Ventura's Western Gate

Ventura's Western Gate


catalyst |ˈkatl-ist|
a substance that increases the rate of a chemical reaction without itself undergoing any permanent chemical change.
• figurative a person or thing that precipitates an event : the governor’s speech acted as a catalyst for debate.
ORIGIN early 20th cent.: from catalysis , on the pattern of analyst.


As I stood next to a wheelchair with reclining back, which was now the principal means of conveyance for Mamie Cohen, I sort of found myself laughing a bit inside.

Today, (Monday) is her Birthday. She is 89 years old and lives at Samarkand in Santa Barbara, a beautiful and well run retirement home that offers the type of care she requires.

As I gazed at the woman who I have become acquainted with and affectionate for,  I realized that my girlfriend Donna’s Grandmother had undergone quite a transformation in these past few years. She looked beautiful and at peace. The best I have seen her appear, as if she had grown younger. The image before me made me wonder, but I already knew that inside, Mamie had changed. Her disposition was a new one to me.

Last week at an Art Show-Luau at the Stoneworks Gallery in Ventura, Donna told me how one of the dancers, a muscular tatooed man, had come up to her at the event, and in full wardrobe, said these words: “I know you! You are Mamie Cohen’s grand daughter. You need to come see her more often!”  Turns out he is one of her care givers. I had not recognized him as he coaxed Michele Chapin and others, into a dance on stage. I had been too busy laughing as I was required to race from one thing to another in what was possibly one of the most rewarding, and hectic weekends of my Photography career.  (More on that in an upcoming series of three blog posts).

Donna told me that he and Mamie had taken to watching football together. Now that was  a shocker. Mamie had been quite an Artist when she was younger. I actually have one of her paintings, a beautiful seascape of Baker Beach and the Golden Gate, in Donna and I’s home. Thinking of her watching football with a Hawaiian dancer was simultaneously incongruous and hilarious.

Michele Chapin and the Dancer

Michele Chapin and the Dancer

As the Birthday party ended at the Crane home in Montecito, Mamie turned happily to Donna and I after two choruses of Happy Birthday, and said something that made me grin: “You know? I really think I am beginning to like football quite a bit”

We seldom ever realize the affect our sharing and kindness has on others. But in this case it was an abject lesson to me of how one man, and in turn many people within a  Community, could be tremendous catalysts for healing and restoration.

As the ladies who run the Easy Lift bus came to take Mamie and her wheelchair back to Samarkand, I realized that I had needed that Birthday experience. It was an abject lesson. Everybody does indeed, matter.

Amber Dreams

Amber Dreams

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