We called her Old Margaret among ourselves then, when she was about as old as we are now. Friends had seen her walking along that portion of old highway south of town known as Ocean Drive. When they stopped one morning to ask if she wanted a lift, she happily accepted the offer, showing little reserve. During the drive into town it was learned she walked the two or three miles from her place to the post office in Ft. Bragg and back most every day to check her mail. She didn't drive, own a car or even a bicycle. She lived nearby this couple, and they came to look out for her, giving her rides to and from town frequently over a period of some weeks. Nobody seemed to know exactly where she lived, and while she was friendly, she was 'private' not in a furtive way, but more dignified and prudent. Finally, after becoming better acquainted sharing these rides, she invited this young couple to come to her place for tea when they'd delivered her to their neighborhood.
As was their habit, they dropped her at the head of their own drive, parked their truck and took their parcels in, eagerly anticipating their visit with Old Margaret. No one was ever invited to her house. There was no driveway, and one needed special directions: Over or through the barbed wire fence on the ocean side of the road, then threading through the Monterey pines, underbrush, headlands pasture and the occasional casual cow, you'd come to her Barn perched near the bluffs in a postcard kind of setting. This was before the dead-wrong-headedness of the Reagan Disaster brought us words like 'homeless.' The Barn had been constructed as part of a set for a movie called 'Johnny Belinda,' (late '50's, early '60's) and had been left intact after filming ended. Margaret had seized upon the place, all unknown by others it seems, and made it her own. She'd made herself at home there with windows and skylights fashioned so she could grow flowering plants, succulents and cacti indoors with her. She served a gracious cup of tea in this setting, with ingenious arrangements to approximate the furniture and ambiance of High Culture. During tea, her guests noticed there were stacks of notebooks and tablets here and there around the 'room,' some open with pages filled with neatly handwritten lines. She valued her privacy and solitude, she said, not only for her own preferences, but to keep her writing from being disturbed, as it had become her Life's Work. She was adamant that they were to please tell no one (nobody) about her, her living arrangements, or her Work; they politely agreed.
She wrote hundreds, perhaps thousands of pages, in what she described as a communion with her late husband, Frank, who spoke with her regularly and encouraged her to take down what she heard thereby as a kind of dictation.
These episodes of her communication beyond the grave included not only her dear departed husband, but such historic figures as Tchaikowski, Jack London, and others. She made no effort to hide her piles of notes, but did not want any of it read until it was 'finished.' She repeated her wish to keep herself and her Work as much a secret as possible. That very evening, this couple called me and asked me to come over, they had the most amazing story to tell.
The next morning, not twelve hours later, when they were headed to town, they saw Margaret walking along toward town and stopped to pick her up. When she got into the truck, her manner was noticeably cooler than usual. After the obligatory morning exchange of greetings, she said she was very sad, disappointed that they had not honored her most definite wish that they not tell anyone about her and her situation and her Work. She thanked them for this ride and that's the last time she rode with them or asked them to tea.