One of my favorite poets, e.e. cummings, used to write his name purposely only using lower case letters. I always took this as a acknowledgment of the inauthenticity of having an ego. Whether this was his intention or not, I purposely call Dorothy Rosenberg, the “mother of source” using lower case letters for that very reason. To acknowledge the inauthenticity of ego. I had the priviledge of having dinner with Dorothy on two occasions in Laguna Beach, at the home of a mutual friend, Shirley Leitch. Shirley knew Dorothy, along with other important figures in California’s transformational renaissance of the late 60’s and the 1970’s. Dorothy and Shirley had both volunteered their time with an organization called Prison Possibilities, which took the est Training behind bars to the criminals in California’s penal system. Dorothy, was the mother of Werner Erhard, formerly Jack Rosenberg. As I was a very dedicated and committed volunteer for est, Shirley knew I would take great joy in meeting the mother of the man who founded est, and was the iconographic leader of this movement from 1971 to 1990. We used to call Werner the “source” of est. This made Dorothy, the “mother of source.” I was very excited to dine with her and a handful of others. I found Dorothy to be very, very down-to-earth, in fact salt-of-the-earth, no nonsense, and genuinely interested in others, and not at all interested in herself. The dinner discussion went from reminescing about the early days of Prison Possibilities with these “little-old-ladies” working with hardened criminals behind prison bars, to the joy of tending her rose gardens back home in northern California. I regarded Werner, her son, as a major influence on my life, and someone who had reinvented the possibility that human beings were and are from the 1970’s and on. The biggest contribution Dorothy made to me however had nothing to do with the work of transformation, or her son’s legacy. Her sheer joy of sharing the love and satisfaction she had for working in her garden, caught my ear, and captivated me. I had spend decades, resisting gardening, hating gardening, and avoiding gardening. My father, a landscape gardener from the 1940’s to the 1970’s had often taken me along his gardening route for countless summers. This was mandatory. It was my duty as his son. I would mow, and rake, cultivate and weed, all for a dollar a day. I hated it, and suffered from “hay fever” no doubt from my resistance to these chores. I also was put in charge of the maintenance of our backyard and sometimes the frontyard of our house. This was all drudgery for me in my youth. My father also set me up to do gardening for a woman down the street for pocket money. Again I looked at gardening as indentured slavery. I resisted it, and resented having to do it. This relationship to gardening followed me into adulthood. In the late 1990’s I finally had my own house, with my own yard, and I still hated anything related to the gardening. I hired a gardener to do these chores for me. I would pay someone else to do this drudgery.
After spending time with Dorothy and her shares about gardening and her love of bringing life and beauty into the world, and how this work in turn gave life and beauty to her life; I finally “got off it.” I started to try some gardening on my own. Planting rose bushes, annuals, bi-annuals, vegetable gardens, hanging plants, etc. I fell in love with gardening. Something which I never allowed myself to have before meeting Dorothy. Gardening became a self-expression for me. I believe, as Dorothy said she believed, that gardening was one of the secrets of her longevity. To enjoy a long life, you must spend each day creating life, is the lesson I was given by Dorothy.
Recently, I was told that Dorothy had passed away at the age of ninety-nine. What a long and wonderful life she lived. Whenever I am in the presence of a beautiful garden I will think of her. Rest in peace, dear Dorothy. You are truly the “mother of source.”