5. A New Millenium

April 28, 2000

I will be moving out of Gary's apartment tomorrow on
Saturday April 29th.  I will be housesitting for two
weeks for my friends Marc and Ruth Franklin, then I
will be leaving for Texas for 9 days, then to Berlin
on May 21st. From  May 22nd - June 1st I will be
staying with my friend Britta in Berlin. On June 1st I
will move into my own apartment at Nürnberger Strasse
38, near the KaDeWe. The other good news is that I
have received responses from my non-smoker initiative
already. I  will be working with the antismoking
organization in Berlin.

June 5, 2000

I have had so much fun putting together my apartment.
I went shopping to buy all the things I needed for the
kitchen and for my bed. This is the first time in a
long while that I've had a place I could call my own.
I have a month to month lease that is good as long as
I want to stay. The apartment is small, but very nice
and very modern. The kitchen is especially nice and
even has a dishwasher. The desk looks out onto the
terrace. I expect to have many creative moments at my
laptop computer. 

Fort Worth, Texas, June 2000   

My decision to just walk away from everything in
Berlin was a good one. I spent the entire trip over
the Atlantic kneeling in front of the toilet. There
were two elderly women in the seats beside me who knew
my story. They were very sympathetic. In the moment I
feel strong and determined!  I'm  surrounded by love
and totally unselfish people who are on a quest to
make something miraculous happen. I can't tell you how
proud I am of my family and their determination to
fight this and win. I was shocked when I first saw
Cyndi lying in the bed with all of the life support
connected to her, looking like an old lady instead of
a 41 year old. It wasn't that I haven't seen this
before, but that it was Cyndi!

I think one of the most difficult things about being
here is the fact that my family expects me to be the
rock because I've seen death so many times before.
This is their first real experience and it makes my
internalized stress even bigger. The hard part for me
is knowing what we will face later on and having to
choose the right time to enlighten both Cyndi and the
rest of the family about what to expect. I know all
too well that saying something before it's time can
backfire. I also know that I will have to carry the
emotional responsibility for everything I say or do
which changes the course of the dying process. I only
hope I'm up to the task!

My relationship with Cyndi has changed from what it
was over the last two decades. Because of my absence
and her marriage I guess I assumed there would always
be another day or another visit that would allow me to
make up for lost time. As I sit in the hospital with
her I can remember those days in the park when I
pushed her in a stroller and bought cream sodas and
candy bars for her. I can remember how it felt to be
12 years old and take on the responsibility of a child
in a stroller, a human life. Those were the days of
innocence when death was something in a movie or that
happened to someone else. Now I find myself stepping
back into her life as Uncle Bob once again, but this
time I have no power to protect her or to save her. We
are both adults now and one would think we could be
totally honest, but all too often the truth is too

I have been able to be candid with Cyndi about her
cancer and the years that lead her to this place. The
family has always been able to express our concern
about her smoking and we supported her each time she
attempted to quit. The thing that shocks me and angers
me is to learn the depth of her addiction to nicotine.
Cyndi told me the cultural acceptance of tobacco use,
the pressure from her friends and husband, and the
need for denial always won out over reason and common
sense. Even after she knew something was wrong with
her lungs and her breathing, the visits to the doctor
only served to strengthen her denial and not her
resolve to quit. When the doctor listened to her lungs
and told her they sounded clear it was permission to
continue to smoke. When they found nothing on an x-ray
of the lungs it was again permission to continue
smoke. She told me her head was full of all those
little voices from her friends and the tobacco ads
that said the cancer/tobacco connection was a myth. I
asked her if she really believed it was a myth and she
said no. She explained that she wasn't really denying
that smoking caused cancer, she was denying that she
herself had cancer. In denying that she had cancer she
also denied the need to quit smoking. It was a vicious
cycle that was only broken by the diagnosis of stage
four lung cancer. She was only able to quit smoking
when it was already too late. She told me she would
never smoke another cigarette for the rest of her
life. Then with tears in her eyes she looked at me and
said she didn't think it would be so difficult. She
said she has probably quit for longer times before.

August 15, 2000

In her last days Cyndi became an ally in my fight
against secondhand smoke pollution. She told me she
thought her husband and some of her friends thought I
had brainwashed her. They actually thought I was
taking advantage of her in a position of weakness. I
was aware that her new position on smoking came from a
personal enlightenment. I didn't brainwash her, she
was now in my shoes. She kept telling me things were
going to change when she got out of the hospital. She
was going to set her foot down! Her husband would have
to quit smoking and her friends would not be allowed
to smoke in her house. But there were also times when
I witnessed her pain in moments of struggle with her
husband over his own addiction. She asked him not to
drive her truck and he had driven it anyway and smoked
inside which had always been forbidden. The worse oart
was his need to tell her he had done it! She wanted to
go home to die but wondered if her husband would honor
her request that he quit smoking in the house. She
wondered if he really understood that she could not be
exposed to secondhand smoke. He still denied that her
cancer was caused by smoking.

Cyndi never got to go home to die. At her memorial
service her husband was seen smoking behind the
funeral home with two friends. This in spite of the
fact he had told us he had quit.

I feel tremendous anger! Anger that a multinational
corporation has the power to manipulate the truth
worldwide! Anger that the right to breathe comes after
the right to make money. Anger that the worst
addiction in the world which causes the most death
worldwide is treated casually! Before she died Cyndi
made a request on behalf of smokers. She asked that
everything possible be done to make it as difficult as
possible to smoke. This she said would be
compassionate to smokers! 

Loutro, April 14, 2001

Already Loutro is working its magic. I can tell by the
uncontrollable urge I feel to get on the ferry to
escape the inevitable growth! The peacefulness and
solitude have a way of serving up painful truths that
are difficult to digest. I do have the advantage of
experience now. I knew the path would be littered with
stones, that I would be faced with challenges that
could free me from my emotional baggage if I stayed
the course. My first challenge was Barbara.

I arrived in Loutro grief stricken from my mother's
death. All the way I imagined coming to room #8 at
Pandalitza's, the place where I spent the best years
of my life with Rob. As the ferry made its way toward
Loutro I could see the door to room number 8 opened
onto the balcony. Then I saw Barbara on the balcony.
She glanced over at the ferry, then walked into the
room closing the doors behind her. The first person I
saw as I walked through the village was Alyson from
the Hotel Porto Loutro. I found it odd that she would
feel the need to tell me Barbara was in room #8 at
Pandalitza's. "It's not (your) room you know!" Alyson
said as I walked away. When I had talked with Barbara
on the phone a few weeks before she said she wasn't
even sure she would come to Loutro. After the phone
call she had sent a postcard to San Francisco that was
not clear, but I had interpreted it to mean she would
stay in another room.

Pandalitza dutifully led me to room #7. She looked
into my eyes, then tipped her head toward room #8. She
uttered one word, Barbara! Like Alyson she was
prepared to relay the message. "Barbara, letter,
January, ask room 8," Pandalitza said as she shrugged
her shoulders and said, "sorry!" My gut reaction was
to tell Pandalitza Barbara was not my friend. She put
her hand on my shoulder and asked if I wanted the room
at the other end of the house, farthest away from
Barbara. I declined.

When Barbara arrived I asked her why she took room #8
when she knew what it meant to me. She just snapped at
me without looking at me. "It not YOUR room," she
said, "It's everybody's room!" I simply told her she
is not my friend because in that moment there was no
other thought in my mind. I was being honest about how
I felt. A friend would not do this to me. I removed my
boxes from above the closet in #8 and took them to
room #7. I thought about how true Barbara's statement
was. Room number 8 had always been everyone's room as
long as we had lived there. We had never even felt the
need to lock the door.

My next encounter was with Julie, the yoga teacher
from London, guest at Alyson's hotel. When I tried to
explain to Julie that I never expected nor asked
Barbara to leave room #8, that I was hurt that Barbara
would be so insensitive to my feelings, that room #8
was home to me in my heart, she exploded in anger. She
didn't want to hear another side of the story. She
told me I'm selfish with an inflated ego. I laughed at
the absurd projection and said I was the only one who
had a right to say who's my friend and who isn't. I
explained that Pandalitza was the only one who seemed
to understand my feelings right now. She told me
Pandalitza was probably afraid of me! This was the
most absurd thing that could come out of anyone's
mouth. Julie looked straight into my eyes with a lot
of very obvious anger and hatred. She repeated her
projection that I am selfish and egotistical. She
warned me that Alyson was already against me on this
and if I didn't apologize to Barbara, I might as well
get on the ferry and leave Loutro. In a threatening
tone she said Loutro is a very small place! Yes she
was right, Loutro is a very small place. So small I
could remember all the times she defended her right to
have "her" special room at the Hotel Porto Loutro. So
small I could remember all the times she had directed
the same kind of irrational anger at others.

As Julie walked down the hill from the castle I took a
deep breath and tried to calm down enough to
understand what was happening. It was not my intent to
make this an issue. Everyone involved had already made
up their minds. Before I had even arrived on the ferry
it was an issue. It was obvious those who had talked
to Barbara weren't even interested in hearing what I
had to say. The major thing on my mind was the fact
that my mother had just died! No one except Pandalitza
had even acknowledged that I was grieving!

I summoned Joseph Campbell! What would JC do? He would
say if you want to get to the truth ask what is the
motive. In this moment everything became very clear.
The motive for Barbara was to have room #8 all to
herself. The motive of Julie was to have the castle
ruins all to herself for her meditations. I remembered
Barbara's comment on the phone. She said she was
coming to be alone and rest, not to socialize. Then I
remembered Julie in 1998, how she insisted that I
couldn't teach classes in the castle like before
because it would ruin her meditations. Then I thought
about Julie in London when Rob was sick. I thought of
her hanging up the telephone after telling him he
couldn't come to her house when he had called for
help. I thought of him lying on the street in the
rain, almost dead when strangers found him and called
an ambulance. This is the woman who dares call me
selfish. I came to a very calm place inside myself. I
knew what I had to do now.

I came to the church courtyard where I found Julie
sitting next to Barbara telling her the details of her
encounter with me on the hill. I went unnoticed for
the first few moments as I overheard Julie's words to
Barbara. Julie looked up stunned when I said, "Barbara
please come behind the church with me for a moment."
Julie walked away. I apologized to Barbara, told her
that the whole thing was a mistake, a
misunderstanding. Then I went to Julie and talked with
her for a while. She seemed delighted and kept saying,
"So you heard me!" I allowed myself to suffer through
the demonstration of her inflated ego. When I saw
Alyson it was obvious Julie had told her that she had
somehow saved me! I decided not to dwell on Julie's
refusal to help Rob when he was dying. She spoke to me
about it at the memorial in 1996 and I forgave her.
But I knew her behavior in this situation would be
another memory that would better define her place in
my life, just as Barbara's behavior would do. I am
capable of forgiving them, but neither will hold the
same place in my life they held before. My lesson is
how to act differently in situations where I am
projected upon. If it's unfair and untrue I need to
let it pass on without getting defensive! Already my
revelation has brought me to a new place. I had done
nothing wrong. I was simply grieving because of my
mother's death. I had wanted the nurturing womb-like
comfort of room number 8 in the same way I had run to
my mother in times of need as a child. In this moment
I needed to come to terms with the fact that both my
mother and room number 8 would no longer be there to
serve that function.

As I walked through the village at Easter I was
confronted by many people who remembered Rob and Bob.
Each one opened their conversation with the same
question. "Are you in room number 8 at Pandalitza's?"
I just smiled and told them someone else is staying
there for the next week, without elaborating. A tour
guide from Paris brought his group to Maria's and
seated them at the table beside mine. He introduced me
then told them a story in French, turning to me
occasionally to translate. He told of the school
children he brought to the yoga class. He said he
would send me the picture of Rob with the birds flying
above his head as he taught. Rob had incorporated the
birds into the teaching as one of those magical
moments that happen often here. Another man explained
his perception of "MY" room. He said it was not a
normal tourist room, but a place where the door was
always open and everyone was invited in. I smiled as I
remembered Barbara behind her locked door. She had
said it is not my room, it is everyone's room. I
thought about Julie alone in the castle doing her
meditation. Then I remembered the literally hundreds
of people who touched our lives as we did theirs!
Maria from the gift shop took me aside and asked if
Barbara was still in my room. I told her I didn't want
to make it an issue. She smiled at me and said,
"Bravo!" Then she said softly, "but it is only fair
that she see your side also!" She told me one of the
biggest selling postcard in her shops in the last
years has been the postcard of the circle of stones
Rob and I had constructed by the castle. For that I am
proud and I am touched. I found an entry in Rob's
diary from 1992.

From Rob's journal, September 27, 1992:

 "I look around me and organically see all people as
ONE, a multitude of aspects of one, my heart wide
open, in compassion... the two year old British girl
who had open heart surgery toddles by; the old woman
walks out into the bay to swim in the oddly refreshing
energy of this Saturday morning; tourists shivering
awaiting the 9:30 Samaria ferry to Whisk them home,
'Now departing from Almost Paradise'; the yoga student
returns to an old life in Germany. I see all life
transformed - nature rules again - as always. Later at
night I am reminded of the concept of PROJECTION, my
theme, my time to fully understand this distortion.
Alyson approaches me and asks if I am contemplating
suicide as I stood in Loutro bay - my shining moments
- my wholeness beaming - eyes shining - never before
in Loutro in the open and the projection is the
extreme opposite of my experience! AMAZING."

On the day I moved into Pandalitza's room #8, she was
very understanding. This woman who Julie thinks is
afraid of me smiles at me and tells me in Greek that I
am finally home. She brings an extra table for my
computer and shakes out the rug Rob and I bought for
the room in 1992. When I leave here I hope I can
remember that I don't need to defend something that is
real and true. Perhaps the Truth Fairy has learned
something more about truth.

I think perhaps this place that holds a very important
place in my history is not the place where I will find
my future. Maybe this time I can heal that last bit of
grief and clear a place for someone new in my life.
Three's a crowd! Lesson number 1 finished.

Now I must prepare for the realization of the loss of
a parent. The chatter in my head gets more subdued
each day. I know one day I will close my eyes and
there will be peace again. That is what I came here to

To Mother:

I remember a warm spring day when the tulips were in
full bloom. You were in the basement doing laundry,
singing those old World War II songs you probably sang
when Dad was off to the war. Perhaps I'm biased, but I
thought your voice was beautiful. I was proud to hear
it resonate up out of that small rectangular window
behind the tulips. I would have been proud to have
anyone walk by to hear your songs. I want to believe
you were singing because you were happy! I want to
remember you with a song in your heart, to believe you
are singing once again. It has been such a long time
since I have heard your songs.

When I remember you it is with the smell of fried
chicken, the taste of potato salad and Kool Aid on a
summer picnic in the park. I can feel the stiffness of
brand new blue jeans, the scent of paper, erasers and
chalk as you sent me off to my first day of school.
Etched in my mind are the cold days of winter when you
bundled me in protective layers, pinning my mittens to
my sleeves as insurance for my venture outside your
maternal cocoon. Then there were spring days with
scent of lilacs that found you waiting at the screen
door to usher us into the kitchen for soup and
crackers, all part of your plan to keep us punctual.
Do you remember the time you spanked me, then held me
in your arms, rocking me back and forth, calling me
your beautiful blond-haired, blue-eyed boy? You sat
discretely on a chair beside the refrigerator, wiping
my tears where no one would witness the retraction of
your punishment. It was our secret!

And now as I write this I wonder if I ever told you
these stories when you were alive. Perhaps I assumed
the phrase I love you, muttered at the end of every
telephone call, purveyed all the memories I had neatly
tucked inside my head. Perhaps that's what death means
to those of us who go on living. We imagine unspoken
words and unfulfilled deeds, wishing there was just
one more moment or one more day to finish them so we
can go on living without guilt. But that's a useless
waste of energy, because everyone knows a mother's
love is unconditional. Perhaps you did know all the
memories tucked inside my head, just as you always
knew instinctively when something was wrong.

When Rob died you were concerned about my own health.
You told me no mother should have to see one of her
children die before her. But then the burden falls
upon the children to understand that strange void left
when a parent passes on. Who will I run to when I am
hurt? Who will wipe my tears and assure me everything
will be OK? In those moments I'll have to close my
eyes and remember the sound of your voice singing a
lullaby to your blond-haired, blue-eyed baby boy. I am
happy your suffering is finally over, but that will
never be consolation for your absence.

LOUTRO April 17, 2001

I'm not sure if it's possible to describe what's
happening to me being back in Loutro. I have been here
five days now and already I've been through so much
I'm not sure I want to relive it to write it. I've
come here with a much bigger perspective this time!
I've also come with a will to change and focus on the
future. In the past seven months I've probably
immersed myself back into the system more than any
point since Rob and I left for Berlin ten years ago.
This means the culture shock of leaving America is
nearly as great as it was then. This time I have the
distinct advantage of knowing what comes next and how
to accelerate the process. I come also with the
knowledge of what it means to be part of a small
village where everyone knows everyone else's business
and think they have the right to judge and interfere.
So the politics is about creating the image you want
everyone to believe without compromising your
integrity too much. I can already see that this
journey is about letting go and becoming just Bob.
Loutro is a place where Rob and Bob made an impression
so deep and permanent it will require a lot of effort
on my part. I want to let my individual spirit shine
bright enough to be seen on it's own. I hope I'm
finally up to this challenge.

How many times have I heard people tell me they envy
my life? Sometimes I want to ask them what is standing
in the way of living their own dreams. I think I know
the answer. To go on a spiritual journey is probably
the most difficult thing one can do in the beginning.
It's like the first days of a fast or diet. It's like
withdrawal from a narcotic drug! I want to get on
every boat that pulls out of Loutro bay in order to
escape the truth that comes in silent moments. I want
to pull the covers over my head and remain in my bed
the whole day long. But I do neither!

I hear birds singing and the slow steady rhythm of the
ocean pulling me up and out of my self pity. I am
serenaded by the sound of goat bells and the chorus of
newborns crying for their mothers from distant rocks.
And everywhere in the village hang the corpses of
their elders waiting to be roasted for the Easter
feast. The crucifixion and the resurrection. The cycle
of life.

Here, I am constantly reminded of the fragile balance
between this dream and the eternal peace. Perhaps that
is what always pulls me back to this place. Perhaps I
enjoy the lack of artificial comforts that might lull
me into Western delusions where I am allowed to drown
in the illusion of safety. Perhaps it's the adrenaline
rush of living on the edge, or going beyond the fears
that have imprisoned many who don't understand what
lies beyond the fears.

I sit watching ferries loaded with reluctant tourists
returning to their so called normal lives. The ferries
return with more batches of pale faces that yearn for
a small glimpse of peace. They teeter on the edge,
aware that too much of a good thing may destroy that
ever so delicate illusion that gives them the courage
to face another day back home. And so we all struggle
to survive, to understand the meaning of life. And
each of us wonders if perhaps the other has what we
really want for ourselves.

April 27, 2001

I am back in that place of synchronized existence
where I recognize that everything in the universe is
connected. We either acknowledge it or let it pass by
unnoticed because we are too invested in the future,
the past, or some fear of either or both. I decide to
try my new disk player as I cut into an orange with my
Swiss knife. Joni Mitchell sings about paving paradise
and putting up a parking lot. She tells the farmers to
put away the DDT, that she prefers her apples with
spots. The white milky juice from the orange's peel is
dripping onto my shoe from the ugly deformed skin with
its black craters and huge unsightly moles. I think
about the perfect fruit displays back home in Safeway.
All the beautiful oranges lined up in perfect rows,
perfectly polished with wax and preservatives to make
their beauty last for weeks. My room is now filled
with ripe fragrance of orange peel which pulls me back
to a childhood Christmas. As the knife punctures the
flesh the sweet juice explodes in an organic orgasm. I
want to cry for those who must eat supermarket fruit.
They will cut through the perfect skin only to find an
impotent, dried up impostor. And Joni Mitchell sings,
"and we've got to get ourselves back into the garden!"

The universe is sending Americans to me, returning
from Ashrams in India. Perhaps they are sent to
inspire my journey back into the garden. A taxi driver
yogi from NYC returned from India where he went to
reconcile the recent death of his mother. He was sent
to hold my hand, I am sure. On the same day he left on
the ferry to Sfakia he was replaced by a woman from
Arkansas who just returned from the funeral of her
guru. I met Gina on the path to Sfakia. She was
standing at the turn in the path, her garments flowing
in the wind like a vision in white. Before she even
spoke I recognized she was the next one sent to
support me. Those returning from Mother India have an
aura of peace that draws one into their confidence.
Without words we take each other's hands and walk
forward in faith without fear. Once that consciousness
is realized everything you need is given at exactly
the moment you need it!

I needed to go to Chania on the north side of the
island. Without having said this, Gina came to ask if
I would accompany her in a taxi to Chania to keep her
company. A taxi from Sfakia to Chania would never fit
into my budget. Of course I accepted the invitation!
On the morning of her departure Gina lightened her
load by leaving a bag of things outside my door. Many
of the things in the bag were on my list of supplies
to pick up in Chania. Yet another message to assure me
that everything is provided in the moment you need it!
It was another gentle nudge to get myself out of my
head to flow like the water in the river. In the White
Mountains the taxi comes to a screeching halt after we
come around a sharp bend in the road. I am suddenly
thrown out of my body, looking down upon the taxi like
a camera filming a European travelogue. I see myself
seated beside a woman in a huge wide brimmed hat
wearing sunglasses. The Cretan taxi driver with his
tight curly black hair is leaning out the window. The
car slowly floats to the left, driven through a sea of
sheep. The shepherd, worn by overexposure to the sun,
wears the Kriti dust proudly. He leans on a crooked
cane laughing through a toothless smile as he
exchanges greetings with the driver in his Sfakian
dialect. The entire experience seems so normal, is
taken so lightly, it is a great lesson in how to live
without stress!

April 27, 2001

In my room at Pandalitza's

I've slept a thousand nights
And dreamed a thousand dreams
I've wept a thousand tears
And hatched a thousand schemes

I've seen a thousand memories
And lived a thousand years
I've sung a thousand songs
And cried a thousand fears

I've thought a thousand times
When I am far away
Of a thousand ways I'll feel
When I return someday

April 29, 2001

Today I'm in that state where I have to continually
remind myself that it's OK to just keep doing what I'm
doing, even if I'm doing nothing. Another part of the
process of letting go is to watch how we constantly
give into the mindless babble (chatter) in our heads.
If one is invested in the moment there is no need to
think about what to do next or what we should be doing
instead or what time it is!

May 13, 2001

On my second trip to Chania I realized I had finally
made it completely back to Loutro in spirit. In Loutro
I had dealt with the usual fear of solitude, the
feeling of wanting to get on every ferry to escape
back to civilization! My arrival in Sfakia was the
first indication that my withdrawal had been
successful. I was already overcome by the number of
tourists, plus the noise of motorbikes, busses and
cars. The ferry had not left Loutro for five days
because of rough seas, so the bus to Chania was full
of people escaping to the north. Now my fear of
solitude was replaced by the familiar urge to escape
back to the peace of room number 8 at Pandalitza's.
For five days I had witnessed the fear of a British
girl in room number 7. All she could think about was
the fact that the ferry couldn't go because of rough
seas. She was unable to see that the weather was
beautiful, that Loutro offered everything she had come
in search of. She had island fever, a mental illness
that creates paranoia and delusions of boredom.

If I were to describe my own life in room number 8,
I'm sure some people would think it was boring. Once
free from the addiction of clocks, schedules and
expectations we get to look back with gentle amusement
at those who are still in the process of
detoxification. We never have to worry about the
permanent population of Loutro growing to unmanageable
proportions, because most never make it to the place
where I reside. Most people get on the boat and rush
back to the familiar chaos of their stressful lives.
They never get to know the pleasure of walking back in
time to a place where one remembers the meaning of
every task undertaken. I actually enjoy sitting in my
chair watching the waves as I pull the strings off of
green beans, snapping them in two then throwing them
into the pot. I love peeling the paper off of garlic,
then slowly dicing each clove into tiny pieces with my
inadequate knife. I enjoy the meditation of peeling
potatoes, cutting carrots, or picking the stones out
of lentils or rice. The difference is I have nowhere
to go, no one to please, no schedule to keep, nothing
to pull me out of the moment. Every single thing I do
I can devote my total energy and attention to. I can
eat when I am hungry, sleep when I'm tired, and best
of all write when I feel creative! When I prepare a
meal it's with an awareness that my action is
necessary to sustain my life. I feel both purpose and

But we were on the bus to Chania, weren't we? I have
to admire the Kriti bus drivers. I often wonder what
it's like to have spent your entire life on this
island then find yourself driving a strange diverse
group of tourists through the White Mountains several
times each day. I imagine on some level the drivers
feel a sense of superiority, because they are in their
element caring for a bunch of clumsy, unsophisticated
city dwellers who haven't a clue how to survive on
their own. As we approach the sharp twists in the road
the driver holds down the horn to warn oncoming
traffic. All the passengers simultaneously lurch
forward as we stop face to face with a tourist bus
traveling the opposite direction. Some of the tourists
shriek in horror as the driver grinds the gears into
reverse and we dangle upon the precipice known as the
Imbros gorge. I have the fear that one day one of the
tourists will be an engineer who will go back home to
design a better, safer highway through the White
Mountains, depriving future travelers of worthy
experiences. I return to Loutro the next day with
provisions for the weeks ahead and rent money for
Pandalitza. All thoughts of escape have been
temporarily canceled. One day later the sea becomes
rough again and the ferry sits idle in the bay. The
British girl escaped the day before and I am left
alone to read, write, cook, dream and wait for the
next experience to come to me!

Dream May 4, 2001

I dreamt I was in Washington, DC at New Playwright's
Theater. They were just opening a new production and
many of the seats were empty on opening night. It was
common practice to invite people to fill the seats
because it's better to play to a bigger audience. I
went out onto the street where I found a group of
African American grandmothers on their way home from
church. They were dressed in their best, brightest
clothes with matching hats decorated with fancy
feathers. I invited them into the theater and they
graciously accepted my invitation. As we took our
seats I noticed my father's sister, my Aunt Ethel was
seated in front of me. She was much younger than her
real age now. She looked into my eyes with a serious
compassionate stare and offered her hand. As I touched
her hand I realized I was at my mother's funeral. With
this realization I began to cry. I felt the tears were
crying me! I then found myself standing in a lonely
Paris street at night in the rain, far from my home.
It wasn't really rain, it was my tears. I stood in the
warm rain allowing it to cleanse my body of grief. I
awoke to the sound of myself sobbing!

May 23, 2001

In two days Pandalitza's son Strato will be drafted
into the Greek army for two years. Before my trip to
Hania I knew some special event was coming because
Giorgo had killed a goat. I watched from my balcony as
he reached inside and pulled out the organs and
intestines. He had already removed the head and I had
seen the hide hanging from an olive tree on the path
to the mountains. When I returned from Hania
Pandalitza was preparing tables below my balcony.
There were seats for about thirty people. When she
told me there would be a party for Strato, that he had
been drafted, I went to warn the tourists in the other
rooms. I figured it was my duty to save them from the
panic I had witnessed so many times before during
Easter, weddings and Christening celebrations! I have
to admit I feel a sense of belonging to the culture,
just by virtue of knowing what is coming. But always
in the thick of things I become an observer, an
outsider looking on once again with a sense of awe and
wonder, and perhaps now a bit of amusement!

When Rob and I arrived ten years ago all the boys in
the village were preteens. Strato was 8 years old.
This year the first person I saw from Loutro was one
of fat Stavro's sons (not to be confused with rich
Stavro) on his way home from the army for Easter. When
he greeted me at the bus station in Hania I was
immediately aware of the amount of time I had lost in
grieving for Rob. The second revelation was that of
healing myself, of coming back to reality!

At 1:00 am the first shots were fired from an
automatic weapon. In my ten years in Loutro this was
the first time the celebration was held directly below
my balcony. I had passed on a warning to the tourists
in Pandalitza's rooms that under no circumstances were
they to go onto their balconies once the celebration
began. I was awakened from a nice dream. I had gone to
bed early knowing it would be at least 1:00 am before
they were drunk enough to get out their guns. I was
amazed at how the sound of the gunshots ricocheted off
the walls of the building. I'm sure the tourists were
now convinced of the validity of my warning.

When I went to bed no guests had arrived yet, so I had
to imagine the picture of the crowd since the balcony
was now off limits. I laid in my bed listening to the
priest Papa Giorgi chanting a religious Greek song.
Then all the guests joined the chant, off key of
course! I laugh to myself every time I hear them, even
at the Easter celebration. Of course I don't let them
know I'm laughing because they all have loaded guns. I
can say without hesitation they are not the best
singers on the planet! Then I heard singular voices of
young drunken men making what I assumed were toasts to
the guest of honor. Of course the assumption was made
because the only words I understood were Strato
Manousoudaki! Each time his name was spoken there was
a simultaneous roar of approval from the drunken
choir! At around 3:00 am I knew the last rounds of
gunfire were being unloaded. Each round came from a
different part of the village. They were all giving
their last salutes before going into their respective
homes. After two hours of continuous disruption of my
sleep I felt grateful that I would arise the next
morning with nothing more than lack of sleep. I
remember all too well the sick disgusting feeling of
hangovers. I love my observer status!    

June 2, 2001


I recognize your spirit
Reflected in the mirror of an azure sea
And your voice whispers softly
On a warm gentle breeze
Through an ancient olive tree

I hear the song of nature
As it washes over me
Like a warm summer shower
Of a thousand tiny bells
Reflected in the pulse of an azure sea

A billion brilliant stars
Dripping in a clear night sky
A golden summer moon
Intoxicating you and I
A shooting star, a cloudless day
A ruby sunrise on the bay
Infect us all with longing
To return another day

And in our dreams we all recall
An ancient tribal song
That calls us back to spirit
That's been sleeping for too long

And as we look into the mirror
We know that we are not alone
For each and every one of us
Is simply coming home

June 6, 2001

In Chania I had a long discussion with a friend, Pia,
in the travel agency. She is very big on the idea I
need to go to Mykonos to get exposure to available
men. We talked in length about the plight of Gay men
in Greece, how oppressed they are. We both agreed I
don't need the baggage that comes with a Greek man!
Not 10 minutes after I left her store I met a Gay man
with a heavy British accent. He turned out to be Greek
from Athens, a school teacher in Chania. He was too
open, affectionate and together about his sexuality,
even for Athens! I kept wondering if he wasn't really
an impostor. Kosta told me about his studies in
linguistics, his ambition to become an interpreter for
the European Parliament. I told him about Loutro, Rob,
the yoga classes, San Francisco, touching all the main
points of my life. I asked him what his astrological
sign was because he seemed really familiar somehow.
When he told me he's Cancer I pulled out Rob's picture
from my wallet. Kosta said, "I missed the 4th of July
by one day!" He looked up at me and noticed the tears
in my eyes. I blurted out, "you were born on July 5th,
Rob's birthday, right?" During the rest of the evening
I grasped at every flaw I could find to keep me from
some romantic notion that I could have a relationship
with a Greek man! Meeting Kosta was just another
gentle sign that it's time to let go of Rob and make
room for someone else in my life. After saying goodbye
I walked away without looking back as he waited for an
invitation to my room.

June 7, 2001

June first was the 6th anniversary of Rob's death. To
mark the occasion I collected stones from the pebble
beach, a 30 minutes walk from Loutro. On more than 100
stones I wrote the names of yoga students and friends
we had met in Loutro, along with family members and
friends back in the states. Many people from Loutro
also wrote their names on stones in Greek. On the
anniversary I put the stones in the area of the tower
where Rob meditated, along with a huge painted stone
with his name, in the center. That morning was the
first time I went to the castle early in the morning.
It was a very good experience! It brought back fond
memories of Rob and I sitting in the castle waiting
for yoga students to arrive. It's at the time when the
goats from Phoenix are coming up the hill, the bells
around their necks clanging furiously as they run. I
came early enough to watch the sun come around the
mountain, then over the top of the castle wall to
bathe the stones in morning sunlight. I noticed
Giorgo's donkey was behind the fence near the tower.
He was acting strange, so I walked down to talk with
him. As I sat on a rock facing him he began to prance
on his front hoofs like a circus animal trained to
count. Then he would run around the bushes and a tree
and return to the same spot to repeat the dance. This
was strange behavior I had never seen before. He
seemed to be looking behind me, so I turned around to
see the white donkey from Livaniana approaching. I
recognized him from the yoga class in 1994. As the
students were doing the yoga stretch called downward
facing dog, the white donkey did the same, impressing
the students along with Rob and I. This time he came
up behind me and gave a gentle nudge at my back, as if
to say, "Hi Bob, remember me?".

And I am constantly reminding myself not to fall
asleep. It would be so easy to take these moments of
magic for granted, simply because they are so
abundant. I sat on the rock breathing in the fragrance
of thyme, watching thousands of honey bees hopping
from bloom to bloom, the dull buzz of their labor
broken only by the sound of goat bells, ringing gently
now as the goats chew upon the same herbs that provide
the famous local honey. The hills are covered with
literally hundreds of thousands of three to four foot
diameter bushes of thyme in full bloom with pink to
lavender flowers. I thought about the night of the
full moon when we scattered Rob's ashes here five
years ago. I can't help but feel proud that he's a
part of this beautiful place. I thought about the one
time he was able to stand up long enough to look out
the window of the hospital in London. He explained his
fear of never drawing another flower, of never seeing
Loutro again. And there was that moment last summer
too, when my niece was able to come home from the
hospital for a short while. I watched her get out of
the car and sit down in the grass. She lit up with the
laughter of a small child when she heard a bird
singing in the tree. I was moved by the way she
treated all life with honor and respect, something to
be cherished! I had seen this renewed respect for life
in my friends who had died in San Francisco. It's a
gift from every one of them I need to take with me
through my own life. Yes, I need to remind myself not
to fall asleep, to walk slowly, to take in everything
that is offered. I am alive and I love my life again!
I am definitely not asleep!

The night before I made the memorial I was listening
to a Judy Collins CD. I've probably heard this one
song a thousand times, but never really heard the
words. That night I realized the song was about me, it
was the perfect poem to give to Rob. It was song
number 11 on the CD, Bob and Rob's lucky number! I
painted the back of a cereal box with water colors,
then printed the song to include in the memorial:

There are places I remember, all my life
Though some have changed
Some forever, not for better
Some are gone and some remain
All these places have their meanings
With lovers and friends I still can recall
Some are dead and some are living
In my life I've loved them all

But of all those friends and lovers
There is no one compares with you
And those memories lose their meaning
When I think of love as something new
Though I know I'll never lose affection
For people and things that went before
I know I'll often stop and think about them

In my life, I love you more

Soon I will pack up my things in my room at
Pandalitza's, stow them above the closet and fly off
to Athens for two days on my way to Vienna. I am not
too sad to be leaving, because I know all too well how
difficult Loutro can be in July and August. I will
leave behind unbearable heat and unbearable summer
tourists! My nearly three months here have been much
better than I expected. I came to be healed after a
year of much loss and sadness. I will leave Loutro
with a lighter heart and a much more positive outlook.

At this moment I am looking out the door onto my
balcony. The sea is calm and the wind is dancing
across the top of the water creating a kaleidoscope of
movement. Rob called it water ballet. The mountain
behind us hastens our sunset, but we sit in the shadow
looking onto a sea illuminated with pink shadows
thrown back from clouds in the eastern sky. The
mountains behind Frango-Kastello are bathed in a
purple mist. The ferry from Sfakia glows in the direct
light of the setting sun as it glides toward us,
silent and graceful like a great white swan. Every
time I look out from my balcony I hear a hundred
voices, see a hundred cherished moments from my life.
Each night the sound of the ferry dropping anchor
pulls me back through a thousand sunsets. The cicadas
in the olive tree remind me of breakfasts on the
balcony with friends. The fifth generation of black
kittens with white paws stir the image of Rob drawing
poppies with kittens snuggled in his lap. The owl
calls me from a deep sleep on the night of the full
moon and I awaken to memories of summer nights with
Rob whispering from the other bed. But he is not
there, and that's OK now. 

This time I was able to rise above the chorus of
sacred memories to realize the music is still playing!
This is my home!

June 8, 2001

In two months I've met so many people it's difficult
to remember them all. Some always stand out more than
others though. I had one wonderful week with three
people who really felt like family. Andrea Mayer is a
Jazz/Gospel singer in Germany (
Klaus and Kathi are both veterinarians in East Germany
near the Baltic Sea. The four of us were inseparable
while they were in Loutro. On the night of May 31, I
cooked a Thai stir-fry meal on the balcony for the
four of us. The next morning they all went with me to
the castle to prepare the memorial for Rob. Klaus
photographed the memorial for me. Then I showed them
my secret olive grove, still the most peaceful place
in Loutro! Klaus and Kathi were both born in Rumania,
in Transylvania. They were part of the German ethnic
minority who moved to Germany after the fall of the
Berlin Wall. They worked in West Africa for four years
and had many interesting stories to share. Andrea read
my tribute to my mother and decided it was time for me
to sing again. She had me singing on the way to the
beach and tested my ability to recite song lyrics all
the way back to the 30's and 40's. I think I passed
the test with flying colors. When they all left on the
ferry together I felt that ever so familiar sadness.

On the bus back from Chania I met another Rumanian
who's studying to be a Greek Orthodox Priest and a
Russian who was coming to work in Loutro at one of the
restaurants. We had to wait in Sfakia 4 hours for the
next ferry. That gave me ample time to interview them
both. I'm always interested in hearing stories from
the Greek's slaves. Things seem to be getting a little
better for them through the European Union. Now they
have papers to work legally, which makes it a bit
harder for them to be taken advantage of. Christian
was on his way back to Agio Romelli to tell his boss
he was quitting to become a priest, and to collect his
wife. He promises to send me a picture of himself in
his priest's robes.

There's never a dull moment in Loutro! Today, on the
full moon, Sotiris who gives boat rides to Sweetwater
Beach went off the deep end, taking an ax to his
wooden boat that provides money for his family. Some
of the men in the village were able to stop him. They
hoisted his boat onto the pier to repair it so his son
could use it to continue to make money for the family.
Then Sotiris went to the pier, doused the boat with
gasoline and set it on fire. Of course Loutro has no
fire department, so people were lowering buckets into
the ocean to put out the fire. Some talk of getting
the police in Sfakia to come to take Sotiris to the
mental institution in Chania. My concern is if he has
a gun! Of course the official explanation is that he's
crazy. Here I believe that's a code word for
alcoholism. In a place where drinks are pushed onto
everyone as part of social etiquette, it would be hard
to imagine anyone showing up for an AA meeting. Many
times in the past I've had to find very clever ways of
disposing of the hard stuff to avoid offending my
host! Now I just refuse, telling them my liver is
damaged from hepatitis. They think I'm a bit loony,
but at least I don't have to play games anymore. 

Speaking of alcoholism, two weeks ago two boys from
Agio Romelli came to Maistrali Bar with two German
girls. At 2:00 a.m. they sped out of the bay at top
speed and hit the rocks. Of course they were all very
drunk! One German girl was pulled from the water with
a badly mangled leg. We thought she might bleed to
death. Two doctors were on holiday in the village, so
they were summoned to help. She was finally put onto a
wooden door and put on the ferry to Sfakia at 3:00
a.m. When the ferry goes at 3:00 a.m. you know
something is terribly wrong. Last word is the leg was
saved and the girl is doing fine. The boy who was
driving the boat refused to get medical attention for
his badly damaged face. Guess he didn't want anyone to
have the chance to check blood alcohol, just in case
the girl died!

At the moment everything is good for me! There is a
cool breeze blowing off the ocean and the cicadas are
singing in the olive tree behind the house. The
British are awaiting the results of the election back
home. I'm getting ready to prepare my evening meal. I
have corn on the cob! What a delicacy!

Danville, Illinois, September 1, 2001

By the time I got the call to come home to take care
of my dying father I had plenty of experience with
death. The concept was no longer so frightening it
required hanging over a toilet spilling my guts the
way I had on the plane back from Berlin when my niece
Cyndi was dying. I was able to anesthetize my
emotional pain by telling myself I was the expert. I
wasn't the expert with death. I was the expert in
allowing what was meant to happen to take its own
course. I was the expert in standing out of the way of
the inevitable. I was the expert in being patient
enough to allow that extra moment for rational thought
to appear in the face of desperation. I knew the great
secret about traumatic shock. It provides enough
adrenaline to keep one going. It relinquishes the need
for sleep and three balanced meals each day. It allows
one to cancel all the normal requirements until the
job is done. 

Driving from the Indianapolis airport to Danville was
something I could have done with my eyes closed. I
probably had on many Sunday mornings back in the
1960's after spending Saturday nights in bars then
driving home at 3:00 AM. Watching the scenery was
similar to going through a family album of black and
white photos. It's hard to remember the details of
blue skies and green grass. There was something so
appropriate in seeing my life through the same lens as
Dorothy in Kansas. I was returning to Pleasantville,
were I believed everyone was still living in black and
white. There were so many things I hated about my
hometown. I had allowed the negative experiences to
wipe away all memories of what had been good. Many of
the good things involved the man I was returning to
take care of. I kept thinking of an old photo where my
dad is holding me as we both attempt to blow out the
candles on my birthday cake.

I knew that the decision to go to be with Dad was a
decision that could be made and kept with relative
ease. There was no need to stress out on my journey
home. I no longer needed to roll the tapes of "what
if?" and " how long?" I knew with certainty that the
moment I walked into the room and saw my father, the
universe would take over. My life would flow like a
river winding around every immobile obstacle, carrying
away all that is not fixed and stable. There is a
great lesson to be learned in the absence of hanging
onto to life. Once we accept that it will and must
end, we can relax and allow all that is "supposed to
be" to show itself without a mask. It is so easy to
become addicted to being with death. The only moment
that comes close to being so real is the moment of
birth. Everything in between is a struggle to remember
one or the other! Everything that's not important
fades into a whisper and everything that feeds the
soul washes over us like a warm gentle rain that falls
from heaven itself. There is no womb more secure than
resting on the edge of eternity, where even though we
can't see it, we remember it is home.      

Danville, Illinois, September 4, 2001

Right now my father is my hero! When they explained
his condition they gave him the option of doing
radiation therapy. He decided instead to go home
without treatment, drugs and without oxygen! This
means we have quality time together where he is
conscious and we can talk. He has promised to tell us
if he is in extreme pain. There are three possible
ways his life will end because the tumors are in vital
organs. All create the opportunity for a quick and
painless end. It is strange to know that any moment it
will all be over. He told us he wants to die on the
golf course. This morning we drove him out to the golf
course and sat at the last hole until his buddies
came. It is a beautiful, peaceful place surrounded by
trees. As I sat with him I realized another thing we
have in common. Golf is his meditation! It is also his
opportunity to commune with nature. Then I remembered
the part he played in teaching me how to recognize the
importance of these things in one's life. Who would I
be now without those fishing trips as a child?

Danville, Illinois, September 11, 2001

As I sit taking care of my father during the last days
of his life, I never imagined there could be an event
that would make what I'm doing seem insignificant!
Today I realize how normal it is in the scheme of the
world! Thanks to all my friends from around the world
for the phone calls and e-mails.
This morning I watched my father sitting in front of
the TV as we watched the events unfold in New York and
DC. There were moments when I envied him. I really
wondered if it's an advantage to be around to see what
comes next! The phone calls from Europe were
reassuring in the fact that across so many miles we
are all unified in our desire for peace!

Danville, September 27, 2001

Sometimes I feel like I am at the end of my strength,
but I always find more! I must deal with Doctors and
the system. It's me and Hospice against them! My
father needs more medication for pain between the
Oxycontin (Morphine) that we give every 12 hours.
Between they give him Adavan (Codeine) which doesn't
work! They ask him what his pain level is between 1
and 10 and he says 2 because he is an ex-boxer and
soldier! They don't understand that they are asking
the wrong question! We can't ask for the medicine, he
must. So every day and every night when the Oxycontin
wears off he sits on the side of his bed crying and
saying "OH GOD!" with his head in his hands! His
actions are a 10! I am constantly reminded I am not in
San Francisco!

The good part of all of this is the feeling of being
trusted and needed by my father. I feel like the
parent now. He gave me his gold watch from General
Motors. He told me he wanted me to have it because he
knows I will take care of it.

Danville, September 29, 2001

After a one month battle with lung cancer my father
died peacefully this morning with four of his 7
children at his bedside. I am grateful for the last
month with him. In being his primary caretaker I was
able to learn many wonderful details about his life. I
am happy that I was able to share this time with him.

Danville, Illinois, October 1, 2001

Today marks the end of one of the most incredible
chapters of my life. I hope I can do it justice with
words! For the past month I had the privilege of being
with my father as he prepared for transition from the
temporal world to the world of spirit. I learned
twenty years ago when I first took Hospice training
that persons who face the eternal have much to teach
us about life and how to live each moment with honor.
I am proud to share the name of a man who not only
lived life to the fullest, but also left something of
himself in everyone he touched. My father taught me
what it means to be a man. Behind the facade our
culture projects upon those of the male persuasion is
a man who also knows nurturing, tenderness, tears and
love. Those who knew my father often described him as
a tough old guy who never took any Bull from anyone.
That, however, was not what endeared my father to so
many! Behind the stories of bloodied noses and
fractured egos always shined the light of a big heart.
My father was a devoted husband who went more than the
extra mile for my mother! When his own health was
failing he endured sleepless nights and incredible
pain (both physical and emotional) to honor a vow they
had made to take care of each other. In the last few
weeks there were many times I looked into the mirror
and saw the reflection of my father's body. I was
forced to face my own mortality in caring for him. I
could empathize with his struggle to help my mother
over the last few years. I awoke many times through
many nights and walked in his shoes as I traveled from
what had been his bed to the bed where my mother had
struggled for years. Now at the end of the sleepless
nights and the cries of pain I feel both a sense of
relief and also a sense of loss. I am grateful to see
the end of suffering, but I wonder if I will ever
again know the kind of love and devotion we all shared
as a family in those moments of struggle.

In the last month I have come to know a side of my
father I had not known before. Most of his children
remember him as the man who worked hard, seven days a
week, to support a large family. To most of us he was
a mysterious man who left early in the morning to go
off to a world we were never allowed to see. In the
evenings he would return home to find supper waiting
on the table. Our mother made us all understand that
our job was to repay Dad's hard work by making his
home his castle. That was another place and time. I am
grateful I had the opportunity in the last month to
break down some of the barriers created by those
times. In the last month my father became more than a
provider, more than the man who was expected to punish
us when he got home, more than the man who worked hard
at some unseen factory so we would have food on our
table and clothes on our backs. Now I can say that my
father was also my friend. In the last days I also
learned what it's like to be a father, to give all you
have to give to protect and care for someone you love

I would like to share a passage from a letter I
received from my father in 1974. I think it tells a
lot from his perspective.

"Bob, we loved all you kids when you were born and
we'll take that love to our graves, come what may. I
could unburden myself and tell of the many times I
have been hurt, but I am getting a hard shell around
me now. I have been losing myself in my work. It does
wonders. At least it doesn't leave me with a hangover
like when I was drinking, which was way before your
time. I would have written sooner, but today makes 12
days straight at work and it looks like I'll have to
work another week before I get a day off."

My father was born on the Fourth of July in 1916. He
lived in the 1500 block of Logan Avenue until 1921. It
was a small white cottage that was considered in the
country side at that time.  In the year the family
moved to Collett Street his 18 year old brother Harold
died from a burst appendix. At 12, Dad suffered from
Scarlet Fever for one year. During the Second World
War he volunteered and was sent to North Africa. He
shared many stories about his time in the Detached
Service in Casablanca, Sicily and Napoli. As I
listened to Dad share his life I was touched by his
spirit and his resolve. I was able to experience the
process of destroying that hard shell he talked about
in his letter. Passing over into the great mystery is
about letting go. Those of us who have been lucky
enough to witness this process understand that death
is a part of life and life is for celebrating. In his
own words my father explained that he has had a long
and full life. He wants us all to know that he loves
us and there is really nothing to be sad about.

I am sure my mother was waiting for him with open arms
as he passed through the pearly gates into the
Harrison Park Golf Course. They are dancing together
on the forward tees and right now he saying to me,
"That's one for you BOB!"