Me and my Hetty McGee

When I was in my early twenties, I had the great fortune of coming to know and Love Hetty (McGee) Maclise.

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Hetty By Ira Cohen

We met soon after she moved to Woodstock, from Nepal via London.Our closeness was spent in the years between 1993 and when she returned to London, due to visa complications–– “That One seed in Ok-ahoma in 1968.”

After briefly meeting Hetty and her son Ossian, I had a dream about them. At the end of the dream, she had some sort of swirling emergency and they had to leave. I was left standing in their apartment in New York City, with all of her belongings.

Hetty was a wild woman who danced with ribbons and lace, across the bridge from the Beat Era into the Psychedelic swirl of the 60’s, up into the Himalayas and back to “civilization” in time to catch the new Millennium from her comfy Victorian seat.

She was a multi-instrumentalist and vaudevillian style traveling circus troupe member, a poet and artist. She worked as an illustrator for Haight-Ashbury bible The San Francisco Oracle, while living with the Grateful Dead in the famous castle.  Timothy Leary married she and Angus Maclise in Golden Gate park.

The stories she shared with such fervor and excitement were flavorfully colored with her zest for all things wild and wondrous.
She was easy to love and sometimes overwhelming to live with, and I did both, thankfully.

On the afternoon Hetty left Woodstock for the airport to London, we had one last cup tea together.

Her tea was so distinct, sometimes I make a cup just how she did to feel a bit of her… She brewed English tea in an old porcelain pot and delivered it to her guests on an antique tray. Beside the pot were two bowls, one with sugar and one with powdered milk. It cost a lot on a pension to buy milk, so a little spoon of white flakes did the trick.

We drank our tea with melancholy reverence, shared a few tales of our times together and then her friend came to drive her away.

I knew I would never see her again.

She had rented her apartment to a dharma practitioner who, turned out––coincidentally, she had met in Paris in the 60’s wearing only a fur coat. The woman would not arrive for a week.

She told me to go back to the apartment and take whatever I wanted. She had given me an old chest, which I now keep my filled diaries inside.

I went back upstairs to the second floor over the Woodstock town green, and stood in her apartment––full of her things and missing the heart that had collected it all.

She had taken her teapot, and the piano scarf that she laid over her table where she did her phone readings for the Psychic Network the past year and a half. The spot where her shrine had lived was empty.

Her bed tidily made, in her one room apartment, I felt like I was in a surreal dream… Or perhaps it was a Deja vu, or the result of a prophetic dream I had dreamed years prior.

But there I was, standing in her apartment with much of her belongings… She in a car, with that train fever she told of, hours ahead of schedule on the way to the airport.

There was nothing more to take… She had given me so much to hold in my memory.. In my heart… And the one chest was quite enough.

I went to the bathroom, to pee… one last time and noticed one more thing,  the note above the toilet paper roll.

The one thing that would always remind me of the wisdom she shared amongst all of those tales of adventure and lure…

I peeled the little reminder I had taken in every morning when I lived with her in that one room apartment…. and put it inside the little chest.

Don’t be the shit servant of mental projections.

A piece inspired by this love…

Namtok- by Christina Varga

Hetty’s Blog

Ira Cohen on those times

Some of Angus & Hetty’s Music

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Rest In Power. Image from the Peter Tosh Facebook Page

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And when it happens, suddenly, everything that comes with the word “Adult” is yours to be. All of it. Embrace loss, responsibility, embrace loneliness, embrace Mortality, because it is yours now. But the true gift happens when we embrace our fullness. And the fullness of connection too because if you open to it, it can be a beautiful exchange.

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