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Vo l . 7 N o . 1 how she later taught herself counseling through endless reading and workshops. A few chapters later, I saw that she’d repeated, with different phrasing, a scene from an earlier chapter about mat therapy. In both, she resisted beating the mat and screaming out emotions and then sobbing and raging as she relived her first husband’s fist slamming into her mouth. “Leota,” I asked, “is this a mistake you didn’t edit out, or is it deliberate?” No voice responded, but again an answer slowly came. I realized that in the second scene, the resistive Leota was thinking, “Why do I have to go through this again? Wasn’t once enough?” I wrote that into the scene. The next day when I re-read it, I felt it was right. Had she guided me? Had I guided myself? Had the process of inspiration, which some writers associate with the collective unconscious, made this happen? A few more times I hit problems, asked Leota questions, and slowly felt the visceral awareness of a solution. Then I neared the end of the book and my need to communicate with her reached a desperate peak. She’d written: My mat session consisted of revisiting my baby sister’s death when I was two-years-old. What exactly happened next is unclear. I was on the mat one minute, and the next I was in an ambulance being transported to the Scottsdale hospital. No one recognized that I was in an altered state, that I was suddenly two-years-old. With hospital staff I behaved as an angry toddler would have. I complained the thermometer hurt my mouth, tried to look behind the curtains that surrounded my bed, touched and fiddled with anything I could reach. . . . Describing this later was when the feeling struck me: it was time to reclaim my birth name, Leota. Huh??? What in the world did the age two memory have to do with changing her name from Jan to Leota in late middle age? There was a missing link that wasn’t in her pages and no help came via my ESP-limited brain. How could I revise this major moment in the book if I couldn’t understand it? An aha was waiting there somewhere but I had no access to it.

75 “Leota, I don’t get this at all. Help!” I reread the manuscript, repeatedly asking her for help. No solution came. Day after painful day, I dug around, unable to figure things out. Then, one morning before dawn, bits of information I’d gleaned from Leota’s daughter and from scattered phrases from chapters marched across a stage in my waking dream. Toddler Jan, who studied her shoes and worried about the baby sister beneath freshly turned soil, was originally called Leota, a traditional name chosen by her Chickasaw grandmother. Jan’s mother disliked the name because the nickname for it was Otie. When the child was around two -- near the time of the baby sister’s death -Mother decreed that from then forward, Leota was Janet. The child imagined her Leota self beneath the soil with the baby sister. Her Jan self grew up into the adult, who later in life suffered strokes that damaged her skills and changed her from a shy, tactful person to one who, for several years, had no filter between her thoughts and her spoken words. And that meant . . . . Still in my nightgown, I rushed to my desk, read the problem passage and played with words. Confidence began to rise within me. I pulled some words from another page and threaded my new insight into Leota’s phrases: I thought about how that two-year-old child grew up into the adult Jan. The strokes had changed me. I bore only a superficial resemblance to the person named Jan who used to be the Alaskan Kubler-Ross Coordinator. My personality had undergone a major overhaul. That radical change resulted in the loss of all my close relationships except family. . . . By becoming Leota, I could accept the changed person I’d become instead of mourning the Jan I no longer was. Symbolically, she’d resurrected the Leota self that she lost around the same time as the baby sister’s death. She’d become the Leota I would meet years afterwards: the friend and writer who would entrust me with her manuscript and whose essence or influence or inspiration would rewrite it with me. Leota Hoover’s In Memorium note appears in the Winter 2014 Issue of Cirque. Her memoir is in limbo. Some family members prefer not to pursue publication at present.

Cirque, Vol. 7 No. 1  

A Literary Journal for the North Pacific Rim

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