Sunday, December 29, 2019

Grace Of A Touch

Her words touched me and opened floodgates of memories. Profound recollections from July 5, 1999 and the three days immediately following my daughter Naomi’s dying at age nineteen. The article, Living With Death, by Maggie Jones, describes the social movement that helps families spend more time with the bodies of their deceased loved ones. 
The New York Times Magazine article of December 22, 2019 follows the life of a “home death-care guide” as she assists at the death of loved ones. She enables the bereft to keep a body at home for days longer than usual.

Naomi held out to the last. She had adamantly refused to leave San Francisco, having vowed not to go home “to die”. We had been inseparable during her two year struggle with cancer. Then her lungs failed and when I had to carry her on my shoulder up the stairs to her appointment with a healer for what would be the last time, I told her I couldn’t do it anymore and please, we must return home. She agreed reluctantly.
Four days later she died in her bed in Santa Fe, New Mexico.

As I sat bewildered with my wife in our living room, a friend gently tapped my shoulder and asked if we would like to keep Naomi home for three days. I had a moment of confusion, then said yes, but feared a bad smell. She promised all would be well—and so it was. Our family and close friends prepared her body lovingly, dressed her nicely, anointed and packed dry ice around her. We brushed her hair and created a halo of rose buds around her head. She lay peacefully in her room, amidst flickering candles and fragrant flowers. We were with her day and night. My ex-wife Jean Tobias visited her in the predawn hours and wrote this poem: 

Blessed be the angels sing,
With joy they guide you in a ring,
Like a halo ‘round your head,
Gently tuck you into bed.

To mighty realms your spirit flies,
Through puffy clouds and deep blue skies.
So sweet the peace within your heart—
With God’s love your journey start.

Many others came and went as well, saying goodbye and praying for her soul’s peaceful transition.  I had time to buy her gravesite and then with close family lay her to rest peacefully.

The grace of a touch on my shoulder and offer to help is forever remembered.

A Heart Traced In Sand

Sunday, December 22, 2019


At the corner of a public parking lot on Water Street, adjacent to an expensive downtown hotel is a small stone fountain with patio and stone benches. It is where vagabonds hang out. The parking lot offers public toilets. I have passed by the motley congregation many times because my little gallery is in a building nearby. They don’t harm anyone, but sometimes show signs of mental instability—talking to themselves or shouting. They are disheveled, unkempt—mostly men, but sometimes females are in the midst. 

It would be easy to write this band off as vagrants and ne’er-do-wells. But something remarkable happened not long ago that confirmed the fact that we cannot judge people.

The circumstances involved my wife Amy. She said, “I work downtown, but park at the free Capitol lot and walk the blocks to the Plaza. I was schlepping several items and as I approached Water St. Parking lot, I set my bags down to rearrange them for easier carrying. I was running late . About an hour later, I wanted to make a phone call , but discovered my purse was NOT anywhere in my possession. I had gone to the bank prior to coming downtown and had taken out 600.00 to purchase tires for my car. My wallet contained all my credit cards and I.D. ...I was horrified. I ran outside to Water St. near the lot—the last place I recalled seeing my purse. I realized the odds of it lying there were 0 to none. Three homeless men were sitting near the area. At first glance, my heart sank. I asked them if they had seen a blue purse, which I may have left near the place where they were seated? "Why yes, we took it to the shop across the street for safe-keeping." I ran into the shop, and after a brief Q and A from the clerk, I had my purse back! Not one cent was touched. All cards and ID were there. The phone, too. I crossed the street and gave them each some cash in thanks. One replied, " People don't acknowledge us as human, when actually...We are gentlemen.”

I spoke with two of the fellows, Leaton, in the picture above, and Robert who said he found the purse. "I was startled seeing all the 100 dollar bills! I am not interested in a reward or recognition." 

There is love abiding in these beings, though it may not be apparent at first glance.

"…consideration shown to the poor is one of the greatest teachings of God."

"Join yourselves to those who work for the poor, the weak and the unfortunate; this is greatly to be commended." – Abdu’l-Baha

Sunday, December 15, 2019

Light and Dark

Shopping is not at the top of my list of pleasures. Nowhere close. The other day Amy and I came out of a department store at sunset and the sky was ablaze with fiery light in a spectacular way I seldom see. I was elated for the sight yet remorseful I had been inside. A miracle sky and my camera was not at hand. The mall parking lot view was not great but I took a picture with my phone. 
On the way home, I ruminated as if I had gone fishing and the “big one” got away. 
Buying pants and a shirt with Amy was fun and then getting her leggings that fit. But that could be done anytime. A striking sunset is rare.

The drama between earth and sky is always greatest at sunrise or sunset. Clouds are necessary to make the best poetry. They dance on fire, proclaiming the dawning day or the approaching night. I am not an early riser. Sunsets are what I watch. Santa Fe, New Mexico has great unobstructed skies with clear light and just the right conditions for plenty of dramatic sunsets and sunrises. I have studied them for decades and made many paintings and shot myriad photos.

When my daughter Naomi died at age nineteen, the drama of light and dark became more poignant for me. 

When we want to hold this beauty we realize it is fleeting and ephemeral.

It is true for all of life. 

Another blog about sunsets: Drama

Sunday, December 08, 2019

A Reason To Celebrate

"Santa Fe Winter" oil on board, 6 x 6 inches, by Steven Boone

It is nice to have a reason to celebrate during the darkest days of the year. Amy has a stack of presents wrapped and ready to send to her sons and their families. I used to do that at Christmas but stopped years ago. My children became adults, I became single and my parents died. My religion is Baha’i and it has its own holy days.

Hand painted gourd by Amy Cordova y Boone

Neither of my parents had a religion. Growing up, my family always observed gift giving traditions but not the religious practice or commemoration. We were poor and lived in a tenement building in Chicago. My father worked several jobs to support his wife and five children. When Christmas came around, my mother would make popcorn chains to decorate the tree. Gifts were meager. But Santa Claus would show up at the door Christmas morning.

Ralph Caprio was the best friend of our family. A few years younger than my dad, he always worked alongside my father professionally. He came from Italian immigrants who were close knit. A confirmed bachelor, he loved us Boone kids. I can remember on Christmas morning a knock at the door. My father answered and there he stood, arms full of gifts. “Ralph!” All the children shouted, and he came inside beaming with gladness and basking in warmth. His presents were always the best—better than my parents could afford. For years he was the Santa Claus in our house at Christmas.

My father has passed away, but Ralph will see another Christmas day this year in Chicago. About ten years ago he began going by the name Raff. I am forever grateful for his generous presence from the beginning of my life. Happy holidays Raff!

Sunday, December 01, 2019

Touched By Magic


An ineffable feeling greeted me upon returning home to Santa Fe. Yes, my work responsibilities are coming at me again and the weather is freezing. Yet I have often felt charmed, as though touched by protective magic. 

The three weeks with Amy on the Big Island of Hawaii relaxed me and stimulated my imagination. Reflecting on the excursion, Amy and I agree it was governed by SOUL. On a cellular basis I felt in relationship with the vast Pacific Ocean, swimming and playing in it, seeing its awesome expanses and feeling its power. The island is quite complex. Volcanoes rose from our feet, dry coastal areas contrasted with tropical seasides, black lava fields stretched for miles and lush coffee plantations offered some of the worlds best coffee. Indigenous original people kept ancient traditions intact and transplants mixed in to Island life, creating unique flavors. 

I told Amy in advance that we needed three weeks to get “the feeling.” I know from experience that the first week is spent decompressing and adjusting. 
After Hawaii we turned up in Los Angeles and then Santa Barbara (see A Heartbeat). 

Arriving home in Santa Fe late at night, snow crunched underfoot and the first thing we did was turn the heat up. It felt good to be in our house amid our familiar and cozy surroundings. And then the feeling of being blessed came, and it has come often since.