BY BARBARA FURNISS
Mary Diamond’s intense desire to promote healing of individuals, and ultimately of the whole planet, resulted in a powerful vision. Long in the making, it took shape after she attended the Spiritual Unity of the Tribes Gathering in 1992. Inspired by ancient traditions of Native American Indians, she envisioned Gatherings during which the Elders, or “Spiritual Grandmothers,” would form a central core for the younger participants. These large events were to take place during the week of the October Full Moon.
Her vision drew on her own life experiences and a deep spirituality, Which followed no set creed, but was firmly grounded in her faith in God. Other roots can be found in her courage and willingness to risk; in her travels, especially to Findhorn; in a belief in the goodness and unity of all creation; in her great love of the LAND.
“TODO POR LA PACHAMAMA ... POR LA MADRE TIERRA!”
Mary, always a teacher, experimented with different techniques and practices in workshops at her center, “Cielo en Tierra” (Heaven on Earth).
The Grandmothers Gatherings benefited from these experiences, as she introduced rituals and ceremonies; communing with Nature; creating with clay, paint, found objects and words; altered states of consciousness achieved not with drugs but with meditation, chanting, dancing and drumming.
Participants at the Gatherings would learn the power of CIRCLES, a non-hierarchical way of listening and decision-making.
The first Grandmother Gathering did not have an easy birth. After its long period of gestation, Mary invited trusted friends to meet with her and explore possibilities together. Many moons waxed and waned as the meetings continued. The ideas poured out in such profusion that, lacking the backup of a continuous on-site office staff, the end result of the meetings was often frustration and confusion.
In August of 1994, with only six weeks remaining before the October opening, crucial decisions had to be made. Then, as often happened in Mary’s life, the right person took over. Nancy Masland pulled the plans together using her amazing organizational, decision-making abilities in her beautiful heartfelt way.
The first Grandmother Gathering took place at Cielo en Tierra right on schedule. A professional video shows interviews with some of the sixteen elder women who were central figures of the Gathering. They came from distant places ... England, Alaska, the East and West coast of the U.S., as well as Arizona. In the film they speak with eloquence and dignity about their lives and convictions; and their beauty is framed by the peaceful backgrounds of Cielo en Tierra’s river, the yurt’s interior, and the entrance to the straw-bale house.
The first Grandmother Gathering was considered a success, and it provided the basis for planning the second Gathering the following year. A larger meeting place had to be found, with sufficient housing and spacious outdoor areas. The Inn at the Biosphere in Oracle, Arizona, looked ideal. It had comfortable rooms, a professional kitchen, a big patio with tables, and a level front lawn with a spectacular view of a mountain-ringed untamed valley. The glass sheen of the huge, experimental Biosphere glistened in the sunlight just a short distance away. It was beautiful to see, when the tribe from Oregon arrived and they set up their fine, tall tepees near the looming futuristic structure.
The women once again arrived from places near and far, and the Inn’s small lounge took on a carnival atmosphere as they settled in. Tables were set up, piled high with beautiful handcrafts. Women played, heard speakers, and received information about the scheduled events. At each meal time, Jackie Blue filled buffet tables with delicious dishes for vegetarians and non-vegetarians alike.
During the following year, Mary showed alarming symptoms; and tests revealed a tumor on her brain. Doctors were unable to do anything to ease the intermittent, excruciating pain on one side of her head.
Mary’s daughter Jeanne was managing Cielo en Tierra, and she found Ava Brady who would come all the way from Bisbee and give Mary massages and a nerve remedy that brought miraculous relief from pain.
Planning was soon underway for the 1996 gathering. Vivian Mayer agreed to organize and supervise the proceedings, and Judy O’Leary was later brought on as her assistant.
For that Gathering, Mary and I were roommates. I helped Mary unpack and was startled by her fatigue and forgetfulness. She had suffered a severe seizure during the previous week, and for a while her attendance at the Gathering seemed unlikely. However, the next morning she was her usual energetic self. She insisted that I get out of my warm sleeping bag to look at the glorious, rosy sunrise. I still remember the magnificent sight: snow in Central Arizona in October ! Impossible! The energy of the Gathering was amazing: Megan Garcia gave an inspirational talk about the creation of her large figures know as “Megan Dolls.” Workshops proliferated in various parts of the campground ...Shirley Tassencourt led a group working with clay; Cora Miller, nearing 80, once again taught the grace and beauty of the dance movement. The poets huddled in the poetry corner, the dramatists worked on their plays. Cara Hay had come from England to share an account of the pilgrimage which Mary had helped to plan. Once again Jackie provided luscious meals. We formed circles for ceremonies, we listened and learned! The Tarahumara drum came to life under Tara Root’s rhythmic hands. Elder Silvia Wallulatum sat in her wheel chair. It was a blessing to be in her presence.
On the last night, we sat together watching Maya Levy’s moving drama in which each woman stepped forward and spoke about humorous o shattering events that had affected their life. I was satisfied to end this beautiful evening and went of to bed. Not Mary. Hildegard Reinhart from Germany had written a play, which was presented in the dining hall. Mary woke me at midnight to tell me I had missed something wonderful!
According to her, Shirley, as a Jaguar, had stolen the show! Every Grandmother Gathering since then has had its own kind of energy. That was especially true for the 4th Gathering in October, 1997, which took place a few weeks after Mary’s memorial service.
Outwardly the Gathering was not much different. It was well organized and held in a comfortable private ranch in Dragoon, Arizona. Grandmothers Allegra, Shirley and Kit taught and led circle discussions and ceremonies. Energy and imagination produced a lively pageant. The full moon came up as promised, lighting up the black sky behind the massive rocks of Texas Canyon. It was fine, but for many of us, there was what Mary’s daughter Jeanne described as ”the presence of an absence” ...That ... we could not change ...
Remembering Mary, 2007
by Barbara Furniss (1921-2008)