Jeff Spencer, webmaster
I want you to know that Sandy Rosen, Lizann's mother, is working on the latest draft of Lizann's last book project, What's Remembered, Lives, adding a prologue and epilogue to it and doing other editing work, so that it can be published. What a blessing to us all that Lizann's book will be published.
Jeff Spencer, webmaster
On May 27, 2018, Lizann Bassham died. I've written about it on the Home page of this website, but realize I never posted a reference to this here on her blog about her last writing project. And I suppose there may be some people who follow this blog, who get notifications when something is posted, so it is past time to post something here. My apologies for not doing so sooner.
I suspect it's true for all of her friends, that in the 10 months since her death, we have been remembering her. For me, Facebook's daily Memories feature brings up something almost daily — a post she made on my wall, a photo of something we did together, a post or a link that reminds me of a discussion we had. And the moon — whenever the moon is full, I think of her. And when I wish I could bitch with her about something or get her help with screwing my head on straight about something that has me bent out of shape, I miss her so deeply.
There are still days when that remembering brings me to tears. I find some comfort in the title she had tentatively given the book she never got to finish, What's Remembered Lives! The very act of laughing at a joke she posted on my facebook wall years ago, the very act of missing being able to discuss something with her, the very experiences of anger and sadness and loneliness are ways of allowing her to continue to live, if in a new way.
What's remembered lives! We will continue to remember you, Lizann!
Jeff Spencer, webmaster
It is the middle of the night and I am awake and thinking of Cinco de Mayo. The cancer seems to be a recurring theme in my blood/ancestral line that comes from Josephine Romero my great-grandma whose life I was researching before her "died of cancer of the throat" was simply a small part of her long and amazing story. That part of the story echoed through her bloodline to my cousin (her youngest child's daughter) to my Aunt Hazel (my father's sister) to Aunt Hazel's son Albert who died of squamous carcinoma... That bloodline were Californios folk who never migrated themselves, folk who arrived in California in the 1700s as citizens of Spain, then became citizens of Mexico, then U.S. citizens when gold was discovered and the American's decided this far away place at the other edge of the continent should be theirs and took it from Mexico (ironic since those ancestors brutality stole the land from and committed genocide on the indigenous population who had been here thousands of years before). We were here before Cinco de Mayo became an important celebration to folk migrating from Mexico. I understand why current immigrants make the long journey leaving family and Home and lives in their country in search of a better life. So blessings on everyone celebrating Cinco de Mayo - the descendants of those who have been here longer than any other ethnic group from Europe, blessings on those who more recently put down new roots, blessings on those who are not even hispanic but see it as a day to celebrate (like St. Patrick's day) - it is complicated in this odd time of immigration debates - but have a beer for yourself (never liked the stuff personally) or a shot of good tequila (much better but not a good mix with my cancer meds) and Happy Cinco de Mayo! (and lol rereading this I realize it is a rambling post welcome to my cancer brain).
My Great-grandma Josephine Romero Lindsey Smith had 11 children. Four of them died between 1885 and 1900 and were buried in the Laurel Hill Cemetery in San Francisco. That Cemetery was exhumed in the 1930s and most of the bodies were moved to mass graves in Colma to make room for the living. Wednesday night I'll be staying in SF it turns out almost right on top of where that cemetery used to be. That land which once held my great-grandma Josie's beloved dead, where the family would have gone with picnics so the living children could remember their dead siblings seems a perfect place for me to be as I continue this journey with cancer. When I realized the serendipity of it I was touched that the land already holds tender love and affection for my family line, as if they will be there to greet me and hold me that night, and I can remember them, both those who died so young (at birth, 7 months, 4 years, and 8 years) and those who lived on to grieve them. Gratitude to the Spirits of the Land of San Francisco, particularly that neighborhood, for holding the memory for not only my family but so many others as well.
It is no secret that we witches are deeply connected to the cycles of The Moon. We use lunar cycles to make decisions about planting and tending herbs for healing, food for nourishing our families and communities, and what kind of magic is appropriate to do personally, communally, or politically.
Right now The Moon in waning, going from bright and Full when she sits directly opposite the Sun in our sky, to completely hidden when She passes between the Sun and our home here on planet Earth. She is always there of course, but it is our perception our perspective that changes how much of Her we see. As witches we know that whether She is fully visible or completely invisible to our eyes, She is still there, powerful, beautiful, mysterious, our ally and partner in our magic.
And so this weekend as she wanes I will be working with seven other dear witches at my home to do a ritual of releasing and transforming a particular sad and painful ancestral legacy that has been in one of my familial lines for generations. A legacy of cancer.
For two years I have been uncovering a story that was hidden like the Dark Moon but still held great power over many generations of my family. This legacy comes from my great-grandma Josephine Romero Lindsey Smith’s line, has passed to her grand daughters my Aunt Hazel and cousin LuEllen, and on to my generation touching my cousin Albert and his son, AJ, and now I find has been growing in my own body.
Two years ago I begin working on researching a book about Great-grandma Josie. I had only one small court document hidden away for years by my Grandma Winnie telling the story of her family living in a refugee camp in San Francisco after the 1906 earthquake and fire, a sad story of her mother Josie dying of “a cancer of the throat” and the children being placed in orphanages.
Since then I have uncovered a long and rich story of Josie’s life as a child and youth in Alta California on Romero Hill in Spanish Town (near present day Montecito), then marrying and moving to San Francisco in the early 1880s. I have lived with her through the 1880s and 90s, and through to her death in October of 1907 through census records, newspaper articles, documents discovered at the California Historical Society in San Francisco and SF History room at the Downtown branch of the Library, hours of internet searches, history books, and novels of the times. As a witch I have tranced and danced and dreamed her story continually since I first discovered her. She has been coming alive in my DNA, in my collective ancestral memories, in the tilt of her head, the wildness of her hair, the depth of her eyes passed on to her children and their children, and their children, and sadly through the cancer cells each subsequent generation also grew in our bodies.
I feel deeply called to do this magic of legacy releasing. To fully see, acknowledge, mourn, and then release and transform this particular part of great-grandma Josie’s legacy while continuing to hold dear her life story and vibrant ancestral spirit.
I feel especially called to do this because I am a witch, surrounded by other kind, compassionate and powerful witches. I feel especially called to do this because I discovered that I was born in a hospital in San Francisco on October 23rd 1959 that came to be through the merger of several hospitals including the one where Josie died on October 25th 1907. I feel especially called to do this because I discovered that the new Mission Bay Campus of UCSF Medical Center where I began the journey of my own cancer treatment was built exactly over the spot where Josie and her family lived after the 1906 Earthquake and Fire. I feel especially called to do this because my cousin LuEllen, from another part of the state and I ended up at UCSF on the same day at the same time, she ending her treatments, me going into them, both of us determined to change the outcome of the story. I feel especially called to do this to honor Josie, who died of “a cancer of the throat”, my Aunt Hazel who died of a cancer in her throat, my Cousin Albert who died of cancer in his face and neck, my cousin LuEllen who survived and Albert’s son AJ who survived, and my current experience of cancer in my face and neck. I feel especially called to do this for all of us and for generations of descendants.
And so on Sunday I will gather physically with six witches and one from a distance astrally to do magic under the waning Moon, to do magic of ancestral release and healing. Our intention will be: "With love and compassion we see the ancestral legacy of cancer in Lizann's family and body and release it to be transformed by The Elements with gratitude for the wisdom it gave.” We will call on my dear allies The Moon, the compassionate Jesus, his mother as The Virgin of Guadalupe, The Celtic Goddess Brigid, the Norse Trickster God Loki, my ancestors and all their descendants. We will ground, cast a circle, open ourselves to the transformative power of Air, Fire, Water, Earth and Center/Spirit/Mystery. We will chant and drum, pour libations of whiskey, and trance and dance and laugh and release this multi-generational legacy with gratitude for the wisdom it gave.
If you would like to join us in this work and magic in spirit I invite you to light a candle, pour a shot, say a prayer, kiss a beloved from anywhere, anytime because what happens between the worlds is timeless and knows no bounds of geography and I and my ancestors would be grateful to you for adding to the magic.
Blessings on all our ancestral legacies may we come to release and transform the painful parts, and embody the joy and wisdom of the whole of it.
The significance that for the past two years I have been researching and writing the story of my great-grandma Josie who died in October of 1907 of "a cancer of the throat" and that I have now been diagnosed with squamous cel cancer in my cheek and two lymph nodes in my neck is for me profound. There is a multigenerational legacy of ancestral trauma in my family, one that I now see, and am working to transform. Until I began to uncover great-grandma Josie's story I had no idea that I had been born in October of 1959 at a hospital which traced it's roots back to the same hospital in San Francisco where she died in October of 1907. Until I started working on this story I had no idea that the UCSF Mission Bay hospital where I will have my surgery to separate my cancer cells from the rest of my body was built directly on the same spot that my great-grandma Josie and her family (including my grandma Winnie) lived in a refugee camp after the 1906 earthquake and fire which destroyed their south of market neighborhood. This will make one hell of a last chapter to the book I am writing about my great-grandma Josie and finding her story and living how this part of her story, her DNA, this painful part of the legacy impacted her descendants (my Aunt and cousin died of similar cancers). It is my intention to honor the lives of my great-grandma Josie and my Aunt Hazel and my Cousin Albert in the living of my own life, and to transform this multigenerational legacy of trauma.
Research for this book has sent me down some interesting topics. After a mention that a swarm of earthquakes that plagued San Francisco in the 1890s may have been triggered by the billions of metric tons of earth washed into the bay from hydraulic mining in the Sierras in the 1880s putting intense pressure on the existing fissures and faults, I began reading about human induced seismic incidents (human caused earthquakes) all over the globe. It turns out the building of dams and subsequent weight of the reservoirs/lakes they create are a common trigger resulting in some particularly devastating earthquakes in China, and the 1975 Earthquake in the Oroville, CA area. Oklahoma and other US states have experienced swarms of human caused earthquakes more recently because of practices related to the oil and gas industries. Who knew researching a book about my great-grandma in the late 1800s would result in my spending hours on science and government geological sites looking at human induced seismic incidents. May our species learn to tread a bit lighter on this earth.
Working on Josie's story finds me immersed in the politics of San Francisco and the USA in the 1880s and 1890s - how did I not know that in most of the States in the American West women got the vote as early as the 1890s, way before the 19th Amendment in 1920 which finally gave all women over 21 the vote? Shout out to Wyoming by the way which came in as a State with the right to vote for women in their constitution and had given women that right in 1869 when it was a territory! In California it was 1911 after an amendment to the state constitution failed in 1896 because the Liquor Association convinced men in the cities to vote it down (the rural areas voted overwhelmingly to give women the vote, but like now there are more folk in the cities which generally carries Statewide politics). Reading the newspaper accounts at the time it looks like poor women, like Great-grandma Josie in the South of Market slum worked for that 1896 ballot initiative even as many poor men opposed it. Blessings on all the women and men who worked tirelessly for decades to give women the right to vote. May I never ever take this history for granted and always exercise my hard won right to vote.
Spent the evening reading "A Report Upon a System of Sewerage for the City and County of San Francisco" from 1899 as research for my new book. No surprise that the slum where my great-grandma Josie and her family lived at the time had some of the worst conditions which contributed to routine epidemics of "sewer" related diseases that claimed the lives of countless poor children and adults. It is amazing to me that even now in 2017 poor rural areas and poor urban neighborhoods are still far more likely to have water and sewer related illness and deaths because of politics. Blessings on the descendants of those who lived to find better conditions, blessings on those still living with horrible health conditions based on income.
After over a year of research, both historical and deeply spiritual, I'm starting to write my next book based on the life of my great-grandma Josephine Juarez Romero Lindsey Smith (Josie) and her family. They lived "South of the Slot" in San Francisco in the late 19th century and through the 1906 earthquake and fire. She had 11 children, seven of whom lived to be adults. Her life had been forgotten but now she lives and speaks through my heart and imagination and DNA. Please wish me well as I start the writing part of what has already been a remarkable relationship with Grandma Josie and her life and spirit.