A Tribute to Rita
It has been 16 years since I first meet Rita, and I still find myself going back to her each year for her wisdom. Through all my years of photography, all the people and places, all the memories, she remains unique. I hope I can evoke a little of her presence for you.
Born in Martha, Texas, Rita had known the hardships of growing up on a farm, and she was always tougher than the toughest times. For over 60 years she has begun the day before sunrise, rising at 4:30 A.M. to feed her chickens. Rita is almost 80 now, but I can remember a time when she didn´t need to use a walking stick. Now, when she goes to feed the chickens, her walking stick must accompany her on that short trip.
The years have taken their toll on her body, but her spirit is younger than her years. Those well-defined furrows in Rita’s face reflect not only a life in the Texas sun, where Rita enjoyed most of her life planting her flowers, but also the wisdom of her life. I have always felt that her flowers embodied all the love she gave them. When she gave me flowers, or other presents, the warmth of her heart radiated from them.
When Rita takes my hand to greet me, she puts one hand on top of mine, a gesture that seems to say how sincerely glad she is to see me. Her words are always delivered in a soft, gentle tone. When it is time for me to leave, Rita’s goodbyes are as strong and gentle as her greetings.
I once took really sick while on a visit to her farm. She cared for me as she would have cared for her own child, without hesitation, without grumbling, without holding back. She offered me her bed that night, and I surrendered to her generosity only after every refusal of mine was met by her insistence. I remember lying on the bed while she rubbed an herb called “rue” on me and chanted a prayer, in Spanish Was it the chant, the herb, or just the love that made me feel better?
My trips to her farm have given me insight into a truly beautiful heart, whose simple message is to find pleasure, value, purpose and gratitude in the most humble tasks. In her appreciation of the small things in life, she finds value in every human being. Rita is so fully present with everything she does, and fully present for every person she loves. I cannot remember her ever complaining, or ever taking credit or wanting reward for any of her many kindnesses and tireless efforts. Her rewards come from a place deep within her heart, where her life and her love touch your own.
More than anyone I have ever known, Rita embodies the Taoist proverb that the most extraordinary achievement is to be ordinary. Rita is ordinary in her simple way of living, but extraordinary in her all-embracing love.