Saturday, October 27, 2012
of a Samurai
I dream of pushing
my sword deep
into love's scabbard
while scented petals
delicate and yielding
to the ground.
The moon is reflected
in the black water of the well
its face is half-obscured
by the fallen blossoms of
The garden path
washed by my tears
will soon be
a blanket of red and
The day does not
With warmest regards in your time of mourning-Raindog
Monday, December 20, 2010
I was hiking in Joshua Tree National park this last week-end. This is the first outdoors activity I have done since Janice died. She and I first took the Sierra Club Wilderness Travel Course in 2006. Since then we have hiked all over Southern California and the Grand Canyon. I am now a class O leader, which is the first step to leading, Sierra Club style, extended hikes and climbs. This is a volunteer position. I am a volunteer which means I dislike being graded, looked over or judged…because I am afraid I will not measure up. It has been a big deal for me to get the “O” rating. In being graded, I might be embarrassed, freeze and maybe do the wrong thing, I might even quit and run. It didn’t happen with this rating but the fear is as big as it ever was. So I tend to do things my way, I often wish for someone, anyone that could see through me enough to see that I want and need some direction and guidance. But I have yet to meet this person that I haven’t already judged to be not up to it. I work alone in my profession. Nobody tells me what to do and I don’t tell anyone else what to do. Nobody listens to me anyway, I think in my deepest fears. Janice didn’t listen to me either. We had developed this routine of her bringing a book along on our hikes. If she got tired she would stop, read and wait for us to come back down. I was usually very careful not to let her or anyone, be alone in the mountains. We carried walkie-talkies and stayed in communication. I have been trained and yet I still do things my way. As Janice does. If Janice wants to wait then Janice gets to wait. On this day there were six of us climbing and hiking. At the top of 12,000 ft. Old Army Pass, we carefully got past the dangerous snow and ice together by avoiding the ice completely. The six of us made it safely to the top of the pass. There, Marianne, Kendall and I took off at a faster pace to climb 14,000 ft. Mt Langley. The slower hikers, Janice, David and Gretchen took a slower pace and we agreed to stay in communication with the walkie-talkies and meet back, at the pass, on the way down. Janice had her book and the walkie-talkie.
A few months ago I asked Janice’s son Damon, if I could marry his mother. He was thrilled and said yes. Janice then began telling all our friends that we were engaged. I had second thoughts, lots of them. I had unfinished conversations about money and bills and children and ex wives and ex husbands. I did not finish these conversations. I did not step into the fear of finishing these conversations. I can climb mountains and jump out of airplanes but heaven forbid I discover some facet of my well constructed self image that is not consistent. What if anyone finds out I am a coward. That I am horrified of becoming a prisoner in a relationship. Again. I stopped these conversations with Janice with the declaration that I did not want to get married or be engaged anymore. Whatever I said then was non negotiable and surface, at best. I have been accused of not being sensitive to the depth of her heart break over me backing out. I did not need to be told this. Not now and not then. Over her bloody, broken body in the mountains, I finally apologized amidst wrenching sobs, for not getting married. I’m sorry Janice.
I have been leading extended hikes with small groups for some time now. On my own. I don’t need no badges. I have taken groups up Mt Whitney, San Jacinto and many other Southern California peaks. And I pride myself on being safe and sane. I have attempted to climb Iron Mountain in the San Gabriels 6 times and have only made the peak once. If it gets the least bit dangerous or unsafe, I turn around and bring everyone with me. The last two Iron Mountain trips, Janice turned around on her own about half way up. During an official Sierra Club sanctioned hike, no one is ever allowed to go off by themselves. These are dangerous activities and prudence and safety are important. But Janice and I did things our way. And people trusted us.
During this hike at Joshua Tree yesterday, I was regularly distracted by rocks that appeared to be shaped like hearts. On every hike, whether Janice was with me or not, I would find rocks that looked like hearts and surprise Janice at home with them. We had maybe a hundred heart shaped rocks of various sizes all around the house. She and my daughter are the only two people I knew that my heart would flutter a bit and I would smile with joy when I saw either of them. She and my daughter both have my heart. In addition to hiking and mountain climbing, we traveled together a lot during the last 8 years. Two cruises, Spain, England, Kauai five times, Boston, San Diego, Las Vegas, Berkeley, Toronto, New York, Georgia, Alabama, Florida, Nevada, Mexico. I could barely afford it and now understand how she got so overboard on her credit cards. I was afraid to know how far overboard she was. And she would not discuss it with me and I did not ask. I just said no to marriage. Period. She had begun working a Debtors Anonymous program regularly since I called off our engagement. We did not finish any conversations about this.
I have not finished any conversations with myself about fear and justified resignation. At 63 years old I have given up on growing or changing. I am good enough already I justify. And too afraid to grow anymore in any direction. If Janice was good enough to be finished here on earth then maybe I am also. My first thought on seeing her all broken up was that I wanted to go with her. I was the first responder to the love of my life’s death. My second grade school teacher said I was deficient in “accepting responsibility”. I think she meant I was a little liar. Either way I took the tag and have avoided responsibility ever since. The first person to come upon an injury in the wild is called the “first responder”. This was me this time. Maybe I finally made good on the “fails to accept responsibility” label I took on so long ago.
She was alone when she fell. No one saw it happen. She fell about 500 feet from snow and ice onto rocks. She was bloody and broken and twisted and not moving and it was all I could do to get the rock out of her skull and wipe some of the blood off of her face. And cry uncontrollably. I just cried. We will never know what happened in that snow and ice. But we do know the passion with which she lived her life. Her answering machine still says, “Janice Rea, I love my life, Leave a Message”. She promised me she would not die first.
Could be I already died first when I resigned myself to 63 year old unfinished conversations and no possibility for the fairy tale marriage for Janice.
If Janice were listening to this she would listen respectfully for a time and then suggest that I get off the cross, we need the wood. She would say that that conversation in my head was clearly Radio KFUK intended only to torment me.
“Let it go”, she’d say, “Maybe I simply slipped and fell, and that’s all that happened.”
Sunday, August 30, 2009
Monday, August 17, 2009
Janice was born in Los Angeles and raised in Westchester. Her earliest fond memories were of raising her younger brother, Billy and of the horses she loved, rode and took care of. As a child she appeared on the Art Linkletter T. V. Show. She was able to write or draw forward or backward with both hands simultaneously. She drew the head with her right hand and the tail with her left hand, at the same time, on a chalk board. Later on she would joke that her skills and intellect just meant she could go crazy and sane faster than most. She would write you a message and you would have to hold it up to a mirror to read it.
Janice's trademark on her sobriety anniversary was to give out marbles. She said, "It's okay to lose your marbles in sobriety, God will give you a new set." Close to 500 people gathered on Saturday, August first, to celebrate her life. A large bowl of gold marbles sat on the greeters' table with a note, "When I got here, I'd lost my marbles, but God gave me a new set. Janice" She had passed out marbles at every meeting where she celebrated her sobriety anniversary. She even experienced the inside of mental institutions before she got sober. In her first years of sobriety she went to meetings in a "hover craft" and spoke to strange cartoon characters only she could see. And she kept coming back. She became one of most sane people on the planet. The people who gathered for her service had all been touched, one at a time, with her smile, warmth, and tenacious acceptance. No one was ever too far down for Janice. Janice was a genuine hero of sobriety. She saved countless lives. Her Blackberry telephone had 500 telephone numbers programmed into it. It was if she became the guardian angel for those who reached out to her for help.
Janice's sobriety date was Nov 11, 1981. In her 27 years of sobriety she always had three AA commitments a week, either at meetings, or in service. She recommended that her sponsees do the same.
Janice's life was about working with people, mostly abused children and the often neglected inner child that can plague us adults with irrationally angry, distrusting and hurt behavior, even in sobriety. The 12 Steps were the beginning of sanity for Janice. She went to any lengths to have her life, and the lives of people she touched, become fulfilling and joy filled.
Janice worked other 12 Step programs as well. My favorite quote of hers is about Al-Anon. She said, "As soon as I started going to AlAnon, the people I loved the most stopped going to jail.”
Janice would introduce herself as, "Janice Rea, Alcoholic. I am a falling down, crawl around on the floor hopeless alcoholic and dope fiend, and I'm really happy to be here. I'm happy to be anywhere. And I have not had to have a drink or a drug for ove r 27 years now."
Janice was the first person with a criminal conviction ever hired by the Los Angeles Police Dept. She was hired by Chief Daryl Gates as an Administrative Assistant, mostly to work with Officers with alcohol problems. She often said that her Higher Power didn't know or didn't care about the LAPD never hiring a convicted criminal, because she got hired anyway. Her favorite card was one of laughing Smirfs saying "God can't do what?." Her Higher Power could and did do anything and everything. The license plate on her 350 Z (the one with the flames on the front) said HP2JREA.
Janice was also a licensed Marriage and Family Therapist. She worked mostly with inner city foster children. The 500 names in her phone included these children, her sponsees, her police sponsees, friends, her children, family and loved ones. Janice’s life was a full time devotion, not just an hourly job; she would help at all hours.
Janice's hair had varying shades of reds, purple, or orange highlights at times, and stood straight out as short hair does. Her clothes were playfully mismatched and colorful. Her entire presentation was one of acceptance, of anyone, and of any kind of behavior. She brought out the loving, playful part of all of us, with tremendous compassion for the damaged and hurt parts.
Janice is survived by her son, CW2 Damon Baggs US Army pilot, his wife, Andrea, two grandchildren, Helena, 14 and Riley, 10, all in Manhatten Kansas, her brother, Billy Grettenberg of Fullerton CA, her best friends Jim Dohn and Mary Jo and hundreds of sponsees and other best friends.
She loved her life, and we loved her too.
Click here to see article in OCregister
Thursday, July 30, 2009
On Saturday, July 25, 2009, Janice Rea made her spiritual transition from our world. In a tragic accident, she fell to her death. Janice was 66 years young, and left behind her son Damon, daughter-in-law Andrea, grandchildren Helena and Riley, and Jim Dohn, the love of her life.
Janice had over 500 numbers in her Blackberry, mostly of people she sponsored or assisted in living sober, free lives. She touched literally thousands of people with her joy, love and aliveness. Her answering machine message says it all, “Hi, it’s Janice Rea. I love my life! Leave a message.”
There will be a memorial service at 4148 Lakewood Dr. Lakewood CA 90712 Saturday, August first at 1:30 pm. Map Inter via Harvey Way off Lakewood Blvd. Bring food.
Donations are being sought to help defray the cost of Search & Rescue and other extraordinary expenses being left to her family. Donations can be made to Janice Rea via paypal -----
This is Jim writing, and here is the story of what happened that day, from my perspective, as I was on the hike as well.
Janice was a graduate of the Sierra Club Wilderness Training, and was very experienced at high altitude hiking and climbing. That day, she was hiking with five of her good friends from her recovery groups, in the Sierra Nevada Mountains.
We arrived Thursday afternoon to set up camp and begin the acclimation process to operating at high altitude. Friday morning we separated into two groups, the quicker stronger group, and the older slower group, and hiked around the Cottonwood basin for the day. This is at approximately 11,000 ft, and is necessary to acclimate. The Old Army Pass appeared to be snow bound at the top and we had decided to not go until we met a group of Boy Scouts and another experienced mountain climber, all of whom said it was easily passable.
Saturday morning we got up early to go over the pass onto 14,000 ft Mt Langley.
We left Muir Lake at about 6:30 am to attempt the climb via the Old Army Pass. The pass trail goes up a steep canyon wall from about 11,000 ft. to an altitude of over 12,000 ft, over a distance of about a mile of switchbacks along the canyon wall.
We kept the group together with Janice and I in the rear to get past the snow and the steep climb. We made it through to the top of the pass with a several hour hike to the peak of Mt. Langley still ahead of us. Because of the altitude, she and two other members of the group, Dave and Gretchen, decided to take a slower pace, with the three remaining members going on ahead. Janice kissed me good bye, with a cheery “Have fun,” and we agreed to rejoin on the way down.
Marriane, Kendall and I made it to the top, and started back down to encounter Dave and Gretchen, who told us that Janice had stopped along the trail and was waiting for us there. This wasn’t unusual for Janice, as she always carried a book to read, should she decide to wait for us at some point on a hike.
We got a call from Janice on the walkie-talkie saying that she wanted to head on down the trail to where the snow was. We told her to wait where she was, and we’d all go down together, but shortly thereafter we received another call saying that she was through the snow. Again, we told her to wait for us, but the next call said that she was half way down. Once again, we told her to wait for us, but she did not.
The snowy part of the trail is scary and difficult, so we all decided to go back around to the dirt and rocks, and avoid the snow patch. About half way down, we got another call from Janice saying, “Help, I’m in trouble, trapped on a ledge.” We yelled for her to stay put, while I grabbed another walkie-talkie and yelled for her as I started running. I never got an answer.
The fall was approximately 200 feet on to rocks, with a slide over snow patches, and onto the canyon chute. I was running down the switchbacks yelling into the walkie-talkie. I could see the disturbance in the snow. I started climbing up the off-trail scree, talus and rock filled chute to get to whatever disturbed the snow.
When I got to her she was twisted, silent, and without a pulse. I couldn’t stop crying. Marrianne had a SPOT for satellite emergency response back at camp that she used to summon help, but we were so remote that when a helicopter arrived three hours later, it was too late to get her out that night. We had to wait for that until Sunday morning.
Saturday night was the longest night of my life. My head was filled with “what if” and “why” and “only if.” I kept hearing Janice’s voice in my head saying, “Hi, this is Janice Rea, I love my life!” That is what is left for me. I Love My Life!
We hiked out on Sunday, and were interviewed by Inyo Search and Rescue before proceeding to the Coroner’s office in Lone Pine to be interviewed again.
I want to acknowledge Lt. Keith Hardcastle of Inyo County Search and Rescue for his loving and thorough attention to detail, and his heartfelt mannerism. I also wish to acknowledge Jeff Mullenhour, the Coroner, for his 46 years on the job as well as his kind and patient way with us. I am truly grateful for these angels.
Janice would be saying “Stay in your heart, and find someone to help,” and she’d be saying it with a lotta love.