read by Joe
|Since she is so modest and cannot talk very well now
should you ask let me tell you a little about this extraordinary woman who sits
here - a quick resume. Given what her life has been it shouldnt be too boring.
Not that I, or anyone knows everything about her life. Even she, herself, does not know
everyone she has touched where all the ripples have spread.
Look around you! Look at what a family Valerie has gathered about her
all in the seven years since I returned to the Bitterroot with her. And I remember she was
quite lonely for two years when we were in Darby, so really its just been 5 years to
affect so many people. All of us have been touched and changed in some way by her
Knowledge, her Wisdom her Joy, her Enthusiasm, her Spiritual Awareness.
Vals first family in this lifetime, the one she grew up in, have all come from the
East Coast to celebrate her life with us: her parents Nicholas & Beatrice, and her
sisters Vanessa & Tina, and brothers Nick & Dave, & some of their spouses and
children Vals nieces and nephews. Throughout this afternoon & evening and
weeks following please help make the Barzettis welcome into Vals world here in
Born in the Eisenhower era in 1954, this Catholic girl, a Connecticut Yankee, has always
had a strong and independent spirit. At the age of 14 she began reading metaphysical books
Edgar Cayce, Supernature, the Seth Books and began her personal spiritual
quest. At the age of 15 she rejected the Catholic Church, seeking first hand spiritual
experience rather than comfort, tradition and strictures. At that age she began her
political activism, marching to protest the arrest of Father Daniel Berrigan and his
brother Phillip for draft counseling. She has continued her political and conservationist
activism throughout her life.
Val was subject to considerable pressure, as many of us are, to conform to norms and
expectations some reasonable some not but such is the nature of families and
society. I suspect that there may be a direct connection between the fact that she did not
conform, and the interesting and vital person she is.
She attended a Catholic high school because the security was better not, those
days, for keeping problems out, but for keeping students in. Even there she managed to
spend most of her days stoned on pot, but got straight As through her entire high
school career none-the-less. ah except for one B in chemistry one quarter.
Despite being the black sheep, Val is very close to her family, as evidenced by their
presence here, and they have had many formative influences on her. Vals love of
animals was instilled by her father, a skilled hunter and fisherman, who taught his
children to be curious and unafraid by continually bringing home spiders, caterpillars,
and various and sundry insects to marvel at.
As the kids got bigger, so did the pets; guinea pigs, hamsters and lab rats lived their
rooms. There was a parakeet named Tinkerbell. The family raised chickens, rabbits, geese,
ducks, and a donkey. Cats and dogs were always present in the home.
When Val was 8, a raccoon became a family pet, starting her lifelong love affair with
raccoons, and their more southerly and South American cousins, Coatamundies and Kinkajous.
Ringtail the raccoon traveled everywhere with the family, even into grocery stores as they
shopped. Ringtail was followed by Rocky I, Rocky II, and Rocky III.
For years the dogs in the household were coonhounds and used by Nick to hunt raccoons. The
dogs knew the difference, though, between the wild coons they hunted and the family's pets
and they left them alone. Rocky II, however, being a raccoon, loved mischief. When the
dogs would laze and sleep in front of the wood stove, he would sometimes quietly creep up
to the dogs, then swiftly nip them in the balls and run madly away as the dogs scrambled
out of sleep and barking, pursue the raccoon around the house. Always failing that, they
would eventually return to the fire and the game would begin again. It was great fun for
raccoon and humans, if not for the hounds.
Later while in college she had a baby
raccoon, pushed out of the nest before his eyes were open, that imprinted on her when he
did open his eyes, although she soon discovered he was blind in one. Living in her pocket,
Jeremy accompanied her to her summer job as nanny, cook and gardener. For two and one-half
years he went everywhere with his "mom" Val: to classes, to work, to
friends' homes, to stores, to theaters, restaurants and bars. In fact, as he grew larger,
Jeremy developed quite a "taste" for human vices: alcohol, cigarettes, LSD and
various other drugs. On summer mornings Val would discover all types of items on the front
lawn of her apartment - money, keys and all the above-mentioned items - where various bar
patrons had walked from town to share a drink with the raccoon that delighted everyone,
and investigated everything in their pockets.
Other wild visitors the her childhood home were Oedipus the Possum (who was not such
an exciting pet), weasels and snakes several snakes maybe even many snakes!
So fascinating were the snakes that, when their father found a large boa constrictor for
sale at a large RV show in the coliseum in NYC one time, the children clamored to have him
buy the snake. Having already had 5 snakes disappear inside the house, Bea put her foot
down with an ultimatum it was either her or the snake, but not both! Apparently it
was a pretty tough decision but since the snake couldnt cook, they reluctantly
decided they had to forego the snake and keep their mother.
A good cook and a doting mother, Bea made sure everything ran smoothly, both at home
raising the 5 kids, and at her husbands welding shop as bookkeeper. (Her brothers,
incidentally, carry on that tradition, owning and operating a very successful welding shop
in Connecticut, where part of their work includes the highly precise welding of valves for
nuclear submarines.) Beas influence shows up in Val in all of those areas her
delicious and adventurous cooking her heartfelt caring for all small, injured,
defenseless, and downtrodden creatures, both animal and human and in her amazing
memory and facility with numbers.
Vals social aptitude was also undoubtedly instilled by her parents, who frequently
entertained at their home, and who, for many decades were excellent and active square
Age 18, at the end of high school, headstrong and knowing better than everyone, Val
decided she could make more money working than by continuing her education; so she put her
straight A transcript to good use by going to work on an assembly line in and electronics
factory, and living where she could afford to in the slums. Thus began her
checkered and colorful career.
She very quickly (read: a year and a half) realized being an expendable cog in a
manufacturing machine might not be the best way to get ahead; she enrolled in East
Carolina University, Greenville N.C. Here she was introduced to the tropics and Costa Rica
for the first time as an exchange student. Three years later with some - shall I say,
input from her father, just one semester short of a degree in Geography
specifically Latin American Geography she quit.
Being groomed for a job her father negotiated with the Vice President of World Sales of
Stoeffer Chemical Company, she enrolled in Pennsylvania State University in Agronomy. Two
years later she graduated with a Bachelors Degree in Agronomy, spurned the $50,000/year
job as Latin American Representative for Stoeffer selling toxic chemicals to peasants, and
enlisted in the Peace Corps for $50/month and keep. She worked as Agricultural Extension
Agent to onion farmers in the central valley of Costa Rica where, riding a moped, she saw
30 farmers a day, 100 a week.
The central valley is also the location of the largest city in Costa Rica, San Jose, and
it was during this time Val closed the bars 5 nights a week, drinking a lot
and dancing to salsa music. The only reason she was in town drinking and dancing 5 nights
a week was that she bars were closed Sunday and Monday. After years of this, one morning
she woke up with a hangover her first... but had no clue why she was feeling so
bad. She went out one more night, made the connection, and stopped drinking.
But she still loves to dance.
Val left the Peace Corp after 3 years (because they wouldnt let her stay in longer
than that) and backpacked around South America for a year by herself.
A year and a half and a couple of bitter cold winters in Wisconsin followed
rewarded by a Masters Degree from University of Wisconsin, Madison in Agricultural
Journalism Communications and six months as a 'consultant' in Columbia (Read: Trying with
a staff of 30 to establish from scratch a radio station to communicate technology
transfer to farmers... in six months).
Then there was a year in Ecuador in the Amazon headwaters as a consultant. A dry term
again for teaching indigenous Indians in the jungle to grow organic vegetables as part of
a famine relief effort by a Catholic charity after an earthquake took out the one road
over the Andes mountains leaving the area isolated. Unless she could finagle a ride on a
military Blackhawk helicopter, (which she was able to do several times) it took her 2 days
on busses and a day up the river in a dugout canoe to reach the village from the capitol.
A six month trip in the South Pacific followed 2 ½ months with her bother David
touring New Zealand and touring and scuba diving in Australia; then 3 ½ months on her own
island hopping to Fiji, Tahiti, Bora Bora, Rarotanga, to name just a few of the more
For 6 months she managed a stock photography co, in Connecticut then spent 2 years
as Director of Caribbean and Central American Environmental Reporting for PANOS, a
non-profit Sustainable Development NGO, wearing silk suits and high heels in Washington
Then back to Costa Rica her first love where she wrote a book, in Spanish,
for the International Union of Conservation; and during which tie she enthusiastically
served as tour guide and translator for her entire family for 2 weeks over Christmas.
Her wanderlust reasserted itself again, and she was off to Asia for 7 months. A month of
touring India and 5 months in the Osho Ashram Osho is better known in this country
as Baghwan Shree Rajneesh.
It was in the Ashram Val was called or directed to go to New Mexico. With the help of a
friend, she entered a specific trance state for seeking answers, and asked
WHEN? APRIL! (of the next year).
Having learned her life flows far more smoothly when she follows her inner guidance, she
set about making her way to Taos, a place she had never heard of before.
Having to leave out Thailand and Borneo due to the new time constrains, she spent a month
in Bali and Singapore, then flew to the US, then back to Costa Rica to dispose of her
house, then back to the US.
Through a marvelous series of fortunate coincidences (Read: Vals life flowing
smoothly) she was provided the money she needed to do everything, and a car (not having
needed on for decades) now that she was repatriated.
After a week canoeing the Okefenokee Swamp with her siblings, she drove west into the
unknown. Val showed up on my doorstep in Taos where I had been advertising for a roommate.
When I opened the door, some place of knowing inside me went Oh boy this
person is much more than a roommate! Although I had been in a single relationship
with another woman for 2 ½ years, 4 days later I proposed marriage to Valerie.
She took me back to Costa Rica to see how well I traveled I suspect, and a
year after my proposal, she accepted.
We were married in a ceremony by a Sufi master on top of Costa Ricas highest peak
Chirripo 12,000 ft in elevation, with the setting sun in the West over the
Pacific Ocean, the full moon rising in the East over the Caribbean Sea, and a beautiful
lightning storm, inaudible, far below us on the slope of the mountain. It was April 28th,
1995, Good Friday of Easter Weekend.
Later, in August, we had a more conventional ceremony in the back yard of her bother
Nicks beautiful home in Connecticut, with volleyball, children running all over the
lawn, wild game meat, a whole roast pig, and a cake shaped like a Mayan pyramid.
Although her parents and I have not spoken of it, given Valeries love of the land,
climate, culture and people of Latin America and the Caribbean, and some of the boyfriends
she had brought home, her parents were probably surprised, if not a little relieved that
she was marrying a white boy from Wyoming and Montana. Her friends were surprised, if not
shocked, that she was marrying at all!
Valeries life has been much less dramatic and much more domestic since then. After
honeymooning on Kauai then working on Maui for a winter, and a few nice road trips
say from Montana to Connecticut via Seattle it was been mostly gardening, and
helping my mother (who is here also this afternoon) working with Friends of the Bitterroot
and Common Ground, editing technical books, teaching and attending workshops, and
mothering orphan raccoons. She has managed to make it to Costa Rica for a week or
two almost every winter. Most of you are much more familiar with her life here
Along with her love of travel (she has been in 49 states; the 50th, Alaska, was scheduled
for next summer), Val also loves hiking and cross country skiing, camping, dancing,
gardening, raising raccoons, fire walking, tropical beaches, photography, reading,
raccoons, water coloring, scuba diving, white water rafting, movies, e-mail and jokes. Oh,
did I mention raccoons?
She has also done massage, healing with crystals, and is fairly accomplished with animal
communication. We have no fence around our garden; when she wishes to keep them out and
just eat the plants she grew for them, she just asks and they respond. The proof is
merely to look at the garden.
Underneath all this is her love for and relationships with her friends families
like this she has drawn together everywhere she has been. When she and I returned to Costa
Rica, the onion farmers - now old and retired, and their children now grown - recognized,
remembered, and welcomed her. She has friends all over the world where she is always
welcome. And the foundation of her life is her love for her birth family. Nick and Bea,
and her bothers and sisters who sit here.
The best teachers dont necessarily speak the lessons they have, they demonstrate by
living them, and those who are ready those with their eyes to see perceive
those lessons and are taught and changed.
This master teacher has demonstrated to us, by living her life, how to live
fully and completely; how to meet all circumstances with anticipation, joy, awareness, and
acceptance of the spiritual lessons that are always there; how to remain true to our
essential inner nature; how to love wholeheartedly.
And now that she may again be answering the call of her wanderlust, setting out on another
journey to meet once more that far more ancient family of spirit beings, souls not clothed
with bodies at this moment, she is demonstrating how to be fully conscious and aware of,
and to, that transition.
I am honored and blessed that she chose to spend part of this lifetime with me. We have
all been honored by her presence.
Thank you Valerie.