Because of Stephen Jenkinson, I’ve been thinking about my legacy. I don’t care if people remember me. If Neskaya’s still going, I expect they’ll have a memorial service like the one we did for Evie. What I do know is that Neskaya and Circle Dance have changed many lives and started new dancing circles, and the ripples from that, the “wake” I’ve left behind, feels very good to me. I think of Sues Dunlap telling me she was dancing with Mary & Floyd, because I had showed her some dances one summer. I don’t remember where or why I taught them to her. And I think of Carol & Tory telling me that my example of a woman who went to graduate school was important for them. That really surprised me. But I dropped out of Stanford, got hospitalized, lost a bike belonging to one of you… you don’t remember anything of that? And Jo telling me “Everything I know about Spirit I learned from you.” There have been lots of times when people have told me “When you said such-and-such, it changed my life.” I didn’t remember saying such-and-such, but recognized it as something that was so much a part of my thinking that I didn’t think of it as anything special. Several people have told me that Circle Dance saved their lives. I suppose that’s true of me too. When you are depressed and can’t enjoy anything, what is still worth doing? For me it was folk dance and then circle dance. I remember a workshop at Kripalu, at the end of a guided meditation on dying, they started playing Neil Diamond’s song from Jonathan Livingston Seagull, and I sat up and began to improvise movement to the music. A woman came up to me afterward where I sat writing in the dining room, and told me my dancing had changed her life. All these things I did not believe at the time. but I guess I recorded them on a virtual page headed “Evidence to disprove the hypothesis that Jenny is worthless.” Now I can accept them as happening, but I’m still not quite sure that they mean I have been a source of good in the world.
What legacy did I receive? I think of Jenny Murdoch and Gramps Clark and their death stories. I realized recently, that my father gave me a lot. He taught me to drive on my first car which had a stick shift, and how to “double clutch” and use the engine to slow the car down. He taught me to balance my checkbook. He read Deep Wood to me, and the poems of Robert Frost. In fact I have, and treasure, a small paperback book of poetry, held together by a rubber band, that went with him through the war. He described a scale model of the solar system — “Jupiter is a golf ball knocked out of the stadium” — and a scale time line for the earth collapsed into a day. “All of recorded history is in the last second of the day.” Mother’s sister Carolyn saw the attic room of our house in Maine as a “beatnik pad,” and gave me a record of Puccini’s La Boheme. Following her instructions, I and two girl friends constructed “The Broken Bottle,” named for a champagne bottle broken in a ceremony. It became a kind of play room for my siblings as they reached adolescence. It was also the first appearance of the impulse to create special environments for creativity, play, and exploration. That impulse reached its full flowering in Neskaya. Aunt Betty, my father’s sister, kept a special eye on me as I was growing up. She always gave me meaningful Christmas presents. One Christmas she gave me a recording of two of Mozart’s late symphonies. I said “But Aunt Betty, I don’t like Mozart.” (I preferred Stravinsky and Prokofiev.) She said “Keep the records and learn to like him,” and I did. In fact I bought a CD of them after wearing out two recordings on vinyl. She also gave me the role model of going into therapy. Aunt Mimi, a friend of our family who lived in Maine, offered me a mothering love, always glad to have me come for a meal.
My legacy from my mother? A determination not to be like her. And possibly also my sense of creating fun for people. I remember a birthday party for me on the little beach at Biddeford Pool, I might have been five. There were tiny clear plastic animals hidden around, and I saved some of them for a long time. For her parties meant drinking, for me I tried to create events that were fun, but also fed the soul.