Some losses are so sudden there is no anticipation attached. The death of Ruth Baden Ginsburg was of the worrisome slow and inevitable kind. I began worrying back when she was diagnosed with pancreatic cancer in 2009. My husband's death of the same type of cancer left me no choice but to worry. Her recent abrupt passing was attributed to complications of pancreatic cancer.
Her death coincided with a recent trip of mine to Wallowa County, where the barn in this photo reminded me of slow deaths. I always forget about this barn until I round a corner and see it butted up against the road and am caught by surprise that it still stands. The roof has been disintegrating for a few years, and more panes are broken each time I pass. It is inevitable that it will fall.
What strikes me is that this is not a private ruin. It might be privately owned, but its demise is a public one. Its eventual fall will be mourned by those living in the farm house sitting next to it, but many individuals, who will be unknown to the owners, will also mourn its loss. Like Ruth Bader Ginsburg's death, this will be a community loss.
Building have degrees of integrity, of usefulness, and beauty. When I pass this barn, I think about all the horses who were sheltered by its walls. The hay fork (you can still see it hanging below the apex of the ruined roof) reminds me of the farm hands, who were surely pleased with the ease at which their work could be done. Inside their labor was lit with the generous light from the south-facing windows. A pleasing place.
Ruth Bader Ginsburg also emboded high levels of integrity, usefulness, and inner beauty. Qualities which led her to be the first woman to lie in state at our nation's capitol. As a woman, her work as a Supreme Court Justice had an impact on my rights to own a home or get a charge card both without a male co-signer. I often use a charge card now. I charge for books, replacement windows, hot spicy cocoa, and airline tickets. I swipe and accept charges as effortlessly as I put on my shoes in the morning. But without Ruth Bader Ginsburg's work, these simple actions would not be possible under my name. Her work has made my everyday life and those of all American women much easier.
No one cosigned for Ruth Bader Ginsberg's legal understandings. She studied and made her own decisions with her sharp mind in a professional field dominated by men. She made her way up the ladder, looking out those calm and thoughtful eyes. In the last few years, many of us held our breath with the news of her each new illness or fall. Her passing is a public loss. A loss grieved even by those who were often in opposition to her ideas on the Supreme Court. Like the old barn (once it collapses at last) I will hold both of them – a beautiful old agricultural structure and an intelligent woman – in my memory.
Rest in peace, the woman who made it possible for me to sit in my cabin in the woods.