized as the homemakers and the world cafe music listeners/mountain dwellers. In reality we were all much more of a blend. This was evident in Joe taking on Ben's sense of aesthetic, Ben beginning to call himself an "agrarian" and valuing the efficiency and self-reliance that comes with the farming life that he'd wished for as a child, Sarah and I sharing a romantic fancy for locomotives, long conversations, female friends, high-spirited adventure, and an early role model in Natty Gann. All of us in the love of mountains. All of us in the love of rivers.

Our dream was to work together, not as a commune, but as a group of people who could share things, tools, time, children, years, and stories. Over Spring Break I noticed what seemed like stress, or exhaustion in Sarah and I presume it had to do with "getting on with it" (meaning the dream of land). I expressed surprise when she stated a firm conviction for the creation of this idea of ours, as I had gleaned over time that she had little interest in farming and didn't really know what she would do on a farm. In fact, in my experience, she had remained stubbornly noncommittal about her role in the farm which I took to be a sign that she still had major reservations. She replied to my surprise that no, this was not primarily Joseph's dream as I had sometimes thought, but one she envisioned for herself in college and even before. This conversation was so enlightening to me because I realized that perhaps many of my assumptions were wrong about how this whole big dream came about. Our conversations continued to be illuminating as we spent those next two weeks of March together. Each conversation revealed the making of long held dreams, aspirations, frustrations and convictions. We both shared frustrations we'd experienced working on our houses, a shattering of the sweet idea of a remodel...and we talked about how to create lives that liberate rather than bind us.

Her face is so clear to me on that first March day, maybe simply because I was seeing her in a new light, one that she shone on herself. We were at the Whitman Campus, taking one of our walks (which always felt stolen and splendid—while the boys cooked). It was twilight and we made our way to the community garden just off campus. It was warm enough that Sarah was only wearing a T-shirt, but cool enough that her face was pinking with chill. The fading light held her in that rose color and she seemed filled by talk of community, and more tender than I had almost ever seen her. I can't place what I learned just then but it was significant, and perhaps it has something to do with how much there is to learn about someone we think we know, and to really ask questions so that they might have room to explain the origin and nature of their dreams.

My love is with you both. I am so very aware that you among us carry the most layers of Sarah and her emergence into the fierce and easy person that she was. I am grateful in a way to know that someone (s) carries her story all the way back to the beginning and how it must honor her living to have it be the two of you who surely fostered her kindness, integrity, and dignity with the kind of family you made.

P.S. All of this comes back to me as I think back to last year and Sarah's insistence that her birthday should extend at least a week, before and beyond the actual date. I will surely be thinking of her on Thursday, and of you three, and of the sweet beauty & supremely unself-conscious funk that I came to know as distinctly Sarah.

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