Monday, October 20, 2008
A Mighty Redwood Has Fallen
I write today of the death of a mighty priestess. Sequoia Greenfield died in her sleep early this morning of leukemia and other blood disorders. She was in the loft of the house at Greenfield Ranch in Mendocino County that she built with her own hands -- with the help of friends for wall-raisings and such.
Sequoia was one of the first members of Susan B. Anthony Coven No. 1, founded by Z Budapest, in Los Angeles in 1971. Born and reared in Cleveland and escaped to California in her teens, Sequoia was a force to be reckoned with. In an early incarnation as a biker chick, Sequoia was known as Super Pat. She changed her name for good after LA bikers put a price on her head. Soon thereafter, she headed north, where she ended up at Greenfield Ranch.
I met Sequoia in the early days of Reclaiming Collective, and when my then-coven, Holy Terrors, first joined CoG in 1981. I found her overbearing and intimidating at first, until I learned that when you stood up to her, she wasn't such a bully. From then on we did lots of things together, most notably (to others) a ritual called "Kali, the Terrible Mother, and Other Dark Goddesses" at CoG's MerryMeet in 1987 at Saratoga, California.*
The one thing Sequoia was most vain about was her long "naturally red" hair. She never considered chemo because she intended to go out with that head of hair of which she was so proud. She even mentioned it again yesterday when Corby and I were visiting with her, that when she was laid out, it was going to be with her hair unbound and spread around her head and shoulders.
This is a woman who traveled the world, mostly alone. I remember when, on her first trip to India, she wrote wonderful travelogues to her friends describing her experiences. (This was before the Internet.) She once described how she was in an unfamiliar small village in India, when there was a celebration to a Hindu goddess (name lost in the recesses of my senior mind), the villagers grabbed her and put her at the head of their procession. Evidently, that particular goddess had red hair and here came this stranger with red hair just on the goddess' feast day, so I guess they considered Sequoia to be the goddess incarnate.
A licensed pilot herself, Sequoia's heroine was Amelia Earhart.
Many years ago Sequoia, who took many classes in town (Ukiah), was working with a saw in some sort of woodworking class, when she looked up. They tell you, "Never look up." She had sawed off her left thumb and forefinger. After the wound had healed, Sequoia spent the Fall and early Winter of that year learning to reuse her hand by stringing bead necklaces as Yule gifts for her friends.
At Earth First! events, she often dressed as either a mountain lion or a redwood tree. She had a full mountain lion outfit she road her bike with, with fur and ears on her helmet and a fake fur tail streaming behind her. So if you see published photos of a redwood tree standing next to the Secretary of the Interior at Yosemite National Park, that's our Sequoia. She wants to be cremated with wearing that tail and holding a Susan B. Anthony dollar in each hand.
Her devoted partner of recent years, Rev. Jim, also an activist, cared for her tenderly during her dying days, and before then. He and the Greenfield community will be doing a spiral dance on the Tor on Samhain. They are waking her in the farmhouse for the next day or so, painting her casket, drinking tequila, telling Sequoia stories. At a later date I will be coordinating a memorial for Sequoia in the SF Bay Area.
Yesterday Corby and I sang "Weaver, Weaver" to her. She loved it. We observed her face soften as we sang. Corby and she had grown a warm friendship over the last 15 years or so. He worked on her neck yesterday, relieving her of much of her pain. She told him he was the best thing that ever happened to her friend Macha; I agree. Rev. Jim was one of the best things that ever happened to Sequoia, as our late mutual friend Judy Foster used to attest.
Here is Sequoia ready to dance the Crone in Reclaiming's annual Spiral Dance ritual in 1982:
I feel fortunate to have been Sequoia's friend and honored to memorialize her at a future date. "In love may she return again."
* This ritual was originally created by Sharon Devlin, Beth Bone Blossom and I for Ancient Ways/MerryMeet at Harbin Hot Springs in 1984.