My friend Joyce passed away last night. It was not unexpected. “Death is part of life and I don’t fear it”, she said. Fortunately, I got to say goodbye to her a few weeks ago. She was so peaceful and so accepting. That makes her passing so much easier. I’m not sad; I’m happy and lucky to have known her.
I met Joyce probably 15 to 20 years ago when she became involved with the Boulder County Nature Association. I’ve gone on hikes with her, taken nature classes she taught, and for a few years we attended the theater with other close friends. Joyce has spent her life learning and teaching aspects of the natural world.
She had been fighting cancer for several years and succeeded at least temporarily. When her cancer returned, knowing the end was near, she went to Bhutan and trekked over 80 miles.
When she returned, she began working on her memoir Aspen Dreams, which will be published later this year. My friend Steve has written a foreword for the book. Here is an excerpt:
She doesn’t love nature, she revels in it. And she’s always moving forward, always eager to find whatever natural wonder lies beyond the next bend in the trail. Her students tell, lovingly, of field trips extending far beyond the appointed hour and of hearing the expression “just a little farther” way too many times. One friend remembered, “We were reassured when Joyce insisted that the group would return around by 2 p.m.–until we noticed that she wasn’t wearing a watch.”
It’s these qualities–an intense love affair with the natural world coupled with forward-looking optimism and physical resolve–that have enabled Joyce to survive the premature deaths of two sisters, a brother; and a son; desertion by a husband of 26 years; and two bouts with cancer. They’ve inspired her to conduct groundbreaking research in the lives and adaptations of aspen trees, write poetic books about white-tailed ptarmigan and the alpine life zone, and introduce several thousand students, age 5 to 85, to field ecology.
— Stephen R. Jones
The audio clip below was recorded a few weeks ago. It contains Joyce and one of her sons (sounds like Ben). The interviewer is Shelley Schlender. It’s difficult, yet inspiring to listen to, because Joyce talks about the end of her life. (It will probably make you cry.)
Here is another recording that was done the same morning prior to the one above. It’s the monthly installment of the Nature Almanac that is broadcast on KGNU. Steve is the host and Joyce is one of the guests. Nature geeks in action.
In 2002, she wrote a book Song of the Alpine. I pulled if off my shelf this morning and I think I’ll begin reading it again.
I’ve taken thousands of photos, but my friends rarely make it into the photos. Maybe I should take some nice portraits of my friends. Here is the most recent photo I took of Joyce in April, 2010.
It’s people like Joyce and Steve that help me to be the nature geek I am.