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Jessie M Page

 
(formerly Caroline Arnell)
Uni High Class of 1958

(Written May 2001)

        Down the halls of time come echoes of who I once was, and these beckon with such fervor I
must listen.  I hear the voice of Tom Yasuda and I am once again Little Twinkle Toes in his
eyes.  Kathy (Gidget) Kohner’s voice reels me back to Brentwood Elementary School, to
prancing like horses, through the rich neighborhoods, with Jane Hoag.
       Soon, whole fragments pass through my memory, snowflakes in slow motion.  There, that
one is me and Sandy Glace driving north to Santa Barbara, dressed all in black, lips whitened
out, eyebrows darkened, discussing life through the lens of a Philip Wylie novel.  Or there, that
one is a vision of girls wearing long-sleeved cardigans buttoned up backwards and Peter Pan
dickie collars, with encased and encircled mustard seeds on golden chains dangling between
their budding breasts.  Here comes another, of girls all in navy and white, saddle shoed, Tierre
jacketed.  Look, at that one of boys hunched on the railings of the upper patio like hungry
vultures, calling out our names as we passed, as winds pushed up our wide skirts and crinolines.
Calling out a nick name one of them gave me, Lips.  I never knew why...?  Or that one, the
biggest flake, of feeling like an outsider, like a shadow wolf who trots along just on the
periphery, who joins in when she feels brave, hungry, or in need of company and rest.
       As a girl, my friends called me Carol, but my name was really Caroline.  Some of you at Uni
High School called me Arnell, which I sort of liked, because it brought my father closer than
England and his propensity to collect wives the way other fathers collected beer steins or
hood ornaments or butterfiles.
       As Carol, I took for my first lover one of the early surf board mavens.  As Caroline, I took
my husband-—for a short 8 years.  Taking the name of Jessie M Page took me away from
California to Colorado, from working in the business end of making music, films, and television.
In Colorado my writing took root.  Along with my new name?  Perhaps, even though writing
began for me when I was three...would you like to hear my first song?  It goes like this...mother,
mother, mother, dear/I can’t get off the elephant (sing in a minor key and repeat until all self-
proclaimed adults leave the room screaming).
       In Colorado, also, I worked, in the day time, for the U.S. Government as a writer/editor type;
I worked, at nighttime, teaching dance/yoga/fitness for women.  All of us, then in our forties, all
of us explorers of some kind or other.  Part of my time in Colorado included a foray to Whidbey
Island in Washington State.  I discovered there a place so familiar, so like the North of England
where most of my family hails from, that I almost put down a root.  I say, almost, because am I
not a Vagabond at heart and in truth?
       I wandered next to the Oregon Coast, where I wrote and continued editing for others. This
shift brought with it a bigger one: when I was 49, I took on a bachelor’s degree.   I returned to the
halls of academe…this time with a clutch of #2 Eberhard Fabers, several ruled notebooks, the
requisite backpack, sturdy shoes, and water bottle—-and a mission.  I went there because I knew
someday, somehow, I was going to teach someone something.  And in teaching, give it back,
pass it on—-it being what I went there to find.  I left Portland State University with honors—-
simply because my ego refused anything less than perfection, which my body rebelled at by
giving me walloping great belly and back aches.
       I also left there beginning my master’s of fine arts degree in writing at Goddard College in
Vermont (another place which grabs onto my wandering feet).  Along that road, I began teaching
writing workshops, testing my own mettle, as it were.  Happily, I discovered that I am the sort of
teacher students remember...no, not with a grimace, but with fondness and respect, much the
way I remember Milton Anisman.  As a teacher who is ever a student of life.
       Back and forth in my wanderings I’ve visited my English and New Zealand family, become
a godmother to a beautiful young woman who now is a sculptor in Topanga Canyon, and, when
I’ve felt courageous, published my writing here and there.  I’ve taught English courses—-fiction,
poetry, literature, composition-—and now also playwriting.  I’ve won awards for my writing, but
still haven’t given the world outside my door a large piece of work.
       I am writing this from Port Townsend, Washington, where I walk in the woods by Puget
Sound, dream Jungian, and search for questions which hold my answers.  I write daily (shall the
next project be a memoir, a short story, a play? some combination of all?), am a registered
counselor, a Universal Life Church minister, and ever the explorer.  I roam though my inner and
outer worlds as perhaps only a true vagabond can.  My academic journey has garned me a second
master’s degree, this one in applied psychology, and a doctorate in religious studies.   Just now I
am dreaming of where in the world to hang out my shingle as a scriptotherapist (a counselor who
uses writing as a healing art) and women's workshop facilitator.
       Have I said enough?  Is there not always more to say?  Are there not more, deeper, richer,
stories to be told?  Are not each one of you connected to those stories of mine?
       The other day Gidget wrote to me saying, put yourself up on our web site...you are one of us.
In my searching for self, I find (from the personal to the political and back again) a writer, artist,
teacher, friend, environmentalist, feminist, humanist, and always a girl in a pony tail dancing
towards the next dance, traversing the next hall, round the next bend.  I feel your shadows
lengthening along with mine, sense our footsteps blending, and now, down the halls of time,
a door opens.
 

Jessie M Page, Ph.D.
writer@worldfront.com
(connections welcome)

 


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