My Seestah Dianie
I first met Diane in 1963, on Ocean Front Walk in Venice California when we were both six years old. We immediately became best friends and remained as close as sisters, over 48 years of love, joy, competition, heartache, and laughter.
We attended Nightengale elementary school together for one wonderful year until I moved away.
In many ways Diane and I lived mirror opposite lives. She was born and raised in Los Angeles and yearned to travel. I moved frequently throughout my childhood, especially after my mother remarried to a diplomat who took my mother, sister and myself to West Africa. Writing letters gave Diane and I reflective perspective on our lives. I could always ask her advice, like when I was 13 and a boy I had no interest in slipped me a love note. Unfortunately, with mail service being as slow as it was, her answer came too late in that case.
Whenever my family was in California we would visit Diane at Venice beach and relive the good times dog paddling in the surf below the lifeguard towers. Neither of us could actually swim. She loved photography, horses, ballet and a guy from high school named Tim Sheppard.
During our teens Diane found the Episcopalian church and I found est seminar trainings and the New Age. We almost lost touch but luckily my mother intervened.
We were only in the same state for a couple of years before Diane became the “address book wrecker” who moved all the time. First on a six-month singing gig in Norway with a Lebanese cover band. Then to Virginia with a new boyfriend where she sang and played keyboard in a top 40 band called Snapshot.
In the early 1990’s Diane sold the apartment building she’d inherited from her beloved father and began her world travels with a seminal trip to the Findhorn foundation, a spiritual community located in northeast Scotland.
After she returned to the states Diane finally left LA for Sedona, Arizona. When I visited her there, she met me in Phoenix and flew us in a tiny plane to Sedona. The air currents bounced the air craft around, and Diane kept twisting around to look at me in the back seat and giggle, giddy to be in the air showing off her new pilot skills and sitting next to the handsome co-pilot, her flight instructor and current flame. Luckily for me I was too busy trying not to get air sick to worry about us crashing.
An adventurer, Diane went on to obtain her private pilot’s license and almost started a seaplane business in Scotland. Always looking for ways to live in the UK and for spiritual knowledge, she attended the University of St. Andrew’s in Scotland in 2002, and completed her undergraduate degree in San Francisco in 2004.
A few people have asked me why she never married. I assure you it wasn’t for a lack of offers. Diane suffered from deep emotional wounds inflicted in childhood by her unstable mother. The pursuit of physical and emotional healing were constants in Diane’s life, along with spiritual seeking, Jesus Christ, singing, and many friendships.
I will miss her humor, her playfulness and her affection, but I know that she isn’t truly gone, but lives on in non-corporeal form, as loving and feisty as ever.
– Stacey Dennick
Diane, Stacey and Alex in 2010
I can’t think about Diane without being transported 48 years back, when my eight-year-old self had just landed with my sister Stacey and our mother at our grandparents’ place on Venice Beach in California. After growing up in the Manhattan cityscape, we suddenly had a whole beach as our playground, and found the perfect playmate in Diane, a little girl who lived just down the street.
Together, the three of us played in the dunes, the sand and the waves, caught moths on the flowers in front of the scary lady’s house, collected shells, beach glass and pretty stones. We were so captivated by these sparkly treasures, we founded the Shiny Stone Club, with Diane’s little brother as an honorary member.
Dianie’s bicycle shed became our clubhouse, where we sang endless rounds of “Found a peanut,….” We let three-year-old neighbor Charlie Blair tag along with us, and his baby-talk names stayed with us for almost 50 years: Dianie, Fu-Fu (for Susie, as I was known) and Tay-Tay (for Stacey).
As an adult, I think of Diane mostly as a musician, a talented keyboard player with a strong, full voice that rose unexpectedly from the petite frame of a girl I remembered as a very shy teenager. Diane's band played at my wedding in 1990.
The last time I saw her was a year and a half ago when she came up to Sonoma while I was visiting Stacey with my then 19-year-old daughter. We toured a goat farm, pet the baby goats who nibbled on our clothes, and picnicked under the apple trees. Though I knew she had been very ill, Dianie looked the same to me—youthful, spontaneous, with a ready giggle.
Shortly before, Dianie had told Stacey and me that we were the only people left on earth who had known her parents and her brother, reminding me that she knew my whole family as well: my long-departed grandparents and mother, my father, stepfather, aunts and uncles, cousins, significant others and children.
Her premature passing has left me sad but grateful for the gift of such unique, longtime bonds of friendship and de facto kinship.
– Alex Russell
I first met Diane when she and her mother moved into my area and she joined my high school. I remember her waist-long brunette tresses, tinged with just a hint of chestnut tones. (Sigh.) We were in dance together and we shared a love of ballet. We were also both in the music department, although in different choirs, and loved concert time … ah, to sing in front of an audience. It was also at this time that she began going to church with my family on Sundays … yes, it was an Episcopal church.
In our senior year it was Grad Night at Disneyland and it was the farthest from home Diane had ever been! My Dad had been Air Force and I had lived in different states and even in England, so the idea that Disneyland was a ‘far journey’ was hard for me to grasp. This inspired us to concoct a road trip ‘north’ - she had the car and I knew the road so off we went! When we were about 10 miles from Lake Tahoe, I told Diane that she should let me drive so we didn’t end up IN the lake. She resisted (of course), and I insisted. We both shared at least one personality trait … stubborn, hardheadedness. But I prevailed, we traded places and shortly afterwards it was, “Oooo’s” and, “Aaaahhhh’s”. She had never seen anything like Tahoe before and, later that evening, said she was glad I did the driving because she would have had us ‘off road’ and ‘in lake’. She was a great travel companion and we went north as far as Mt. Ranier. I think Diane had the love of travel in her all along … it just needed a first-time-out. She never lost that love of seeing new places, new people; never lost her sense of adventure. I treasure those memories more now than before. – Susan K Campbell
While each of us have many intriguing tales to recount, I feel the important things to share about our dear Diane are her impressive spiritual fitness and her service to others still suffering.
I believe Diane to be a true exemplar of one who ultimately lived in The Light and did so despite many misadventures in her younger days. And guided as she was by The Light, Diane achieved spiritually valid relationships that provide clear testimony about her unique humanity and contributions. Put another way, Diane embraced a high-order of universal love that she skillfully shared with others. For this I am grateful and willing to honor her talents by paying it forward.
Our dear Diane also possessed a quirky sense of ironic humor, which she wielded with a fearless panache and often in a comic baritone voice. Sometimes we laughed so long and loud during our Skype Internet calls that the circuit would overload and drop the call; but we always redialed until the connection was reestablished And typically her quips favored spiritual insight or confessional truisms. Here, I can say without reservation that her humor, commitment to the ways of loving kindness and well honed wisdom gave comfort and encouragement to many she encountered. Even as she struggled with her lethal illness this past year our Diane maintained her wit and charm. So, I hope that as we go about attending to Diane's memory and her continuation (a Buddhist concept) we will also take council from Diane's lyrical and comic genius.
Too, we should take stock of Diane's spiritual presence and engaging openness. For example, when we met by chance at a mutual friend's college graduation in Vancouver, Washington some years ago it took little time to realize how special Diane is. After our casual introduction back then we became fast friends and natural confidants. Here I believe that Diane's unique ability to unconditionally connect with wounded souls such as mine and extend true friendship is a quality that distinguishes Diane and endures beyond her last breath.
Further, while this testimony of Diane's transcendent goodness may seem a bit ceremonious, I hope we will continue to appreciate her engaging use of insight and relational introspection. These skills allowed Diane to serve the cause of true spiritual love and to help many rise above their errors and hardships. Indeed, Diane and I often "co-confessed" our errors and misdeeds as young adults, especially during our alcoholic eras. And, from this we concluded that true repentance is won by unconditional service and love; both of which are best tempered by good grace and humor . In Diane's case I truly believe she had crested the "redemption mountain" by extending good council and transcendent love to all who accepted it. Thus, Diane leaves us as her true authentic self rather than as an artifact of social construction.
Finally, dear friends, I draw your attention to the photo-collage showing a phone booth and Diane's writing desk and laptop, both of which were situated in the Welsh countryside. These photos witnesses a definitive and still comically inspired aspect of our relationship. Namely, we engaged in unending efforts to carry off "phone dates" as Diane chased across the world on her many adventures and spiritual missions. To achieve these rendezvous, one of us would get up in the wee hours to initiate a transoceanic call; which was usually prompted by a 6th sense that support and laughter were needed. These calls produced what I call the OMG bookends; to wit our calls would start with her saying: "Oh my God, we're actually talking in real-time" and then after some hours of fascinating discourse I would exclaim, "Oh my God the sun is rising here an neither of us have slept a wink yet." And between those OMG bookends, there are volumes of bittersweet memories about all order of wants, needs, aspirations and the joy that we were the best of friends without the usual trade-offs. Here it is notable that I never harsh moment with Diane. And in our last minute-long phone call in late September, when she could not summon the breath to say a final farewell, she silently acknowledged that our spiritual bonds were secure and continuing.
Order of Interbeing dharma name: True Companion of the Heart
Core Coordinator, River Sangha (Salem, Oregon, Est. in 1999)
A Buddhist practice and mindful community in the tradition of Zen Master Thich Nhat Hanh
Memories of Diane
by David Gordon
I first met Diane at Bob Baxter’s performance workshop in Reseda in September 1980. The first time she got up on stage to sing, her natural verve and energy jumped out at me like a flash of electricity – a captivating, outgoing California confidence in sharp contrast with my English reserve.
As the workshop progressed we became firm friends as we shared our love of performing music and we played support on each other’s sets in the final, end-of-workshop public concert.
I returned to England at the end of that year, but we remained in close contact, exchanging long letters about the progress of our lives in the days before email and visiting each other’s homes around the UK and the States.
But it was through one specific act of generosity and understanding that Diane changed the direction of my life and left herself forever with a special place in my thoughts. Diane’s path brought her to Scotland and the Findhorn Foundation and for some time she encouraged me to go there too.
I always had reasons not to be able to go – some of which (like being able to afford it) were valid and others of which were no more than excuses. But when, in 1995, Diane returned to the States after living in and around the Findhorn community for two or three years she left a cheque at the booking office to cover the cost of an Experience Week workshop. “I think going to Findhorn would be good for you,” she said. “Whenever you decide you want to go, all you have to do is call them up and tell them to use the cheque.”
Overwhelmed that someone could care enough about me to give me such an opportunity, I removed the remaining obstacles and set off for Findhorn that summer. I was at a very low point in my life but it was important for me to experience some of what had been so important to Diane and to see why she believed it could be something to help me out of my despair. The week was a marvellous, loving, reassuring experience beyond anything I could have imagined possible and it was made all the more poignant by the fact that it had been a gift from a friend who understood so well what I needed.
The Findhorn community has been a great support to me on many occasions since that first visit and it seems fitting that Findhorn was the last place that I physically saw Diane when our visits coincided a few years ago.
I will always be grateful to Diane for introducing me to Findhorn, but I will always picture her sparkling on that little stage in Reseda. Keep on singing, Diane.
– David Gordon