“Did you know Cindy Bellinger?” my husband asks.
We’re sitting at a table at Dulce having coffee and reading the paper, our Friday morning routine. I’m reading Pasatiempo and I look up, surprised.
“Yes, we met her at Larry’s signing. Why?”
“She died yesterday.”
“What?” I’m sure that in the noise of a bakery morning I misheard him.
“She passed away Thursday morning.” He holds up a page of the New Mexican, and I grab it.
The headline: “Writer lived life without regrets.” I race through the story and then read it twice more, lingering over the details, still not quite believing. Her photo smiles happily from the page.
Yes, I knew Cindy. I only met her twice, but she made an indelible impression.
I met her at a book signing at Collected Works Bookstore. The author was a mutual friend and part of Blue Mesa, a writers’ co-op that Cindy helped found. We chatted briefly about writing and publishing and I was impressed by all her experience…writer, editor, poet, publisher, book designer. Little did I know that was just the tip of the iceberg.
Then in an email from WordHarvest, I saw a notice that Cindy Bellinger was teaching a one-day seminar on self-publishing. Since my agent had sent back my latest manuscript with the comment “This is a bit too dark,” I had been seriously considering publishing it myself. I registered for the class and was disappointed a week or so after that when it was cancelled for too few participants. I figured there’d be another class eventually and promptly forgot about it. Several days later I received the following email:
I learned you were signed up to take my WordHarvest class. I was so sorry it had to cancel. If you’d like, we could meet for tea or lunch one of these days and I can give you one of the handouts.
NMBA is starting up the satellite group again, a small group that meets once a month to talk in depth about any self-publishing steps people need info about. I and three others are facilitating. If you’re interested, I can put you in touch with the woman who is compiling the list.
Also, it was good meeting you at Larry’s reading last month.
Author, Publisher, Walker
We met at the Tea House on Canyon Road. Cindy was instantly recognizable by her long fall of hair. According to my calendar it was 1 PM on Friday, August 17th. I just remember it was a beautiful day. We sat outside and had a late lunch and talked for nearly two hours. She gave me a folder of information she had put together for the seminar and we talked about books and reading and writing. She gave me signed copies of two of her books, Into the Heat: My Love Affair with Trees, Fire, Saws & Men (my favorite) and Walking on Burnt Mountain.
The conversation turned personal. In addition to her multiple literary endeavors, she’d been a ballet teacher, a dog musher, a baker, and several other occupations. She told me about her garden and her life in the cabin she built herself. I listened, rapt, since that had always been a fantasy of mine. The difference between us was that she had actually done so many things that I had only fantasized about. She struck me as a “renaissance frontier woman” as one friend so aptly called her, and also a woman in love with life.
We parted company that afternoon, agreeing that it had been a great conversation, to be resumed soon. That was not to be. We exchanged a couple of emails and I thought of her from time to time in the intervening months, that way you so often think of some people…I really need to call Cindy, see if she can have coffee some afternoon. Apparently she was diagnosed with a rare type of sarcoma on her arm in September, just weeks after our lunch.
I love the excerpt from her blog that Staci Matlock quoted in The New Mexican…
“A lot of people are asleep, thinking their little corner of the universe will go on forever. Dreams get swept under the rug. Trying new things gets pooh-poohed (too old, too poor, too whatever.) It’s the knowledge that you haven’t really lived that looms with the death call.”
There’s a lesson here. I just wonder how many times you have to learn it.