award-winning documentarian: radio + music + photography
At age 19, I traveled from Lawrence, Kansas with my beau and a few friends in a 1975 white Dodge van containing a bed, bathroom and kitchen. From Seattle to Portland and San Francisco to the Grand Tetons of Wyoming, we explored and camped throughout majestic mountain ranges that my Midwestern eyes had never seen. We journeyed to The Rainbow Gathering and chased Grateful Dead shows from city to city. It was 1993, before I was set to leave after sophomore year at The University of Kansas to make a bold move to NYC to study theater and dance.
On the wide open expansive road, before my city detour, I met Michelle (Elle), a young edgy 20 something with curiosity, openness, and a wild mountain laugh that caught my Gen X attention. This familiar stranger had a fierce smile and powerful presence to welcome me gladly into conversation. She was with a fellow traveller and we all engaged in existential ideas while they generously made me a black gem necklace woven with bendable molding steel strings. She was from Kansas and serendipity was in the air. I didn’t see her again until four years later.
After 3 1/2 years of learning and living in New York, I realized it was no longer my place and it would be wise to move back to Kansas and finish university. My boyfriend from the road followed me to New York and then again moved back to Lawrence, Kansas only to split up soon after moving. As I lived out of my car, while working, taking classes, and looking for a place to live, one night I went to hear jazz funk music at the college town bar and it was there that I saw Michelle again. We immediately remembered each other from the road and caught up. She told me of her new baby, Sloane.
Michelle generously offered me a place to lay my head while I looked for a new living situation. She opened the door with trust in me to live with and support her family.
The first time I met Sloane it was love at first sight. I was totally smitten with this bright shining soul. She let me hold her immediately and we bonded everyday of the brief month I lived there. Aside from my cousins and a little babysitting, I had no experience with caring for a little human on the daily.
I remember waking every morning to change her diaper while her parents slept in with appreciation. It was my first experience of showing up to what motherhood might feel like someday. I woke often for early journal time while keeping the door slightly cracked to hear the sounds of a fluttering, flittering magic angel waking in the crib next to my room. I’d go in and see Sloane with joyful anticipation as she peered straight into my soul with her big, clear and wise oceanic eyes. I’d lift her up with a hug and slow dance as I hummed a quiet vocal intonation as the dawning sun rose slightly through the windowsill. Hints of caramel light drenched the rocking chair shadows on the wall in an early morning cozy sway back and forth as we bonded. Our special mornings gave me strength to meet the uncomfortable unknowns in my life at the time. Unfortunately, after witnessing intense fighting and dissonance between Sloane’s parents, I could sense that she was living in a painfully unsustainable relationship that would be a tough road ahead, which it was. I knew she would go through really hard experiences and promised this being that I’d stay connected.
Soon after, I found another place to live for two years, completed my degree, started to work in radio, and would come over to spend time with Sloane and her new baby brother Grayson, who was born after I moved out. The moment graduation day came, I blasted off to start a new life in California, with gifts and writings for both kids every year since. They came to my wedding, I went back to Kansas for work and re-connected in person then, but the face to face connections were sparse. At some point, Michelle asked me to be Sloane and Grayson's godmama.
Last week Sloane came for a visit! She is now 22, the same age I was when I lived with her. She instantly re-connected with my kids and Jay after coming to Berkeley 4 years before while in her last year of high school. This time she came as an adult. Ready to begin her new life as an almost college graduate with wings to fly forward, heal, and create dynamic expressions in this world at this urgent time in our country.
It was a reunion of belonging and deep seeing through our shared stories late into the night under the stars. We made meaning through learning about each other, listening and sharing. She reminded me and Jay of the wide open worlds we saw and lived at 22. We ate beautiful nourishment, soaked in the sulphuric baths with Sofi for a ladies night, yoga in the mornings, tai chi, Shabbat, and the kids running in to jump on her with hugs and kisses, hikes, and recording stories…never had she been inside of a home where it felt like unconditional love. That love infusion happened for Sloane and with it, a vision for her future.