I read an obituary this week for a woman I met three years ago on a meditation retreat in the Lake District. We only met for five days and I had forgotten her name until I saw her photo in the obituary but I never forgot her. Carl W. Buehner, a speechmaker, once wrote that “they may forget what you said but they will never forget how you made them feel.”
I remember her mother had recently died before the retreat and in our circle talks she was open with her grief. I remember walking with her on a field covered with goat faeces while she told me about her work in makeup. I remember driving with her and a friend to see the lakes and we bought ourselves overpriced ice cream and visited the local souvenir shop.
Once I was reading Gary Synder’s poetry during a tea break and another man on the retreat, Keith, noticed the book and asked if I had read any other Beat poets. Sharon, sat on the couch nearby, joined in and recited a line or two from Allen Ginsberg’s ‘A Footnote to Howl’ on the holiness of the madman, the typewriter and, for Ginsberg, the holiness of balls. I enjoyed her quirkiness.
On the last day Keith gave her a lift to the train station and before she left she hugged me and said “I love you.” Then she put her suitcase in the boot and drove off. I sometimes wondered over the years what became of her and if we would ever meet again.
Before he died the Zen Master, Kozan Ichikyo, wrote:
Empty handed I entered
Barefoot I leave it
My coming, my going –
Two simple happenings
That got entangled
The Red Hot Chili Peppers released a song in their 2002 album By The Way called ‘Venice Queen’ about a woman close to the band who had died and one of the verses went:
Where you come from? / Where you going?
Coming and going. The Great Matter of Birth and Death.
Where has that person who said “I love you” gone?
I hope, wherever she is, that she’s reunited with her mother.
I love you too Sharon.