I never met Jerry Olmstead, yet he powerfully impacted my life. Let me explain. I enjoy walking and photographing and visiting gardens. One of my favorite gardens has become the landscaping at Everett Community College. I know. Seems like a strange garden to fall in love with, doesn’t it? Its an academic setting after all. It’s classrooms and sidewalks and parking lots–huge amounts of asphalt striped and pulsating with thousands of cars coming and going daily. But it’s the rose garden and flower beds that soften the concrete and asphalt that capture my imagination.
You don’t just enjoy the flowers on this campus, you experience them. You feel the love. I knew someone deeply cared about these glorious petals and the greenery that frames them. Obviously, much thoughtful attention went into these planters and beds and sweeping vistas of chartreuse and magenta, tangerine and lipstick red.
Yesterday, I read in The Herald that Gerald Olmstead, killed in a tragic accident on I-5 last week, was the passionate lover and Mr. Cheerful green thumb behind the gardens at EvCC. My heart sank. Days earlier, I had read the tragic account of a man’s untimely death. It wasn’t anyone I knew, yet I find out now it was–it was someone whose garden I reveled in, whose passion for color and life touched me deeply, whose joy emanated from the flowers he so lovingly tended. I did know this man by his work.
Just last week, on what day I do not know, I unwittingly pulled two tulip photographs from my stack of printed images and placed them in black frames with white matting. I hung them on the wall in my office studio. They look stunning and I frequently find myself gazing at them. I now know they flourished under Jerry’s devotion and dedication.
As I study them now, it is as if each one leapt out of a still life painted by some European master three hundred years ago. Their beauty is timeless. I will not forget Jerry or the impact of his life on this college campus. Impact like Jerry’s is memorable.
I have extensively photographed tulips in the famous Skagit Valley, but when I look at the images I have made, none speak so profoundly as the two images from Jerry’s garden at EvCC. They weren’t planted to be monetized; they were planted to be savored.
I’ll miss you Jerry–and I never ever met you face to face.
You taught me much about the flourishing life. Thank you.
Marlee Huber ~ for Your Flourishing Life.
Read The Herald article at http://www.heraldnet.com/article/20141218/NEWS01/141219033/Gerald-Olmstead-EvCC-groundskeeper-loved-his-job