Friday evening, November 27th my beloved friend Ann Riley passed away, surrounded by family in hospice care at her Moonshine Ranch home in Camptonville, CA. In 1974 Shabda took me to Terry and Ann’s newly-purchased ranch for an overnight. As I remember we were warmly welcomed, and slept under the stars on the hill behind the house. Shabda and Terry rose early to sing together, and Ann and I began a soon familiar kitchen tea-talk. She was an excellent listener, with a wide variety of interests, known to break into a smile or laugh easily. Soon we were pregnant together with Gyan and Solomon, so the conversation went down that path. There was the porch with the grapes, and the garden, the pond, and the barn, where the music happened, until the remodel, considerably later.
Both our husbands had another “wife.” The same one. Shabda called Pandit Pran Nath or “Guruji” his first wife, and I was the second wife. Terry and Shabda spent a great deal of time in service to this wonderful Indian singer, who honored each of us. We were a family. Our private family occasions were times when the guru stayed with us and music was everywhere. The public ones were concerts, in the San Francisco area, at Mills College, in The Garlings’ house, or in New York City at the Cathedral of St John the Divine, in New Delhi and places I no longer remember. After Guruji died, Terry and Shabda went to India for the next four years, then as time passed we saw less of each other, but in the last decade, Gyan, a brilliant guitarist, performed with Terry, and we’d go to see them whenever they played in the Bay Area. Birthdays. The decades stretched out.
New Years Eve was a time when Ann and Terry and I sang standards way into the night years ago. Grab your coat and get your hat, leave your worries on the doorstep. Just direct your feet to the sunny side of the street…
My 50th birthday I spent as an overnight with several close women friends. Ann was among them. Shabda’s 60th we were together by Donner Lake. Weddings, funerals, family gatherings. For my last birthday party they appeared with a sweet gift. It was a colored gourd with an OM, a Buddha crowned with flower patterns hand-painted in gold, white, green and brown. Inside was a card with birds wearing party hats and the message in Ann’s tidy script “We love you, Tamam.”
This morning, in meditation there was Ann all covered in light and I knew, before the phone call that the line that held her here had stretched thin. She was already gone beyond the body. I searched my poetry books for the right words to honor her. She liked Naomi Nye, wrote me in 2011 she had bought her poems.
I am partial to poems about
little rumination, explosions of minor joy,
light falling on the heads of gentle elders.
Also the way pampas grasses look toward
the end of summer, shining, shaggy…
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I like the melancholy tone of this one—
From One of the Butterflies by W.S. Merwin
only now a joy I was not aware of
when it was here although it remains
out of reach and will not be caught or named
or called back and if I could make it stay
as I want to it would turn to pain
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Ann, dear friend, what a beautiful life you have shared! Married to Terry for 60 years, friend to many, teacher to many, mother and grandmother, you will be missed. You will bring love and great benefit wherever you go.