Thursday, September 25, 2014
J. California Cooper
A most gifted storyteller and family friend passed away recently, and we are left to our lasting memories of her. Author J. California Cooper was introduced to my family by a cousin of ours who worked for one of JCC's publishers. When JCC visited our upstate New York family home she sat out on the porch and immediately began popping off stories as quickly as a rapper pops rhymes.
JCC found inspiration in the countryside, and anyone within earshot was hypnotized by her ability to paint in words her minute observations of the moment.
She'd see an old tired ant lugging its dead comrade on its back across a sidewalk and there began a story. She'd look at the old walnut and elm trees that lined our street swaying in the mountain breeze and another story would develop. Her view of the multi-colored autumn mountain with its long abandoned trolley track slithering down its summit brought out stories that had listeners envisioning Hannibal crossing the alps on elephants.
Yes, J. California Cooper could make one see, smell and taste her words as she cooked up story after story from organic, homegrown ingredients. You'd become as a child in her hands. And you'd never look at an ant, a tree or a mountain in the same dull way.
I remember visiting her in Gualala, Calif., a small coastal community up near Bodega Bay. The area looked as if it were a hidden hamlet that catered to visiting uppercrust professionals. But who would've thought that residing in one of the homes, there to write her next book, was JCC trying desperately to keep to herself and not be disturbed. When her creative juices were focused on a writing project, you couldn't just drop in on JCC. If you did you did it at your own risk.
During my visit I learned a great lesson from JCC. As we were walking around the yard to the patio area at the side of the house, she began telling the story of how she came to purchase the home. I remember that every time she spoke of the house she would reach out and touch it gently, as if touching a close friend. She explained that it wasn't so much the money that reflected her success back to her, but things she could call hers; things she could reach out and touch, feel and pass on to her family. She loved tangible things and people.
I remember her expressing her love for her daughter Paris in a way that made them seem like best friends forever. It wasn't your usual parent bragging about their child, but more like a child sharing the many ways her child-parent directs, guides and adds spice to her life. It was all love.
JCC had that artist's way of looking at everything in life. She gulped down life's nectar in pitcher fulls. I'm sure that wherever the afterlife leads her, there you'd find her encircled by a captive audience, giving a descriptive version of this new paradise she's joined and the spectacular journey that brought her there.
Farwell J. California Cooper, Dasvidaniya! (until we meet again; russian)