A space for creativity and calm
amidst a turbulent world
The Paulette Douglas Gardens for Peace
One of the truest, most defiantly honest, loyal, talented, remarkable people to walk this planet, my dear chosen sister in every possible way, in the deepest ways, Paulette Douglas was a teller of stories. She was a supreme listener and observer, and put what she heard and saw into her creations as a unique and remarkabe film producer, director, writer, and editor.
We all have stories, and it is so important that we share them, the happy, the sad, the funny... the glorious, the outrageous, the tragic, the beautiful, the heroic. She shared stories on film so very, very well.
We met in the spillover years of the ‘60s—the early 1970’s had glimmers of new beginnings, bursts of creativity, the promise of social change. We were some of the first women to be in the union, IATSE, on the production crew at a television station that was home to a national television talk show—we were trained to be film editors, stage managers, camera operators, property masters, set builders—and learned from those who had been in television since its beginning. No idea why we became so close—she cursed, I didn’t, she had a fire that burned wildly, mine a slow lava flow, far under the surface that was mistaken for coolness.
However we both had our own brand of fearlessness, not looking before leaping, trusting the net would appear. When there was something to do, we did it and let things fall where they may, come hell or high water, with you or without you--once we got an idea, whether starting a new business for me, doing a new documentary film for her. (And of course when I shared that I was going start a non-profit retreat center years ago she said I was “f#*@#*&* crazy”, and then supported me 1000% in all the ways that she could). A few years ago, when she saw the horror of what was happening to refugees from Syria crossing the Aegean, she got on a plane and went to light bonfires on the shores of Lesbos to guide the boats in, to pull children, mothers, fathers, grandparents, from their boats onto the land.
She left the television station to become one of the first women to direct and produce in the insanely misogynistic world of professional sports. From the Olympics to Sports Illustrated, and many places in between, her barely over 5 foot frame towered over all with her ability to put her vision into pictures, to get interviewees to open up in ways no one else could. She went on to become an award winning documentary filmmaker. Her last, The TEAM Makes A Play, is a must for all to see.
I, like hosts of other friends, spent fabulous nights at the apartment in NYC on the sofa bed in the den with the many (many!) Emmy statues keeping guard, whether we gave little or no notice. The response was always the same, "the door is open”. As much as I implored her to take time to get back to The Farmhouse Retreat Center for her own retreat, the response was always the same there as well—“maybe next year, I really need to.” Never happened, so I would send photos all the rehab work, the visitors, the pond, the waterfall in attempts to entice her, yet her next film was always calling.
She overcame obstacles in the personal world as well as the professional—after her daughter was born, she was told she would not have more children due to her first bout with a lymphoma and then another (which of course she beat)—then she had the second of two remarkable girls who have grown to be women to be reckoned with in the fields of law and medicine.
Two weeks after one of our telephone calls -- that got further apart in time but never had that effect on the space between our hearts -- the news came that she had passed. Suddenly. Unexpectedly. My brilliant friend, sister, spirit buddy, off on to the next adventure.
There were no words that could be uttered, no song in my heart at that moment. The only thing to do was to go to Mother Gaia, who does so much to heal us when we need it, to be present with the "is-ness" of all. The gardens had been the last to be tended to, the seven acres patiently waiting. An old wheel from the 330 year old mill had been placed in the ground, weeds hiding it from view. Out they came, and the perennial Sheffield chrysanthemums went in, the mulch got placed carefully about, the candle placed and lit as the sun set ... and then I knew that these would be Paulette's gardens, the formal and informal, and that we would finally sit here together and look out at the pond and see the barn swallows swooping close to the surface having their insect dinners, the frogs singing to each other from either side, the great blue heron cleverly avoiding the snapping turtles as she walked across the water looking for small fish, all keeping everything in a fine balance.
And knowing and honoring that we are not in a fine balance many times in our lives, I light a candle every evening, sit for a moment with Paulette, and welcome everyone to come join us.