A speechmaker, Carl W. Buehner, once wrote (in the context of speeches) that, “They may forget what you said but they will never forget how you made them feel”. Since we last met years before, I had forgotten Sharon’s name until I read Shinro Sensei’s obituary in the last newsletter and saw her photo. But I never forgot how she made me feel.
Sharon and I crossed paths once or twice at the Hope St zendo over the years but we never got to know each other until we met again in Roshi’s cottage for the lakes retreat.
I remember her mother had recently died before the retreat and in our circle talks she was open with her grief. I remember walking with her on a field covered with goat faeces while she told me about her husband and her work in makeup. I remember Kamil drove us to see the lake and all three of us bought ourselves overpriced ice cream and visited the local souvenir shop. (On the way we overtook Roshi, Sarah and Caroline (‘Chiko’) cycling up a very steep hill. We did not envy them.)
Once I was reading Gary Snyder’s poetry during a tea break and Sharon, noticing my book, recited a line or two from ‘Footnote to Howl’ by Allen Ginsberg (another Beat poet) on the holiness of the madman, the typewriter and, for Ginsberg, the holiness of balls. I enjoyed her quirks and company.
Before she left for the train station on the last day, Sharon gave me a hug and said “I love you” which caught me off guard. Then she put her suitcase in the boot of Keith’s car and drove off. I sometimes wondered over the years what became of her and if we would ever meet again.
In 2002 the Red Hot Chili Peppers released a song in their album By The Way called ‘Venice Queen’ about a woman close to the band who had died and one of the verses went:
Where you come from? / Where you going?
Before he died the Zen Master, Kozan Ichikyo, wrote:
Empty handed I entered
Barefoot I leave it
My coming, my going –
Two simple happenings
That got entangled
Coming and going. The Great Matter of Birth and Death.
Where has that person who said “I love you” gone?
I hope, wherever she is, that she’s reunited with her mother.
Love you too, Sharon.