blog description

Old women talk about old things: history, myth, magic and their
checkered pasts, about what changes and what does not.

Saturday, May 2, 2015

MAY DAY -- and Miss Gottlieb

It's May Day, just one day past Nanina Gottlieb's birthday. She's the lady who, 30+ years ago, entered my life and changed it permanently--for good or ill. I should know by this time that regret over things past is pointless. For this little life excursion, Card Number One of the Tarot-The Fool-was me.

I'd been in the habit of dancing and singing along with "Blue Jean" by David Bowie, at the top of my lungs, functioning as stress relief. Our family had recently moved to PA and both my husband and I had not found the excellent jobs we'd enjoyed working while in TN. Here, going to work was a bore and a grind--whether it was corporate culture, local culture, or just us--I'm not sure exactly how to describe it, but the office just wasn't any kind of "happy place." The chorus of Bowie's hit song was what attracted me: "...Somebody send me!" I danced every night when I got home, singing "somebody send me!" like a prayer, imagining that something in an oppressive landscape would change.

Something did. I'd seen Amadeus over the winter and got hooked on Mozart's music. Not only that, but just the idea of him, too. History junkie that I am, I'd begun to read about him, to search used book stores for anything about him, to buy his music and hunt for videotapes of his operas. In the midst of this, while chained to a desk like a dog every work day, I'd come down with pneumonia.

After finally admitting the illness, I took some days off to try to recover. I didn't want to, because new workers are not really allowed to get sick and women are pretty much expected to fold under the pressure, so, naturally, this is unrelenting.

One bright beautiful day, I was still desperately ill, but wanted to feel the sunshine I saw shining through the windows. I was too weak to stand upright for very long, so I lay down on the warm cement of the porch. From here, I looked up into precious squirrels' ears leaves. I put some Mozart into the Walkman I'd carried out, and from there, sent his notes into my head.

Somebody send me...

 Our grassy yard was gay with wild violets. The red and yellow tulips were in full bloom. That's when she came to me, through fever and a blue, blue sky. Warm breeze on my skin, spring in my eyes, Mozart in my ears--and Miss Gottlieb, whispering, telling me the story she'd kept to herself for such a long time.

It was a story of passion, art,  obsession, and, finally, of separation from reality. Following her, and just as she had, I went to that place, too, for I embraced the solitary life and followed this old dream of being a writer.

Life being what it is, it hasn't ended well in every way, but, as the Amish say, "You'll have this."

At least I've told her story, think what you will of either of us. Following the Muse, a.k.a. The Triple Goddess, back to her cave, is bound to end badly a la La Belle Dame sans Merci, but, hell, we're all born to wither and die. Face it, nobody's story ends happily.

For a little while, here on earth, Nanina and I had the Joy of Art, of knowing through and through, a rare slice of the motionless perfection at the heart of things, the blue sky blue eye ecstasy. Think I'll just  leave it at that.

~Thanks to Bobbi Merchant,

~~ Juliet Waldron


  1. how viscerally we are wounded when none of the shoulda/coulda/wouldas happen. But perhaps it is true ... whatever doesn't kill us makes us stronger. I know it made me meaner AND stronger.

  2. Hail to fevers, flowers, chanting, and ghostly inspirations. My Mozart is most certainly a gift!