MARY FAERY … It was magic when we met. At that great traveling gypsy show called the annual Rainbow Gathering of Living Light. In Oregon. Almost exactly 16 years ago – to the week … It was our kids who introduced us. I’d brought my daughter and step-daughter, since my wife-at-the-time and I were on the outs and I really didn’t want to miss the gathering. I’d been attending since the Seventies. If not every year, then the alternating ones when this celebration of hippie lifestyles came West …. Cora wandered off from our camp the first morning and found another little girl to play with. And brought Sara over to meet me and Iris. Which brought me over to meet Mary … My wife-at-the-time was playing emotional hardball. On the verge of a nasty divorce that would drive me into bankruptcy … So maybe it was because of my own stressful situation that I couldn’t help but notice Mary’s kindness. Here we are, out in the middle of a national forest, miles and hours from the nearest store, on the first day of a week-long event, and she was offering us cherries. Sweet. Juicy. Delicious. And the kids were gobbling them up. Most of the only bag she had. And she just smiled that beatific curl of hers. Happy to share anything she had, even with strangers … Kindness. That’s such a generous, such a compassionate virtue. Even in her deepest angers, Mary was composed enough to avoid unkindnesses, if she could … Can you fall in love with someone for their kindness? I can, and did … Not that our relationship (complicated – as Facebook would have listed it) was one of those happily-ever-after tales. It was probably a kind of fairy tale, but it had angry moments and sad times, gods and goddesses, goats and skunks, and two fine kids … A Cloud Acre wall still wears one of her mantras like a signature purple scarf : “Life is short. Be swift to love. Make haste to be kind.” … That we were both unconventional, found our own amalgam of traditions that we called spirituality, that we sought a society to match our mountains, not our masonry – all of it made of our complex ingredients a savory minestrone. Not everyone’s recipe for happiness. But we had our happinesses. Our children grew. We grew. Our lives merged, verged, rose and converged in the end. In hospice. On Wilson Mesa. With the most amazing panoramic view of the sloping Wilsons and the far San Juans. It felt like you were standing, one foot in heaven already … Mary manifested amazing things. For herself. For her children. She would run away to Moab and dance the Arches in the moonlight, conferring with her dakinis. She practiced various traditions. Astrology. Tarot. Green Tara. She’d confound me, master of argument, with a maxim of channeled knowledge. And when it came to the children, all my years of child development classes and teaching counted for naught. She knew in her heart to invite magic with indulgence and to eschew limits. These were valuable didactic methodologies that I’d not learned in my education courses. And she proved quite right. Both her children are impressive human beings. Marvelous bundles of promise … So here it is seven months later. She has passed. My world’s turned upside down. Just like so many people, who’ve lost loved ones, suddenly, sometimes tragically … Death always seems tragic. To have the film spool start spinning wildly, freed of the celluloid. And yet it is a denouement we will all experience. A fate we find ourselves embedded in, no escape … Losing Mary was losing a bit of myself. My world. The choices that gave my life meaning. It was a bit of my own death. Seeing it. Understanding how important it is – after all those years of gathering, collecting, hoarding, sorting, reassembling, making – to let go … Mary was a great teacher for many of us. We will be holding a memorial for her in Norwood tonight (Thursday, June 27) at Two Candles at 7 p.m. You are all invited to come share a story or a memory and celebrate with us the passing of a woman of great kindness.
CLOUD ACRE … After living in a place for 30 years or more, one walks a path etched in a spectral kaleidoscope of memories. I see dozens and dozens of gardens past, rows of canola big as Alaskan cabbages, seedlings snapped off by earwigs, grasshoppers dining on the spines of Colorado Blue Spruce. All the spud patches I’ve ever cultivated float in memory, ghostly shimmerings that vanish as quick as you try to reach out and touch one … All moments collapse into the present. And this year I’m challenged with no water. Foster Pond dry a month ago. The Goodtimes Waste Ditch bare-boned. Not the least damp. The casing on my well collapsed. Had to buy a new (old) truck from a friend in Moab just so I could start hauling water. Keeping everything green alive by hand with watering cans. Two gallons at a time. Labor intensive … But it’s good labor. The kind of work that puts me back in touch with the natural world. Blue sky. Red-winged blackbirds. The trill of a meadowlark.
THE TALKING GOURD
[With Thanks to Ed Werner]
as the holy birds
at the kitchen window
peck into their marriage of seeds
- Anne Sexton