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death and burial

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Tuesday, December 17, 2013

In memory of William John Fiske


 
Eulogy written a few days after I learned that Wm. was gone, intended, for his family and friends to capture some of his unique personality. I read this eventually at his memorial at Quarry Hill:

FEARLESS LEADER


to his family:

I expected to be talking to you, probably this weekend, but Brion’s email had your addresses, so I don’t want to wait. It took me almost a week for this to really begin to sink in. Since then I’ve been flooded with images of William as the extraordinarily happy person he naturally was (and wanted everyone else to be as well), and with distinct memories of how he exceeded every known limit when it came to gonzo style, outrageous never-before-existent humor, and, most of all, in his all-embracing love for people.

When I came to QH, I was 21: Wm. was 14. In hindsight, I can adjudge, he was more man than five of me at the time. I eventually cut that by advancement (in my mind) to a 2 or a 1.5 maybe (maybe), but no one could ever exceed, resist, deny, or keep up with him. That he always looked after me (with a sharp eye on my utility, of course, but still . . .) perhaps had something to do with the rational tether my witness provided. Now we can rewind that experience and extract from it testimony to sketch a rough portrait of this uniquely gifted and extraordinarily complex individual who was our hearty friend and raucous compatriot.

William was so overwhelming he seemed dangerous. I often felt, I think, that it would be better to avoid him, so easy would it be to be swept away by the strength of his dedication to action, however inspired or ill-advised. But there was no avoiding him, just as there was no stopping him. And it's been my good fortune to work with him and ride beside him over thirty years, the prime of our lives; it’s added immeasurable dimension, substance, and excitement to my life just being around him. None of us will ever forget him.

Many of us, when we’ve gone, will, like William, leave the powerful and enduring legacy of our children, and now their children’s children, for all time to come. Let us not dismiss or forget that cardinal reality. But William, like LB, Irv and Barb, and yourselves, have also formed the core of a family (unlike any in all time) whose committed destiny was to take us in when we were uprooted, to feed us, and clothe us, to open our exceedingly provincial (if willing) minds to a more primal and anarchic alternative than we had imagined could exist, and then to grow right beside us--with us--as we multiplied, over a stretch of paradisiacal years we thought could never end.

Now, here we stand, roots severed once again, and a full third perhaps of our lives remaining--or not. How quick the end can come. To any, we see. And none can lay claim to even one more breath by any right nor even ability. We stand perhaps, because we’ve not yet given our full measure. William did. Every damn day he did. He was my friend, the war leader this good soldier required; and not least, he was the caretaker, purveyor, and chief practitioner of a sense of unstoppable good humor, a fun that charted the outrageous right over the edge of anything normal, far past the ordinary, and deep into the beyond.

Let us remember that it is given to some to assault the known world’s limits with an originality never before seen. This was such a man. And his energy and verve, his panache and compassion will always inhabit our memories, and vivid they be as our dreams. But this epic and unintentional experiment really happened. Here was our life lived, all outside the known. And here was our leader, our protector, our friend. Until, suddenly, he was not. Thank you all, for all the same as he stood for, and for being his family. It does go on. And is not to be forgotten. Ever. . . .

Rick
 
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a piece such as this, an immediately evoked affectionate remembrance--here reiterated much later and seemingly removed from its context--might seem therefore, to a neutral party, overly sentimental, perhaps even exaggerated. but I would question the accuracy of those evaluations, and most of all their relevancy, by suggesting that their flaw is introduced by a couple of key oversights; namely, fir...st, the implication that there is any factor which acts to limit the operable context pertaining to the loss of a loved one, for the living who remain, and since not, that the context is all-pervasive. and in no sense then can these expressions be "out of context." second, the unchallenged assumption that, the more vivid the remembrance, the more nearly its expression ought to coincide with the event of the loss, instead of later, when such contemplation might better serve, even, be more savored, with acute grief more quiescent, less intrusive, and less likely to diminish the satisfaction and pleasure to be found there, in a reiteration of what made the loved one so unique, and so loved. and likewise, just so, is fond memory freshened and revivified, and perhaps informed as well by the ensuing advance of our growth and progress, as continues apace while we still kick. such ceremony acts as well as another way to bring us together again. in other, fewer words, there is no "out of context," and later is just an even better time, it seems to me, for memorial. that's why when I saw this page, I wanted to bring this forward again. and there's my rebuttal of any suggestion of overly sentimental, a priori, should it think to arise. think instead appropriately vivid, and hopefully fun to remember
 
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I don't think so either. less than is in order, personally, if off the mark at all, per sentiment.

insufflation off the sideboard of the skidder, in winter's early dusk, saws at our feet melting holes in the snow, was only just the ticket due we two deserving exhausted, merely injecting the evening with interest.
 
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a different day, and contra-distinct. this one:...Brought to you by BAD IDEA Jeans: "If we re-route the brook with the blade of the skidder, come right through the yard, right about here, we let it flow over the unbucked saw logs, it just might melt away this quarter-inch glaze of ice, and we wouldn't need to chip a circumferential path with a hatchet all the way around every one for every single, simple cut."

"yeah, maybe. anyway, what could go wrong? it's only water."
 
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more ice sure, but more importantly, threatened loss of the entire yard, the saw logs washed like pickup sticks downstream. only an "every man on the place" response--which we called in like the "Broken Arrow" radio call command of the Viet Nam war which when given indicated to fighter jets already scrambled and stacked every thousand feet to the ceiling all over the country, that an American unit... was in immediate danger of being overrun, directing those pilots to bring every bit of ordinance you have to bear on this patch of ground bearing these coordinates, and bring it NOW-- and a furious bit of sandbagging, prevented the worst of the damage. all agreed that it was fortunate that Wm. and I had been on-site working late when the bank had first "let go,"and that obviously it was only our quick and decisive response that had saved the day, and the whole operation. ah well. heroes again. another day, another five dollars (my daily pay for running the woods crew and doing the felling (with Mark and Michael C.) while Wm. and Ralph and Sam E. handled the yard and skidder and bulldozer)


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we were using the profit to purchase the land itself, the face of the mountain across from us from Bambi-land down almost to Reggie Andrews's, a piece that was now up for sale by the original consortium (or their heirs) of beatnik friends or Irv and Barb, who had invested in it, and now it was for sale and with developers sniffing around--hence both our urgency, and going "pro" as far as logging an...d woods work, and the modest pay of twenty-five a week, which still was not entirely to be sniffed at. it was like a hundred or so would be today. we finished the job over two winters and beautifully. it was ready to be logged again even more productively twenty years later. (I don't think it was--if not there's a small fortune in saw logs in there still on the stump.) trees we left (under 12 inches in diameter) are surely 18-20 inches now if it didn't get logged again.)

there were several years running when as still pure amateurs and for no pay, obviously, none sought, it seemed like a good idea to bring back rounds in the green panel truck from our woodlot (our woodlot was designated by the US Forest Service to cut firewood, felling marked trees); it was on top of a mountain on the west side of Warren and was only accessible (we discovered) by a sixty foot bridge over mud that we had to build from 2 x 12 planks elevated on chunks of firewood, that allowed us then to winch the truck up the hill it traversed, if we could avoid going off the planks. we snapped Harold Hubbard's come-along like a rubber band the first time we got stuck hopelessly and had to call in professional help. we would fill the trucks with rounds (Mark's big flatbed truck as well) then drive them back to Quarry Hill, dump them where the new driveway is and split and then stack it right there for drying. in that one central spot we accumulated well over a hundred cords of split stacked wood, which in the fall we triumphantly went around delivering about 15 cords to each house. only a couple years of that method had us devising a more efficient strategy, dispensing with the splitting and stacking and central location and just delivering truckloads of rounds to each house until they had enough then going to the next, all directly from the woods, wherever we were cutting. this left the splitting and stacking to those who that particular household could impel to undertake the job. it wasn't as much fun, but it made so much more sense. still, I'd love to see a picture of our hundred cord plus woodpile, all split and stacked, that stretched in a huge irregular rectangle from the swing set to the path that ran by ginger's, from the side of the old driveway almost down to what would be the start of the new one someday in the future. for now-- we were young once, and oh man, we were strong

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