By Brigid Meier
Gail Mueller and I were like sisters with all the contradictions that implies. At our best, we supported each other and sparked off each other. At our less-than-best, she exasperated me with her spacey-ness. I annoyed her with my willful ambition. Our styles could clash but they evaporated as we reconnected this past year while she was dying. When I first learned she was in the hospital, I called immediately. After the nurse told her my name, I could hear her say, “Oh, that’s my sister!”
I met Gail in 1965. She worked at the San Francisco Post Office with my boyfriend. Gail quickly became a part of our circle of friends, then my boyfriend’s best friend’s girlfriend. The four of us hung out together, went dancing at The Avalon Ballroom or the Fillmore. My boyfriend rented an apartment on the corner of Haight and Ashbury Streets so we did the whole hippie thing. In August of 1967, I began sitting at The San Francisco Zen Center on Bush Street. Gail came along within the year. I have often been accused of going for it but Gail went for it, squared. She was outrageous. I remember she once took acid, shaved her head then sat an all day sesshin.
Gail often flew by the seat of her pants, trusting things would fall into place. Although I can’t recollect how she later supported herself, she always managed to cobble together enough money for the many dharma programs she attended. Gail did a lot of formal practice, much more than I did.
Mostly, Gail was fun; she loved to party. She has been described as having a screwball sense of humor and that nails it. Gail made me laugh. And she laughed at everything, even her own physical disintegration from the ravages of cancer. For more than ten months, post-terminal diagnosis, Gail remained cheerful, courageous and fully rooted in her devotion to her teachers and the teachings. And Gail was always a good mom; she doted on her son, Quinn with unconditional love and he has paid her back many times over. Quinn raised money to augment her medical care with holistic treatments and he was by her side throughout her dying process. Thank you, Quinn for helping Gail to die with dignity, surrounded by love.
Gail and I tossed the ball back and forth for fifty years. She put me up for a month when I first moved to Boulder in 1975 and I was her Lamaze coach when she birthed Quinn. We got high together in the early days and then we practiced together, both at Zen Center and as students of VCTR. The last time I saw her was in 1998 when she came through Taos with electric blue polish on her toenails.
We sporadically kept in touch by phone, more so after she relocated to Hawaii. She liked to read me her latest poetry. This winter she sent me some handwritten pieces that I typed up and printed into a chapbook called Love Returns. People say they can hear her voice when they read her poems. If you’d like a copy, contact me at firstname.lastname@example.org or call Beverly Armstrong in Boulder; she has some to give out, too.
I wrote on the back cover: Gail Mueller’s poetry arises from the depth of her heart and humor as well as from the wisdom of awakening. Gail is as fearless a warrior on the page as she has been throughout her rich and brilliant incarnation.
And now she’s gone, gone beyond. I will miss you, my dear sister, my fierce, whacky, dear sister.
May 9, 2015
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