Wednesday, June 13, 2007

From Alwyn de Wally (a.k.a. Wallace Gorell)

Dear Nicholas,

I am so sorry to hear of your mother’s death. You and Gita have my deepest sympathy on your loss.

We first met, your mother and I, when we were about twenty, some forty years ago, at a photo shoot for the San Francisco Calliope Company, a theatre group in which I was an actor. Perhaps you have seen the publicity photo taken that day which worked its way into a book on the Grateful Dead. If you have, you might imagine that those were days of carefree frivolity, but in fact they were far from carefree times. The Viet Nam war insanity was a good deal worse even than today’s madness. Your mother and I and our friends were trying hard to change the world, to walk a path of peacefulness. We were inspired by the new “mind-expanding” drug LSD, and by older ones like peyote and psilocybin. We made our way through those sometimes dense psychedelic jungles almost entirely without guides, hoping to lead the way for others, hoping at long last to civilize human society.

Not everyone made it through those jungles quite sane, and most of us felt a bit burnt out from the experience. We hadn’t yet brought peace to the planet, but neither had we given up hope. Annapurna (then Georgeanne) and I both turned to clean living and meditation as a new path to higher consciousness. We spent time together in Boston studying with Michio Kushi, trying to grow stronger and to make some sense of life. Eschewing drugs, chewing whole grain rice instead, we each tried to cultivate peace in our own heart. My studies there led me to an interest in acupuncture, then almost entirely unknown in this country. I went off to Japan to study it— Communist China was then still off limits to Americans— but never found a suitable teacher. Meanwhile, the meditative path took Annapurna to the Indian subcontinent where I visited her on my way back from Japan a year and a half later. She sneaked out of the Burmese Buddhist Temple, where she was cloistered, to tell me that she was determined to stay in India until she reached enlightenment.

Over the years since then we have seen each other not very often. I missed your sister’s and your childhood almost entirely. Strangely, even though she became the acupuncturist I once wanted to be, I don’t think I ever went to her for a treatment. We saw each other at milestone parties or funerals or for lunch from time to time. Lucky for me, our last lunch together was just a few weeks ago. She was full of enthusiasm, as always— new destinations, new liaisons— and constant as always with her devotions— her children, her friends, her Buddhist practice, her diet. There was even talk of undertaking some new psychedelic explorations. Jombi, my partner of almost two years, met her then for the first time and liked her enormously. “She has all the vibrancy of a happy child,” he said. “I hope we’ll see a lot more of her.” I wish that could have happened. She liked him, too.

For myself, I am glad to have known your mother for so many years. She was a wonderful woman, as I’m sure you know.

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