Words From Willow Creek, Toilet Paper Goggles
By PATRICK SHANNON, TRT Guest Columnist
Many, many years ago, or as the Bhutanese say, Dingbo-o-o, Dangbo-o-o, at the Trinity Valley Elementary School, Anita Bussell and her partner in crime, Sharon Haines, were brought before the principal for disciplinary proceedings regarding a great injustice that they had purposely inflicted upon me.
Without going into too many details, the upshot was that Anita was paddled and Sharon walked free. Now, forty-nine years later, we are all still friends; Anita stops by to visit regularly with us. Why, only last week Anita mentioned again that incident of so long ago that left such an impression on her.
But, there is no explanation for what happened next. I was putting away the groceries and supplies from town when I tore open the twelve-pack of toilet paper rolls. I squeezed two rolls in my hands and pressed them against my eyes like binoculars.
“Look Anita!” says I, “With the new high definition TV, when you look through the rolls it’s in 3-D!”
“Oh let me see!” says Anita as she presses the rolls against her eyes.
That’s when I snapped her picture, looking through the toilet paper binoculars leaning forward, staring earnestly at the TV.
“He’s taking your picture!” called out Katherine from the kitchen, but it was too late. I took a second picture of the moment when she realized she’d been framed…After 49 years I succumbed to an impulse and inexorable justice was served
Donald Fassett, now 84 years of age and my friend of more than 40 years called the other morning from his hospital bed in the Veteran’s Hospital in San Francisco. He asks if I will call his sister when he slips away and if I’ll write an obituary for him for the paper.
The sun shines warmly in the café’ on Geary Street below his apartment. I am waiting for him to wake from his nap. I suppose he wants me to write about his years in the Merchant Marines, his travels around the world, his career in the transportation industry in San Francisco.
I suppose I will mention all these things, and more, but would you know the man I am speaking of? Where shall I begin? Seventy-five years ago he was a kid growing up on a Pennsylvania apple farm, holding his sister’s hand tightly in the evening when they walked by the “Spooky Woods.” He dreamed of traveling the world and living in a great city. Here he is at the end and he has lived his life in a fine way. He has been generous to a fault. He has been a Giver; he has found plenty of Takers. He has squandered love on many who were not worthy. He has insisted upon his great dream that people can be greater and more kind than we observe today. And so he goes toward his rest, leaving us with hearts brimming with love and tears.
Meanwhile, those dreamers who sought to build an art school in Willow Creek are undeterred by the Humboldt County Planning Department which originally stated that there would be eight years of studies before construction could begin. Yes, it’s true, planners have the power to make their own predictions come true, but the proponents have regrouped and hope that the new Board of Supervisors will instruct the Planning Department to be a little more open to great ideas.
So Minister of High Parliament, Dasho Sangay Khandu came to visit in October. Katherine was so excited to welcome him to our home. After dinner, in the lit gardens, deer, gentled by her kind words walked carefully but very near in her special garden of peace. It was a wonderful evening and still today lends a spirit of happiness from the memory.
The following morning Katherine was stricken by a stroke that left her paralyzed and unable to speak. While I took Katherine to St. Joseph’s, Forest Blake escorted Minister Khandu to the Bear Dance at Big Lagoon and welcoming dances and songs down at the river where the community of men welcomed the Minister and there was a sweat with prayers. The Minister mentioned to me that in the red light of the fire he saw ancient Indians dancing. When I told this to Mr. Charlie Thom, just for a moment I thought I saw a tear glistening in his eye.
Katherine came home from the hospital with a fighting spirit. She quit smoking cigarettes after a 45 year career. She changed her diet to fresh, living foods. She began bicycling eight miles a day. She lost pounds and regained a certain sparkle in her eyes that I love. Now we’re both living new lives, given a second chance to make better.
Robert Frost read a poem at Kennedy’s inauguration called The Gift Outright. There’s a lot that can be said of that. Let me say that generosity of spirit has been shown to me. It is not the gift; it is the giving…My friends, words fail me and I cannot express my humble appreciation for the lessons I’ve learned.