15 Mar REMEMBERING NANCY WOOD
NANCY WOOD – JUNE 20,1936 – MARCH 12, 2013
Although she lived, loved and died in New Mexico, she was born in Trenton, New Jersey. In a letter to me in 1994, she said:
“I grew up in Trenton, mostly, but also spent a fair amount of time in Atlantic City with my Irish bootlegger grandfather, who taught me how to fish, clam, swear, play poker, drink whiskey, and bet on horses — before I was ten years old! He was also one the founders of the Miss America pageant.”
Nancy and I met in 1994 when she received the second Lee Bennett Hopkins/Penn State University Poetry Award for SPIRIT WALKER. We spent a glorious weekend at the Hersey Lodge in Harrisburg, where she talked to a large group of people about her life and writing. She also tirelessly autographed over 300 books.
During her presentation she called me to the podium presnting me with a large rock she “dragged from the desert of New Mexico”, telling me it was a grinding stone used for grinding corn.
“I’m giving this to you because when we get together again, which I hope will be soon, I want you to use it to make me tortillas!”
I still have the stone but never ground corn with it. It sits on a bookshelf in my library. We remained close friends ever since.
We visited one another in her home in Eldorado, near Santa Fe, and in my Greenwich Village apartment where laughter and a lot of Santa Fe/Soho shopping abounded.
Nancy produced over twenty-five diverse books including her great poetic contributions that include SPIRIT WALKER and DANCING MOONS (both Doubleday), illustrated in gorgeous full-color paintings by Native American artist Frank Howell.
Nancy lived. She was unique in every way. Her youngest daughter, India, describes her mother as “a crazy lady, incredibly creative and charming,” who was “a role model of just incredible drive and determination. Nothing stopped her.”
Nancy’s verse, “Pueblo Reflections” in SPIRIT WALKER begins:
“When a feather falls at your feet, it means you are to travel on wings of curiosity. Don’t be afraid of strange lands or a language you don’t understand. The feather means freedom. Why else do you think the bird gave it to you?
What cannot be changed must be accepted.
What is accepted must be endured…”
I treasure my autographed copy of SPIRIT WALKER. Nancy inscribed:
“Once in a lifetime, many, two spirits connect and create new energy. This is you and me, now, and always my kindred spirit.”
Indeed, a feather fell at my foot.
It will remain there as Nancy’s spirit lives, will always live, through her words.
Travel well, dear one.