This woman epitomized characteristics which we almost never encounter in this day and age: mystery, wisdom and silence. She attached herself to all the things which elude busy multi-taskers, especially the essential truths evident in living things. Sometimes, the people who teach you the most important values and lessons seem to be obscure, and so she seemed.
She was known as the 'Tree Lady' at Oxford University. A unique woman who lived outside of time, she almost played Mother Theresa to the trees in the university's parks. She was the kind of person you would have met in the Middle Ages, or in ancient times, an eternal character. I am sure I won't meet anyone like her again in my life.
From a 2 October 2011 entry on Somerville College's Principal's Blog:
Early in the year I mentioned an encounter with Zoe Peterssen, the “tree lady” of the Oxford Parks and colleges, who drew trees and made notecards from her drawings, as well as writing poetry and children’s stories inspired by the natural history of the University Parks and quite a few college gardens. She came to draw in Somerville at my invitation. At the end of August, Zoe died of cancer. It turns out she was a long-term resident at Pusey House, where the community gave her a room, she in return providing flower arrangements, prodigious quantities of biscuits and other gifts. She was, as Father Barry Orford said in his funeral address, not only a very private person but positively elusive in response to any enquiries about her background. The fathers at Pusey House discovered only after her death that she had been born a Lebanese Christian, studied economics in Beirut and later at St Hugh’s College in Oxford, and that Zoe Peterssen was almost certainly not her original name. In hospital in her last days, she told the doctors she was Swiss. The Anglo-Catholic funeral communion service at Pusey House was beautiful. It movingly honoured this enigmatic homeless lady whose gentle spirit had touched so many of the people she met. Quite a few members of the large congregation wore green in Zoe’s memory. May she rest in peace.