Judy passed away on June 27, 2021

Hi. My name is Erin. I'm Judy's niece. My mom, Kathy, is Judy's sister. My mom couldn't be here today so we worked on a lot of this eulogy together.

I took care of Judy for the last few months of her life-she spent some of that time this spring at my farm here in Nambe and then for the last month was up in the pacific northwest, in Bellingham, WA, in the house next door to my parent's house. It's the house my grandma lived and died in.

I grew up there, so I know it well.

There are two very old and very tall western red cedars in the back yard that my sister and I long ago named Grandpa Tree and Grandma Tree. Around and under the big evergreens is a lush garden, planted with smaller trees and vines and fat-leafed perennials. It's gotten almost jungly over the years with all that northwest rain.

The houses are right on the edge of a lake, so bald eagles often perch at the top of the cedars, waiting to swoop down for a fish [or sometimes a distracted duck.]

The whole place is a bird paradise-there are wrens and robins and twohees and finches and chickadees and hummingbirds.

If Judy were here I would ask her for all the ones I'm forgetting. Judy loved birds more than anyone I know. She was a bird watcher and bird painter for almost all of her life. About every wall in my parents house has one of Judy's bird paintings. She would capture their faces and eyes with perfect, almost photographic detail but then allow the outter parts to become something more abstract and wild.

I remember one day when I was in elementary school and Judy was visiting. We were all sitting in the living room, which had a view out the back. All of the sudden, Judy jumped up and took off running. In the loudest, highest voice I had ever heard-think football coach meets scary movie scream-- she shrieked "It's a pileated woodpecker." [I'm giving you guys the adjusted sound version out of respect for your ears]

Pileated woodpeckers are huge and kind of shy-you don't see them everyday and Judy lived in LA at the time. So it would have been a rare sighting. But still. I remember being alarmed. I had never heard an adult shriek like that.

Many who knew Judy have a story of her crazy reaction to spotting this bird or that. A deep, visceral joy would just erupt out of her.

About two years ago, when Judy and Tone last visited Bellingham-you know, before the world fell apart--on the day they left two bald eagles were swooping and gliding above the cedars. A feather from one of them floated to the ground-a big perfect eagle feather. My mom plucked it off the grass and gave it to Judy to take home.

This summer, when she could still walk, she would go out in the garden and try to catch a glimpse of the eagle. She was always just missing it.

The morning of the day Judy died, my mom woke to a riotous chorus of birdsong. The eagle was perched in Grandpa tree, screeching loudly, and the smaller birds were twittering back, almost like a call and response. Even two loons on the lake pitched in with their eerie, quavery song.

My mom thought to herself "the eagle is calling Judy home." Three hours later, Judy took her last breath.

I missed it by just a few hours-Jeff and I had been back and forth between Bellingham and Santa Fe and when we pulled into the driveway that night, my mom was in the garage, and as soon as I saw her face, I knew.

A few days later, though, my mom had her book of Animal Medicine out on the kitchen counter, open to the chapter on the eagle.

In native American culture, animals are sacred. And they all have something to teach us-they are medicine. Especially if they keep showing up in our lives.

Here is the first paragraph on Eagle Medicine:

Eagle medicine is the power of the Great Spirit, the connection to the Divine. It is the ability to live in the realm of spirit and yet remain connected and balanced within the realm of Earth. Eagle soars, and is quick to observe the expansiveness within the overall pattern of life. From the heights of the clouds, Eagle is close to the heavens where the Great Spirit dwells.

I've read that Eagles have just about the best vision in the entire animal kingdom. They can see a rabbit moving from three miles away. They can see ultraviolet and infrared. It's hard for us to even imagine the world an eagle can see.

But right until the end, she could still see. And that was Judy's gift. Her animal medicine. The way she saw.

How Judy saw the world is what made her an artist, what made her Judy. Sometimes she saw things with such detail and attention, and sometimes with a sort of childlike wonder that was almost a remove, a distance. She didn't let her vision get stale like the rest of us sometimes do.

Sometimes the things she saw were kinda funny. My family has kind of addiction to dachsunds. Between my mom, sister and I, we have 7 wiener dogs. When we are all together they start to seem like an infestation.

At one holiday, amidst a literal horde of short-legged floppy-eared dogs, Judy declared that my mom's black and white doxie Ponzi "had the best set ears."

We couldn't believe it, but she was right. It's impossible now, not to notice that Ponzi has the pertest, perkiest, ears. They hang at the perfect point, right before the parabola of his head slopes down.

But who notices something like that?

One day she looked at Frank, another one of the dogs, a portly grey dachsund, and said that you would have to paint the tips of his ears in pure white. Sure enough, the light would hit his thin ears and ring them in silvery white. The rest of us saw a grey dog, and Judy saw speckles of light she would paint with the purest white.

This spring, she would sit on the portal at my house for hours, with her binoculars in her lap, staring out over the low adobe wall that circled the garden.

One day she told me that the wall glowed in the evenings. I didn't give it much thought at the time. I thought it might be a hallucination, because she was having a lot of those, or that maybe she meant something else, because she was also really struggling with memory and forgetting a lot of words.

Because this wall she was talking about, folks, is a short, fat very brown wall. Brown brown. Nothing glowy about it.

But a week or so later, I was sitting outside, at dusk, the sun was sinking low, and I watched the wall change from a stout, brown, opaque thing to a glowing circle of pink light. It was evanescent-as the sun disappeared the light seemed to come from inside the wall itself. I had been living in a halo, for years, and never even noticed until Judy came to live with me, and for a brief while, I got to see the world through her eyes.

Annie Dillard wrote a whole chapter about Seeing in her book Pilgrim at Tinker Creek. This is my favorite passage:

"It was sunny one evening last summer at Tinker Creek; the sun was low in the sky, upstream. I was sitting on the sycamore-log bridge with the sunset at my back, watching the shiners the size of minnows who were feeding off the muddy sand in skittery schools. Again and again, one fish, then another, turned for a split second across the current, and flash! The sun shot out from its silver side. I couldn't watch for it. It was always just happening somewhere else, and it drew my vision just as it disappeared: flash, like a sudden dazzle of the thinnest blade, a sparking over dun-and-olive ground at chance intervals from every direction. Then I noticed white specks, some sort of pale petals, small, floating from under my feet on the creek's surface, very slow and steady. So I blurred my eyes and gazed toward the brim of my hat and saw a new world. I saw the pale-white circles roll up, roll up, like the world's turning, mute and perfect, and I saw the linear flashes, gleaming silver, like stars being born at random down a rolling scroll of time. Something broke and something opened. I filled up like a new wineskin. I breathed an air like light; I saw a light like water. I was the lip of a fountain the creek filled forever; I was ether, the leaf in the zephyr; I was flesh flake, feather, bone."

She ends with this: "When I see this way I see truly."

Judy saw truly.

But this kind of seeing is clearly not just about our eyes, but about spirit. Being wide open to a dimension that's right on the edge of our senses. Always vanishing.

But living on that edge wasn't always easy for Judy. It's a superpower that made her sensitive and creative, but it also made her hurt, like being turned inside out. She had anxiety that would sometimes overwhelm her. She was overly hard on herself, I think, as she tried to capture the world she saw on the canvas. At one point in her life, she struggled with and then kicked alcohol addiction. Right up to the end she compulsively chewed so many nicotine gums I'm still finding them smushed in sweatshirts and tucked in cushions. Jeff and I have made an altar out of them.

But Eagle medicine says that

"It is only through the trial of experiencing the lows in life as well as the highs, and through the trial of trusting one's connection to the Great Spirit, that the right to use the essence of the Eagle medicine is earned."

One year, when I was in high school, a year or two after Judy had gotten sober, she gave my sister and I paintings for Xmas. They were our angels, she said. She had first made monoprints, pushing the paint into the paper with a press, and then she painted over the print, adding layers of color and detail. She attached little photographs she had taken of my sister and I when we were very young, in the garden, not far from Grandma tree. We were crouched in front of a tiny shrub that now dwarfed us.

My sister Monica's angel was bright and clear, with a beautifully detailed face. It had rosy cheeks and pink, carefully drawn lips and curly blond locks and a big golden halo. Her colors were luminous gold and deep yellow and bright van gogh blue. It was like a miniature of a renaissance Madonna, a tiny Titian. The title to Monica's angel painting was "Sometimes so vivid….Trust."

My angel was a wraithe. She didn't have a face. All you could see was a thin dark body with long, flowing hair. No detail, no realism. In places she almost faded into the deep red of the background behind her. But she was framed by beautiful colors-deep reds and bright reds and limey greens. When I think about it now, they are the colors of all my restaurants, my favorite colors. The title of my angel was "Sometimes a shadow….Trust."

I was a teenager when Judy gave us our angels. So I have to admit, at the time I was kinda like "why did Monica get the pretty angel???"

But Eagle Medicine says this:

Eagle teaches you to look higher and to touch Grandfather Sun with your heart, to love the shadow as well as the light. See the beauty in both, and you will take flight like the Eagle.

Judy knew-with eagle eye vision, years before I would get the message or even know I needed it-that I needed to learn to trust myself, to trust my angel, and to have faith even in darkness, in confusion, when life wasn't giving me pink lipstick. Faith wasn't always about the light.

Judy knew that if you didn't appreciate the dark, you would take the light for granted.

How Judy saw was a gift, according to Dillard the real "pearl of great price" the bible talks about.

"But although the pearl may be found" Dillard writes on "it may not be sought. The literature of illumination reveals this above all: although it comes to those who wait for it, it is always, even to the most practiced and adept, a gift and a total surprise…..I cannot cause light; the most I can do is try to put myself in the path of its beam. It is possible, in deep space, to sail on solar wind. Light, be it particle or wave, has force: you rig a giant sail and go. The secret of seeing is to sail on solar wind. Hone and spread your spirit til you yourself are a sail, whetted, translucent, broadside to the merest puff."

I think riding this "solar wind"-making herself a sail for spirit-was how Judy did her art. It was how she wrestled with the mystery that we all struggle with, sometimes.

Judy wrote on her website:

"I see our world as interconnected: every human, every animal, every blade of grass, every structure affecting the other. We are all part of one organism - the earth. I see past edges defining space...some light-filled, expansive...some emptied, leaving a darkness. This world is much bigger than I. Can I surrender myself and embrace it? May I do so with grace."

Eagle medicine says

"In learning to fiercely attack your fear of the unknown, the wings of your soul will be supported by the everpresent breezes which are the breath of the Great Spirit."

We live in a world that's obsessed with the known, with proof --likes, data, metrics, money. We don't take much on faith anymore.

We want proof, something to show for everything-even Judy, crazy-talented as she was, could be hard on herself for not having more to show for it, in the way the modern world says we should.

But Judy was never going to fit into that kind of category. She couldn't be summed up so easily, so neatly.

When I look back on the impact she and her art had on the world, on my world-EVEN THOUGH SHE WAS NEVER FAMOUS, even though SHE NEVER MADE A PACK OF MONEY FROM HER ART-I can honestly say her sheer influence was and is invaluable, unquantifiable. Like a beam of light shattered into a million billion photons. Everywhere and yet untraceable.

I can say I wouldn't be here in Santa Fe if it weren't for Judy. She had the courage to come here, and the rest of us followed.

I can say my restaurants and the thousands of experiences they've created wouldn't be the same, for me wouldn't even be imaginable, without her art.

I can say that had I not taken care of her at the end, I would never have known how much I could love, even when it was ugly and messy and hard. I found a dimension in myself I didn't know I had.

It was all that and so much more that's harder to parse. Like how all the colors she put in my angel painting way back when showed up in my restaurants.

Judy was a mystery. And she spent her life trying to embrace mystery, to accept it, to show us glimpses of it in her art. Her work had realism but also abstraction-the clear fading into the hazy, edges between things merging into oneness.

I'll finish with one last story.

Sometimes I would call Judy if I was in a pickle about this or that aesthetic conundrum at the restaurants. Once I was obsessing about whether or not the pendant lights at Modern General were hung at the absolute perfect height. So I called Judy and she met me at what was then still a construction site.

We were standing a ways back, looking at the bar pendants, when she said "Try Squinting." And so we stood there together, shoulder to shoulder, squinting.

Sometimes to see something truly you have to see less good. You have to trick yourself. I learned that from Judy.