I'm not sure yet whether you passed on Sunday night 9/6/2020 or in the early morning hours of Monday 9/7/2020. You passed on a waning full moon during an alliance between jupiter, saturn and pluto. You passed a day after I had experienced a horribly difficult groundlessness that was settled only after my beloved, Betsy, and I located Eagle Nebula in the night sky, using my android phone app...I felt lost, lonely in this Universe, with all the problems of the middle world swirling around all of us at this rapid-paced propulsion through time, peppered with wildfires, violence, unrest, injustices, the suffering of humans and of animals and of Mother, of evil and callousness and lies...times that beg us to survive in spite of and maybe because of the darkness.
Last week I had picked up the stalk of broccoli on the kitchen counter and thought, "Broccoli Moutarde! - That's what I'll make us for dinner!", as immediate memories poured into my consciousness from the year you and I, Clare, lived in New York City, and we would drive in your "pumpkin" - the orange mini Honda - down to the West Village to the feminist restaurant, Mother Courage. We felt safe, we felt so in our power there. And we laughed and lounged and dined on their infamous broccoli moutarde and lots of red wine (or was it white back then? - seems to me, it didn't matter much as long as it was wine, or another of our shared hedonistic joys at the time, Kahlua and Cream).
Yes, we partied hard, dear one, and we loved and laughed our ways through that year and others before and after, together in physical space and time, and separately as we got older and spread our wings out and individuated from one another.
But, this is important, Clare, I never ever forgot about you. Never. I may not be one to hang out with folks, to facebook with folks, but my heart and my thoughts are the more accurate barometers of how much I care about others..the lines on my face seem to represent the countless times I've worried or vibed someone I loved, and Clare, you were and always will be, one of them. And you knew that.
So, here today, in the silence I surround myself with in order to hear your passage as best I can, I shall remember some of those memories.
While walking the pups this morning, I heard a mockingbird - oh, the bird I love so, that seems to come by whenever a loved one is passing or about to pass. How fitting, Clare, for you, with the beautiful voice and beaming grin, could sing the sultry blues of "Summertime" or "Prelude to the Blues" or Tret Fure's "My Love" or the love-infused "Now That We Found Love", or the bluegrass/country sweet of Hazel & Alice's "West Virginia", or add your blissful harmony to Bonnie Raitt's "Home", or my brother Glenn's "Nicole's Song", "Lady", "Free as the Wind"....or you could saddle up right next to your cowgirl friend, Beth, and sing my songs - "Pennsylvania", "Sail to You", "Sittin' High", "Riversweet Love", "Womansong", "Dizzy Dreams", "Love Me", "Cycles", "Feminist Blues", "Trash Tune"...the list goes on and on...always with love and always respect, because you and I grew up in music together, child - we sang while the parents drank in the basements and living rooms - in that neighborhood of Irish tenors, altos and sopranos, accompanied by my daddy's Harmony guitar...We would steal to the side room or the corner post in the basement and sing...And then one day, you gave me a gift I held to my heart's memory my whole life : you typed up a hundred or so songs I had written up to that point, between my first years of song making, from 1967 to 1970, and presented me with a three ringed binder of those songs. The Big Acknowledgment...of songs I would never play in front of anyone except a kitty cat, or you, or not share my home recordings of them on my first attempts at sound with sound reel to reel tape recordings with others, except for brother Glenn and you, and later, my sister Gail and reservedly, with my parents.
So it was that one day, after many laughs, many songs, many miles to the Friendly's for our stoned out Fribbles, hoping the cops wouldn't stop us for driving soooo slow, I would hand write lyrics to songs I had written after that time period in a black art composition book and give that to you as your "hymnal" of songs as we continued to share and sing songs together. Songs that I felt embarrassed to share with anyone, you embraced with your heart and soul and wrapped your sweet honey voice around them.
The acid trip we took to Pink Floyd's The Wall - oh, Janis had returned to us, we were sure! - as the Great Gig in the Sky played and you, Leslie, and some soul sisters at the time mixed water with cornstarch and food colorings in the kitchen sink and watched captivated as solid chunks turned to liquid in our hands like magic, and oh how the Kahlua flowed.... To the women/sister friends, who gathered together in coven to lay hands on one another in holy sisterhood...we were rediscovering the Matriarchy - the rituals, and Grandmother Moon...We shared sisterhood is powerful moments, many of them, including Women Office Workers in NYC and 13th Moon poetry journal....
And Oh, we loved My Father's Place in Roslyn, NY - a music club that featured some of our favorites: Mimi Farina (with Tom Jans, and without), Eric Andersen just two of them.... We discovered Bonnie Koloc and Dianne Davidson records at the local Sam Goody's in Huntington Station...and then, the pivotal evening we discovered Bonnie Raitt...her younger self sitting with bottles of Cutty Sark and Black Label on the album cover, and we were off and running for years with music...inspired by our sisters, as always.
That year - 1975 to 1976 - when we shared an apartment in Inwood, just below the Bronx, with its view of the Cloisters and we worked blocks away from one another in NYC, we packed in memories. We drove to Pennsylvania to continue the holiday weekend gatherings of kindred souls, affectionately known as The Ritz - you kept the notes and acted as "Secretary" of this fun-loving, peace-filled group, using your Katherine Gibbs skills to their most creative advantage, and you typed up the lyrics while I helped keep the group singing Joan Baez, Bonnie Raitt, Hoyt Axton, James Taylor, and oh so many other songs.....
I remember you rocking and holding me as I shook for what seemed like hours after I had been mugged in our apartment's foyer late one night when I returned solo from meeting friends for an opera .... Our rides on the subway, our rides on the LIRR (making up song titles like " Five Fuckin' O-Eight", for the ungodly hour we had to catch the train to New York as we alit from the subway bowels to the sign admonishing us to "Hold Onto Your Hat"), our rides down the Henry Hudson Highway as the sun shown like crystal gems on the Hudson....
In July of 1976, I moved to Pennsylvania to be with the woman I had come out with and fallen in love with, and with my guitar in hand, and my girlfriend's mandolin in hers, you came to sing, along with other women friends with guitar, bass and wild enthusiasm..and that night on the steps of a theater at Lock Haven University, the embryo of Rubyfruit Begonia was birthed - a group of women with a purpose in that small town. We had a talking dog named Danks, two laughing lovers who spontaneously broke into a sitting on a lap hand-miming routine....we had poetry, we had song....and all was good. We sang "Silver Threads and Golden Needles", "Ooee Ride Me High", and oh yes, my songs and my brother's....all was good and magical.
And Rubyfruit Begonia lived on, the Queens of the Silver Dollar, in that little country bubble in another time....we sang for the senior citizens....we sustained the harassments by a few bikers who drank themselves into oblivion as they mocked our sisterhood strong ensemble at the country bar, throwing ice cubes and beef jerky at us....we were rockin and wild and we feared no one and nothing. My daddy, Hank, even joined us once, as his knees knocked and he played harmonica on the song he had taught me growing up, "In the Hills of West Virginny" (aka "She Came Rolling Down the Mountain", or "Nancy Brown" - though Hank's version was uniquely his interpretation!).
You made a Home - a Museum of Memories - and, with your Sweet Indulgences, you spread Love and Sweetness. Clare, you had so many wonderful friends, and kin, so many who loved you and knew you along the way...through your illnesses and suffering...and who kept your glass aloft and full, indulged in your sweet desserts, stories and song - in Ireland and in Pennsylvania - and though we lost touch the past few years, I count my blessings that I can say we had the first 30 or so years of our lives in close contact - that's half a life so far - and so much gaiety and experiences that I forever treasure. Childhood friends who grew into women sharing music, laughter, and life.
I hold our macrame'd memories close to me, dear Clarey Bear. May your Journey be filled with Peace, as you join your beloved father, Bernie - please take a spin in one of his classic restored late 50's T'birds for me!
See you over the Rainbow, child!
(see Music Journey So Far for Rubyfruit Begonia photo memories).