Sunday, November 22, 2009

Heartprints: Barbara Robinette Moss, Airplanes, and the Midwest

Just back from a remembrance celebration for artist and writer Barbara Robinette Moss, (Change Me Into Zeus’s Daughter, Fierce—for excerpts see: or an earlier post) recovering from the collision of aloneness and togetherness that occurs when you fly across the country for love of someone no longer incarnate to be in a room full of grieving strangers. By night’s end, familiars, via the common, palpable, bond of love for our late friend as expressed by speaker after speaker (furthering Barbara’s presence in our midst) in Kansas City.

Planes leave. On time. As did mine, without pity, as my husband and I encountered malfunctioned gas pumps on the freeway (20 minute lockdown) and the 5 a.m. mistaken merge onto the Bay Bridge heading away from the airport, with maniacal hairpin u-turn at the bottom of Treasure Island costing us another 20 minutes.

Once I got over the shock of missing my plane (how could I plan so carefully for the kids but fail to plan for my own departure--pages of notes re: pickup, drop off, carpool, carpool mom phone numbers, Aikido outfits packed, play-dates listed, dinner menus, backup helpers, backup backup helpers, etc), I used the 9 extra hours at the Oakland airport to put a dent in The Afterlife Experiments: Breakthrough Scientific Evidence of Life After Death by Gary E. Scwartz, Ph.D (with William L. Simon). A friend had hooked me on one of the book’s central images: that of the heartbeat, with its own unique sound-print, radiating out and out into space long after our physical incarnation has ended (maybe for eternity, is the theory).

“Is it possible,” the authors ask, “that cardiac energy provides a loving bond that not only exists in the physical realm but continues as info-energy after physical life has ceased?” p. 22. They started “with the hypothesis, the working assumption, that science can establish that love exists, that consciousness exists, and that survival of consciousness exists, in the same way that science has established that gravity exists, that electrons exist, that photons from ‘deceased’ stars continue to exist” (p. 11). I’m a believer, so such reading preaches to the choir, but for skeptics out there, check it out.

Hours later, with an afterlife hangover, overdosed on airport food and bad coffee, I found myself on the last leg of my flight to Iowa City. Incapable of finding the silver lining in my botched departure. Until my cab driver began to talk. About how he was really a singer in a duo. It was all coming back to me—the nature of Iowa City and its inhabitants: if you’ve ever lived in Iowa City any length of time, you discover everyone from your mail carrier to your street-sweeper has a manuscript. Hidden somewhere. So far this cab driver had admitted he was really a singer and a musician. But then he adds, “I’m glad to drive you, I was hoping I’d get an English major, actually. You know, I write a bit too.”

I perked up. Then: “My town--North Liberty—has a great library. Just got done reading a real good book by this lady…I’m sure you don’t know her…but we invited her to come and give a reading from her book, Zeus’s Daughter. Barbara Robinette Moss? Ever heard of her? I was hoping to take a class from her some time.” I put one hand on my heart and the other on his arm. “Stop it,” I said, “she’s the reason I’m here.” Far more eloquent stories about Barbara’s continuing presence and her effect on everyone she knew circulated at her remembrance, but I felt blessed by this tiny synchronicity.

It turns out perfect planning didn’t have much to do with catching planes on time, for three days later I found myself once again in the 5:30 a.m. dark, panicking, just off Highway 218, staring by the glow of my i-phone at the muffler of my friend’s car at our feet. Bless Google, and yellow taxi. Though last to board, I managed to catch my flight to Kansas City.

In anticipation of further trouble, I padded an extra hour for my return trip to the airport to fly home to Oakland. The hour came in handy: the friend (Tom--innocent! no ticket!!) driving me to the airport not only got pulled over by the cops, but took 4 wrong turns merging onto the freeway and needed an extra half hour to find a gas station.

But I’d do it all over again—for the magical, synchronous hours I had with friends in Iowa City—sleeping in Mary’s tiny Midwest garret, the cold, crisp air, the cherub angel and Escher print above the green armchair. The blue-black crosshatched pattern of the branches on the barren tree outside the window. For breakfast quiche with Bonnie, doves cooing in the background. For reconnecting with my poet friends Tonja ( and Laurie, my dancing friend Renee, other friends of heart Ann and Carol and Jeff. For the realization that the writer self I nurtured in Iowa City still thrives and remains as deeply important to me as the mother self I’ve reigned from internally for the last ten years.

And last, for the friends and family of Barbara I came to meet, and stories I heard about Barbara—whose heartprint I can sense, believe, is radiating out and out into the Milky Way.

Further Reading:

2004 interview with Barbara Robinette Moss:

An article about the gallery Barbara and husband Duane opened together:


Jeannette said...

You write of "heartprints." It is an apt image for the import some have in our lives. It's not a comment I want to leave, but rather my condolences.

Tania Pryputniewicz said...

Jeannette, thank you for your kind condolences, and in stopping by, comming to know my friend a little.

C.R.E.W. said...

What an amazing coincidence, that your cabbie mentioned the author Barbara Robinette Moss whom you knew and were on your way to her remembrance celebration. I wish that I had known she passed away last Fall. I had talked with her a couple of times on the phone and went to her Fierce book signing here in Iowa City back in 2004. I was looking forward to reading her third book and am stunned to hear that she lost her battle with cancer. I feel sad that she has died and am completely bummed out that I have erased her emails that she sent me.

Tania Pryputniewicz said...


I'm so glad you had the chance to work with Barbara and to speak with her. So glad I can still hear her voice in my head, that bright, beautiful Southern drawl, and like all the rest of us, miss her very much.

I believe the third manuscript is being tended to and prepared as best possible for future publication, though I do not know the timeline.

Anonymous said...

Barbara was a friend of mine and today I was looking at the two prints I had that she did and was thinking of the many cups of coffee we shared. Her art and writing keeps her forever alive for me.

Tania Pryputniewicz said...

So glad you have her work living with you--thanks for the comment, Gary, for stopping by here. I miss her very much.