Monthly Archives: October 2016

All’s hallow

When I lived in Santa Monica circa the 1990’s, I was part of a coven of two. Basically we dressed up, made art, and had fun. Once we even sat in the Batmobile! (Our neighbor made street-legal versions of it for studio publicity.)

Both Pisces of Irish extraction, we always went out dancing on St. Paddy’s Day. Hallowe’en was another big day for us, with lots of planning and decorating and costuming. Make-up was mandatory.

After I moved to Seattle, my coven-mate died suddenly. Her brother left a message on my phone early one morning. I couldn’t believe my ears. She was in her early 40’s.

Here’s a poem I wrote for her:

~for Maureen Marten

Shivering orange light
circle, heart, sliver
Suppose she gets the card
burnt in shards of squash
Hallowe’en postal service:
no charge to communing witches

Coven-mate Maureen Marten, photo by Elizabeth Shé
Coven-mate Maureen Marten, photo by Elizabeth Shé






Seattle, October 1995 …

“You’re pregnant,” says the nurse, relaying the results of the blood test over the phone.

I’m not surprised. I just bought a lemon at the grocery store for a scratch and sniff remedy; the citrus scent keeps me from vomiting.

Montaña de Oro, October 2016 …
A blustery day. It rained the night before, and will do so again. In California, this is cause for celebration. I feed Cisko just after a cloudy gold and pink sunrise, then go back to bed. Around 9:30 I pack my rucksack and hike down to the ocean.

Highest tide I’ve seen here. The sea rushes all the way up to snowy plover land. About six weeks ago I saw a baby snowy plover — tee-niny! About the size of a ping-pong ball, and probably the same weight. Cute, of course, as all babies are.

I walk north for a while, after stowing my purple boots high on a dune. Lotta kelp washed ashore, the waves still big from the storm. The water is way too turbulent to swim in.

As I walk farther north, I process thoughts and feelings out loud, as is my habit. Nobody’s around, and I find it helpful. Eventually, I sit on a hillock and drink rose-hibiscus tea from my beat up green thermos. Watch the curlews and whimbrels and pelicans.

“I’m not dying!” I yell to a buzzard circling high overhead. And then laugh. It’s true! Three years ago it wasn’t, but today it is. Such beautiful flyers, turkey vultures, just cruising the currents, with barely a wing flap.

When I drove into town last Friday, I passed baby black cows in a field on the south side of the road. Cute! ‘Tis the season. For some.

On the beach, I remember the abortions I subjected myself to. And then a shift occurs. Instead of the familiar rut of beliefs that usually pop up — I shouldn’t want a baby, I’d be a terrible mother, the men were unfit for fatherhood — after decades of lying to myself, I finally speak the truth on this windswept shore: I wanted a baby. I begin to weep.

You see, I had talked myself out of it. Three times. I believed, deeply, that I would be a terrible mother. I did not trust that I would not hurt my baby. I did not trust that I could be different from my parents.

I did not have a baby because I thought I would not be able to control my anger, my impatience, my mean streak. And I thought I needed to be in love with the father. And I thought I couldn’t, or shouldn’t, do it alone.

But the reality? What I did not allow myself to know? I wanted a baby. The third abortion, in 1995, was wretched. My body reacted badly, and I could not stop crying. For hours. I wanted to die, and fell into a deep depression soon after.

Eventually I hike back to the apartment, and make a smoothie with strawberries, banana, soymilk, and spinach. It tastes great, despite the fact that I’ve run out of dates. Smoothies are a treat I look forward to after hikes, so this is good news.

“I don’t need dates,” I sing, and dance around the studio. “I don’t need dates.” Which is when I realize that I didn’t need a father either.

Most of my long life I’ve believed that I’ve been missing out on a “regular” dad, whatever that is. Someone who’s always around the house. Two parents, not divorced. Two happy-with-each-other parents.

But that’s not what I got. I got a three-times-a-year dad, a vacation dad. And, despite a lifetime of pining, that has been perfectly fine. Absolutely, incredibly okay. Another truth, bubbling up. Hunh.

And if I didn’t need a dad, perhaps my baby wouldn’t have missed one either. Because that’s the other way I talked myself out of having the baby. The men were not father material, by ANY stretch of the imagination. One was a violent alcoholic druggie, the other was a passive-agressive Beavis-and-Butthead-watching geek. I did not want us to be tied to either of them. I trusted them even less than I trusted myself.

But deep down inside, hidden from me by so-called “rational” thinking, I wanted a baby.

Which also explains my distraught reaction to menopause, sobbing over the clots of blood in the toilet.

Now, despite the tears, or maybe because of them, it is a relief to finally — deep e-x-h-a-l-e — know the truth.

I wanted a baby.

Blue Flower by Susie Van Tyne
Blue Flower by Susie Van Tyne


August 5, 2013 …

“You are not welcome here,” she didn’t say.
“Now is not a good time to visit,” she did say.

Visit? They invited me! For respite! For recovery! I’m dying from mold poisoning! I evacuated my home of 10 years and drove more than 550 miles, over several terrifying days, to get this far! What do you mean, now is not a good time to visit?!

I don’t say any of this. Instead, I say, “Of course. Talk to you later.” I calmly hang up my cell phone, pick up the room phone and dial zero.

“Please call 9-1-1,” I say to the Lithia Springs Resort receptionist. “I think I’m having a heart attack.”

Heart racing, can’t breathe. My father (via his wife) has rescinded his invitation. The only reason I’m in Ashland is because I’m trying to get to his house, another 300 miles away. Devastated is an excellent word for how I feel right now.

Interestingly, the day before I wrote in my journal:
Finally acknowledging that my family is not going to help me the way I need.
I can rescue myself.
I’m really the only person who can.
Prefer to stay in Ashland instead of white-knuckling it another 300 miles to people who don’t like my tone when I’m in the middle of a panic attack.
Not restful there.

However, hearing it baldly over the phone… crash crash crash. Daughter-hopes smashing to the ground.

He does love me.

He helped me leave LA when I was 18 and stuck in an abusive relationship. Drove down with his yellow pick-up and loaded me up, Bianca Kitty and all.

In Mexico, when a man in a gift shop suggested we go out for a drink. I’m grateful — now — that my Dad walked over and said, “I don’t think that’s a good idea.” I wasn’t familiar with boundaries at the time.

He went to therapy with me when I was clinically depressed in my twenties and recovering from sexual abuse.

So why isn’t he helping me now? Why has he turned me away when I am dying? When I’ve come so far to see him?

In the distance, I hear the comforting sound of sirens, coming for me.



three years ago …

I am still trying to get to my father’s place in Northern California, fleeing the black mold house in Olympia, Washington. I am hoping for respite.

By August 3, 2013, I make it to Ashland, Oregon. There are fires near Grant’s Pass, wildfires burning out of control. On buildings next to the freeway hang signs for firefighters: We love you! Thank you! Bless you!

As an actor, I’ve always liked Ashland with its myriad theatrical events. I’ve always stopped there when driving to and fro California and Washington. I’d fill up on lithia water and walk through the forest-y park. Rest.

This time, coming off the highway, I saw a sign for Lithia Springs Resort: relax, soak, dream. Exactly what I need! By the stoplight, a beggar turned performer (or vice versa?) holds up a sign: SMILE! Instead of turning left into town, I drive straight through. They have one room left: the Water Lily Suite. My first name, Susan, means Lily.

I wait in an arbor while a sweet-faced Czechoslovakian woman cleans the room.

Hummingbirds. A multitude of hummingbirds flitting around, more than I’ve ever seen at one time. Here’s one sitting on a trumpet vine twig 20 inches from my face, cleaning her feathers. I’ve never seen one sit still. ZOOM! She and a friend hum by at mach speed.

Every step of this road is filled with miracles and wonders, helping me Home, wherever that turns out to be.

Earlier, I emailed my boss to tell her where I am. She knows about the toxic mold exposure, how I am fighting to breathe, fighting to live.

“Are you still standing?????” she asks.

“Yes,” I reply. I am. And that is a miracle and wonder, too.

I inadvertently scared a child this morning at the Holiday Inn buffet in Grant’s Pass, where I stayed the night. I was standing next to her at the omelet station and asked, “What is that?” I honestly didn’t recognize the eggs. My tone must’ve been off, because she turned away and walked over to her mother at the pancake station. I had just come from the computer room, a travail in and of itself. I’m still sweating out synthetic adrenalin. Poor kid. Poor me.

I’m slowly ratcheting down off the Ventolin, my jittery body finally calming enough to write. I appreciate it. I’m still ramped up, though: can tell by the speed of my writing. But I’m  in an officially healing place, a spa.

I need this: hummingbirds in trumpet vines, hot mineral water in which to soak my weary, overstimulated body. Quiet. Clean.

Each day is a tiny bit better.