Thursday, July 8, 2010

Happy Birthday, Betsy!

Betsy Rose Rasumny Herbert (1938-2002)


Today Betsy would have been seventy-two, probably still dancing and mixing it up with children, midwives, teachers, poets, physicists and politicians. All her life Betsy taught and studied dance including a stint in the 60s with Anna Halprin's Dancer's Workshop in San Francisco. (Anna herself will be 90 in a few days and is also still dancing.) For Betsy, dance was more than graceful movement, was the practice of being fully present in the moment. And for monkey-mind Nick, this was one of her greatest teachings. Taking a walk with a fully-present being like my wife was like taking a drug: everything seeming brighter, more alive and engaging. Like the rest of us, Betsy had her ups and downs but her striving was always to experience the world fully and to MOVE!

In the 80s, while I was giving physics workshops and seminars at Esalen Institute, Betsy was connecting with the Big Sur women: cooks, masseuses, dancers, workshop leaders, midwives. Betsy once helped deliver a baby in the "waterfall house" on Hot Springs Creek in the middle of the Esalen grounds. Lately I've been looking over Betsy's journals and discovered this account of our trip to Esalen from Boulder Creek in August of 1983 with Heinz and Elaine Pagels. Because slides had closed the north coast road, we had to take the "back way".


In residence in Mike and Dulce's room for the weekend, Nick and Heinz giving physics workshop together. Elaine glad to be "on vacation" and doing beautifully with Mark. We left Boulder Creek at 7 AM yesterday, traveling thru the farmlands of Watsonville and Salinas, watching pickers in the fields. I thought of Aunt Ida and David, fulfilling dreams of being California migrant workers in the mid-forties. How different this must have looked then. Please, please, Earth spirits, keep Watsonville from being plowed under.

From Salinas south on bumpy travel-worn 101 we go in and out of fog, that thick greyness that makes you think you are on another planet. Khola is struck by the poorness of the towns--Gonzales, Greenfield, Soledad. By 9 o'clock we are hungry and eager to reach King City. I am expecting another dismal collection of buildings and am pleasantly surprised by the liveliness and color of the City of the King, as they call it. We hunt all over for a hometown cafe' and finally find it, tucked away at the far end of Broadway. Locals and a few travelers are breakfasting. We enjoy our meal, a little dazed by being what seems so far from home so early in the day. Full of sausage, eggs, pancakes, we make ready for the 2nd leg of our journey.

Nick gases up the car while Khola and I explore the A-1 Market, run by a Chinese grandma and her Mexican son-in-law, each misunderstanding most of our English. We circle once more around King City, say a fond goodbye, and head back north briefly on 101 for our take-off point, Jolon Road. Khola navigates from the back seat with the Esalen driving instruction sheet.

First 10 miles are thru farm land with rolling hills. Then we start into country which reminds Heinz of Africa, a sparsely planted oak forest, small plains and knobby hills. This goes on into Jolon, which seems to be a ghost town in a stage of renovation. Here we enter the Liggett military reservation, more of the same terrain with strange vibes. Barbed-wire fence and signs: Training Area 11. 12, 13, etc. No sign of the military, tho later Charles sez he saw them and folks said the road was closed for 2 hours due to a maneuver.

We cross over into Los Padres National Forest where the road is joined by a small stream running alongside. We stop to stretch and drink. Soon we are at the summit and then we start our descent to the ocean. The road is endlessly long and curvy. And the views of the Pacific are more breath-taking than along Highway 1...


I want to dance
All over the place.
Move every molecule
Of well-built me.


Dr. Will said...

A lovely lady, she is missed.

diana Troxell said...

Today is Moms Birthday too, 82....

Jungle Girl said...

Happy Birthday to Betsy a most wonderful, warm, loving person whose light will live forever!

Anonymous said...

Oh, Nick,
Thank you so much for this wonderful tribute. I miss Betsy too. At a time when my mother and I were still "working it out", Betsy was positive role model of how to be an elder. And, I remember her... full of radiance as we belly danced together in the dome in Ben Lomond, then feasted on the yummiest food... again until her last days as long as her legs would hold her up, holding on to the railing of the porch at your home in Boulder Creek, swaying gracefully to the rhythm of the drum... ah, Sweet memories of a dear sweet woman. Love you BETSY!
Love you too, Nick. Allee

jayme said...

I have many sweet memories of Betsy: doing yoga with her at Ananda, running into her at New Leaf, playing songs for her when she was sick - yet still so graceful and engaging. One of my favorite people in BC, and a huge inspiration to me. As are you. Love, Jayme

Anonymous said...

Happy Birthday Betsy! I know you know we are thinking of you! I dance now for you in my body, and when I leave the flesh I will dance with you in joyous spirit! -Jeri

Michal Lauren said...

There certainly are people who leave footprints on our hearts. Betsy is one of those people for me.
Her ashes reside on an altar in my home. I pay homage often as I walk by, in unhurried moments.
There are songs I sing to the wind and all that is lofty. As I set my gaze to the heavens, I think the cloud she hovers on (leaning oh so close) step kicking at the breezes, she is listening still to our creative juices.
She is a rare Soul sisters, aerial dancing with wings.
Thank you for this tribute Nick.
Big Love,