As I walked down the main street of downtown Lima, Peru, just to ‘get the feel of the place’, I saw a number of people who were dressed in traditional clothing, colorful handmade garments. Most were peddlers, people from villages on the outskirts of Lima. Most were selling art objects they had made.
One of those was an older woman who explained to me she was an artist. As proof, she showed me gourds she had grown and had painted. Most were four to five inches high and two to three inches wide. Her designs encircled each gourd.
When I pointed at one of them and told her I liked it, she seemed to be relieved, as if my four or five dollars would feed her family. Because she spoke English, she reacted strongly when I asked whether she had actually done the painting.
As if to earn my trust, she took the gourd I had chosen and used her black ink pen to add an additional design while I watched, awestruck. Her lines were true; they complimented the gourd’s design perfectly.
I was so impressed that I offered her more than she had asked if she would sign her name to what was now my gourd. She didn’t hesitate to write her name and to thank me humbly and profusely.
I regretted that I couldn’t buy all the gourds she had with her; she was that caring and that good-hearted.
And when I read her name on the bottom of the gourd, I saw it was the same as my mom’s, Ruth.
Although I never told anyone, I kept Ruth near me and treated the gourd with great care, inches from my keyboard.
In part, I did that because Ruth assured me that my love would never leave me as long as her gourd was near me.
For many years, Ruth didn’t disappoint me. It seemed as if the spirit of Ruth, the artist, was both reassuring and within reach.
After my relationship ended, I didn’t set aside Ruth. Instead, I wondered whether Ruth, the artist, was no longer alive. From what I’d read, Peru’s mountain people are short-lived.
Such thoughts have led me to believe that the time has come for me to cherish my memory of Ruth and Ruth’s creation as well as that of the joyful relationship her gourd has guarded for so long.