(Here's the poem I read for Joanne. It was based on stuff Joanne told us about her relationship with the ocean and the ocean's goddess. Joanne always seemed very calm at heart, despite her playful (and sometimes stormy) "wavemaking." She was an investigator by nature-- she didn't accept easy answers, and didn't go along with the crowd-- she wanted proof! (The last book she gave me to read was Doubt by Jennifer Hecht, a history of skepticism.) Yet she had a playful intelligence that was willing to consider all sorts of ideas. She even managed to keep her sense of humor and her eloquence throughout her hospital ordeal. When she talked about the ocean, you could hear the waves, and smell the salt. Her connection to it was something she was never in doubt of.)

Imagine Joanne Standing By The Ocean On Her Birthday Laughing:

Tonight she stands here to listen
and share the sea’s easy laughter,
a rolling sound that comforts her,
repeating again and again and again
the endless rhythms of nature.

The moon, too, watches the water
and shines where the sea is open,
or buries her shadow deep within
a wave’s chasm, where her sparkling treasure
is, for a moment, deftly hidden.

The waves stroll the shore and glisten;
the cattle of Tethys wander
and graze their sandy pasture,
they lick her feet as they hasten
to the rumble of their master.

The calm is broken only by the banter
of the gulls, the splash of a fin,
and the sudden rising of a cold wind
that reminds her that it’s still winter
and she must soon go in.

The goddess Yemaya’s rowdy children
frolic in the lap of their mother;
she talks to the goddess like sister to sister,
and asks her a question both solemn
and easy to answer.

Sometimes the answer comes in a whisper:
the wind rushing over the foam and the bracken
as if it were combing the hair of the ocean
weaving a message of strange wonder
in a language precise and inhuman.

She takes a final, careful listen
for what the coming year might bring her--
or, if not that, for tomorrow’s weather;
furious storms may rise again,
but they belie the calm demeanor
in the heart of the laughing wavemaker.

Written January 20, 1993, for Joanne’s birthday.

Read again for Joanne at her funeral service.

-edwin chapman