Generally, I don’t answer a phone number that I don’t know. I look at it on the screen and I press a button that allows it to go to voicemail. If it’s someone I want to talk to they will leave a message and I will call them back. However, yesterday I answered the unknown number. I did this because I had spoken earlier in the day to my friend Stephen, who told me he was going to refer someone to me about having an exhibition, and I thought this phone number might be the exhibition contact.

When I answered the phone, I heard a deep male voice with a slight accent. “Dana?” The male voice said strongly. Normally I would be afraid of an unknown male voice from an unknown number, saying my name but somehow I wasn’t. “Yes, this is Dana“

“Dana, it’s Mark“

“ Mark!? How nice to hear your voice. It’s nice to hear from you.”

“Yes, it’s nice to hear your voice too”. Mark was someone I dated 30 something years ago. We are both still in the same area but haven’t seen each other for a good 20 something years.

“How are you?”

“I’m fine I’m fine… But I have some bad news….Susan died”

“What!!?? I just saw her at the museum last month. She looked great. We’d plan to get together to go to her and Tom’s next music event. I’d hope to see you there.”

“Yes, yes I know she told me you might come. She died this morning.”

“Of what?!”

“An infection that went septic”. I Think that’s what he said, and I don’t really know what that means but I know it happens and I know it’s inexplicably horrible. Even though Sue is very seldom in my life. I feel a pit deep in my stomach. I keep thinking how could such a thing happen? She was so bright and so positive, and so talented and so engaged helping in her community.

She is the reason I had the wonderful studio warehouse space at 16th and Valencia which changed my life. She interviewed me and accepted me as the fourth partner. Soon after that, she hired a moving company which joisted her letterhead press out of the second floor window onto a truck and drove it and her with all her possessions to Vallejo, where she moved in and married Tom.

She came to my recent open studio and gave me her newest book of poetry. She bought my newest book of paintings. It was a generally an all-around good feeling to see her after so many years. I was looking forward to reconnecting. When we had the chance meeting at SFMOMA, she looked the same. Her body posture was the same, her bright smile was the same. Older but the same.

Talking to Mark, I mentioned that she had a child.

“Yes” Mark said “She’s 20 now”

‘“Oh, how terrible… That’s the age you were when you lost your mother, right?”



Watercolor by Dana Zed

I am on the plane looking at the clouds. I needed to get a Lyft at3:30 AM to make this flight. The window view is more beautiful than usual. It is dawn. I always get the aisle seat if I can cuz truth is I can still see out the window

i am looking at these celestial clouds and remembering when I flew after my sister Sally died young leaving three small children. I was in the airport talking to a person dressed in an air attendants outfit that I didn’t recognize.

Suddenly someone alerted everyone to get ready and others stand back. I was told to stand back, out of the way. I didn’t know what was going on. I obeyed.

Then low and behold, Steve Martin appeared. All the people I thought were waiting passengers and airline ticket counter people and attendants, were actors in a movie. Steve began arguing ridiculously with the ticket counter lady.

The experience left me with a strong impression that our real lives are not our real lives. Somehow I felt this had something to do with Sally. Like all our lives were plays and we were actors and it was her time to get off the set

After this experience I was on the plane. Wanting Sally to appear to me in the sky. Much like as a child I wanted God to come down from the ceiling. And do what ? Give a blessing? No. I think I wanted just to connect. I never got farther than God coming down because God never did. Or maybe God did.

Today in the airport cafe, I heard a concerned young lady asking her partner and wondering whether the cafe had hot chocolate because it was not on the menu. I looked hard at the menu and saw mocha this and mocha that. I said to them, “I think they do, just ask” and I went on my way.

Several minutes later I ran into them and asked

“Did they have it?” “Yes, they did!” She said. “Oh good, I’m happy for you”. I said. We all smiled.

And there you have it, God. Simple ordinary love here and there.

“Oh good, I’m happy for you”.

Murder in the Rain

In choosing the title, it was either the word “murder” or the word “rain” to be put first. In this world of social media, we are always considering what has more the draw. So I chose “murder”. No judgement there. Full disclosure, I’d probably prefer to read or watch a mystery over any other genre (feeling appropriately guilty about that and all).

On with the story. Because of the rain, this morning I arrive at my kitchen counter to find hundreds (at least) of ants scurrying around the honey jar. it is closed (thank god for something) but they are all over it. Without thinking, I pick up the jar and wash it off, killing a few score ants in the process. I open the honey and am glad to find none inside. I do all this automatically because my mind’s focus is on one one thing: my coveted morning black tea.

Afterwards, I witness the tiny debris of death in the sink. I also notice the hundreds (at least) of ants still on my counter now searching for something that is no longer there.

i watch them as they communicate to each other, butting heads for a scond and moving on, the way they do. I think about how they are sentient beings with mothers and children. how they work so well together. Without a queen bee, they seem to be one for all and all for one. I am moved by their ability to cooperate far better than humans. I remember how they can carry six (is it six?) times their weight.

As there is nothing left for them to be there for, I decide to wait it out. I don’t kill anymore. The unthinking mass murder moment is over. I am thinking since there is no more honey, the ants will eventually leave. Over the next couple hours as I go in and out of the kitchen I check in with the group. The ants that are all in a tight thick circle around where the honey was, I thought were dead as they were unmoving for hours but later in the day I came by and they were gone. By the end of the night they were all gone.

Drawing by Dana Zed, pencil and watercolor

I had the great good fortune to have a spiritual teacher for 34 years. He died suddenly. We didn’t know he was ill. A few weeks before he died he said if he were beyond alone in empty starkness and the only other being around was an ant, he would try his very hardest to communicate with that ant. It was sort of a crazy thing to say but I liked it and I always remembered it.

It’s a rather impossible situation like one hand clapping. I don’t know how one communicates to an ant but I do know that you don’t have to kill them. There’s always another way.