« The Magic Thread | Main | Locking for Love in All the Wrong Places »

A Eulogy for Jane Winslow Eliot (9/27/26 — 7/31/2011)


Time and space do not exist.

I heard these words as I washed the breakfast dishes this morning.

I was thinking of Jane Eliot.

It had been just over 40 days since she died.

I wanted to try in meditation to accompany her through the bardos.

But I couldn’t.

Maybe it’s that I do not experience death the way that Tibetan Buddhists do.

Or maybe to some extent I do, but I don’t have the inner stillness to stay on that journey for long.

Or maybe my sense is that Jane had already moved through a panoramic review of her life while she was alive.

I remember her deep honesty in her memoir, “Around the World by Mistake.”




It’s extraordinarily difficult to say who someone is, to approach describing their identity.

What is her effect on you? Is it lightening? Darkening?

Does he give you energy? Take it away?

Maybe we know others mainly through their effect on us, inspiring or disheartening.

Richard and I came back to Paris from the joyful celebration of our friends’ Loire Valley wedding, and heard from a mutual friend that Jane Eliot had died.

It often seems to happen this way. A great upsurging of joy, then sadness, sorrow breaking through.

I left out what happened at our wedding in Crete. Alex and Jane had encouraged our notion of being married there, because Ancient Crete was one of the last partnership cultures. 



During our wedding dinner, one of my relatives said to our friends that she wished their oldest daughter had been there. Both parents were storm-tossed with sorrow at her sudden death in her early 20s. Steve wept at the table. Rain ran into the nearest bathroom. Some of us followed her. Some of us comforted him.

And one of my family said, softly, “Oh, I wish they hadn’t ruined the celebration this way.” But no, I thought, and said, There are always these parallel channels of grief and joy. The day is richer for their tears.

And Jane Eliot? Her death was different. Her life was long and rich, fulfilled.

I’m circling and circling my memories of her.

Whatever you brought to her, she greeted it, surrounded it, examined it, enlarged it or lovingly tossed it away, laughed or seriously addressed it.




I’m circling and circling memories of her:

In the very first week of blossoming love between Richard and me, when we discovered that we lived only four blocks from each other in Venice, California, he invited me to a neighborhood block party at the home of his friends, Jane and Alex Eliot.

There was an odd symmetry to where they lived in relationship to Richard’s place. He and they each lived in a house on the same block of Paloma Avenue, each one house away from the end of the block.

The block party was the first social event, besides the poetry readings where we’d met, to which we’d gone as a couple. Jane and Alex, a generation older than we, instantly became the couple with whom we were closest.



What did we talk about at this party? Not the neighborhood. We talked about our love for myth. Alex had written a number of books on myth. We talked about the mythosphere, a term Alex coined for the place where myths live, where the stories of the soul dwell.

In those first days of our new life together, Richard and I discovered much about one another through the mutual passions we shared with Jane and Alex: mythology, especially Greek myth, Greece and the Greek islands, Venice Beach, poetry, art, a marriage of kindred souls that included lively spiritual and intellectual dialogue, writing, room for solitude for writing, as well as for romance, a contempt for mean-spiritedness.



We laughed at the same things, especially dumb, pompous human behavior and dismissed the same things as a waste of time.

We saw each other at our home for dinner and parties, and at theirs for the same. Jane’s specialty was a smorgasbord of meze.

We met at Figtree’s Café on the beach for breakfast, or the Rose Café for lunch or Lula’s for Mexican dinner.

During the three years that we and three friends ran a weekly poetry reading series at the Rose Café, I don’t think Jane and Alex ever missed a single reading.

When I think of Jane, I hear her laughing—a merry boisterous laugh which delighted in generosity, surprise and beauty, and had a touch of scorn for human idiocy. 

Jealousy? She understood that she was unique and so is everyone else.

Jockeying for power? She and Alex had been at the pinnacle of power in New York City and gladly given it up for creative freedom and time.



Greed? What does anyone need beyond food, shelter and time for love and creativity? And adventure!

Snobbery? She didn’t see people in hierarchical terms at all, much like my father. If you are really aware of each person’s uniqueness, how can you put anyone above you or below you?

Unkindness? A sure sign of unkindness towards oneself.



I called her Athena. She was a Libra, and shared that sign’s affinity for the goddess of peace, earthy intelligence, inventiveness and fierce strength. Nike!

Wherever you walked with Jane, she exclaimed over the beauty of her natural surroundings—birds, trees, the sea.



Well into her 70s, she’d walk down Paloma several blocks for a swim in the Pacific Ocean, which is colder on winter mornings than you can imagine. (Or so I hear.)

What Richard and I loved best to do with Jane and Alex was to sit at Figtree’s or the Rose Café (whose names, naturally, come from nature) and talk. Really talk. Talk that ranged all over the world—the earth and her creatures, humans they had known—Dali and Gala, Frida and Diego, for starters, or their noisy neighbors—and spirits of the mythosphere.

To Jane, the invisibles were as real as birds, as people. You felt relieved in their company to escape the tiny cage of rational materialism.



With Jane—and Alex—I could talk about the mythical vision I’d spent years discovering. When Richard and I shaped our combined mythical knowledge into a workshop at the C. G. Jung Institute, Jane and Alex were in our first class of students. (Oh, the irony, "teaching" these two masters of the mythosphere.)

Alex and Jane had lived all over the world, been top journalists in NYC. She had worked at CBS for Edward R. Murrow and at Time magazine; he had been Art Editor for Time, until his pension and a Guggenheim Fellowship allowed him to retire early and take his family to Greece. For four years they’d lived in Greece with their two young children, writing, home schooling the children, and exploring sacred sites.

There was only one respect in which they seemed to be bound by the conventions of their generation. Alex continued to write and publish books on art and myth, and now was working obsessively on a poetic memoir.



Yet she, when we first met them, was not as disciplined a writer as he.

She had published a book on children’s education, Let’s Talk, Let’s Play and written a highly original cookbook, Beyond Measure; A Cookbook for People Who Think They Can’t Cook, and published other books and journalistic articles in such magazines as The Atlantic, Smithsonian, Horticulture, Travel & Leisure.

But the assumptions of her generation mostly held: the woman would care for the home, children and relationships, while he worked.

Yet you could hear in the leaps of imagination, the sensory precision of Jane’s conversation that there was a longer story she needed to write.

And then she suddenly did it: created a studio for herself on the top floor of their duplex (so that was why she never managed to find the right tenant), and wrote, edited and published her memoir, Around the World by Mistake.

The title delighted us, containing all her qualities of humor, adventurous spirit, trust in serendipity, and largeness of experience. And the story itself unfolded in sparkling, sensuous prose, a vivid sense of weather and the sea, absolute clarity about others’ character, and the most brilliant example imaginable of how to inspire children.



The memoir tells the tale of how, in the summer of 1963, the couple, with their two young children, signed on for a trip around the world. The Yugoslavian freighter was scheduled to deliver goods from Yugoslavia to Osaka and back, a trip of seven months with sixteen passengers. But this is no ordinary trip. They discover that they are in extraordinary danger. But I won’t spoil the story, when you can order it and read it yourself. That’s Jane on the cover with a seagull on her head.

And then, Jane listened with great sympathy and understanding to my account about the last few years of my father’s life, his deepening dementia. She understood my longing to stay connected to his soul, beneath the dismantling of his rational mind.



And she rejoiced with us that my father was able to die at home, most certainly aware of his family’s love.

Jane’s mind, which was so alive, original, and warm—began to fade a few years after my father’s death in 2006.

By then, we had moved to Playa del Rey. In the sad way that driving distances separate people in Los Angeles, we saw Jane and Alex less often. They didn’t like to drive at night. One of us didn’t like to drive at all.

We’d bring dinner to Jane and Alex’s or meet at the Rose Café. Her mind wandered in conversation, but Alex, and we, assured her that it didn’t matter, she was still Jane.

And when we walked back to their house on Paloma, always, always, she pointed at birds, trees, the sea, with love and glee.

She was my wise woman. Magnificent Jane.

After the first sorrow, after the tearful call to Alex, a strange thing happened: I haven’t mourned Jane at all. It’s as if she hasn’t died. She is present, alive, vivid, much as my father continues to be.

Honestly, I don’t think we know a single thing about death. All I know is that Jane is still here, and oh, how we loved her. How we keep on loving her.




PrintView Printer Friendly Version

EmailEmail Article to Friend

Reader Comments (34)

Kaaren and Richard,

This response comes after a revisit to this blog. Absorbing the richness of your relationship with Jane required time for me to experience and enjoy her influence between readings. I'd forgotten that it was a eulogy. I feel as though I know her through you, either because you are so kindred to her, and/or strongly influenced by her qualities, particularly, if I must choose one, the quality of kindness, which I treasure above all human qualities.

The accompanying photos... the ghetto Time/Prestige warehouse, tug-o-war with demon tail, the sculptures, the woman kicking up her heels, all covered such spectrum, saying so much without words.

MASTERS OF THE MYTHOSPHERE - Dum da da dum... that's where my mind went. Action heros and adventures. What a fun place to live.

Last week a woman shared with me that a relative had passed, then a child was born into the family shortly after. I had the thought, but not the words to describe this recurrent life theme, that "grief and joy are parallel channels." Thank you for that.

Then there's the beautiful love story of you and Richard, and how Jane was an usher of sorts, bringing in the mutual appreciation of Greek mythology and all manner of synchronicity from the mythosphere.

My Dad, an invisible, makes his presence known. He cycles back, as needed. My siblings and I discovered that he visits us all at the same time, with matching themes and symbols. His humor comes through as does practical information to assist us in maturing, and best of all his enduring, comforting, devoted love for us. So many of the values he harped about, to instill in us, emerge as themes and he somehow becomes wiser with the passage of time. With Dad's passing I've learned that love is eternal.

Keep me posted on Jane's continuing presence and influence. I'll be curious to know if she makes any splashy displays of presence.

Marguerite AKA Daisy

Thursday, October 13, 2011 at 12:45 | Unregistered CommenterMarguerite Baca

Dear Kaaren and Richard:

A month of family drama has distracted me from Paris Play and my creative life. The story of Jane and the companion photos put me back on my feet in a profound way. I became acutely aware of what makes a life. What is important? The Why? The Meaning? Your vivid description of your love for a friend and the legacy she left behind made me think of what really matters. As you say: Food, Shelter and Song. Sometimes the creative life seems so trivial to me. A Faustian voice whispers seductive sweet nothings that lure me away from my path and when I read Paris Play it brings me home. The story of Jane is a narrative that you have presented in a way that sheds light on what a community of artists can mean to us. It seems that Jane was also a part of your enchanting "love story." Love and Art it seems are passionate bedfellows.

Paris Play is the "Stage" and we get to watch the show through your lens.

As always,

With love and affection,


Thursday, October 13, 2011 at 17:31 | Unregistered CommenterJon Hess

Dear Joanne,

Your response is so full, so many-faceted, that we can only nod in gratitude, and say thank you, thank you.

The only thing I would add is that I think we are all mentoring each other in various ways, some of them unacknowledged or even unseen. Jane's gift to us was wisdom (and large-heartedness, friendship, attention to nature, laughter, and much more). Our gifts to her might have been editing her memoir, and our own take on mythology, which she seemed to delight in. The free spirit and love of life was something we already had and shared, part of the basis of the friendship.

There's this weird balancing act that writing this journal entails: on the one hand, we try to eliminate the ego-centric. On the other hand, it can end up sounding as if we were empty vessels, receiving others' gifts. So we continue to try to steer a middle path between the two poles.

Again, we thank you, Joanne of the generous spirit!

Much love,

Kaaren & Richard

Friday, October 14, 2011 at 16:28 | Unregistered CommenterKaaren & Richard

Dear Jo,

What beautiful words from you. You and Phil may have met the Eliots in person through us, but we think they'd already contributed to Phil's book, Soul Moments, as had Richard and I. Though I may have that chronology wrong--maybe we all had met before Phil gathered contributions for the book. Anyway, we are all intertwined.

We love your account of Jack and how Jane handled possible breakage from a curious toddler. She had such an impeccable set of values. I think the smartest thing a young parent could do would be to read her memoir. The way Alex and Jane raised their children is simply dazzling. As if Zeus and Athena decided to instill their vast vision in two small heads.

You're right, there WERE many who were inspired by Jane's "generous lived-in wisdom." You couldn't meet Jane or Alex and NOT be moved.

Jo, we were so sad to miss you when you and Jack were with Phil in Paris, but did understand all that you were juggling in a very short visit. Please come back soon and we'll have some leisurely dinners and talk here.

Richard made a little video of Jack and I'm amazed at how he looks like a perfect balance of you and Phil, and is.. just about grown up.

Much love,

Kaaren & Richard

Friday, October 14, 2011 at 16:48 | Unregistered CommenterKaaren & Richard

Dear Marguerite,

Such a deep response from you. We're grateful.

Kindness: that to me is the most important quality as well. I think the lack of it is the source of all human harm. Jane had kindness in spades, towards every living thing. This world would be a paradise if everyone treated others as she did.

Richard thanks you for the compliments on his photos. He keeps surprising me with his arsenal and choices.

Hmmm, that's an unexpected take on "masters of the mythosphere." I was thinking more of "mastery," but you're right, "heroes and adventures" also describes the Eliots, their lives.

We were surprised too at how Jane and Alex immediately understood why we wanted to be married in Crete. Alex and Jane, like Richard and me, have Celtic roots that go back centuries to Crete, a culture which takes reverence for women for granted. This is the anti-macho tradition, the partnership culture, that we all feel is necessary for the planet to survive.

What you say about your father is astonishing to me. He visits you and your siblings all at the same time, with matching themes and symbols? I've never heard of this before. I want to know more!

We listen for Jane's voice, and will let you know of moments when she appears to us here.

Much love,

Kaaren & Richard

Friday, October 14, 2011 at 17:11 | Unregistered CommenterKaaren & Richard

Dear Jon,

Family drama! Put it into a short story!

We're so glad that this eulogy for Jane had some beneficial effects for you. That's what her presence always did.

"Food, shelter and song"--that's a better phrase than the one I used.

I'm amazed that someone with your storytelling gifts could ever consider the creative life trivial. What is a higher calling? (Though we see the artist's path as just one of many possible creative paths, it happens to be the one we love most passionately.)

Yes, Jane and Alex were the two people who completely "got" our desire to be married in Crete.

And here you go again with two more memorable phrases: "Love and Art it seems are passionate bedfellows.

Paris Play is the "Stage" and we get to watch the show through your lens."

Stay on your path, Jon--you've always been an artist.

Gratitude and much love,

Kaaren & Richard

Friday, October 14, 2011 at 17:23 | Unregistered CommenterKaaren & Richard

There are many ways, too many to share here, with how dad shows up. One year my brother was inspired to give us all a music CD. It has a song on it called "Ready." I'd been playing that song in the car and singing along to it for about a week. I was on my way to teach, considering a theme. I saw a vanity plate that read "Listo," which means "ready" in Spanish. I recalled how dad would sometimes exclaim, "LIsto!," when we were going some place. The next morning (after the vanity plate) my brother called, on dad's birthday (in march) and the first thing he said was, "Ready?" My jaw dropped. He began singing happy birthday (to dad). I wasn't ready, but eventually jumped in. We share these stories.

My sister Julia and I are in a cycle of communicating more frequently and we're discovering that again dad is showing up for us. When my sister's family home was burned to the ground in the Ramona fires, the only thing left standing was the orange tree we planted in honor of Dad, who loved oranges. CNN followed their story.

The truth is I have many loving "invisibles" who contact me. It's a beautiful way to live. Love is eternal and we're never alone.

I welcome Jane's company any day.

Daisy Marguerite

Friday, October 14, 2011 at 22:53 | Unregistered CommenterMarguerite Baca

First, I want to say that Paris Play is a delightful feast of salty and sweet, savory and tangy, all with the right balance of flavors which are accompanied by the perfect cordial to round it all out. It’s pure pleasure.

As to Mentoring: perhaps I was expressing my own personal longing for insight from someone who has walked life’s road before me. I love to get a glimpse into “the meaning of things” and glean something about life in another time. It’s a privilege to learn from a great condensed life experience. I am saddened by how our society so dramatically and efficiently separates age groups, casting their seniors into a blank world of “assisted living.” What a tragic loss! There is no respect for “elders” even if the term is possibly recognized any more. Experience does have merit in my book and I miss not knowing more "wisdom keepers" and do so value the few I feel privileged to have met.

An energy exchange in any relationship is vital, be it mentorship or friendship; inspiring each other and charging the circuits in both directions is where the “juice” is. When we are generous and inspire each other, give and receive, then everyone is richer. Anything one sided shrivels and fades away. It’s good to be an “open” vessel so that we can receive, fill up and pour forth again. I’m sure this is what you had with Jane and Alex. You brought each other great joy.

So, for those of us who care, stories and art can be recorded, retold, revivified and passed along to those who have a hunger for such things.

Thank you both for your wonderful “fire tending” and sharing your stories and visions. I am always intrigued.


P.S. High "technology" frustration: somehow this forum has eaten up more than one entry before. When I clicked on "preview post" it all went away!!!. I swore not to write in the blog window again but, instead, write in a text document first but did it again. — When will I learn? For earlier entries I couldn't retrace it or get the "mo jo' going again so I didn't try. I did recapture this entry as best as I could so it's posted above. <;-)

Saturday, October 15, 2011 at 5:33 | Unregistered CommenterJoanne Warfield

A really lovely tribute, Kaaren and Richard, bringing me close to a stranger who is less so through your memoir. I'm sure this helps her through the Bardo, deo volente.

Here's a tribute poem I wrote for a brother of a co-worker who died very young in a car wreck. I've found it often seems apt.


In Memoriam Joe Rudolph


When a person dies he leaves the
domain of the air
for the domain of the heart, our
heart, the heart of his closest ones, his
own heart. Disappears in it. Sinking

upward. Diving gear the
void, open space, the majestic
silence between stars. The single

silence that outspreads
all. Just

slips away. And into our
own hearts goes, tipping his

hat even more
nonchalantly than before, making those
fleeting facial expressions to himself and to
us all the more
easily, the radiant
spectrum from the face of being
alone to the face put on for anyone,
single or multiple, other than
himself and God. The face put on for
God the same as a
lake wears early
mornings. Catching


Goes into the heart with its ventricles of white mist
from the domain of the air where
gulping sunflowers turn their heads, the fishbowl in which
every living thing breathes, suspended on
air as on spatial hooks, oxygen tree that hangs
downward into our physical beings with its
nourishing branches breathing our bodies,
structure of matter held in
living nets of air. We swim out of our
mother's wombs into its ocean,
we move like aerialists across its
high expanse, spotlit against night's
On high peaks and low desert we
gasp for air like little
flesh automobiles running out of gas,
we wear air on the inside like the
name of our true love,
we extend ourselves across it by means of
secret signals agreed upon beforehand
whose cipher is the pure light we
breathe in concert with every
breathing being,
inside out -- Klein-Bottle reality! In air we
move, with air inside
us, it being our

real flesh. Our own flesh the
white flag of total surrender we pin on our
sinking bones.


When we die we go from fishbowl to auricle,
no longer air-creature we become heart-creature
entire, moving in its haunted landscapes of
antiquity and futurity, seeing all the
prophetic faces pass us in corridors of sorrow,
palisades of joy. It's all here. Rushing
flood of grief in the survivors
become dripping faucet in the heart from which
drops appear with a photographic image of the dead one's face
perfectly centered in each one,
lighting up in the air now of the heart like a
spark that flies from Void to
Emptiness by way of an

arc'd moment of living incandescence.
Going quickly into the heart again, taking on

majestic form, the orchestra of passing states
responding to the baton of a fly

arched in the air like an eyebrow.

Gone from the air into a
shimmering cry in moonlight by
train tracks extending past physical matter,
gone from the air into a spinning sphere atop a
silver pole of pure sound,
gone into the heart of two caves opening out on
double infinities,
gone into the heart of distinct planetary motions, as
definite as speech, dialog of
ecstatic molecules,

inside out to this world on a horse of fiery thought
that leaps from
burning roof to roof with the greatest of

gone into the heart bigger than the universe,
elegant breeze scented with deep garden spices,
evening light stained by a sunset's glow,
arctic dawn, like a single shattering crystal.

They go from us, the dead,
and the heart
encloses them.
They go from us, and the

stands where they stood.

Saturday, October 15, 2011 at 6:53 | Unregistered CommenterDaniel Abdal-Hayy Moore

Dear Daisy Marguerite,

I will never hear the word "listo" again, or see or taste an orange, without thinking of your father. I'm slowly getting to know him through you.

You are so right, that we are never alone! And what an ideal companion Jane is!

Much love,

Kaaren & Richard

Saturday, October 15, 2011 at 22:02 | Unregistered CommenterKaaren & Richard

Dear Joanne,

Thank you!

This is eloquent, and so true, that we need the wisdom of elders. One of the things I loved at Jane and Alex's annual Christmas party was the great range of ages of their friends. And that seems to go along with agelessness. The most alive and original people seem to be no age at all, with the child in them still very much present. That was Jane.

We love your image of fire tending, and sharing stories with the tribe. It's still a basic need in all of us, isn't it--for community and stories.

We're so sorry about the technology blip. It's happened a few times to us, too. We don't understand it, but I'll start reminding people again to copy their comments; it's just too frustrating to have to start all over again.

Thank you, dear Joanne, and much love,

Kaaren & Richard

Saturday, October 15, 2011 at 22:16 | Unregistered CommenterKaaren & Richard

Dear Kaaren:

I just fell to pieces (in a good way) after reading your response to my Eulogy for Jane post. Although the eloquence of your person I so miss, your gift as a writer allows me to feel you. There is a universe that resides dormant inside of me that I can only access by the act of creation. The act of creation is what you inspire in all the members of your clan of STARS, because it is a global family that you cultivate. Not only do you bring out the best nature in me you also inspire the "best" artist in me -- for that I am eternally grateful!

Peace until then...

Saturday, October 15, 2011 at 22:21 | Unregistered CommenterJon Hess

Dear Daniel,

From the domain of the air to the domain of the heart, and:

"They go from us, and the

stands where they stood."

This is beautiful, freshly imagined. We have to read it more than twice to hear it all. Thank you so very much, Daniel.

Much love,

Kaaren & Richard

Saturday, October 15, 2011 at 22:34 | Unregistered CommenterKaaren & Richard


You are so radiant and vulnerable. It is wonderful and moving to me. Do you find that often you don't even know what's in your mind until you begin writing? For some of us it's as necessary as breathing, is our particular way of meditating, exploring memory and life, expressing gratitude, joy, and sorrow.

I'm so happy our writing group, s.t.a.r.s--story tellers, a reading series--continues. And it continues beyond L.A., and we're grateful for that.

I'm waiting to read the published copy of Alphabet City, your collection of wildly exuberant NYC stories.

See how Jane Eliot keeps on generating community and communication?

Much love,

Kaaren & Richard

Saturday, October 15, 2011 at 22:48 | Unregistered CommenterKaaren & Richard

PostPost a New Comment

Enter your information below to add a new comment.

My response is on my own website »
Author Email (optional):
Author URL (optional):
Some HTML allowed: <a href="" title=""> <abbr title=""> <acronym title=""> <b> <blockquote cite=""> <code> <em> <i> <strike> <strong>