Monday, November 02, 2015

Dia de los Muertos

On this Day of the Dead, I find myself thinking of Margarita Donnelly who died last Christmas Eve.

Born in Venezuela to U.S. parents, she always made her childhood in the tropical jungles where her father was working sound magic and mischievous. Playing with her Venezuelan peers, she described living in a world of wonders invisible to and incomprehensible to her parents.

Return to the United States in adolescence and what felt like incarceration in rigid Catholic schools came as a shock. Given the times, she found her way to the Haight and San Francisco State -- Margarita was a natural-born hippie and she never stopped being one.

From San Francisco, she made her way to Corvallis, OR where she found her life work. She became the founding editor of Calyx, which still "nurtures women’s creativity by publishing fine literature and art by women." Keeping that project alive, vibrant and funded became her vocation.

Sometime in the late '70s, Margarita recruited Erudite Partner to read the magazine's voluminous flood of poetry submissions. E.P. didn't stay in that role forever, but thereafter, Margarita was always a presence in our lives. When her pursuit of women's literature and the funding therefor brought her to San Francisco, we always saw each other. Whenever we drove north, Corvallis was a certain stop-over.

Margarita traveled to Nicaragua in 1986 on a delegation that E.P. led for Witness for Peace to see for herself the results of the U.S.-funded Contra war.

Just last year, when we took off on the 14,000 mile bookapalooza for Mainstreaming, an event organized by Margarita was the first stop. During a pleasant several days with Margarita, we picked raspberries for freezing, just as she did every spring. Yet Margarita already knew that the cancer in her body was not responding to medical interventions. She wasn't so much struggling with the disease as just going on living her life as she wanted, just as she always had.

Margarita is survived my her daughter, son-in-law, two beloved grandchildren and hundreds of women and men who reveled in her joy in living. I miss her.

A more conventional obituary is available here.

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