On Saturday, November 25, the sun shone brightly into the Catholic church at the foot of Horseshoe Hill as Lydia Tacherra lay smiling in state in the center of the church, surrounded by her family and community. After the service she was laid to rest overlooking the land where she had grown up, married, raised her children, lived out her life as an elder and died. Her brother-in-law Jesse pulled the bell rope as he has done for over 80 years, and the time-honored Catholic Mass began. In the spirit of the times, the younger menfolk from her family spoke of their remembrances and the meaning of Lydia's life for them, but it was the women of Portugal who prayed over her and acknowledged her beauty and sisterhood. The daughter-in-law Lydia had embraced from the East sang a loving lament.
Born and raised in her mother's house, Lydia Francisco married Alfred Tacherra, raised her own two girls and came home to die on that land. The Franciscos were one of the Portuguese families to come from the Azores, and so Lydia knew in her bones the value of land. Not as we value it today, mainly as dollars per acre, but what living and working the land gives and does for the human condition.
Lydia was a child of the generation that founded Bolinas and inherently she knew the intrinsic worth of the haven that was created here. Growing up and working the land, she instinctively leaned on what day to sow seed and what day to reap the harvest, and she also knew instinctively about people, and as a woman of character was never embarrassed to speak her mind. What she cared most about was the land, the church, family and community.
She fought with the strength of a woman who knows she is right beyond the law, and the force of one who has nothing to lose by the fighting. And so in the end she won her place in all our hearts as she fought for her land, her birthright as she saw it, her family and her community.
Over 25 years ago, when we as a new wave of community came to Bolinas to make this our home, Lydia was younger than many of us are now. For many of Lydia's generation, we were at the least a nuisance and at worst a serious threat to the status quo, but we didn't phase Lydia, who took each of us fairly as she found us. Lydia accepted us all whether we came from old countries with old-country ways, had fled from the cities with no ways at all, or if we had moved quietly from one part of the country to another. She knew that as young mothers who were trying to raise our families and farm the land, our commitment to the community would follow as predictably as eight chicks would emerge from 13 eggs under a setting hen. All she had to do was sit on us and then gently guide those of us who emerged, and with an old-world courtesy that gave credence to our lives as women, farmers and mothers, she did just that.
Lydia came to the first horse shows we held at Rancho Baulinas over 25 years ago. Bringing energy and baked goods, she worked the food tables throughout the day. Whatever it took for us to be committed to the community, Lydia backed us 100 percent, and for that the women of Bolinas are forever grateful. We didn't realize until she died that by her example of strength within the bonds of family Lydia gave those of us who wanted to take it our matriarchy.
It was already dark, and a soft rain had begun to fall when, returning home at the end of that Saturday, I stopped at the stop sign by Las Baulinas Nursery. The backhoe, driven by Lydia's nephew who had finished his work at the church, came rumbling down the road and I slowly followed him home. It is said that before she became ill, Lydia saw a mountain lion on the Francisco Mesa. I am sure it is a lioness who has come to take her place, and watch over us into the night.