When I first met Karin, she was not in the room. I stood in her kitchen with my realtor, getting to know the woman and her family merely by the furnishings of the listed farmhouse —the missives and magnets on the fridge door, the art on the walls, the joy in each beloved photograph, and the welcoming comfort of each room. She had me the minute I crossed the threshold, and spied an enameled plaque below the window, which read, “ENTREE DES ARTISTES.” Later I’d learn, Karin viewed each of us as an artist, whether we did or not.
As I walked through the house, I envisioned the comings and goings of this lived-in and well-loved house, known on the island as the Peach Palace due to the unlikely color of its clapboards. On the north wall of the living room, opposite the fireplace, hung a large black and white photo of Karin holding hands with her young son Andrew, spinning in circles in a courtyard in Italy. Karin looked as if she had stepped out of the pages of an E.M.Forster novel with Andrew as her dapper muse.
When I fell in love with the house, I fell in love with Karin. For me, it was an package deal. I approached Karin and her beloved husband Buzz with my best offer and a love letter to the house. I have never been more earnest in my life and spelled out what the house would mean to me, and how I would honor its century-old legacy and weathered facade with a passion reserved for family and friends. Fortunately for me, it was also a time when anyone with a pulse and a bank account could secure a mortgage loan that today would be considered a fiscally-irresponsible offense. We came to a mutual agreement and the only working key to the house was passed on, but not after joking they had no idea where it was or the last time they used it.
A month or so later, I moved into the house, and Buzz and Karin relocated just a block away, but in truth their spirits never really left. Their indelible stamp remained and I was glad for it. Augie their cat took a more literal approach. As a regular visitor, he enjoyed dual residency between houses old and new. Buzz and Karin’s walks to retrieve him made for perfect visits and updates. Karin and I gushed about ‘our’ house, and she would often visit her former home when I was away at work, as I had invited her to do.
When I think of my house —of Karin and Buzz’s house —I’m reminded of a note from Mark Twain about his family home in Hartford, Connecticut. It seems to sum up how we felt, too:
To us our house was not unsentient matter–it had a heart and a soul and eyes to see us with, and approvals and solicitudes and deep sympathies; it was of us, and we were in its confidence, and lived in its grace and in the peace of its benediction. We never came home from an absence that its face did not light up and speak out its eloquent welcome—and we could not enter it unmoved.
– Letter to Joseph Twichell, quoted in Mark Twain: A Biography
Karin holds a special place in my heart, one that grows even dearer with the sad news of her passing. I have never met anyone like Karin, and she embodied love, creativity, moxie, insight and generosity. I write this from a table in the house where she raised her family, and her presence is felt everyday. Her name is painted above my kitchen door, “To Karin with love,” a beloved vestige from her days here, and a gentle and lovely reminder she will come and go as she pleases and find peace in her world with Buzz. My deepest sympathies to her family and friends far and wide.
Her nickname was little Gemma , and what a little gem she was.
What a beautiful remembrance of a very special friend. She passed her home onto the right person.
Beautiful. Thank you for sharing this wonderful memory. And yes Eileen is so right..
She most certainly did.
if only all of us could have something so eloquent written about us after we are gone. a special woman, a special house and you were her special friend.
What a lovely tribute. I am sure Karin always knew you were meant for this home. Looking forward to someday seeing this special place myself.
The best tribute you could give her. Thanks. That’s lovely.
You would know the secret of death.But how shall you find it unless you seek it in the heart of life?
Tom, oh so wise!
V and the Furry Gang
P.S.: Hugs to Buddy from all.
What a wonderful way to express your love for your home and good friend Karin. I never realized until now, when I read your e-mail which included the Mark Twain quote, that is how I feel about our home. No matter where I travel, I am always glad to come home to this house which my wife and I have shared for over 40 years.
Tom, I have never known Karin but still, I can feel her in your home. What a heartfelt way to honor your dear friend!
Love love love this piece. Thank you for telling us about your connection to Karin.
Karin’s circle of friends and devotees was/is wide and deep. Much gratitude to you, Tom, for capturing her essence as her spirit flies free. With big love to you and to your big heart.
Beautifully said, Tom. Thank you…
What a lovely, loving tribute to a dear friend. She was lucky to have passed on her friend, the house, to you, who honour it and feel the same way about it. It is evident from your posts that it has grown on you very quickly, and I have no doubt that you have grown on it as well.
What a wonderful story about a lovely lady. How dearly we miss these rare friends when they are gone. And the Mark Twain quote is a gem. I first read it, purely by chance, a few days after our home burned to the ground in 2009. Thank you for sharing Karin with us.
That’s a really beautiful tribute, Tom. I wish I’d had a chance to meet her.
Love hearing the story of how Tall Clover Farm became a part of your story and that Karin never really left it.
Wow what a touching and poignant post, Tom. Very cool… you know someone is a pretty special human being if someone is willing to paint a portrait of them in this day and age 😄
Oh dear Karin you will be missed…what a lovely precious woman.
With little regard we human beings go about our lives, not so much aware, we impact the world around us. . Gladly for us, there are those, who leave behind goodness for us to share in. This encourages hearts to grow, lives to prosper, difficulties to overcome. The art of living , well, kinder, and full of love is not lost in your world, it is stamped on each member part of the body of your home. You have only to see, and the colors and textures of good choices, thoughtful actions, and exuberant joys are woven into the very fibers of the wood frame of the abode.
Like an errant astronaut, you leave the mother ship.. exploring this shining world that beacons you, Come fond my heart, come find yours.. and the adventure begins. The star twinkles, glows and winks at you.. a good life forever evolving from one light to the next.
Like every life that experiences that moment of illuminated fulfillment, you will also leave your stamp as well. A cycle, if you will, of love embued structure and space, color values of the depth of your soul. Blessings to be shared time and again.. for all of us. ….Truly it matters the lives we live, our houses will tell our stories whisper our secrets and hold our sorrows..
Hugs dear friend on the loss of a dear friend, a teacher of life, a soul of great merit.. hugs to your home who knows her story and will share it still, as love always does, in grace.. hugs to her family who feels that empty place where her laughter and gentle voice held court. Hugs to Buddy, who walks from room to room.. and senses the cage of light and energy.. and so glad he has you to hug him and make more light yet, for the Peach Palance. ..
Thank you for that beautiful remembrance, and the tender photos….
Oh the news is so sad. I’ve known Karin for many many years, and she leaves a hole of a very unique shape that will never be filled in quite the same way again. She told me once that moving back from Italy to Vashon Island was a shock because in Italy one could walk anywhere. She would take walks on Vashon, and people would chase her away. In Italy, the ancient foot paths crossed everyone’s land equally, and The village was extended into the countryside across farms, and through woods. In Karin’s memory, let’s work for a village more like that. Let it be a metaphor to our hearts, and just like Karen we can open them and let people walk right in and through.
Let the s
Karin Stories flow
from our minds and hearts.
A sign out in front of the pink palace..
spaghetti plants for sale..
upon going in, as some tourist did..
rows of spaghetti stuck in the ground.
her imagination was boundless her joy stuck on me.
never in a rush always there to listen and reflect
in a fresh and unexpected way.
Oh my love is an understatement.
What a beautiful tribute and story, Tom. For those of us who did not know Karin, you fill us with appreciation for someone so warm, potent and full of magic. I’m sure she would be delighted that her “resident artist” has used his incredible talent with words to share her with the world.
Thank you all for your kind and generous comments. It makes me smile to think by sharing a little bit of Karin’s life, she has a whole new set of friends and admirers. She would have had you over tea, perhaps she will in another place and time. My gratitude, friends. Tom
What a touching farewell. I’ve lurked on your blog for awhile now, thank you for introducing me to Karin today. I love her.
Simply a beautiful tribute to a home well loved. Thank you Tom.