My Leonard Cohen

I was living in California when Suzanne became popular.  I remember listening to it over and over trying to puzzle out what the song was about “She feeds you tea and oranges that come all the way from China.”  Beautiful imagery and a haunting melody.  Sweeter and sexier than Dylan’s music, Cohen made me yearn for a lover who’d be like Suzanne’s.  “…you’ve touched her perfect body with your mind.” A man who saw that my body was perfect and who could touch my mind.  Touch my mind–always the most important thing.  But at the time I was musing on such things,  I was a mother of two young boys and married.

“The sun pours down like honey.”

“There are heroes in the seaweed.”

Then came “Bird on a Wire.”   I like Leonard’s version and Tim Hardin’s best, but probably owned and listened to Judy Collins’ version first since I bought almost all her albums.  The drunk, the prostitute “Why not ask for more?”

“I have tried in my way to be free.”

It was only after I saw The Master–the movie about the Scientology movement–that I finally understood  “Famous Blue Raincoat.”

“Yes, and Jane came by with a lock of your hair, she said that you gave it to her that night that you planned to go clear.

Did you ever go clear?”

And then Chelsea Hotel and Janis Joplin and Leonard’s evocation of all that I had ever imagined Janis might be.

“I remember you well in the Chelsea Hotel.  You were talking so brave and so sweet.  Giving me head on the unmade bed while the limosines wait in the street.”

The last line which always breaks my heart.

“That’s all, I don’t even think of you that often.”

And you know that he does.

Now that I’m much, much older I’ve grown to love “Dance Me to the End of Love.”  The imagery of a wedding night, the breathless and anxious moments when you’re first alone in the bedroom. The lines that describe being inside your lover.  As I move to that melody, the swaying beat, the thrumming heat, I dream that I might melt into the arms of a angel.

“Dance me to your beauty with a burning violin.  Dance me through the panic til I’m gathered safely in.  Touch me with your naked hand or touch me with your glove.  Dance me to the end of love.”

70

Me at 70th party

 

I just turned 70!  Yes, it’s true.  As my sweet son said, “Mom, you are an exemplar of the notion that 70 is the new 50.”   I said he’s sweet!  My birthday falls around Thanksgiving  and sometimes on the day itself.  It’s also the date my grandfather, OP, died; and John F. Kennedy was assassinated.   Those were not happy birthdays at all!

It has always been a festive day (with those exceptions). full of fun, family, food, and football.  My dad usually had a game broadcasting on the radio (and later the TV) in every room–except the dining room–and would go from room to room to stay current on the scores.  The hard-cooking women would have to time the dinner and desert courses during half-times.  My oldest son inherited that footall gene.   My cousins have it too–maybe it came from the maternal and the paternal line!

Turning 70 was really painless.  My long journey was my present to myself and is really the gift that keeps on giving.  I’m still enjoying and processing memories and facts and determining how to integrate them into the memoire I’m writing.  My women friends hosted a wonderful birthday lunch which was fun, moving, and very interesting.  Each of them is an  extremely talented person.  I was the lucky beneficiary of their clever take on celebrating such a hoary age.

My yoga instructor left us with the following quote from Rumi  this morning: “Let yourself be silently drawn by the stronger pull of that which you love.”

Sculpture in Jajpanese garden Albuquerque

Hunting

Back by popular demand.  Well, a few people have asked “What happened to your blog?”  So here I am with more to say.  A week after I got home we drove to Portland for the Antique Expo.  Driving those 186 miles down from Seattle was so easy after routinely  knocking off 400-500 miles in one day for six weeks!

We usually attend this Antique Expo twice a year and find it a good show with dealers we’ve come to know and who have good stuff.  People always ask, “Where do you get all your stuff?”  I respond, “Wherever we go.”  It’s easy to find things to buy; much harder to find them at prices which will accommodate a mark-up and the additional 15%

outside Expo

cut the mall owner takes–not to mention paying rent for the space.  And the constant query from the buying public:  “Is that the best price?”  We have two spaces; one at Haystack in Bellevue and one at the venerable Pacific Galleries in Seattle.

You have to get up early–and get to the Expo by 8 a.m.  Then you scurry around hoping to score something great before the doors open.  Once the doors open everyperson is for her/himself.  The vendors are usually way out in front of the buyers and often scoop up some great stuff before we even get inside.  They’re not supposed to but “come on.”

Keeping in mind the season here’s some of what we saw, bought and then installed.

Colorful Nutcrackers

The next job is to load up everything, drive home, unload, clean, inventory and relaod, and drive to our spaces and merchandise and fluff the space.

Old black horse on rockers

Now we wait to see when the new items sell.  Hopefully quickly, but you never know.

Haystack with Big Red

I remembered while thinking about writing this post, that my dad once purchased some things at a garage sale.  They were signed sketches with the fabric swatches that Walter Plunkett had designed for Scarlett O’Hara‘s costumes in Gone with the Wind.   I don’t know what happened to those framed sketches but I do know they’d be worth a lot of money now expecially the one showing Scarlett’s famous green dress made from the family drapes!  Maybe I got my love of antiques from Dad!

Succat Shalom “A Shelter of Peace”

I believe in angels.  In fact, I wrote an article 20 years ago about encountering an angel which was published in Moment Magazine “Angel at Ostia” is the title as I recall.   On this trip I know that on numerous occasions angels helped me along the 7,000+ miles I’ve driven. I hope to be safely home by tomorrow evening but if any are hovering nearby, stick around, please.

I know that there were several occasions on this trip where I could have killed or been killed–or both–by vehicular homocide.   There was one instance traveling at rush hour with the setting sun blinding me when I was forced onto an off ramp I could not really see.  I’m convinced that something assisted me to the shelter of a bank parking lot.  Eventually two kind souls helped me get to shelter

The imagery of sheltering wings and a peaceful place has sustained me through some long and exhausting days.  There were also the angels who took human form like the couple in the Burlington Outlet parking lot where I had retreated from the freeways to seek directions.

I saw them exiting the store and approached them, first assuring them that I was not going to ask for bus money to San Francisco!  They chuckled and took me into their van, booted up their laptop, found directions, and then drove onto the freeway with me following until they signalled me to get off at the appropriate exit.

I think this trip has reinforced for me my feeling that people are mostly good and usually willing to help in almost any way they can.  I hope that I can live up to celestial expectations.

Dawn Patrol

I’ve never been to  Balloon Fest in Albuquerque but I have now.  It is a wonderful experience.  The Greatest Show Off Earth!

We arrived about 5 a.m. in the pitch black and watched the balloons being readied for launch.

Soon the sky is filled with balloons.  It is really impossible to describe the delight and the excitement of watching each of the beautiful “creatures” fill with air and rise serenely and gracefully into the sky.

Bravo Albuquerque!  And thanks, Linette!

Carlos

People ask me “What do you do on those long 8 hour+ driving marathons with no one to talk to?”  I think, I reflect, and I listen to books on CD’s; last one being White Fang by Jack London, or I listen to music.

One of my favorites is Canciones de Mi Padre by Linda Ronstadt.  I play it over and over.  I love the songs and rhythms, I try to catch all the Spanish, and I remember the wonderful time I had when I was an exchange student in Los Mochis, Mexico.

“Hay unos ojos que si me miran

Hacen que mi alma tiemble de amor

Son unos ojos tan primorosos

Ojos mas lindos no he visto yo.”

Los Mochis is in Sinaloa on the west coast of Mexico north of Puerta Vallarta.  If you look west across the Sea of Cortes you’ll see La Paz.  Whales come there to give birth and raise their babies.

My time living there was one of the happiest of my youth.  Each day after school a bunch of us would walk to someone’s house and dance.  I love to dance and unlike my anglo peers at home, latino guys love to dance and are terrific dancers.  Since I was a “novelty”–blond, blue eyes etc., I never lacked for partners.

“Ay!” quien pudiera mirarase en ellos

“Ay!” quien pudiera besarlos mas

Cozandos siempre de sus destellos

Y no ovidarlos nunca jamas.”

Carlos was a year older than we were and went to another school.  I didn’t get to know him until later, but knew of him.  He was  very popular and highly regarded in the community; an outstanding student.  He acted as translator for the banquet held in honor of my classmate (a guy) and I.

Carlos was handsome; tall, well built, “ojos negros,” with lashes that would make a starlet weep.  He had a lovely smile and would listen very carefully when one of the visiting gringos would attempt to talk to him in Spanish and then he would respond in English to their question.

“Y todos dicen que no te quiero

Que no te adoro con frenesi

Y yo les digo que mienten, mienten

Que hasta la vida daria por ti”

I returned to my highschool in California for the last semester of my senior year.  I heard from my Spanish teacher that Carlos would be visiting at our highschool and would I show him around and make him feel welcome.  Of course, I would.  I don’t remember spending as much time with him as I should have but his host family took good care of him.  I saw him in classes and at Spanish Club events and that was about it.    Like most seniors, I was wrapped up in graduation, summer work plans, and college in the very near future.

I invited Carlos to go to the Senior Prom with me.   In those days proms were held in the gym.  There were no after-parties–at least none I knew about!  I picked him up.  He looked wonderful–jacket, white shirt and tie.   I don’t recall my prom dress but it was probably something I had made.  When we got there the gym had been trasformed into a ball room with a slowly revolving disco ball, its mirrored surface scattering bright prisms of light throughout the darkened room.  The D.J. was playing the top tunes of the time.  “Ooo ee, ooo ee, baby, won’t you let me take you on a sea cruise?”

Carlos took my right hand and folded it into his and held them tightly to his chest; his other arm encircled my waist pulling me close so that our bodies touched.  My left arm rested on his shoulder, my hand touching the base of his neck.  We began to dance.

It didn’t matter which song was playing–a fast one or a slow one–we just changed our tempo and kept moving around the floor in perfect unity.  His cheek was warm against mine; we didn’t talk, we just danced.  I have never danced with a better partner.

When the prom ended, I took him back to his host family’s home and we said good bye.  I don’t think I saw him again.    That fall I left for college.  On winter break I visited my Spanish teacher, Mrs. Acosta, and asked her if she had heard from Carlos.

“Si,” she said, “He has joined the church.”

I thought, “Those Jesuits recruited a great dancer.”  “Que lastima!”

Marfa

Marfa is my turn-around point.  My search for Dad’s places as I know them is complete; now to make sense of all that I have learned.  Processing this long journey full of facts, feelings, family, and friends will take longer than the trip.  There is still much to discover.  I feel sad to bring the odyssey to conclusion though I still have many more miles to cover before reaching Seattle.  Most of what lies before me will be fun and beautiful.

Marfa has been a delightful spot to settle in if only for one day which I spent relaxing and recovering from the 11 hour drive getting here.  I chose to take the roads which ran along the Rio Grande though one rarely sees it.  Twice stopped by border patrol stations I realized that I would not be able to really get close to the river.  Marfa is not far from the Big Bend Park which I want to see on another visit.  The landscape here is very beautfiul–high plateaus–some table top–others softly rounded with low trees and vegetation.  It is not as dry as I had thought it would be.

I’m staying at the Hotel Paisano which is really lovely.  The cast from Giant stayed here.  The hotel has had its ups and downs, but is now in very good repair!

Marfa is a big art center spurred by the Judd family who can take credit for saving the original buildings in the town.  Donald Judd, who died 15 years ago, established foundations which ensure that his home, art installations, and other properties are well cared for.  Tours are available.

Then there are the Marfa Lights.  I didn’t see them but I hear they’re a mystery unsolved by scientists try though they may.

I leave tomorrow for Albuqueque–another long haul–concluding at Congregation Albert for Kol Nidre services.  Balloons on Sunday!

New Year

I spent the Jewish new year away from home for the first time in almost 40 years.  Before the holiday began yesterday I was feeling very disjointed and out of place.  Not only was I away from home, husband, and friends, I have spent the past month traveling by myself to places from another time–my childhood and my father’s childhood–spending time with relatives and siblings and their families that I have not seen in years.

I have been processing the integration of my life before I chose Judaism and my life today.  My immersion in and mastery of Jewish life has overshadowed my natal identity and in effect extinguished the girl I was–cutting her adrift.  Taking this long trip by myself and for myself–4K miles and 30 days–has reunited me with people and places from my past and I am overjoyed with all that I have found.  I believe that the girl I lost has also been found.

Vinita

Another small town–the second oldest town in Oklahoma.  Created by the intersection of the railroad tracks which still thunder through town.  High hopes here to learn somethng new.

My great grandparents came here when it was Indian Territory— probably in 1889 the year of their daughter’s birth.  An exciting time for Alice, or Allie, as she was called; one of Vinita‘s first teachers.   While there was a picture of the head master in the Eastern Trail Museum in Vinita, there was not a picture of the staff.  I have never seen a likeness of any Sherer and had hoped to do so in Vinita.  No luck!

James Lenore Sherer was a successful businessman engaged in well-drilling and other activities.  He also worked at the grain depot in Vinita and served on local community organizations despite the fact that to the best of my knowledge he was not a Cherokee.  During the early 20th Century Vinita was in Indian Territory and governed by the Cherokee nation.  White people could not have businesses in IT without Cherokee permission.

His obituary was on the front page of the Vinita Daily Chieftan 25 January 1907.  “Mr. Sherer was well known in Vinita where he has lived for some time.  He was for several years engaged in the mercantile business in Seneca.  Since coming here, however, he has  been engaged in the business of well-drilling and has drillled numerous oil wells also.”

Why was Dad so taken wth Vinita?  His mother, father, grandmother and uncle (6 years his senior) are all living there in the 1910 census.  A year later dad is born in Kansas City and a year later his father departs for Idaho never to return.

I imagine that dad and his mother returned to Vinita where his grandmother and uncle must have been living.  Perhaps he associated Vinita with family and security. Perhaps a Cherokee woman cared for him while his grandmother and mother taught school.   I think this period is the origin of his belief that he was part Cherokee.  Although I can find no evidence that there is a Cherokee family member, Dad clearly identified with the Cherokee at a very early age and never relinquished the notion that he was part Cherokee.  I would like to find that link–I don’t believe that my father intentionnally fabricated this notion.   He was a boy who needed an identity that was familiar and positive.  Somehow he was led to believe that he was Cherokee.

We all grew up with the belief that we were part Cherokee.  I don’t recall my mother ever disputing or seconding this notion.  My research has shaken our sense of who we are and where we came from.  I think that some of us clung more closely to the idea of our native American heritage than others.  I know that each of us would love to know the truth–is it possible to know the truth?  Ever?

Reflections

There were three stars in Dad‘s firmament and as we grew up we were bathed in the glow they cast: Vinita, OMA, Mercedes.  We heard about those places throughout our childhood and beyond.  There was a fourth place that I learned about shortly before my father died when I overheard a difficult discussion between he and my mother.  Dad was begging her to take him to Seneca. ” No,” she said.  “But that’s where all my people are,” dad said.  He didn’t get to Seneca.

“Seneca,” I mused, “where is that?”  I didn’t recall ever hearing about Seneca and decided to find out why dad wanted so desperately to go there.  In fact, that overheard dialogue is what ultimately sent me on this journey.  Who were the people dad spoke of and why had we never known them?

Seneca is a very small town; just one main street bisected by the Lost Creek.   The original settlers in the 1830’s came from Ohio down the rivers to Arkansas and west to settle on and around Lost Creek.

One of those men was Edward Sherer.  He and his bride, Elizabeth Buzzard, her parents and two other families are the founding families of Seneca.  The Sherers had 12 children; seven survived to adulthood.  Their fourth child, John Pinckney Sherer, is my great great grandfather.

I found the graves of JP Sherer and his wife, Mary J. Thompson Sherer adjacent to that of their son, my great grandfather, James L. Sherer and his daughter, Henri Alberta Sherer, my grandmother.  On either side of the big granite Sherer marker are two small stones–one says Papa and the other Berta.

An obelisk of white marble stands next to them.  It reads: Henry A. Jackson 1862-1887 and at the base: Our Brother.  Henri Alberta was named after her uncle who died at age 25.  I do not know the cause of his death.  He must have come with his newlywed sister, Alice, to Seneca in 1886 and died a year later.

After many hours of searching I found a small, badly carved and eroded stone which I could barely read.  I believe that it says Alice Sherer 1866-1937.  I do not know why the stone is so crude nor why Alice is not buried with her family.  I hope to get additional information from the cemetery caretakers and resolve this mystery.

So, yes, dad’s people are in Seneca.  We traveled back and forth from Missouri to California at least twice when we were kids.  We often went old Highway 66 which passes through Seneca.  Why did we never stop?