What I didn’t know when I wrote the blog “Fire” was that roughly 16.5 hours later Gabrielle would leave her body to rest on this earth and the fire she shared in the hearts of the many people she touched in her time on this planet. It’s been over a week now and I still haven’t found the words to express how that felt or what it meant to have a friend like her in my life, but I’m going to make an attempt.
What I did know that night was that we had exchanged text messages about 8 hours earlier and she insisted I wait to send her tracks from the demo she challenged me to create until I had the final polished CD to mail her. I knew I was up against a deadline when I’d left her in Austin at the ER at midnight January 9. However, she said with a ;), she knew I was excited, but it would be worth the wait. I wonder if she knew she would be gone, but had already heard the melodies drifting into her dreams the same way I felt her fire that day spinning my world through a barrage of phone calls into a new direction.
I met Gabrielle in the swirl of the Seattle Poetry scene. Before she was multimediagrl she was the mothership on my email and chat lists. When I left Seattle to tour with Poetry Alive! Gabrielle jumped on board the Slam committee with Allison Durazzi and Paula Friedrich to make my dream of a National Poetry Slam in Seattle become a reality. She was always the one with the fire to get things done.
Unlike my older relatives who have left this world, Gabrielle was someone I actually lived with in the crazy condo on First Hill lovingly referred to as the Purple Palace. I don’t share space well with other people, as anyone who has lived with me can tell you, but we had a lot of fun together. The summer of 1998 we went out nearly every night I was in town. Always dressed in something that sparkled, we’d find our way to the OK Hotel first to finish painting our nails with glitter over one of Raymond Kempe’s Bloody Marys and watch who came in before it was too crowded to see anything but the performers lit up on stage. We shared a passion for cheering on our favorite musicians and poets. We also shared scars from loving those who knew how to use, but not how to feed, a muse. Cat O’Sullivan and Ciro Viamontes joined us in the healing process that summer which culminated in spending an entire day building a sweat lodge in order to cleanse ourselves of baggage. That’s powerful medicine that can only be explained through experience.
Even after I sold the Purple Palace to move to Asheville, NC we kept in contact regularly. I kept up to date with the National Slam community vicariously through her. She would brainstorm career moves with me as she left Seattle to return to Buffalo and eventually relocated to the heart of her Slam Family in Austin.
Where ever my wounded heart feared to tread she would boldly go to make things right. We shared the heartache of flying across the country to make real a long distance relationship only to discover the girlfriend at home. We also shared the belief that the creative work was more important than the failed attempt at true love and at least one of us could salvage that at times. She was better at doing that even to the end with the most recent musician/roommate to turn my world upside down. When everything stopped working, Gabrielle was there encouraging each of us back on our feet toward success rather than self destruction. Conveniently, she only had to deal with one of us in town visiting her at a time.
Most importantly, she had a great sense of the big picture. My last days visiting with her included being the sounding board. She was mapping out a master plan for providing a thriving framework for the tribes of artists she so dearly loved. It leaves me feeling that she didn’t so much leave us behind. She simply needed to escape the body worn down by living enough for three people each day so that her spirit could stretch to reach us all.
Known for hosting the Erotica Slam at Nationals in her sequined dress with bunny ears, Bunny Up became Gabrielle’s code when the pain was bad. In her last days, the widespread love of her extended family became obvious in the bunnification of facebook profile pictures. When she left us, the network of all that love suddenly felt like a fragile spider’s web in a wind storm. She laid out the road map though and gave us the code. Bunny Up. Love something, even if you have to start with learning to love yourself.