While I was baking at Staff of Life, one of my male colleagues would constantly bug me to find him a girlfriend. A few years after I quit Staff, I ran into him downtown. It was almost my birthday and I was having a party. There was a friend of mine who I thought he might like, so without mentioning that, I invited him. As it turned out, they made the connection naturally, without any direct influence on my part. They started dating, fell in love, and got engaged. Since I was the matchmaker, they wanted me to officiate at their ceremony. I had never done anything like that before, nor had I ever had interest in performing weddings, but I was game. I got a Universal Life Church certificate online. The happy couple wrote the entire ceremony, and on a beautiful afternoon in a meadow overlooking the bay from the UC Santa Cruz campus, I performed my first wedding.
Fast forward to 1999. As I mentioned in the last post, I had been practicing acupuncture for a few years, was still teaching Tai Chi at Ocean View Park, was happily married, but had a constant, nagging feeling that something was missing in my life. I was frustrated and moody. I really couldn’t figure out why.
Teaching and practicing Tai Chi at Ocean View Park always made me happy. The park is located at the end of Ocean View Ave, a street with beautiful big Victorian houses. There are giant Eucalyptus trees that house families of Great Blue Herons and Monarch butterflies. The park overlooks the Santa Cruz Beach Boardwalk, a great train trestle and the Monterey Bay. It’s a power spot. I was there teaching a private Tai Chi lesson on October 17, 1989 at 5:04 p.m., when the Loma Prieta earthquake hit. A giant wave rolled through the green lawn like an ocean wave. It was ecstatic for me. I had told my students for years, “feel the mass of the planet beneath your feet,” and there it was, the mass of the earth pounding my feet from below. I love Ocean View Park!
I had just finished teaching an 8 am class on a Tuesday morning near the end of May, 1999, when I was approached by a woman who lived on Ocean View Avenue at the corner of the park. I had made friends with many of the neighbors over the years. She knew that I had performed a few weddings, and asked me if I would be interested in officiating at her own wedding. She and her boyfriend were getting married, in Italy, in 10 days! They both worked in Silicon Valley during the boom, so money wasn’t a problem. She offered to fly Sid and I to Venice, where they would marry. Sid had just arrived at the park for his 9 am class. I told him about the offer, but he felt like couldn’t drop everything and leave in 10 days because of work, and our dog Farfel. He encouraged me to go. The bride suggested I bring a girlfriend, so I invited one of my closest friends, Lorna. We drove to San Francisco the next day to get expedited passports and in 10 days we landed in Milan.
We arrived in Milan on a Friday and took a 3 hour train ride to Venice. I had never been to Europe before and was deliriously happy (although exhausted) to sit on the train and watch the beautiful country rush by. We arrived in Venice, found our little “Hotel Iris”, and collapsed. I woke up Saturday morning with my eyes swollen from the horsehair pillows! With just a couple of hours until the wedding, Lorna hustled around to find some ice to bring the swelling down. The wedding was smooth and simple. After the luncheon, the bride and groom left for their honeymoon, and Lorna and I had 6 days to explore Italy.
Every morning we woke early, had breakfast and began walking. We walked from morning to night through the six “boroughs” of Venice, visiting churches, galleries, stores, farmers markets and restaurants. The opulence of the churches with amazing architecture, Renaissance artists like Titian and Tintoretto, the incredible tiled floors, marble sculptures and painted ceilings contrasted strongly with our tour of Ghetto, the area in one of the boroughs where the Jews were allowed, but segregated in the 1500’s after they left Spain and Portugal during the Spanish Inquisition. The synagogue were austere and simple, with little art, yet I was full of emotion as I stood in that historically significant building.
Lorna and I visited the small island of Murano, where Murano Glass is made, and its neighboring island Burano, the island of lace. Every day we were bombarded with art, old art, new art, and it was transforming me.
The epiphany came clear and strong. ART! That was what was missing in my life. Everything else was in place. The frustration and missing element that had been plaguing me was about to disappear! My hands and my heart woke up that week. The moment I got home I started looking for classes to get my juices flowing again. What I was about to discover was was going to be a big surprise . . . especially to me!