Until we meet again

My beloved friend Gwen Gibson passed away yesterday.  She was at home, surrounded by people who loved her, peaceful, accepting. As these things go, it was ideal.

Gwen in the kitchen at La Cascade

Gwen, in the kitchen of La Cascade, Durfort, France

I met Gwen when I went for the first time to the South of France and stayed in her lovely old house in the town of Durfort. The house is named La Cascade, and this is the street. The water down the center of the road is the old quench stream for the metalsmiths who created the copperwork that Durfort was famous for.


To quote Gwen, about how it came to be that she should own a house in the South of France,

“An appetite for fresh experience and the need to keep moving take me places I would never have imagined beforehand. Because I find the unknown tempting, I’m often drawn to projects that have no predictable outcome, like buying a 300 year old house in France to convert into a retreat for creative workshops.

I’m amazed by how it all seems to come together in the end, much like a collage.”

Gwen was more alive than most people; we reminded each other of ourselves in that way. She was gentle and funny and she drew like an angel, and she loved bold colours and good people and delicious food and everything French.

She wore wrestler’s boots, when she felt like it.

Gwen in her boots!

This was the back porch at La Cascade, and I can easily tell which trip it was for me, because I can see the absurd and delightful oil can that Doriot found in a market, and carried home; that trip was the first time that Doriot and I met, and my second trip to La Cascade.

I remember sitting with Gwen in her little apartment, up on the third floor, looking out over the little river coursing down from the Black Mountains. There were Roman bridges, and just across the water from the house there was a beautiful (and also Roman-era, I believe) sculpture of the Virgin, which poured from a stone pitcher a continuous stream of mountain water that was widely believed to be sacred, and to have healing powers.

We talked about life, about drawing, about love, and it seemed like we’d known each other forever, which of course I’m sure we have.

doriot setting the table at La CascadeThis is the view from the back door, looking to the river, and that is Doriot, and a salad.

To quote Gwen again, from her web site,

“…I have ridden the years as they circle around a hidden axis, counting, remembering, and holding on for dear life…”

Door on a path in Durfort, France. photo by Doriot Lair 2010

wood between the worlds, basin st. ferreoul, france kate mckinnon 2010

Vero’s river is always a favorite…

the river running under Moulin de Chapitre, Durfort, France. photo by kate mckinnon 2010

From the moment that Gwen found out that her run was up, she was strong, and accepting, and sensible. After all, as she said, about a painting that she made, “the yearning to transcend is so strong that one is prepared to take off in the shakiest of contraptions.”

If I can bring even a measure of  the laughter and grace she brought to the end of her life to my own end, when it comes, I’ll be happy.

I miss you already, my vibrant, clever, beautiful friend.

Until we meet again.

Gwen Gibson

32 thoughts on “Until we meet again

  1. Kate, I’m so sorry for your loss, but so happy for you to have known her. She sounds amazing, enlightening, inspiring, calming, and soothing all at once. Your words make my heart ache and warm at the same time. love

  2. I am just reading your post at 5:04 am having not slept yet for yesterday’s 24-hour cycle. It is interesting to me that I chose one of the same quotes you did to convey the essence of Gwen in my goodbye blog post. It just shines out of her. The spirit of who she was is living in each of us who knew her, whether for a short time or a lifetime. That’s just the way she was. And for those who missed the opportunity to bask in her, they will know her through friends like you who so graciously tell us your lovely, touching stories.

    • Yes, that quote was 100% Gwen, wasn’t it? I loved her willingness to leap into new thoughts, to not be attached to particular outcomes.. and I was pleased to see you mention her innovative ingenuity regarding handcraft techniques- she brought incredible ideas to polymer, and really se the stage for what came after. And a lot of people in the field might not know that.

      She and I kind of bonded over that; what it takes to leave good ideas on the table and move on.

      Thank you for your comment; you and I are bonded in our love for Gwen. That’s what exceptional people do, in addition to the ten thousand other things; they connect other people through their curiosity and their zest for living.

  3. With your words and pictures you have given me the pleasure of learning the gifts left in your heart by an exemplary life and beautiful person. Thank you, Kate

  4. I’ve studied under Gwen’s hand – – – spent hours upon hours watching her videos – – – I own them all as well. She was a friend and I shall miss her very much. ::sigh:: She was ageless it seems, but I know she must have had human birthdays – can anyone tell me her age when she left this earth?

  5. I knew and worked with her for a short time, but my memories of beautiful Gwen will last me a lifetime. I feel blessed to have known her.

  6. Dear Kate, I have forwarded your link to friends of mine who met Gwen and/or heard about her from me. We have truly lost a good friend who added charm, laughter, solace and creativity to our lives.
    I will miss her terribly, especially in France on our adventures and visits. May her spirit live on…

  7. Thank you for reminding me of why we all love La Cascade and Gwen. Beautiful remembrance of a truly gifted and lovely lady.

  8. Thank you Kate for giving me an insight to that wonderful place in France that Gwen loved. I only knew her for a short while and feel so blessed to have crossed paths with her. She touched so many lives. You sound like a dear friend.

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