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Tom Nordstrom

Tom Nordstrom

Back to the garden

In memory of Tom Nordstrom January 1, 1951—May 27, 2008


“…We are stardust,
We are golden…”

—JONI MITCHELL, “Woodstock”

Ever a part of his generation, always marching to his own drummer’s beat, Tom Nordstrom made his way to Woodstock on that hot summer’s day. Ever before and ever after, he would find himself representing his generation’s quest for a different way—a different way to look at things, a different way to do things, a different way to be.

And so he did and so he was, until he died on May 27, 2008. Tom was fifty-seven when he died in his own home on the mountain in Placitas—with the garden budding up outside, the tree growing through the floor inside—surrounded by his family and loved ones.

Tom’s young life started as a blending of families and of circumstance. He was born to John (AJ, Big John, late of Placitas) and Claire Nordstrom, in 1951. He shared his life with them and his sister Laura and brother Dan until their divorce. His mother then married Ed Goldstein (late of Placitas) who brought his two children Joel and Aviva and together with Tom and Laura and Dan, they all settled in Rhode Island. To this marriage was born Tom’s youngest sister, Anne.

Tumultuous as those years were, Tom managed to bring forth from them his young and growing appreciation of the natural world that surrounded him. This love of nature would always be at his side, as he marched through the experiences of his lifetime and the sensations of a new generation.

Leaving home as a young man of seventeen, Tom hitchhiked across the United States in 1968, passing through Chicago, as chance would have it, during the Democratic National Convention in August of that year. He stopped there long enough to know that ’The whole world was watching’ and finally made his way to California where a loving couple he’d never known offered him a roof and a meal and the space he needed to refuel and rethink. He eventually made his way back to the east coast and found himself on Yasgur’s farm amidst the mud and the glory that would shape a generation. Finally, in 1969, Tom left the United States for Israel to seek out his garden and to tend his soul on a kibbutz.

Tom lived on the kibbutz and, perhaps ironically, having left the U.S. to avoid the draft, he served in the Israeli Defense Forces. It was during this time that, like so many young men before him, he fell in love. He went back to the United States where his bride to be—a young Japanese woman whom he met while she was visiting his kibbutz—joined him on his unlikely mountain farm in Placitas. There they were married and had their two children, Chaim and Naomi—born to the garden, born of love.

True to the collage that would always make up his life, Tom found himself living with his wife near a rich mix of relations and relationships there on that side of the mountain. His father, AJ, already lived a few doors down when his children were born. Then, in the early eighties, his stepfather, Ed, moved into the dome “next door” along with his sister Anne. Eventually Tom and his wife were divorced, and Tom found his heart once again a wanderer.

During all of those years, and until his death, he met and touched many people who lived in the area or who found themselves passing through. Many of these were relationships that would last a lifetime. Always trying to find a way to be at one with all of his experiences, and with the many diverse people he encountered, Tom left his heart and his door always open.

And into that door ultimately walked his sweetheart of days gone by, Hattie—the mate to his soul, the love that would see him through to the end of his days. Tom and Hattie Spears spent ten years together on the mountain—a lifetime of the soul and of the heart. Tom, now adding his role as stepfather to Jodi, Russell, and Nathan and grandfather to Josefita and Nathaniel, was able to complete the ever-changing patchwork that was his life—sewing together the many disparate pieces until they finally emerged as a whole and colorful quilt of the spirit.

This was the rhythm that set Tom’s life, the eclectic experiences of a generation setting the pace and the back beat. Tom made good use of the many lessons he learned along the way—lessons of love, lessons of life, lessons of the ever-changing garden. And while he managed to leave most of the useless garbage behind, like all of us, he was not unscathed.

Nonetheless, he found a place on the mountain and a place in his heart to minister to all who came to him. He reveled in tending to the very real garden he filled with flowers and vegetables and animals and fish and the work of his hands and of his back and of his heart. He reveled in sharing each piece with those who came to him. If the ministration they needed was agricultural, he was up on the answers of the day. And if the ministration was one of the soul, Tom searched together with those who sat at his kitchen table, surrounded by smoke, bound by a shared need to seek, and together they would work through their problems.

Sometimes through poetry, sometimes through their shared words, and sometimes silently as they sipped and tipped well into the night. Always alive, always ready, and almost always, never scared!

True to the lyric of his generation, true to the heartbeat of his passion, Tom did, indeed, find himself, sometimes, “caught in the devil’s bargain…,” but his goal and his path and his destiny was always to get himself ‘back to the garden’—and that he did. That is the garden of his hands and of his heart which he leaves behind.

Tom’s absence will be felt by the many friends, loved ones, and family members he leaves behind. He is survived by his wife Hattie Spears; his son Chaim Nordstrom and his wife Michelle of Albuquerque; his daughter Naomi Nordstrom of Denver, Colorado; his step-daughter Jody Brown, step-son Russell Turner, step-son Nathan Grano; his grandchildren, Josefita and Nathaniel. He is also survived by his mother, Claire Nordstrom of Macintosh, New Mexico; his sister Laura Castro; his brother Joel Goldstein and his wife, Megan Branman; his brother Dan; his sister Aviva and her husband Douglas Brooks; his sister Anne Maxson; his nephews, and a niece. A memorial service was held, filling the Presbyterian Church with family and friends from near and far. If you are so inclined, plant a tree in Tom’s memory.

OK Harris with his “Enchanted Frogs”

One of OK Harris’s whimsical steel benches

It’s “OK” to cry

You may have heard that my very good friend OK Harris passed away recently.

Let me tell you about OK. Not only was he the kookiest person I ever had the honor of sculpting with, he was also the most generous and understanding human being I knew.

He was my reason for sculpting, my friend, my mentor, and my sculpting buddy. Working with him was like flowing water—easy and calming. We created steel into art without speaking at times. It just flowed, and the end result was this fascination of accomplishment: “Wow, we made that.” OK joined me wholeheartedly in whatever endeavor I offered to the community of Sandoval County through Art Gallery 66. He knew that offering art to the community was always a winning effort. He gave generously to those who would ask him to give, and now, it is our turn to give back to him.

You may not realize this, but we are all a witness to history—a significant artist has died in your lifetime. His work remains, although only until it has all sold; then, like his person, it is gone forever.

OK’s spirit will live lifetimes into the future through his art, making people smile and wonder, “What was this guy thinking?” And go ahead—wonder, because that is what he would have wanted.

For July only, OK Harris’s original sculpture is available at Art Gallery 66, before going directly to his family.

Art Gallery 66 is located at 373 North Camino del Pueblo, Bernalillo,





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