:: Norma Wikler Memorial ::

...:: moira roth : memories, laments & solaces ::...
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Read at Norma’s Memorial, Alice’s Teacup, New York, June 30, 2002

Memory 3
It was at Santa Cruz,
Sometime in the 1973-1974 academic year
When we first met.
We had met casually,
Both teaching there,
And arranged to have dinner.
She came to my office,
To pick me up.
Sitting there,
We began to talk,
And she mentioned
That she had gone recently
To the South Sea Islands
For a holiday.
I envisioned a Gauguin-like scene,
With Norma poetically arranged in this.
She had gone,
As I recall, after her divorce,
To do, for a moment, something different.
(Later I was to realize how characteristic this was,
these acts of “doing something different”
--not of escaping exactly,
as much as recharging,
trying to create
new hope for herself in a new space)
She laughed,
I’ll show you a dance I learned there.
And in my sober office,
On that sober campus,
She danced
To no music
Whirling
Madly
Beautifully
And happily.
It was at that moment,
So taken by her wildness,
That I decided on her as a friend.
An unusual friend in the sober academic world
In which we both lived.
[June 4, 2002]

Memory 4
And we continued in our academic worlds.
I went on to teach at the University of California, San Diego,
While Norma stayed at UC Santa Cruz.
We would over the years
Visit, call, write, and analyze
Our work, love affairs, friendships, the woman’s movement, our respective jobs . . .
So many subjects.
These exchanges were, I believe,
Immensely helpful to us both.
When I left Berkeley,
She took my apartment on Walnut Street.
Complaining wittily about my “graduate furnishings”
And,
Tactfully and slowly,
Removing such items one by one:
Ragged velvet curtains,
A scratched large wooden spool
That I used as a table . . .
Finally creating, as she always did,
An elegant world for herself.
One year, she learned to cook,
With her usual intensity,
Chinese food,
And would occasionally
Have dinner parties,
Whirling out of the kitchen,
With her dazzling stir-fry dishes,
And heated plates.
(Years later, on a visit from Costa Rica,
she was to give me two sets of her china,
which she had stored in Berkeley:
one set, almost regal, with its abstract fine blue edges, and thin lines of gold,
and the other—we had found this together in San Francisco’s Chinatown—
a more casual set, with tiny blue flowers)
In 1982,
I became Chair of the visual arts department
At UCSD,
And one day there was about to run the first department faculty meeting,
With my unruly colleagues.
(Norma had by that time been the first Director of the National Judicial Education Program from 1979-1981,
And we had often discussed how she might run difficult meetings,
And negotiate her way through bureaucratic and political obstacles)
The day before,
A long thin box arrived.
“How touching and extravagant,” I thought,
“Long stemmed roses from Norma.”
But on opening the package,
I found an outsized gavel.
Charmed, I took it to the meeting,
Toying with it as I set out new voting rules for the department.
Toward the meeting’s end,
The gavel fell,
Truly accidentally,
Near the foot of the most obstreperous of my colleagues.
Horrified as I was,
I knew such an incident would greatly amuse Norma.
It did.[June 5, 2002]

Lament 1
I awake thinking
That I must help put your soul to rest.
I awake remembering
Your imagination, kindness and wit.
I awake knowing
That you are dead.
[June 2, 2002]

Solace 1
My friend R. consoles me with a metaphor
(He is not sure where he found it)
Of an ocean of waves.
A Buddhist image?
Momentarily,
An individual wave
Breaks upon an island
—signifying the span of a human life—
Only to rejoin the others
As the ocean continues
Until the next island, and the next
. . . and the next.
In California,
On the morning of June 3,
This image
Gives me a certain solace.
[June 3, 2002]

Lament 2
I sit, Norma,
Thinking of your despair.
How you had planned,
For over a year,
Your death.[June 5, 2002]

Solace 2
Her sister, Marjorie,
Tells me
That over 130 local people
Came last week
To Norma’s house in that small town in Costa Rica,
Where she lived the last ten years of her life .
To mourn
And
To tell
Of Norma’s many acts of imagination, kindness and wit.
[June 5, 2002]