Forum Posts

vickyisat
Apr 10, 2020
In General Discussions
Self-isolating was never in me or my mother's dna. The condition is embodied in a term, I've come to find out, called 'FOMA,' the 'fear of missing out.' For us, it was the fear of missing out of any experience that may educate, enlighten or thrill us. It may be a lecture, a special talk, an exhibit, or something simple, like a walk in a garden. Because of her condition, isolation became a way of life. Thank goodness for the web, where my mom could be fueled with interesting informative adventures late into the night and into the morning hours, and later when her computer skills diminished, her exhaustive library, on every topic. And then, there was the garden. Perhaps it was her Depression-era pragmatism that encouraged her to grow out the snipped off portions of green onions, or maybe it was her thrill of independence from consumerism. We monitored the white sapote tree that volunteered from seed every year, to see if it was "the year" for the bumper crop. The stories of the various plants were repeated as if new every time- the need to find the sweeter Mexican oregano since the one she got from Home Depot just didn't measure up; the Sweet Aztec mint she brought back as a sprig from Mexico. But if there's anything my mother taught me, it's that the experiences to learn, be enlightened and thrilled, happens at every level of our existence. With the current forced isolation because of the Covid pandemic, life has slowed down, and I allow myself to take off the glasses of frenetic pressures that only allows large matters to be seen. I allow myself to remember the pace of thoughtfulness and feel the magic of adventure in the small things, embodying my mother. I pour over her papers that were stashed into bags and piles, more morsels to be devoured in the adventure of life. I carefully arrange the objects on the shelves that represent the memories of people and times gone by, soaking in the thrill of their existence. It is the experience of joy, and infinite love.
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vickyisat
Jul 17, 2019
In General Discussions
I came to know Diana from about 1990 when I had joined the East-West Cultural Center and she used to come by for the Gita classes with her fried Mrs. Bawa. She had a quiet gentle manner but I realized very quickly how widely she was read and how deep and varied were her interests – Indian spiritual figures, Asian art, Indian music, poetry, horticulture and medicinal plants, cooking, history, geography and travel, her unassuming mind ranged over a vast inner country. We quickly became friends and spent many evenings together, often along with the Des, who she also knew from her past association with Judith Tyberg, (Jyotipriya) and the East-West Cultural Center. She had a natural affinity for Indian teachers and took me to Ojai, where we met Mark and Asha Lee of the Krishnamurti Foundation and Beatrice Woods, the famous ceramicist. She spoke sometimes of her memories of Krishnamurti. She lived right across from Yogananda’s Mother Center and we went there sometimes. We also went to the Vedanta Center, sometimes for all-night Kali Pujas. She was enamored of close East-West connections, such as that of Swami Vivekanada and Sister Nivedita or Sri Aurobindo and the Mother. Particularly, she repeatedly spoke of and showed interest in Josephine McLeod, a wealthy American disciple of Vivekananda, who sponsored many activities of the Ramakrishna Mission and was instrumental in fostering important transnational cultural connections at the turn of the 19th and 20th c. Gradually I came to know of Diana’s own Scottish heritage, her McLeod clan identity. In 1992, we went together in a group of five, including also Manjari De, to the Sri Aurobindo ashram, Pondicherry. This was the first of several visits to India we made together. She knew many people in Pondicherry who went there from the USA or had visited earlier. One of the most interesting of these was Santosh Devdas, a diminutive old man who would come in the afternoons to sell Diana old Indian stamps and take her out to teach her photography. We used to spend many afternoons sipping Darjeeling tea in the ashram room of Nirodbaran, Sri Aurobindo’s attendant, who commended Diana for her quiet wholesome presence; and other times with Manoj Das, the famous Oriya novelist, discussing at length Diana’s two maiden attempts at juvenile literature, Fame for the Rajah and How Far is Far. Unfortunately all those who knew Diana are still figuring out how far far really is, while she who could never complete the story in life, now knows the answer. In Los Angeles, Diana would visit me at my first residence in Sylmar and both there and at the Center, during pot-lucks, she would often turn her hand to the most delicious Indian cooking. I learnt about her past as a restaurant owner with “The Road to Mandalay” and her connections during those days with Indian musicians. Once we went to visit Ali Akbar Khan’s native home in Calcutta, where we came across Ashish Khan and his mother, who cooked us a fabulous Bengali fish head lunch. Through Diana I met Barbara Hansen, a food critic of Los Angeles. Diana also had a deep interest in the Tagores and was happy to meet my mother, Abanindranath Tagore’s grand-daughter, whom she quickly befriended. Ben and my father also became friends and Diana would invite us as a family to all her family gatherings, Easter, Christmas or Thanksgiving. We came together as one big family, and I took Vicky, Louise and Sarah as my sisters. While my sister, Amrita, was in Los Angeles, Diana grew close to her too and appreciated her painting very much. Later, when she moved to the ashram in Pondicherry, she would send her paints so she could continue her art. Diana and Ben took several long driving trips with my parents and me. The most memorable trip of this kind was one to Mexico. Anyone who knew Diana even a little could not but become aware of her epic disappearances in thrift shops and second hand bookstores. Ben was undoubtedly the most long-suffering recipient of this habit as of Diana’s legendary Scottish miserliness, whose greatest target was the parking lot. Often she would make Ben park his car a mile away from the destination because there was free parking there. Even when all is forgotten, I’m sure Diana will make us laugh by reminding us of these long hours of waiting while she pored over the pages of every book in the bookstore. During this trip to Mexico, while returning, we were stopped at the border by patrolmen who wanted to see our papers. We all showed him our passports but Diana kept rummaging slowly through her handbag for what seemed an hour while a mile of cars honked away behind us and the border sentry grew more impatient by the second. Finally, he barked out “GO!” Diana raised her smiling face and said, “Officer I had a question for you.” Ben said “Never mind your question” and we sped away as fast as we could. Diana was very appreciative of the work of Judith Tyberg and the East-West Cultural Center. She believed in the great aspiration of the American counterculture and its manifestations in spiritual communities, such as Auroville. She often spoke of her dream for a cultural, spiritual and educational center, where aspiring people could join together in a common life with a higher purpose. She wanted the East-West Cultural Center to move to an appropriate space for a greater collective manifestation. When I found a large heritage house in Highland Park, with extensive grounds, she was most appreciative and felt it would be right for the future growth of Dr. Tyberg’s wishes. Alas, it was not to be and as a fall-out of my attempt to move the Center, I eventually had to leave. Diana was very concerned with what she considered the collapse of the Center, its beautiful Indological library, and the dreams of culture and higher learning it embodied. She spoke about it repeatedly and tried to shore up this purpose to some extent at 64th Street on Highland Park, where for some time we had study groups in Sri Aurobindo’s writings and where, once the cottage became available, she began furnishing a space for scholarship and sharing. I stayed in the cottage at times and we spent many magic evenings in soirees sipping fine teas and discussing epiphanies of the human spirit. Diana believed in the immortality of the soul and its evolution in complexity and wholeness through many lives. Death to her was only a shedding of the physical sheath and a transit towards a gathering of new experiences. Her radiant constant gentle happiness in life has passed unchanged to the astral plane. She valued very much the life and words of the Mother of the Sri Aurobindo ashram, who said that the best way to depart was gradually, like a tree, departing inwards with one’s life-force and capacities into another world. Diana loved trees and passed as trees do, slowly and gently in a coma. Now free of her physical bondage she is with us as her ever-smiling presence, a persistent goodwill for a future of peace and oneness. Diana thought often and highly of Auroville, the Mother’s planetary city in India, dedicated to integral spiritual growth and human unity. She passed on Auroville’s birthday. The Mother has said that the best one can do to help the soul in its continued journey after death is to quietly concentrate one’s good thoughts and love for the person. In her words, “Because when you think of her with affection (without any inner disorder, without weeping, without any of those distraught passions), if you can be calm, your atmosphere becomes a kind of beacon for her.” Let us all remember Diana’s smiling face and spend a quiet moment gathering our happy thoughts and affection for her soul which is with us now.
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vickyisat
Jul 17, 2019
In General Discussions
Dearest Diana, I have been writing you letters for over 20 years now. It has been a soothing ritual, and you have been, in a way, the person that I have confessed the most to about my worries, about my career, about my heart, about my adventures, about the garden. Since I left Montreal, I don’t really write my mother, but I have always written you. In you I found a true kindred spirit. I remember, before I became an actual published author, when it was just a dream, I was going to be a judge for the FOCAL award for the Los Angeles Public Library. You were on the board of FOCAL and it was then that our literary souls clicked and really found that we shared a great love for stories and books. In the years that followed, I have thought of you as an old school arts patron. Always understanding the ebb and flow of career trajectories and for that I will ever be grateful. I could not be an artist if not for you. One thing that I have treasured these past twenty odd years, are the occasional teas that we would take together. The ones where you shared with me the picture books that you were tinkering with writing. I know you were working on the other one recently with your granddaughter, and I love that story, but the one that I loved working with you the most on was the picture book HOW FAR IS FAR. It is the simple story of a bear who wants to go outside and whose mother says don’t go too far. Of course, the bear doesn’t know how far is too far and asks the creatures where that might be and tries to measure with the landscape around him. To the gate, to the forest, to the mountain, to the sky. I think about this story often. And I often think about that very same question, how far is far? My dearest Diana, I can hardly believe that this is my last letter to you. And I can say, with all honesty that far is wherever you are now. But I can also say with confidence that as far as you are, I also know what near is. And that is your wonderful spirit that lives hear near to my heart. I will miss you very much. I am so glad that our paths crossed. You are wonderful. Love always, Cecil Castellucci
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vickyisat
Apr 19, 2019
In General Discussions
Diana always had a love of all things from India as well as Native American culture of the Southwest, She was a docent for the Southwest Museum and collected art, books, pottery and baskets from our indigenous Southwest people and culture. She travelled to many areas throughout California and Mexico especially the Anza Borrego desert and she once insisted that my wife Coralie and I trek down the Anza Borrego trail for a wonderful holiday spent in the hills of northern Mexico. On the way back we stopped at a remote village. It was well off the beaten path and looked very unwelcoming with bandilero-wielding men seriously standing guard. Diana was unappreciative of any danger and only wanted to know where the local people’s authentic baskets and pottery might be for sale understanding the power of their art. They were very unimpressed! But that was just another testament to her unwaivering reverence for the inclusivity of all cultures. After reading many books on India Diana finally went there and travelled across India mostly by train by herself. She developed wonderful relationships with several people from India over her lifetime. Her granddaughter now lives and studies in Mumbai, India. She loved the sitar based music of Ravi Shankar and others and developed a profound knowledge and skill for Indian and East Asian cooking. She even opened a Burmese restaurant on the west side called Road to Mandalay. I think that was the movie title starring Bing Crosby and Bob Hope, a movie that both our parents were waiting to see when they met in Seattle. The restaurant was almost a success as it became known to travelers between UK and Australia and New Zealand. Her cooking was marvelous but as restaurants come and go it went as fast as city inspectors wanted it to go. My wife and I got to see the kitchen which looked very much like an authentic Indian village kitchen. We did get dragged into bussing tables there on a few occasions without tips of course (Diana’s frugalness would have made her Scottish ancestors proud) but we always loved Diana’s Indian dinners there and at her house. I wish she had written a cook book on her skills but instead she spent her writing time for school children’s books. Growing up Diana would read me children’s books and taught me how to read before I entered first grade. My earliest recollection of Diana was she was always carrying books to and from the library. Our grandmother would send books from Canada and Diana would spend hours with them and explain the contents to me. One day in 1946 our cousin Edgar Whitcomb returned from the World War II and the Pacific to our house in Vallejo. Over a few days he told us the stories that he would later write books about how he escaped from Corregidor and spent years evading the Japanese until he was captured in the Philippines. Diana was mesmerized by these stories and would retell the stories to her girlfriends at her school who were children of US Navy personnel from the Philippines who along with our father also worked at Mare Island Naval shipyard for the Navy. Diana always stayed close with her girlfriends and kept in contact with them for most of her life. She also travelled to the Philippines to embrace their culture. Diana was always protective of me as my big sister who could break up a fight I was in or help me find something I’d left on the playgrounds or hide from our father who was certain to give me a beating when I most probably deserved it. But it was her going off to college at UC Davis that influenced me more than anything else. I probably would not have thought about going to college at that time if not for Diana’s influence. She had more influence on my life than either of our parents did. My father taught me how to hunt, fish and box, and my mother taught me how to always try to be friendly but Diana taught me how to escape the confinement of a town like Vallejo to travel, to meet and enjoy other peoples engage their lifestyles and learn to love them. One day she told me I was going back to San Francisco where I was born and meet the love of my life, which I did. She will be missed profoundly by me but never forgotten.
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vickyisat
Apr 19, 2019
In General Discussions
Imagine a person who was nearly always cheerful, accepting, with a calming presence. One who inspires wonder and excitement in the smallest matters. Well, that was our mom, Diana. I’m Vicky, and our family, our dad Bernard, Louise, Raymond and Sarah, along with 8 grandchildren and a great-grandchild, are grateful that you are sharing this tribute with us. Diana was born on December 22, 1934, in Seattle, Washington. Her father, Bert Whitcomb, hailed from a large family in Hayden, Indiana and was stationed in Seattle as a seagoing Marine when he met Diana’s mother, Kathleen Elizabeth McLeod, who was studying the theater there as an aspiring actress. Her family hailed from Scotland by way of Vancouver, Canada. The family moved to San Francisco in 1937 where her father worked as a lifeguard at Sutro Baths. In1939, her brother David was born, and the family moved to Vallejo, California where her father found work in the Mare Island Shipyards during WWII. She spoke often of Vallejo- the experiences of going to neighbor’s homes and they would feed her pancakes, friends from all over the world who’s families held parties with so much joy, eating and dancing, that no one cared that the floors were bouncing up and down; playing in the yards where fish hung to dry. It was in these experiences, coupled with her love of reading, that opened a passion to explore and discover the world, even planning, in detail, a trip to Saudi Arabia with her best friend Milly. She was bitten by the love of learning and adventure, and it was at this time, she developed a love for the world and its people. After earning her college degree at UC Davis, she moved back to San Francisco and in time, married a young medical student, who she would share her life with for the next 60 years, which I might add, was with his love and support, that she was able to pursue many of her dreams. They moved to Los Angeles, and raised four lovely children (if I may say so), and she continued to grow, pursuing her masters degree in education entering into early childhood education. She continued to foster her love of learning about people, cultures and philosophies through travel, traveling extensively throughout Asia, Mexico and India, learning about their stories, art and food. Books, especially, which she saw as doorways to understanding, were collected in extensive libraries covering art, biographies, history and philosophy. Her constant and unending delight of children’s stories led to the creation of several beautiful stories: “Fame for the Rajah,” and “How Far is Far.” Not surprisingly, the lessons she conveyed involved teachable moments - the misfortune and folly of living for material greed, and the rewards of being able to see from many vantage points. She worked on a bilingual ABC book, a children’s Mexican Crafts book, Asian Vegetables and Edible Weeds, and studied the topic of Juan Bautista de Anza over several decades with the idea of conveying the notion that the successful journey to establish the inland route between New Spain and California, was a result of his good nature, respect for and cooperation with Indian nations. She was proactive in the issues that faced us. She advocated for peace, having known the ravages of war through 3 wars in her lifetime. I remember going with her on a bus to a field nearby, and we marched with people who called themselves the United Farmworkers. (She was a firm lettuce boycotter). She worked with the United Nations Association and the UNESCO Club and believed in global cooperation as the key to our survival. She worked on the first curriculum for Alternative education in LAUSD which led to the Area H Alternative School; she worked on preserving the Southwest Museum and its extensive native American collection. the Huntington Gardens and Library, the Sierra Club and was a member of the Anza Society; was one of the original members of the Friends of Children and Literature or FOCAL; She was an avid plantswoman, studying native and medicinal plants. Not only did she study and collect plants beneficial to native habitat, nutrition and health, she is recognized for introducing a variety of sage to the horticultural community in the US, Salvia melissadora. Her intense desire to learn, brought her to the benefits of meditation, being aware of the moment, and exploration of our higher purpose, which meshed perfectly with her beliefs, that we are here on the earth to love and nurture life. I always had the notion, that her birth, on the winter solstice, the longest night of the year, propelled her to seek the light throughout her life, seeking the range of colors and intensity in our world, and share it’s knowledge and beauty. But someone else noted, that perhaps that in the darkness, she dedicated her life to be a candle in the world, to share the light of love for the world and all its people. And now, she will remain a candle in the hearts and mind of everyone who came to love her. In closing, we make two requests- remember the many wonderful moments with Diana, talk about her and and the stories to keep her memory alive; Plant a garden, read a book, make a difference in your community, to keep her spirit alive.
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vickyisat
Mar 25, 2019
In General Discussions
Diana had this published in the LA Times...
Diana's Moong Dal Recipe  content media
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vickyisat
Mar 14, 2019
In General Discussions
It’s good to have you here! Feel free to share anything - thoughts, stories, memories, or pictures of Diana. We would love to hear from you...
Welcome to the Forum! content media
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vickyisat

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