we are each a crowd
Monday night I watched the documentary film You’re Gonna Miss Me about 1960s legendary psychedelic rock musician Roky Erickson. The film chronicles his rise to fame, fall into drug addiction and schizophrenia, and eventual rise back into music playing with the help of his brother Sumner who takes Roky to Pittsburgh Somatics Institute founder Kay Miller for some mind-body-healing.
Tuesday afternoon I am standing at the buffet in Whole Foods scooping macaroni and cheese onto my biodegradable plate when I feel a shopping cart lightly brush against my leg. I look up, scoop of macaroni and cheese mid-way to my plate, and look into the face of a lovely woman. She looks at me, I look at her, and then I say, “I think I know you.” She says, “I think I know you too.”
And then I scream, “YOU’RE ROKY ERIKSON’S HEALER!”
I explain that I just watched the film last night and that I recognize her from several scenes.
She laughs, hugs me, holds my hands, and tells me that we were meant to meet at this exact moment.
She tells me that we have a connection, that we must have known one another in a past life, that I am radiant, and that our meeting was inevitable.
We exchange phone numbers and I call her the next day. She tells me that she is still reeling from our encounter. I am too, I tell her.
This afternoon I visit her home in the woods in the North Hills of Pittsburgh. The front door is unlocked and she tells me to come in. When I walk into the foyer, she is standing at the bottom of the stairs of the split level entrance. She says, “Look at you!” and leads me into a large room with windows that overlook a hillside forest.
We sit cross legged on the floor, facing one another, sipping tea. “Tell me about Erin.” she says. And I don’t know how to respond.
I tell her why I have difficulty responding, we talk about ourselves, her life, her practice, and my life. We talk for two hours when I realize what time it is and that I have to go.
She tells me that I am mostly a child, and that I need to let this child come out. She asks me to name the child. “Joy.” I say, explaining that my mother had wanted to name me Joy. She asks me to say hello to Joy tomorrow morning when I wake up.
She gives me a gift of an ‘observing angel’ who will watch everything I do. She says that when I’m ready to write about myself, I should write from the perspective of the observing angel, who witnesses everything without judgment.
She says I need to remember where I end and where other people begin. That remembering this will allow me to experience the emotions of others without being consumed by these emotions.
“We are each a crowd,” she says, “A mother, a whore, a healer, all at once. It’s how you organize these faces.”
I am returning to Kay’s home on Friday for an introduction to practicing conscious embodiment. When I told her that I can’t pay her for these sessions, she laughed, and said, “I wouldn’t dream of asking you to pay! Meeting you was like being struck by lightning. We cannot bring money into this.”
She is 80 years old.