Friday, July 31, 2009

who wants to be 98?

Mark Twain's famous answer to this question was, 'Someone who is 97'.

I'd like to introduce you to an old friend called David Orcutt who died last week in Vancouver at the age of 93. He didn't make it to 98 and many would say he didn't make it to 93 with all his faculties intact but I'll tell you a little about him and leave that decision to you. The photograph here of David and my dear friend Belle was likely one of the last taken at his mountaintop farm near Nelson, BC. Theirs was a wonderful friendship that lasted more than 40 years.

David got fed up with being a US citizen after WWII led to the Korean war which was never declared as an actual big 'W' war. By the time the Vietnam - Cambodia thing came along David packed the stuff he needed into a trailer hitched to the back of his car and moved to Canada. He bought half a mountain overlooking the Okanagan Valley for a couple of thousand dollars, the land being relatively worthless for farming, and proceeded to build a log house that never was to have electricity or running water. His main project was building a huge barn for staging and showing outrageous puppet shows which became famous enough to attract a small flow of financial support from the Canada Council For The Arts.

David was an intensely kind man. When young people began flocking to the area to start farms and communes he offered many of them places to build their houses and space for theirs and their children's creative minds to flourish. Some treated him better than others as time went by but David never wavered in his generosity of heart. Over the years he developed a written form for an international children's language in hopes that young people the world over would be able to communicate their mutual understandings and thus avoid the pitfalls of conflict that come as a result of our tendency to see the other as threatening. He traveled the country with his puppet shows and spent time traveling internationally collecting puppets and the ancient stories they represented.

He was loved by many and known by precious few in our modern culture, always young and idealistic at heart. After suffering a serious injury at the farm a few years ago his son Lowell had him transferred to a hospital in Vancouver where his recovery was complicated by episodes of memory loss. It was obvious he'd no longer be able to look after himself off the grid but he continued to live happily and positively in his new surroundings. One day when Belle was talking to him on the phone he was suddenly gone and someone else picked up the dropped line to say he was racing somebody else in his wheelchair.. That was David.

This is part of a note from Lowell to the Nelson Express editor as they were planning his obituary:

'Today I was clearing out my father's room at Purdy Pavilion. In his clothes cupboard was a neatly piled stack of papers and things. It hadn't been there the last time I had visited him there. I went through the papers one by one till I got halfway down and was awed to find the note shown in the third photograph. It was arranged as in the picture, sitting on top of a plastic bag full of jigsaw puzzle parts with a kaleidescope holding down the top of it. It speaks for itself......'

The only cure for aging in this world is the one that got David. There are a few of us up here posting our blogs who are older than most of the rest but my take on it is that I know many more in the real world younger than me who have minds and hearts not far from dead. It's all about staying engaged and interested in the world around us.. pissed off sometimes is perfectly natural too.

When I talked to Belle the other night she told me David's last words were, 'I have a plan'.

Good-bye to you, old friend, until we meet again.


  1. He sounds wonderful from the description you have posted about him and he will be missed by many I would think. He did the right thing moving to Canada way back when. Don't think you can up and move now which is too bad.

  2. I enjoyed reading about your friend David. I wonder if those who knew him, were familiar with his plan...

  3. So sorry to read about your friend he sure sound like he has a heart filled with love.

    There no stranger to me so I stop in to say "Hi"

  4. He sounds like a man who had a life well lived. RIP, David.

  5. It's stories like this that make me almost pro-cloning. The world could use more folks like him.

  6. Thanks Susan - I never met David but because he lived so long near here in the Slocan Valley, he is a legend. At the Littlefest music festival last weekend, he was remembered by word, dance and some silence. There is a great obit in the Nelson Daily News written by his son. I'll see if I can get it for you and Belle...

  7. David sounds like a remarkable man. i'm sorry to hear of his passing, because the world needs more souls like his walking among us.

  8. liberality - He did do the right thing and you're right that it's no longer so easily done.

    pagan - Deep down inside perhaps we all know his plan.

    dora - He was a good man. Thanks for visiting.

    nancy - David definitely made the most of the time he had.

    randal - I agree.

    gary - I hadn't seen David for many years but Belle kept me updated. You would have liked him and I'm glad to know about the impromptu memorial at the festival. He would have enjoyed it.

    sera - His was a very clear positivism and his heart was open to all.. but you can see that just looking at the picture, can't you?

  9. what a lovely looking and sounding person...I wonder if we will continue to make people like that? I cannot imagine it will be possible but in my heart, hope that is not so...that somehow there will be a few who get out and away from the glue and stickiness our society seems to ooze all over seems no one can even open their eyes anymore ... pondering that ...

    how lucky you knew one so wonderful and for your friend Belle...I am sure he is laughing, wherever that is...


  10. What an inspiring person your friend was... and still is.

  11. linda - Nobody's perfect but David was a rare specimen in any time or place and I'm sure there are more with a similar point of view. I hope so. You're right about the stickiness.

    frieda b md - I loved hearing about the time he got in touch with his feminine side 1950's style - curlers in his hair and an old fashioned nightdress for sleeping.

  12. awww shit.... now you got me all misty-eyed.....and thinking I need to go find my own kaleidescope.

    I figure I gotz another 40 to go...but you have to be prepared.

    Good stuff, kiddo.

  13. okjimm - We should all keep a kaleidoscope nearby to make sense of everything :-)

  14. The world really could use more Davids.

  15. i wonder if i bumped into him on one of several holidays in the area, a good many years ago.... he looks a bit familiar. it's people like David who leave the world a better place than they find it. lovely story; lovely picture. very sad at your loss.

  16. lisa - All we can do is become our own.. worth a try.

    gfid - from a bit of Belle's letter to me tonight: 'He taught us how to live and also how to die. He was
    not a Guru just a striving human being who loved his planet.'

  17. That's the best way to go...with a plan.

    Thank you for sharing David with us, Susan.


  18. Great quote and post about longevity. Your post reminded me we also celebrated 40 years of marriage when we away - in HK. Your friend sounds like a very charming man who has left an enduring legacy. !! .
    Best wishes

  19. the crow - Yes, it is. I'm still working on mine.

    lindsay - They had a fine going away party for him.

    dr. z - Indeed, for all.

  20. each time i visit, and you have one of these stories, i think-

    i'm so fucking glad susan kept blogging.

    wonderful people are rare, which is why they stay with us.

    in a way, it's a shame.

  21. "He taught us how to live and also how to die. " we need to remember that dying is part of living. there is much to be learned from those who do both well.

  22. fairlane - It's been easy for me because I never expected or looked for much attention. Neither does Crow :-)

    gfid - That's true.