The Magical Healing Powers of Cats

It has been 3 weeks since I have been able to see my mother because I was traveling out of the country as our book was being printed in Istanbul, Turkey. Every night I call the nurses station and one of the nurses brings her cell phone into my mother’s room. “Where are you?” she asks me. She knows something is wrong because I visit her multiple times every week. It’s been so hard not seeing her. I can’t imagine how hard it must be on her, as my sister and I frequently visit her. I was thinking how we are all being asked to not leave home. My mother has been forced to do this for the past forty years so I can do it for a month or two, if need be, for the highest good of all concerned.

Last night on Twitter I read about a man whose mother is in a nursing facility who just tested positive for #covid. She has a cough and slight fever. Her nursing home is under quarantine too and they can only see her through a window. He said she loves cats and to please post photos so he can print them and paste them in her window. And, that made me cry. So, here I am posting photographs of cats and thinking of this stranger and what he must be going through,not being able to visit her mother, knowing she is not feeling well.

Years ago I photographed the cats at my mother’s facility because she loves cats too and I hung pictures of them all around her walls. Here are some of the cats. I hope Michael doesn’t get jealous I am posting this, I don’t think he will.

I think cats are magical creatures, I do. I knew someone who once told me not to post cats photos because it wasn’t cool. Here’s to not being cool.

I made these photos years ago, not to worry that I’m out and about. Back in the days where I was photographing with a Canon 5DIII, for you gear geeks. Notice I don’t go on and on about gear. Because photography is not about which piece of equipment you used. It’s about understanding light, composition, timing, intuition and it’s the soul of the person creating the photographs.

One of the gifts of being in self quarantine since returning from Barcelona, Spain and Istanbul is having more time to read and create blogs. Prayers for the elders and everyone on earth.

One of the wonderful cats at my mother’s nursing home.

This one reminds me of Jackson, who was Michael’s brother.

This is one of marvelous fountains at the facility where my mother lives. We have spent many hours sitting here, just listening to the water flow and watching the hummingbirds stop for a drink. It’s magical just being present with her.

Scardy cat.

Who’s your mom?

My Mother’s Dolls part 3

My Mother’s Dolls part 3

This project began organically in December 2009 as a way for me to get to know the mother I truly never knew. The camera brought me connection and separation, all at once. I was given the gift of intuitive observance and another gift of recording that observance. I learned to be bold and vulnerable simultaneously. Eight years later, I am continuing my photo essay on my mother called He Threw the Last Punch Too Hard. It’s as if the project took on a life of its own once I started. I sometimes wonder if genetic memory of being a second-generation Holocaust survivor triggered my need not only to recognize but also to spend years of my life creating photos, editing those photos and turning this project into a book, to help tell this story of a social injustice — domestic violence — about which more stories need to be told.

I dreaded being indiscreet, but invading my mother’s and my privacy was the only way to tell this story. I am sharing my mother with the larger audience because eventually publishing a book on her story would be a small victory. She instills such hope in me. I am witness to her heart and her immense reservoir of compassion for humanity. Her entire being is imbued with the quiet principles of spirituality: living in the moment, being non judgmental, forgiving, and kind.

My father used to tell me that what happened to his family and the Jews in Europe in World War II could easily happen again. So I question everything and that’s part of my storytelling aim as a photographer: questioning and sharing. We are only here for a short time so part of my goal is to create something positive for humanity. I love photography because each person will interpret an image through their own individual eyes. Ernest Hemingway said we should write hard and clear about what hurts. I believe this translates to all art forms. This blog is part three of My Mother’s Dolls. It’s an edit of my mother with various dolls she loves, that keep her company day and night.

© hannah kozak
May 16, 2014
© hannah kozak
26 May 2014
© hannah kozak
23 Nov 2014
© hannah kozak
8 December 2014
© hannah kozak
8 March 2015
© hannah kozak
4 April 2015
After moving into new facility.
@ hannah kozak
17 April 2015
@ hannah kozak
23 April 2015
With Olivia and baby Olivia
@ hannah kozak
13 June 2015
@ hannah kozak
14 June 2015
@ hannah kozak
19 June 2015
@ hannah kozak
22 June 2015
@ hannah kozak
12 July 2015
@ hannah kozak
12 July 2015
@ hannah kozak
22 July 2015

As a bittersweet sidenote, I was awarded the Julia Margaret Cameron Award, 6th Edition, 1st Prize – single Documentary photo from my series on my mother —
He Threw the Last Punch Too Hard.

This project also made it to the finalists for the CDS/Honickman, Duke University 1st Book Prize in Photography 2014.

And, this project make it to semi-finalists for the CDS/Honickman, Duke University 1st Book Prize in Photography, 2016.

Early this week I asked my mother what she does every night. She said “I pray to G-d to help me.” “To help me with happiness, I don’t know how to explain.” And then she said “The hardest part of my life is accepting things.” “I want to be like you, Hannah. I want to walk.”

My Mother’s Dolls part 3

Favorite love songs, artists and inspirations


My favorite photographers:

Diane Arbus ( 1923-1971)

Pronounced Dee-Ann, She was a privileged child, raised with her two siblings in large apartments on Central Park West and Park Avenue. She later told Studs Terkel, for his Hard Times: An Oral History of the Depression , “I grew up feeling immune and exempt from circumstance. One of the things I suffered from was that I never felt adversity. I was confirmed in a sense of unreality.” I think her work is still problematic for many because she crossed boundaries by making friends and photographing “freaks.”

Diane ArbusChild-with-a-toy-grenade-in-Central-Park-NYC-1962-C-The-Estate-of-Diane-Arbus-582x584

Ruth Bernard (1905-2006)

There is no finer photographer of the female nude. When she met Edward Weston on the beach in Santa Monica, she was overwhelmed by his photos and said “Here before me was indisputable evidence of what I had thought possible – an intensely vital artist whose medium was photography. ”

Ruth Bernhard -  Classic Torso with hands - 1952
Ruth Bernhard – Classic Torso with hands – 1952
Ruth Bernhard - In The Box- Horizontal , 1962
Ruth Bernhard – In The Box- Horizontal , 1962

Francesca Woodman (1958-1981)

Her career was brief but extraordinary. Born to a family of artists, she started photographing at the age of 13. She worked in black and white, frequently made self-portraits, or other young women, nude. What’s astonishing is she completed nearly all the work in her catalogue as a student.  After living in Rome, Rhode Island and New York, she felt her art wasn’t being taken seriously and her boyfriend broke up with her. Woodman committed suicide at the age of 22.

Francesca Woodman, Rhode Island
Francesca Woodman, Rhode Island
Francesca Woodman - House #3, Providence, Rhode Island, 1976
Francesca Woodman – House #3, Providence, Rhode Island, 1976

Melvin Sokolsky

Melvin was creating inventive photographs that boggled the mind, long before Photoshop existed.  He floated models down the Reine,creating The Bubble Series for Harpers Bazaar magazine in 1963.He suspended the models with a crane using an eight-inch aircraft cable and tested models to see who he could hang. He reminds me of some of the good stunt coordinators I worked for over the years.  The first time I saw his photos, I stopped dead in my tracks at A & I Photo.

Melvin Sokolsky-Bubble on the Seine
Melvin Sokolsky-Bubble on the Seine

My favorite artists:

Robert Cardinal

I fell in love with the simplicity of his paintings the first time I visited Cape Cod. Just like a good photographer, Robert searches for the light and usually paints at sunrise or sunset. His paintings have been described as Edward Hopper gone color ballistic. I love his skies of purples and oranges, isolated beaches, and lonely Cape homes.

Robert Cardinal - Stage Harbor Light - 30" x 20"
Robert Cardinal – Dory at Pamet, 11″ x 14″
Robert Cardinal - Beach Cottages - 10" x 20"
Robert Cardinal – Beach Cottages – 10″ x 20″
Robert Cardinal - Stage Harbor Light - 30" x 20"
Robert Cardinal – Stage Harbor Light – 30″ x 20″

Mark Ryden

His art is beautiful, while aiming at darker psychic stuff beneath the surface of cultural kitsch. He’s been called the godfather of pop surrealism,  inspired by old toys, stuffed animals, skeletons, and religious ephemera found in flea markets. Michael Jackson commissioned Mark to create the cover for his 1991 Dangerous album.

Mark Ryden -Blood
Mark Ryden – Blood – 2005 – oil on board
Michael Jackson-Dangerous by Mark Ryden
Michael Jackson-Dangerous by Mark Ryden
Mark Ryden -Dead_Characters
Mark Ryden – Dead Characters – 1997- oil on panel

Remedios Varo (1908-1963)

Born in Spain and died in Mexico. Spanish-Mexican surrealist painter and anarchist. I think she is one of the greatest artists in the 20th century along with Leonora Carrington.

Remedios Varo- Creation of the Birds
Remidios Varo: Creation of the Birds

I especially like the violin hanging where her heart should be.

remedios_varo_Revelation of the Clockmaker, 1955
Remedios Varo- Revelations or The Clockmaker, 1955

Leonora Carrington (1917-2011)

led a life almost as surreal as her art. Born in England, she was expelled from two schools for rebellious behavior, my kind of girl. She saw her first surrealist painting in a Left Bank gallery when she was ten years old. Even though she found little encouragement from her family to forge an artistic career, a curator at Tate Modern, helped to champion her work through Edward James, who arranged a show of her work. She saw Max Ernst’s work and was attracted to him before she actually met him. Not only did they collaborate on sculptures to decorate their home, they supported each other’s artistic development. Sounds like a dream relationship to me. Unfortunately Ernst was arrested during the Nazi occupation of France and after escaping, Peggy Guggenheim arranged for him to come to America. Carrington was so devastated by his arrest that she had paralyzing breakdowns and was institutionalized for three years. After Ernst married Guggenheim, Carrington wrote a book called Down Below, about the events of her psychotic experience. From painting to writing, all art is healing.

Leonora Carrington -Self portrait
Leonora Carrington – Self Portrait
Leonora Carrington_Adieu Ammenotep
Leonora Carrington – Adieu Amenhotep, 1955

In this piece four priestess perform a surgery on a levitating Amenhotep (the first monotheistic pharaoh) whose wound is in the shape of  a lotus flower. Men wearing priests’ hats sit in the gallery to watch the performance. The compasses along the box signify a magic transformation. The dish in the foreground, which is presumably used to collect an extracted organ, contains a small lizard.

Carrington believed that monotheism was the root of a patriarchal society, thus the priestesses are extracting that root through a magical surgery. In her later years Carrington wrote that “a woman shouldn’t have to demand rights. The rights were there from the beginning, they must be taken back again, including the mysteries which were ours and which were violated, stolen or destroyed.”

Leonora Carrington_kron flower 1987

Kron Flower – Carrington understood that women were to maintain your youth at all costs’ meaning maintain your sexual desirability at all costs. But then she ruthlessly mocks those women who cannot resist the shame-inducing admonitions of the culture and feel the need for excessive make-up, a face-lift or to still dress in tight, provocative clothing.

Frida Kahlo  (1907-1954)

I love Frida because she transformed her suffering and pain into remarkable art. She is best known for her self portraits and said “I paint myself because I am so often alone and because I am the subject I know best.” While it is easier to hide, it has been widely accepted that an artists’ best work is his or her most personal. Frida was not scared about showing her pain, soul, and fears in her art. Every great artist comes bearing the gift of their soul.

Frida Kahlo – The Suicide of Dorothy Hale – 1938/1939

This is one of Frida’s most shocking and controversial paintings.  Dorothy Hale was an aspiring actress who was unable to find work and left financially dependent on her wealthy friends after her husband’s death. She killed herself by jumping off a New York city building. Clare Boothe Luce requested a painting for Dorothy Hale’s mother. Hale was known to have said “I would not have requested such a gory picture of my worst enemy, much less of my unfortunate friend. Kahlo painted actress Dorothy Hale not only as she jumped but fell, and landed, dead and bloody on the concrete walk outside her apartment building. The blood-red lettering at the bottom of the retablo details the tragedy in Spanish. Luce’s response was to destroy the painting but her friends dissuaded her. What Luce didn’t know was that at the time that Kahlo painted this, she was in a desperate state of mind over losing Diego and was having repeated thoughts of committing suicide.

My favorite artist ever:

Michael Jackson (1958-2009)

Michael’s calling was clear. He would dance to the rhythm of the rickety Maytag washing machine when he was on the floor wearing his diaper and holding his little bottle. His art beckoned him and whether it was putting pen to paper, a song to the ethers, his brush to a palette or his feet to dancing, he had no choice. His passion called him and he listened in return. He put his soul out there and was courageous about his art because he believed his gift came from G-d.  The soul of art is the art of soul. Here is a video by a fan who puts together MJ videos and does the finest job of remixing videos that I’ve seen. Yes, that’s Sheryl Crow at 1:32!

Hannah Kozak - Inspiration 1
© hannah kozak – Inspiration 1
hannah kozak - inspiration 2
© hannah kozak – inspiration 2

My favorite love songs

1. You’re Just Too Good To Be True – Lauryn Hill

2. Come Pick Me Up – Ryan Adams

3. Ain’t No Mountain High Enough – Diana Ross

4. To Have and Not To Hold – Madonna

5. Nobody – Kate Earl

6. All In Love Is Fair – Stevie Wonder

7. You’re The Best Thing That Ever Happened To Me- Gladys Knight

8. Anyone Who Had a Heart -Shelby Lynne

9. Soul Mate -Natasha Bedingfield

10. I’ll Be Near You – Ivy

11. Looking For The Right One – Art Garfunkle

12. You’re the First, the Last, My Everything – Barry White

13. Could It Be I’m Falling In Love – The Spinners

14. If I Were Your Woman – Gladys Knight

15. When You Really Love Someone – Alicia Keys

16. Fall Again – Michael Jackson

Content individually copyrighted by each photographer.

Man’s truth lies in what he hides.

–Andre Malraux

Elephants: Watch, Learn, Love: Michael Jackson, Mark Ryden and the number 7

I visited Robert Berman’s Gallery in Santa Monica for the Paid to Play opening show featuring rare art pieces Robert magically assembled from 1945-1985. Berman’s collection is an overview of the often overlooked Southern California artists rooted in illustration, commissioned to create imagery for record albums, magazines, advertisements, et al.  The genre is commercial but still full of innovation, technique and artistic expression.There was a nice sized crowd gathered at the entrance sipping glasses of pinot noir and tonic water. I made my way past a group of people and found myself starting at a painting I had never seen before. I stopped, absolutely in my tracks, when I saw a painting of Michael Jackson and Lisa Marie Presley.  Before I even saw the small “Ryden” signature in the right hand corner, I knew it was one of his creations.

Mark Ryden's Michael Jackson painting

I’m a huge fan of both Mark Ryden and Michael Jackson so it was a genuine thrill to see a painting of MJ done by Ryden. By the way, Michael was a huge fan of Ryden as well. He commissioned Ryden to pain his 1991 Dangerous album cover. I was so taken with the painting that I drove home fast, and people who know me know I don’t drive fast, and wrote to Ryden. Not an email, I wrote Ryden an actual, old-fashioned letter. I hope he answers so I don’t have to guess about the meaning of his painting. He’s answered other letters of mine so there’s a good possibility he’ll answer this one.

It’s the most provocative of Ryden’s creations that I’ve seen. I believe the painting was done sometime in the early 80’s. It shows Michael as a rat and I think he’s depicted with Lisa Marie Presley; who eventually broke his heart when she changed her mind about having children with him. If anyone has any information about this painting, please leave a comment. I have written to various art galleries but I have not received any information.

Michael’s first #1 solo hit was Ben; a song about a rat. Michael loved rats and all animals from the time he was a young boy and had many as pets. Three year old Michael was even feeding a mouse by hand that lived behind the refrigerator at their home at 2300 Jackson Street. His mother screamed, Joseph would curse and and Michael would quietly slide away.  I’m curious why Ryden paints Michael as a rat. Was it because our society treated him like an animal that was part of a test tube experiment? How much fame can one person handle before becoming a bit of a caged animal having to create a self contained Neverland world so he wouldn’t have to go out and be mobbed everywhere he turned?

Michael’s lyrics had a spiritual message and his life a grand spiritual meaning. He believed in the power of numbers, as does Mark Ryden. Ryden said, “I love numbers. If I hadn’t pursued art my next choice would have been math or science. Unfortunately, the adage if you don’t use it you lose it applies. I am not where I was in college, but I still love numbers, math, and numerology, and it ends up in my art. Every number has a connotation and a specific energy to it. I keep lists of things that come in each number – 3 graces, 4 elements, 5 senses, 12 apostles, etc. Each number has a life of its own.”

Most MJ fans know about Michael’s belief in the number 7. On the cover of History, he has a little arm-band with three 7’s. In order for me to see it, I had to use an Agfa Lupe, which has 8 x magnification. I set up some lights to photograph the cover to show you the  “777”.

Michael Jackson - History CD cover - note the "777" on his arm band

The metallic plated leg guards Jackson wore during his 1996-1997 ‘HIStory’ World Tour had a raised number ‘7’ etched on the lap on either side. He even wore “777” during his highly publicized witch hunt-trial in 2005. Could his world-wide success have manifested in part because he lived by and physically incorporated his belief about 7 into his life?

One of the dancers in the Smooth Criminal video even calls out “7” at 2:55. By the way, Michael made the decision in tears to leave the church of Jehovah’s Witnesses during the filming of Smooth Criminal. He was given strict rules after the first day of filming and this was verified by his make-up artist/hair dresser. His options were to either leave the entertainment industry or the church for firing a gun during the filming.

Michael Jackson was quite verbal about his personal belief and faith in G-d. I’m wondering if he focused on ‘7” because it appears in the Bible many times.  The number of perfection is widely held to be the number ‘7’, God’s number. G-d rested on the seventh day according to the book of Genesis. Michael’s day of rest of Sundays consisted of a complete fast and he would dance until he could no longer stand. Could the 7 be completion of work? MJ had a strong work ethic instilled in him initially from his father Joseph and later from Berry Gordy, his “father” at Motown. The other idea of completion within the Bible comes from the death of Lamech who was apparently 777 years old when he died. This is the only occasion in the Bible where we see ‘777’ like this. The Apostle Peter asked Jesus how many times he would have to forgive someone who had done wrong against him. “I tell you, not just seven times, but 77 times” was Jesus’ answer.

“Dancing the Dream” is Michael’s book of poetry and his reflections of life; published in 1992. In it he wrote: “So the elephants march on, and every tread beats out words in the dust: “Watch, learn, love. Watch, learn, love.” Can you hear them? One day in shame, the ghosts of ten thousand lords of the plains will say, “We do not hate you. Don’t you see at last? We were willing to fall, so that you, dear small ones, will never fall again.” He understood the concept, the guiding principle of the sutras of the Age of Aquarius which is simply to Recognize the Other Person is You. He believed we could work together to make ourselves better, that we should treat each other with respect. Most importantly of all, he practiced forgiveness. He forgave his accusers Jordy Chandler, or rather Evan Chandler and Gavin Arvizo or Janet Arvizo, of all their proven lies.  He created soldiers of L.O.V.E.

In Another Part of Me, it feels almost as if he is a leader asking his foot soldiers to bring his message forward:

“We’re sendin’ out a major love

And this is our message to you (message to you)

The planets are linin’ up

We’re bringin’ brighter days

They’re all in line waitin’ for you

Can’t you see . . .?

You’re just another part of me

Another part of me.”

It is possible that Michael’s fascination and belief in 7 was his way of acknowledging the presence of G-d in his life and especially in times of personal trouble. He gained so much strength by his passionate belief in a higher power. Here are some more tidbits about the number 7 in regards to Michael.

— Michael Jackson was the 7th of 9 children.

— Michael Jackson signed his will on 7/7/02. (Personally I think the will was hijacked and perhaps even fake but that’s another blog)

— Michael Jackson’s memorial was on 7/7/09 … exactly years after the will was signed.

— Michael Jackson’s two biggest hits — “Black & White” and “Billie Jean” — were each #1 for 7 weeks.

— Michael Jackson’s three biggest albums — “Thriller,” “Bad” and “Dangerous” — each produced 7 top 40 hits.

— Michael Jackson was born in 1958 … 19 + 58 = 77

— Michael Jackson died on the 25th … 2 + 5 = 7

— Michael Jackson has 7 letters in his first and last name.

— His last 3 albums were all nearly 77 minutes in length: Dangerous: 76:58 History: 77:06 (Disc two) 71:39 (Disc one) Invincible: 77:08. This could be a coincidence since the length of cd’s in the nineties was around 80 minutes.

–Conrad Murray was convicted of involuntary manslaughter over the death of Michael Jackson on 11/7/11. Personally I think he committed voluntary murder.

-Conrad Murray was sentenced to four years in prison on 11/29/11.  9 – 2 = 7.

Michael believed part of his destiny was to bring joy to people as well as practice forgiveness over and over. He sang he was “Unbreakable” and said he had rhinoceros skin. I believe that his steadfast belief in G-d helped him through the unique struggles he faced as he climbed the ladder of success and was greeted by jealous people along the way; people who suffered from Tall Poppy Syndrome. Furthermore, I am certain racism was clearly at work. Marginalize the black artist, reduce his wildly successful economic power and ability to influence people as he was a cultural game changer. Maybe even destroy his assets i.e.: AEG/Sony catalogue because of the jealousy that Michael could wield such power.  These people’s biggest goal was to see that the poor Afro American boy from Gary, Indiana who became the most successful entertainer in the world, would fall from grace. Michael believed he was sent to earth as a mission from G-d. He said “I must seek truth in all things. I must endure for the power I was sent forth, for the world for the children…And my goal in life is to give to the world what I was lucky to receive: the ecstasy of divine union through my music and my dance…But I will never stop helping and loving people the way Jesus said to.”

How many performers have donated 300 million to charity? Michael’s genius talent was matched only by his caring, compassionate heart. A heart that loved and asked only to be loved.

Look at this emotional sketch he drew and included on the History album. I see sensitivity, creativity, sorrow. It feels like show business put him on a permanent time out from childhood where he is backed up to a wall with no way out. His drawing takes me into his soul and shows his loneliness, pain, longing and heartache. It reminds me of a Gottfried Helnwein photo.There is an impact I feel by staring at it while listening to Michael’s “Childhood” which he said was his most autobiographical song.  For me it was painful in a way, and I just wanted to wrap my arms around the little kid in the picture and play with him for hours. It’s as if he sketched his tears right into my heart…

Childhood drawing by Michael Jackson
Gottfried Helnwein photo MJ used on History for Little Susie

A View from my lens

Listen – are you breathing just a little, and calling it a life?

-Mary Oliver

Yes, I’m still alive. I had a magical Thanksgiving and Christmas. I was with my two closest friends on the planet. It was pure mind blowing happiness making food, laughing, and being in each other’s presence. L.O.V.E.

In the meantime, I love this quote from Mary Oliver and I love peonies. Oliver reminds me to find the beauty in a single peony.  There are multiple versions as to the meaning of the peony flower. One legend is that the peony is named after Paeon (also spelled Paean), who was the physician to the gods, and was given the flower on Mount Olympus from the mother of Apollo. Paeon was a student of Asclepius, the Greek god of medicine and healing.  Another legend is that same doctor was saved from dying by being turned into the peony because Asclepius became jealous of his pupil. What’s with jealousy? I mean,  Othello strangled Desdemona because of that scarf that Iago planted, right?

Personally I love peonies because they are constantly changing, just like we are. Really they are never the same twice. They are closed and tight when you first get them, then they open and you get red flowers. They close up at night and then you have pink or white and it’s the flower that keeps giving. Peonies last over a week, sometimes ten days. They are so special they are only in season a short time. Symbolizing a happy life, happy marriage, good health and prosperity, my most favorite part of peonies is they symbolize compassion. I give them to people I love.

Dead Poets Society

Michael Jackson – A Soldier of Love

The entrance to Forest Lawn Mortuary in Glendale was eerily quiet early this morning on the 2nd anniversary of Michael Jackson’s death. I could hear the songs of birds chirping as I made my way up the long, winding road. Michael Jackson said “ I feel compelled to give people some sense of escapism…I think it’s the reason I’m here” but I think he was here for something even bigger and grander. I believe he was here to teach people to love and to open their hearts. How else can I explain how a man I never met has touched my heart so deeply?

As I walk towards the mausoleum I see an arrangement of five dozen red and white roses with a tag in gold glitter that says “LOVE. MJ France.” By the end of the day I see more than one hundred of such floral displays.

roses from France

As I made my way to the front of the entrance I am witness to a sea of love for this man. Homemade frames with photos of MJ, teddy bears, hand drawn cards like I make for my best friend, paintings, Mickey Mouse stuffed animals, banners from Italy, Bulgaria, Poland, Denmark, Russia, Spain, Japan and hundreds and hundreds of red roses in buckets, and sunflowers, Michael’s favorite flower, are everywhere.

I walked along the path and bent down to see a bed of cards. One read: To The King of Hearts: Thank you for everything. Keep watching over us! We are your loyal soldiers of love forever! I love you more!!! We felt your pain, now feel our love.” Another card read “my dearest Michael! I really meet you. I miss you so much. But I will living with my heart.” Someone from Japan had written L.O.V.E with a gold and white marker.

I leaned down to unfold the corners of a wind blow green and yellow banner from Brazil with hundreds of names hand written on it. As I gently placed the corners down, the woman next to me said “Thank you.”  I immediately knew she was from South America. “Venia de Brazil”? I asked her in Spanish. “Did you come from Brazil’? “Especialmente para Michael.” When she said she came especially for Michael, I put my hand on my heart and my eyes welled up; I thanked her.

banner from Brazil

Groups of people were gathered under the shade of a tree as the sun beat down on the flowers. I came upon a woman sitting near the tree applying sun screen to her arms. When I asked her where she was from she answered “From Japan, I love Michael.”

A handmade quilt from Japan embroidered with rhinestones was spread out on the gaass. A card that said “Thank you Mike, for coming into my life. You rock my world. Love you Maria.”

handmade quilt from Japan

One of my personal favorites was a hand colored drawing of Peter Pan at Neverland. Below it, a bucket filled with Michael’s favorite gum, Big Red and lollipops, just because he loved them. Ch’mon, how cute is that?

Peter Pan @ Neverland w/Michael's favorite gum & lollipops

One woman took my hand and said “We are 20 from Italy.” She proudly showed me a banner made of sunflowers and Mickey Mouse that they had brought. An arrangement of lilies with Minnie Mouse. Everyone knows MJ loved Disneyland. She hugged me and said “I love Michael”.

After two-three hours I started to feel light headed from the sun and lack of water.  As a friend of mine and I left to eat, I noticed a woman who was having difficulties walking up the hill. I heard one of her friends turn around and ask her “Tutto benne”? “Is everything okay?”  “No” she answered but she kept walking in the heat, determined to make her way as she struggled up the hill.

I ran up to try to see if I could connect with her. “My name is Iva” she said. She had come with Brusca as part of the 20 from Naples, Milano, Brindisi, Gorizia, Sanremo, Ancona, and Cenesa, Italy. They gathered together in Milan and flew from London to Las Vegas and finally Los Angeles to be at Forest Lawn for Michael.  We walked side by side as if we knew each other. We had a shared interest so it was easy to speak to each other even though my Italian isn’t great. When I went to hug her goodbye I said “I love Michael.” This time, her eyes welled up and as she rested her head on my chest I felt her warm tears spill onto my Michael Jackson Off The Wall t-shirt. The last time a complete stranger was moved to tears within 10 minutes of us meeting was also at an MJ event. Michael has an ability to disarm all armoring and to open the heart chakra.

Iva Cico from Cesena, Italy & Cristina Brusca from Ancona, Italy

I left Forest Lawn feeling a lot of emotion and called a friend who said “ I think this is healing for you. I’m happy you are there.” We made our way over to Carolwood Drive. We were told no flowers, no photos. I spoke to the guard at the gate who was in a parked car blocking the driveway and a minute later he was pulling his car out so I could get a picture of the gates of 100 Carolwood Drive, the home where MJ took his last inhale.

100 North Carolwood Drive.

Michael Jackson gave us escapism with his music but more importantly, he had the ability to break down any and all barriers between people. Even the politicians can’t do that as Michael used to say. Michael refused to deny anyone his heart and his love. We all felt it and we gathered together in celebration of this iconic man to honor his heart. We miss him because we miss the love he shared with us. Michael said “If you enter this world knowing you are loved and you leave knowing the same,  then everything that happens in between can be dealt with.”

An MJ fan's back window at Forest Lawn Glendale

In 1970, 12 year old Michael sang “I’ll Be There.” Forty-one years later, he is. I love people who keep their word.

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Michael Jackson-Conrad Murray trial continues

Back at the courthouse for the continuation of the preliminary Conrad Murray trial. Yes, I’m still Michaeling. I continue to be there in support of one of the most loved yet misunderstood and judged performers in history. His death nearly a year ago was a cataclysmic event that continues to affect me and millions all over the globe.

The approximate one hour drive to downtown Los Angeles from my home is nothing compared to some of the sojourn fans made on Michael’s behalf. Fans from Argentina, Hong Kong, Netherlands,  Romania, Russian,  Spain, Malaysia made banners and signed messages.  I met Marilyn and Karen from Estonia. Angela and Lucy from Germany and Barbara from Czech.

Jermaine, Joe, La Toya and Katherine came in through the rear with Randy making his way through the fans lined up at the front. I decided to wait in the back for their exit and through the back door they came. I wasn’t quite as aggressive this time as the last when my camera was confiscated for taking pictures inside the court house.  Conrad Murray didn’t come in through the front or back, he was snuck in the underground garage.

I’m attaching photos to try to give you a sense of the powerful dedication MJ’s fans continue to hold for him and his family.  Millions if not billions of people all over the world continue to support and love him. I’ve spent countless hours reading about him which has brought me an understanding that Michael, more than anything, loved big. He was so gossamer that it had to be difficult living in his shoes. All his light constantly being snuffed out by dark. The insomnia that started so young. I imagine it would be difficult singing to hundreds of thousands of people on stage where the auditorium is a lovefest and then go home and sleep.  All that love coming at him for over four decades. Sometimes I have a hard time sleeping when I’m in love.

Michael’s death is a lesson in more ways than one. Not to waste a single moment of life. I’ve been writing for decades and not sharing a word. Sometimes a story here or there with an intimate friend but the rest was kept under lock and password. No more.

What happened to Michael reminds me of the media and Princess Diana. The press loved to focus on her anorexia, bulimia and depression instead of the charity work she did for children and eradicating land minds. With Michael, the press focused on his surgeries and skin color instead of his colossal charity work.Those of us who saw the beauty of his soul looked beyond the surgeries. We know that victims of child abuse often develop psychological problems such as Body Dysmorphic Disorder. We focused on his caring, loving spirit. Before and after concerts whenever he toured, Michael would visit sick and dying children. The press preferred to sully his name. Salacious allegations sell more newspapers than hospital visits to children with Leukemia, cancer and aids.

Michael’s life was backwards in some ways. He was an adult when he was a child and a child as an adult. Watching videos of him between the time of Off The Wall and Thriller, I saw a boy in a man’s body whose favorite word was magic. In one interview of 1984, he said magic six times.  He smiled and laughed a lot. By the end of the trial in 2005, not only did he not use the word magic but his light was gone. The media pummeled it out of him. In This Is It, his light returned. Even after he had been vilified by the mass media and forced to leave his homeland, Michael’s light returned. “We want to take them places they’ve never been before. It’s all for love. L-O-V-E”. His life’s work, in part, was to give us magic. He gave us great lessons. Even though he was the innocent victim of extortion engineered by greedy, corrupt adults,which was proven in both cases of the allegations against him, he kept loving. Even though he reportedly had over 1,500 lawsuits where people tried to get a piece of his wealth, he kept loving. He kept loving and forgiving in spite of all the judgements aimed at him.

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What is love? Here is a friend’s definition of love sent to me awhile ago.

The definition of love is threefold:

Love is accepting and nonjudgmental.

Love is wanting the best for another person.

Love is doing something useful to help another person realize his/her potential.

Even more important, love is a choice.  We think ‘it happens to us’, but love really comes from an opening-of-the-heart decision that we can make at any time in our lives. But to love, you must find the happiness within yourself, because when you are unhappy you are not loving.

Everyone is lovable — we have only to learn how to see the lovability in others and of course, in ourselves. Food for thought…

To continue, I think love is truth. Love is kind. Love is not jealous, rude or quick tempered.  Love never fails. Love is quiet. Love is selfless. Love is consuming.  Love is an open heart. Love is surrender. Love is blind. The tragedy of love is thinking you are in love for the longest time and then finding out the other person doesn’t really exist the way you thought. Sometimes love is walking away when it seems like the only thing left to do.

“I have found the paradox, that if you love until it hurts, there can be no more hurt, only more love.”

Mother Teresa