Paul Winer’s life might seem like one continuous party–from poet to performer to peddler. That is, except for one personal tragedy for him and his wife, Joanne. Twenty years ago Paul finally became a father and opted for a more settled life and moved to Quartzsite, Arizona.
He decided to give up performing and the gig-chasing travel that goes with it. Celia struggled to be born, three months early, I have an actual size picture of her footprint—it is smaller than my thumb.
At three months, her weight up to five pounds, she came home. She grew to be a child who asked her mother to tell her stories from the book she read all the time—the bible. By the time she learned to read she knew all the bible’s stories. She loved to read and thought that there was nothing better than having a bookseller for a father who would let her roam the store and pick and chose and borrow at her whim.
At the age of eight and a half, Celia died. Died of a hidden viral infection– undiscoverable and untreatable– that probably had been lurking on her heart for years.
I have no idea how anyone can deal with the loss of a child. And I asked Paul how he managed.
“The town was very kind to us,” was his simple answer.
“Besides the outpouring of personal support, the town designated several acres of the community park.”
I visited the park and it has become much more than a memorial to Celia. Over the years friends and neighbors built a natural trail and the whole area has become a memorial park.
There are dozens of plots marking memories. Not with cubes of polished stone but with private personally crafted celebrations.
One of my most durable principles is that every door is worth opening to see what is behind it even if we think we know what to expect. One thing we never expect to see is another door. And we cannot know what lies behind that door.
It was a motorhome rally that drew me to Quartzsite, Arizona. There I met a mountain man whose unfinished story called me back. And as I cast about on my second visit, I encountered a naked man selling books. And his fascinating story led me to a park unlike any I’d ever seen.