"WATERMELON GIRL, WATERMELON GIRL, SOFT AND ROUND, STRONG AND TRUE. WATERMELON GIRL, WATERMELON GIRL, I LOVE YOU."
I met Angeles Arrien – literally and figuratively – at a threshold in San Salvador. We were walking through a doorway from opposite directions. She was a tiny, lively presence with a brilliant smile and raven hair. I was three times her height, preoccupied, worried I had come to the wrong place. "I'm Angeles Arrien," she said. "Thank you for all the work you are doing in the world."
Did she know I had come from frozen Canada to this tiny Caribbean island drawn there by an intuitive force I did not understand, but obeyed? Did she know I needed to face some big questions about my work, that I had lost my way? Sensing I was home and touched by the warmth of her greeting, I burst into tears. It was like meeting a lost sister, one who had been nothing more than a rumor, a dream fragment, now standing there in front of me. "I'm here to learn from you," I said blubbering. "I know, she said patting my arm. "I've been waiting for you. You're late."
That was the beginning of a twenty-year apprenticeship, friendship, and teaching partnership. "There are only two purposes for human beings – to love and to create," she would say. "That makes everything simple. Don't forget."
Watching her at close range, as I did for two decades, made such forgetfulness impossible. Everyone was important to her. A young women waiting on tables in a restaurant in Peterborough, New Hampshire became the recipient of a scholarship to college; a homeless woman begging in Union Square found comfort and financial support from a new best friend; an unknown poet found an early champion and the encouragement to gain international acclaim.
Angeles Arrien loved life and created everywhere she went. For forty years she impacted the world with joy, curiosity, insight, and compassion. This tiny force of nature died April 24th, 2014 of pneumonia. She was just 74. Countless friends, colleagues, readers, and legions of students will miss her.