- Posted February 23, 2013 by
Santa Barbara, California
This iReport is part of an assignment:
Photo essays: Your stories in pictures
Sometimes there are people that come into your life and change your vision of the world, and the way you live your life. I like to call them teachers since they teach us life lessons and carry with them an important message about living life to the fullest.
She was 82 when I first met her. I landed in California for the first time and my husband (than boyfriend) picked me up in a dirty little pickup truck at the airport. He told me this was his Oma's pickup! “She uses it everyday to go feed the horses!” he said, casually. I never knew that little old ladies could do that...and little did I know, could do even more! When we arrived at her house where we were staying for over a month, I met this little Dutch woman with bright white puffy hair and green Adidas on her feet!
I didn't know what to think of this Super Oma, who was born in Holland, grew up in England riding and fox hunting, then fell in love with an American soldier, and moved to California after the war.
Her garden was well maintained, with mature avocado, lemon, orange, fig, and apple trees. The license plate on her car said “ Oma”. This made me smile as I came from a place where plates only have random letters and numbers.
She took me into her bright yellow kitchen for a cup of tea. On the walls were ribbons from various horse related contests, and a calendar with something written on every single day. This lady was busier than most adults I knew! She had a large compost bucket under her kitchen sink, and on the counter was a basket filled with organic oranges she had just picked from her trees. My fascination for Oma grew with the years and still to this day I can say she is the most fascinating person I have ever met!
In a time when eating organic is gaining popularity, I realize how ahead of her time Oma and Opa where. You see, this little lady and her husband were pioneers in organic farming in Southern California. They had bought a farm in Goleta back in the 60's and grew fruit and vegetables without the use of pesticides. She would often say that their friends believed they were crazy for going organic! Oma and Opa were also avid bee keepers, recognizing the importance of bees in farming. The farm was later sold as a non-profit organization to continue serving the community without any risk of ever being developed. To this day, the family still farms, organically of course! But the most beautiful orchard of all, is the one behind her house. Up to a few years ago, she would walk down to her garden and orchard and pick veggies or fruits on a daily basis.
This woman's passion for riding horses and painting is also quite spectacular. I would help her with feeding the horses from time to time and could hardly believe the hard work she was doing throughout her 80's and early 90's. Again, she didn't have to, but she wanted to keep busy! She would leave on camping trips with friends and horses in Santa Barbara's back country. Almost everyday she would paint, or do pastels, and displayed her work in shows here and there throughout the area.
For the 13 years I have known Oma, I have always looked forward to tea time so we could sit and talk. Her stories so captivating that I would often run into my room afterward to write them down so I wouldn't forget them! Her young heart and modern vision of the world were making her more interesting than most people my age.
Oma can afford anything in life, but she enjoys living in simplicity. She wears jeans all day, and often has dirty fingers from digging in the garden and harvesting the latest crop. Sometimes, she has pastel on her nose or paint on her hands.
Last night our loving 94 years old Oma was put on oxygen. Her health is deteriorating quickly these days and we are learning to accept that a generation of the family will soon be gone.
This lady will leave behind her a whole list of lessons to be learned. Drinking a glass of fresh squeezed organic juice every morning will keep you healthy, but devoting your life to your passions will make you happy. Getting dirty, and spending time outdoors will keep you energized, and painting will keep your heart young. She's had a purpose everyday, whether it was riding with Terry or delivering some of her pastels to a local show. Of course, she's been lucky to be so healthy, but I think she has been healthy because she's happy. And her happiness comes from living every day to it's fullest.
This letter is for her, so she can see how much I love her, and how blessed I feel to have spent so many years with her. But, this letter is also for you. To inspire you to reach out to the ones you love and tell them how much they mean to you!