I learned along with everyone yesterday that Maurice Sendak had died. I was blessed to be a member of the Sendak Fellowship, and to spend time with him these last few years. It feels so strange that I'll never see or talk to him again.
He spoke about death on a regular basis, and somehow, because of all this talk, he seemed a bit invincible to me. As if talking about it made it impossible.
One day I was sitting with him on the porch of a property he owned, trying to pour him tea through a tea strainer while he read the newspaper. He watched me pour water all over the saucer, and make a mess on the table. He huffed and exclaimed that I had no idea what I was doing. I admitted I had never poured through a tea strainer before, and he laughed and apologized after his tea was finally drinkable in his cup.
We spent the rest of that morning trading parts of the paper, and complaining about the world. We watched the birds, and looked over the most amazing panoramic mountain view I've ever seen in my life. He told me as we marveled at the beauty, that he knew he'd never see that sight again. I was used to his talk about death, and assured him he would of course see these mountains again... but he didn't respond to me, he could barely look at me. He was tearing up, and his frustration was visible. I have no idea what that feels like, to knowingly look upon something beautiful for the last time.
Most of the articles I've been reading today seem to be written by people who didn't know him. I feel they reduce him into quotes from his books, reduce him into the grumpy old man in the woods. I admit, I barely knew him. I was just getting to know him. But he blessed me with his time, and he did so with so many other young artists these last few years. Allowing me to come over to his house with my family and friends... welcoming them into his home happily, excited to meet them, excited to share his world with them. Sure he was old, and grumpy, but he was also excitable and electrifying.
He left this world with new work still on his table, a book to be illustrated, thoughts about self publishing another. An artist should be so lucky... to leave with so much left to say. I feel more inspired by him now as an adult, than I ever did when I was a child reading him, and I know through the fellowship and his recent interviews, that I'm not alone. If you haven't seen them, his interviews by Terry Gross
and Stephen Colbert
and Bill Moyers
will inspire. Thank you Maurice for opening up your world. You were loved, and you'll be missed.