Autobiography

Chapter 10

The Writing Life

When I was only 3 years old we were living in the cellar, the Great Below, where we usually kept our coal and wood for the winter. I lived deep underneath our apartment house during WW2.

During the bombings and fighting we had to survive underground with rats and mice. They have a very special smell I never forget. Anyway, here in the midst of chaotic adult life, the frenzy about the bombs made the grown-ups fearful and lost.

I escaped with my mind into the one and only children’s book I owned “The Harom Arva Kis Cica “ The Three Orphan Little Kittens. Of course I have seen this book every day. We grabbed it in the last minute before we all had to move in with coal and woodpile. I read it every day over and over again.

I was surprised that one day I started reading another story from the same book. This new story wasn’t in the book at all. I enjoyed this self-deception, continued making up different stories- the three little kittens grew wings and flew against the evil bombers. They wore special outfits. I realized in my mind I could create new stuff.

The rest of the long months we spent underground like that, I remember very little of it. I was buried in a book. Same one.

I hungered for more books.

All my life I read as much as I could. I loved the different places the books could take me. I was especially enthralled by a German author of serial adventure books about wild California life. Indians and lone gunmen, shooting it out. The author’s name was Karl May. A big star in my childhood. I read all ten books he wrote while he was in prison. He never set foot in California. It was all his imagination, and I loved it.

School started when I was six. I could already read, and found school a delight. Students are respected in Hungary. Being a good student also elevated ones status in the nunnery, where I was attending first grade. I don’t think I wrote much there. But I knew all those bible stories, and I noticed if I wove them into a report, the nuns looked approvingly on me. I read books about saints who were tortured by being cooked in oil

over an open fire for a long time, children who tore off their scabs from wounds to make them suffer longer, like Christ. This was chilling.

Each time we had a meal in the dining hall, somebody was assigned to read aloud from the grizzly lives of Saints for us first graders and girls all the way up to 18 years old. Getting cooked in oil? That’s a lot of oil.

Women were made to marry some dude they didn’t like, and if they didn’t obey they were killed, or their eyes were ripped out. In those old stories fear was already used as a weapon against the little female people. Women.

Humans are very sensitive to soul manipulation. They committed terrible crimes against those they, the church and state, thought to be a danger to them.

I started sensing that stories historically matter. Humans are ruled by mythology and they don’t even know it. Never mind, mythology wins. It’s deeper and more powerful. We all live our own mythology, like it or not.

I think in middle school, or close to it, I have discovered that I could write very good fiction. My assignments were done in a breeze. When they said, for homework write about your summer, I wrote about the books I have read.

When I was 13 years old, I was briefly in a children’s sanatorium for lung ailments, (Tuberculosis, long story) and there we had to nap every afternoon. In these times we lay in our beds, either napping or not. But nobody was allowed to walk or talk or leave. And there was this special quiet. Nurses whispered to each other. Some kids were snoring. I was pondering my short story.

I started plotting out the sections to the main story which was a comedy: “The Table of Amor.” The story went--Hera and Zeus were fighting. Amor, the god of love, interfered, causing them to make up. This in turn made Hera the Queen of cities and mountains, creating a table with magical powers. Whosoever sits down to it will fall in love with each other.

Then I started creating diverse couples who came by for this or that reason, hating each other, and end up falling in love. It was hilarious. I loved my nap-time.

The teacher who made this assignment for us all was very impressed with my comedy. He asked me to read it aloud in front of the doctors and nurses, and of course the kids. I didn’t count on that. But I read the story aloud, and realized that it had good value, and people were laughing. Made the audience love me.

Now I knew this was writing. My mind yearned either to read a couple hours a day or talk about books and writers. I visited the statuary of writers we celebrated, Petofi Sandor, our greatest poet and revolutionary hero. Jokai Mor, novelist and playwrite. Geza Gardonyi, novels and poems and humor. The statuary of the greats was all over the city Budapest, along with composers such is Liszt, and Lehar. The country was poor, and I didn’t eat an orange till I was sixteen, but I was reading the translations of all the classical great writers, from Floubert to Puskin.

I could buy cheap books of great literature. They were the great European American writers. I was steeped into the mythology of art.

After I have returned home from the Sanatorium, I was a little numb. Those four months I have spent with other children, in a well heated and well-aired restful place really gave me wings. I missed the regular meals. I also had a couple of new friends.

All I had was the listening to the radio, which broadcast mostly the classical music we all loved at noon. Of course the gypsy music, without which a Hungarian person cannot eat lunch or dinner. In the midst of poetry readings and arias they have announced a National Youth Literary contest. A Contest! In literature. I was only 13 years old but I felt I got this. It was mine in spite the fact that there were millions of kids who have also sent in their work. I sent in my short story “The Table of Amor. “ A month later I received a letter asking me to show up at the radio station and meet somebody.

Excited about this development, I appeared in a dark office in front of a grown man. After he hemmed and hummed, he asked me pointblank,
--Did you write this story all by yourself?
--I did. I wrote this last year in the Sanatorium.
--Because here the staff thought you may have gotten help from a history professor.
--No I didn’t. Don’t even know one.
--Who was the only son of Hera? he asked suddenly.
--I answered just as fast.
--His name was Hephaestus, the forger. He was conceived by accident. He looked at me for a little longer then decided.
--Very well. I believe you.

I was dismissed. Nothing happened for a few months. Then I got a new letter informing me that I won the second price, the first price went to a 21 years old guy poet. Looking back on this event in my life, I think I could have gotten the first prize had I been a young man.

My story will be broadcast on the radio, read by a professional actor. I received an invitation to the live show where these prizes were awarded.

Now I knew I’ll be a writer. I wanted to be the great Hungarian novelist. Or Screen writer. This single winning had established my desire for a profession. I felt blessed. The day arrived when my story was read aloud. I sat in front of the radio and listened to the story I'd cooked up during the mandatory nap times. I was enjoying it. Then slowly around the end, I started tearing up and finally crying. I sobbed and sobbed.

Why am I crying? I thought. This is a very lovely crown on my childhood.
Yah, but I will not have these moments ever again.
Why not?

Because I have nothing else to say. I have not yet lived real life. I lived a bookish life. I have nothing new to say.

Life has continued around me as it always was. After my award I still had to go to school, struggle with math, and endure a very jealous Hungarian teacher’s wrath on me each time she graded me. Her passion was to break me and make me fit in. Grammar. Holding within the margins. Not crossing out words as I was looking for a better one. In other words she made it her mission to cut me down to size. Her size.

I learned to resist this attack on my talent. I had the support of my entire class. They looked forward to my essays. She would no longer allow me to read them aloud. It was far too entertaining. The class received them with joyous hooting and hollering.

There was one story about a fly named Sam that spent the winter with us in Budapest. We kept it a long time. He was waiting for the spring. The story was how we released the fly finally into the great world, but he kept flying back to us like a homing pigeon. The class was roaring with laughter.

I looked into poetry writing. I started a little book with them in it. Then I recorded some of my thoughts thinking about a story. Then the book was full. Now I went and bought myself my first Diary.

I started each day writing something in my diary. But not about boys. Never once about boys. Boys were not in my life as a focus.

I recorded several ideas to save the world. Spinning some stories I overheard. My Mother baked me a cake with a single candle on it, after the award, it was her way to say, Go for it girl. This was the one and only time my mother actually baked a cake. It was sweet and yellow with vanilla cream inside.

Since then, I told everybody who asked, and it was mostly the grown ups, “what do you want to be when you grow up?” I responded proudly ‘I want to be a writer.’ When they shook their heads in disbelief and also pity, I revised my response and said 'I want to be nuclear physicist’. This went over better.

When I was 16 years old a spontaneous revolution broke out in my country against the Russian occupation. This was rich material for poetry. I was really getting better at it.

My heart was so full. I have never felt the spirit of Hungarianess like this before. I was a proud Magyar woman, but I didn’t care too much about the rest of the country. The cultural division was great between the city and the country life. City folks who didn’t have to produce food to feed the people were seen as a little decadent, versus the peasants, who toiled the land and grew everything. They had accents even in Hungarian. Small country we were, the tribes in each corner of our land spoke a little differently and were entertained by ancient culture of folk art to wear and celebrate. But also the cussing culture was richer, they could be more crass than city folk when they allowed their tongue lashings on somebody. This could get very picturesque and depraved.

I only knew peasants when I met them in the summer time, when it was part of my mother’s religion to send me to the Big Lake, the Balaton. We young girls picked fruits for the collectives, and took the afternoon off to play. The smells were so different from the city. Country smells are loaded with animal smells. I could smell chickens and cows from a distance already. Cow pies were everywhere. Our cows pooped while walking, as did our horses. It was not unbearable, but briefly unpleasant. Hungary had the Tisza River and the Duna River. These two sliced Hungary into three pieces. They each smelled differently. The Tisza was to the east, it was a wide river, filled with curious fish. It smelled tangy and fresh. The river Duna smelled more like just clean water, delicious.

I remembered the city smells as the black smoke puking out of the old buses. We used gasoline from Russia. No wonder. But away from traffic the smells got sweet, the lilacs were in bloom all over the gardens in the city. They were beautiful in white and lilac. I used to pick them and brought them to my mother when I was visiting her on weekends. The street cars faithfully clang through the wide tree lined boulevards, the buses puttered, I traveled on bus Number 7 took me everywhere.

The buses were always crowded. I used to stand in the corner leaning against the wall and read my books in my hand. Or steal a glance at the public. We didn’t need sex education. Sex was on the streets. Young people often didn’t have privacy, so taking a walk in the parks meant to go and find a bench away from the crowds and make out. They threw the used condoms away on the grass. We kids figured out the rest.

It was the winter smells that appeared out of nowhere when the snow has fallen. It was a scent of burning wood, just a singe. I loved this sentimental snow smell. It spoke of prewar times when the snow meant people went to play.

When I lived with my father near the Taban hill I could slide down on my sled from a great distance when there was no traffic. Father surprised me with a nice wooden sled! I was off sliding down through the Taban over an entire hill. It’s a heady feeling, sliding down into the view of Budapest, other sliders way behind you. You feel the silence all around. The white covers everything and the world becomes a clean white place. Like a hospital. Respect. It’s just a hushing through the snow. Happiness moves into your heart to stay.

My childhood was short but had good highlights and memories. This spontaneous Hungarian Revolution was so sacred to me that I etched myself into this glory of self righteousness. I knew a lot of history and saw us in context, Russians were always used against the Magyars. The Russians hated us because we were not Slavic nation. We were weird to them. We did not really belong to the Indo-European languages, we belonged to a surviving minority of ancient languages, as did the Basque.

There was always discomfort when the school had to explain to us who are we? As people. All we know was that we had revolutions against oppressors for a long long time. We were great and bold fighters. But the last time we fought the Turks Suleiman wiped us out in the 14th century. The country was void of people, so the new rulers, the Habsburgs, moved Germans from Bavaria into our land, and Jews into Transylvania, and the remaining Magyars stayed of course. In order to win, the Habsburgs had to call in the Russian troops to defeat the Magyars.

It was also done again in 1956. The Russians found Mongolian troops to send against us because they thought we were related genetically. One thing Russians applied in warfare was to send brother against brother. Then my beloved revolution was defeated. The new administration rounded up the youth and the young workers, and executed them. I knew it was coming, and I hiked out of the country. Walked like a true protester. All hundred miles from Budapest to the border with Austria.

When you are only 16 years old and in good shape its very doable. What I have left behind was all my writings. My diary, my new poems, my new dreams and prayers. And I had to leave behind my weird and splendid language, that nobody could talk but us. Only Magyars speak this ancient language. I had to leave behind the language which I have honed and gained some mastery of. Magyar. I didn’t speak anything else. I was taking English lessons, but even our English teacher didn’t know how to pronounce the words written so differently and pronounced something else. I didn’t realize at first that my language was such a big loss. My Mother tongue. They say if we don’t learn a new language by 12 years of age, we will always have an accent. It seems that the speech organs are formed by then.

Once I arrived in Austria I learned that I must learn German or sink. Father spoke 4 languages, Hungarian, French, German and at the age of sixty he took a Russian state exam and passed.

I was confident I’ll catch on. But I stopped writing. My language was taken away from me. It was like my tongue was cut out.

I had a bilingual school and this new Austrian culture to absorb. I lived with a wonderful family the Zelgers, an old family in Innsbruck who treated me like their own kid. They lived a conventional happy family life which I had never experienced before.

Nobody ever shouted, there were no fights, and they were very generous with me. Uncle Pepi even gave me spending money every month, like a real father. I was blessed again. I was hoping my mother would follow me out of the country, but she had my half brother who was just a toddler, and I knew she wouldn’t endanger him. My absence gave her a little more room to grow her ceramic business. She turned my room into her studio.

I was getting more settled in the new country, I wrote down my memories in Hungarian as I have escaped. It came to a good many pages, sent it home. This one was a long short story. Lots of details about where to stop to buy food, where to avoid contact with people. I found it safe to sleep on a haystack overnight. After that I let go. I have submerged myself in my new life. Writing didn’t come up again for a while. My German was getting better. I thought, what if I try to translate a Hungarian short piece into German? It would show me how far I had come. Would I be able to communicate like in Hungarian?

My favorite authors were the hard ones. They were the humorists. Ferenc Karinthy for example. He wrote very funny verbally hilarious stories about his childhood, and being a kid. “Rohog az osztaly.” “The class is in stiches” came from a book of his and I tried to translate it. I think I was too ambitious.

Because the class has many ways to laugh it could be snickering, giggling, roaring, bursting, bubbly, etc. It’s the trouble with very old languages, nuances are not easy to translate. My attempt wasn’t good enough. I missed writing and didn’t have a diary.

Life kicked in. I was now 18 going on 19. I graduated from High School. I got my visa to the USA. Another transition was coming, just when I started to enjoy the Gemutlichkeit of the Austrians, a good mood and a new language, constantly peppered with praises for life. Any activity at all was called Schon, as in beautiful. So you could take a beautiful walk. The weather was beautiful. And you could thank somebody beautifully. So cheerful. Austrians were beautiful people inside and outside. Easy to laugh.

But now English had to be mastered. I moved to Wien to attend the University on a scholarship. While I was waiting for my flight to the USA, I studied English with all my might. My first book I actually read cover to cover was Little Lord Fauntleroy. On the day I could read the entire book cover to cover in English with just few look-ups, I have celebrated myself with a special meal, eating alone in the restaurant. This was my way to make landmarks of my progress. Dinners at the Raat house. Fried livers with onions.

I only wrote letters from Chicago to my mother. I assured her that the gangsters were not lurking with their evil guns at every corner. The weather was unbelievably cold. Colder then Budapest ever was. In the summer it fried the flesh off my bones, and my eyes felt like melting out of the sockets. Then when it was windy, the wind could pick you up and toss you around a bit. The wind could turn on a dime in Chicago. It could get hotter at midnight than it was at noon. I found the city very exotic but unpleasant.

Now I could read books and newspapers. I got pregnant soon after I got married to a childhood sweetheart, Tom. He was living on the second floor in the same apartment house where we lived on the ground floor.

My pregnancy was a great time. I studied English. I watched TV with total absorption. And this time I figured out how the words were pronounced. I talked back to the TV shows, repeating what I heard like a parrot. This method worked well. I watched shows like I Love Lucy, I Married Joan, Bonanza, Lawman, Gary Moore Show etc. and the many funny cartoons. By the time the national elections came about, with Jack Kennedy running, I could actually follow the debates. I loved the politics back then. Jack Kennedy was for me the perfect president. Young, smart, visionary. Great orator. I could identify with him. I understood the entire speech and thrilled to his call “Let us not ask what the country can do for us, Ask what you can do for your country. “

While my little sons were new, I had no energy to reflect on anything. Just glad we all got to eat something and sleep well at night. We lived in a condemned apartment house. Rats running around freely. We were the only people left in the building. Rats were old friends. The rats had their own apartments. I used the others to hang up diapers on a string.

I was a student now going to the University of Chicago for two and half years. My husband was also a student, and worked as a teachers aid for a professor. We lived on very little money. So we went to the all-you-can-eat Chinese restaurants (another remarkable exotic feature I have never seen before). One day, after my second son was born, I was observing varicose veins on my thighs (I was now 21 years old). I thought about life and my studies and finally asked what will I be able to do with the education I was getting at the German Department in UOC.

It turned out I would be able to teach German to high school students. And I just hated the thought of it. Naw…I thought. That’s too crazy. American teenagers had zero interest in learning a new language. Especially German. This was not the time when kids were thinking about history, this was the time the generations have created history themselves. I looked at the expense, my energy budget and decided that this line of study would be useless after I finished school. I stopped going to the University. I was still not writing anything.

Then a miracle happened! My husband's determined, devoted mother came to see us in Chicago. I was freed up from baby raising. Annie Granny stepped into the granny job with ease. She didn’t think I served her son well enough. I was happy to step aside. At 21 I was so hungry to have my own life to begin.

First thing I have done was to sign up to study with Second City. My husband and I discovered this place for good comedy. I picked up a leaflet with information to study with the director of Second City, Viola Sills. From then on I had somewhere to go. I had a workshop and then a show to watch. Live theater. Improvisation, the new approach. I was in heaven. The whole idea was that inside us there is a great, aware character, who can come out unscripted and create art together with somebody else. In other words, it was Writing! You intuited your lines, and then saying them too. Writing aloud while on your feet. Many times I was surprised how advanced that inner knowing was, compared to the consciousness in control. Of course there was a little control. For example your first response to anything the other character brings you is YES. Improvisation was the new writing. I was plotting scenes in which the characters are created, and their objective told to the players. But neither character knows what the other one is trying to do. This was great fun. Often much more comical things happened than first thought. I fell in love with improvisation.

After one workshop Viola and I were having a drink downstairs in the bar. She turned to me and said ” Susanna you are very good. But you will never be on an American stage because of your accent. “--Oh that’s alright with me Viola, I am actually a writer. I didn’t care about the stage acting. I wanted to know everything about theater, but mostly comedy. I felt I was doing this for writing, not acting. This was a time for me to discover Chicago a little. The town. Driving alone, feeling my creative oats. And getting a ticket for speeding.

All this stopped when Granny Annie had to return back to Budapest. I was very alone suddenly. No matter how wonderful a mother you are, being alone with two little boys all day all the time makes a young woman lonely. Goddess bless change. My husband got a new job in New York and we moved from Chicago.

I was keeping a diary. Not too meticulous one. Just on and off type. Real writing didn’t return for at least ten years. But I was reading all the great humorists and woman writers. I was listening to records created by the contemporary humorists. The Smothers Brothers, Jack Paar, Lenny Bruce, Sid Caesar, Moms Mobley. My most favorite humorists were, Elaine May and Mike Nichols . They did records with this new comedy. Intimate exchanges, they draw you into their sultriness. Whispering. Cultural references that now I shared with the Americans. They were exploring a very different intimate kind of humor, social satire. I laughed myself silly listening to them. English was finally in my bones. I could follow indigenous humor, a Chicago humor, and later the New York kind of English.

For my boys I got recordings of the Kipling books, The Jungle book read by Richard Burton. As a special treat I made up stories for my little sons about not being fearful of ghosts and bullies. “The Pale Green Pants with Nobody Inside Them“ was one of my classics. It felt good creating stories for them.

I had a big heartbreaking affair with a very tall and handsome, big personality, strong camera man, Peter. I fell in love with this young man, we were both at the end of our twenties. He was a smooth talking, well traveled, slightly wounded boy, which gave him depth. But truthfully it was his passion for me in bed that I interpreted as love. Seven times a lady was not unusual for Peter. He simply had to have a lot of sex if he was going to sleep. I was so happy to have a real affair, an age appropriate lover. And what a lover! He was very important. On the road all the time. I wrote letters to him almost daily sending them off to where he was, like in Athens, or Morocco . But I only got to see him a few times, and only when he called. There were a couple of weekends as well. It lasted a year and a half. This experience, when it was over, I have written down into a free flowing narrative style. I called it ” Venus in Winter.” It felt good to have written in English. This was real life material, deep sexual experience, I loved that man. He didn’t love me back. After five dates and two weekends of hot sex and cooking together and eating and drinking wine and Oozo, and smoking pot, he broke it off on the phone.

But I had a novel! My first novel ever. In English. Yeah. Nothing has happened to this script. It is as it was. Never shown it to anybody. Unpublished to this day. I have not read it in a few years now. I may hate it, so I don’t dare to read it. But the regular letter writing and endless fantasy scenarios with him and me, my mind was now spinning, unstoppable. For this I am still grateful to him. The writing has returned. As my husband Tom and I were growing older, we have matured, became ourselves. We have also grown apart. As youngsters we had a culture in common, and a language, now he was teaching at Pratt Institute and had a long commute. He stayed there during the week, came home on weekends. I was dying to take the train to Manhattan on the weekends to develop some relationship with the world. So we didn’t do anything together anymore. While the sexual revolution was roaring all around us, I missed sex with soul. But he has found a lover in the city. I didn’t mind. At least one of us was happy.

Writing dried up again.

I loved the city, and my Chinese gay friends. But being with them, as they cruised, danced, shared and experienced crushes on each other, I felt more and more lonely. I had a plan. I was going to hitchhike to California. That was once a dream of mine. The summer was getting hot. New York summers are sweaty and rainy. This just wasn’t the weather I needed. Nor the counterpart of winter, where it's freezing cold and wet at the same time. Flu bugs that no drugs can conquer. More hardships in just existing.
I wanted to be happy. Have plans. Have friends who expected me to share time with them. I didn’t want to wrestle daily with the weather. I was now thirty years old, ready to do my real work. But what was it? The Saturn Return has torn deep gashes into my heart. I knew what I wanted to do. But the cultural landscape was not rich with opportunities. Female writers were kept out of comedy. I really badly needed my mission, an assignment. I had no clue what it was. Tolerating ambiguity was hard to do. But I was in motion.

Writing in me woke up in Los Angeles when I became involved with the Women’s Center on Crenshaw. We published a newsletter which started as a one page description of classes, and discussions. Later we started using articles we wrote. I remember my first opus was called ‘Love is a Carrot.’ That is the historical time I have chosen a new name. “What name should we put after your article or do you just to want to go with Z? asked a sister.

A pen name. Right. Ever since there was a famous Judy Chicago, I thought I better use my birthplace for my name as well. Budapest.
--So, Z Budapest?
--Yes please. Thanks.

And it has been that name I used ever since. That’s what is on my passport and drivers license. When I travel to Hungary, the Customs inspectors always look at my name a long time. They must be thinking WTF? Is this real? Times like that I have realized how audacious my name really is, not even kings and queens ever have taken the name of the capitol of Hungary. Budapest. -- It’s OK. I am a writer. I needed a pen name. Then they nodded. I liked the feeling of having been published. I started feeling that old, old high, as I had when I won Second prize at the age of fourteen. When I was so happy, and upset at the same time. Hearing my short story read on the national radio, Kossuth, and it lasted 24minutes. Almost a half an hour. On the air. Wow.

Now at the age of thirty I had the life that would invite the writing flow again. I had to teach myself so much all over. Feminism was all about studies. Getting self-educated by the many pamphlets and books in the back of the Women’s Center.

Unlearning racism. Cleaning up my language from expressions I learned here from TV or newspapers. I resented to be called a white person, I argued. Hungarians have never stolen any blacks for slavery. We are landlocked. And we are related to Asians. Nope. Didn’t help.

--That’s not what matters. You enjoy white privilege here.

And I had to admit that was true. On the campus of the University of Chicago I had seen very few blacks. Since Feminism, I have met more and more sisters of color. It was a feeling of worldliness, having been in touch with the diversity I had never known before,other than in articles in SISTER (our newsletter). It was important that I open up to the world. I wrote about childcare. I wrote about women with jobs. But most of all I was interested in the writings of the suffragists. I saw them as our foremothers. I read the speeches written by Elisabeth Cady Stanton. She was a no-nonsense writer. She saw it, she named it. And she demanded equality with a religious fervor.

Susan B. Anthony, who delivered these speeches to the sisters of her time, was to us, our Hera for Justice. She endured the great inconvenience of traveling, back in those days of horse and buggy.

Elisabeth Cady Stanton had many children, her last daughter was the one who got to organize the largest women’s demonstration, where the women wore white gowns with a lavender sash across the bosoms. What a sight it must have been, dignified, walking down 5th Ave. in New York. Votes for women!

A year has passed, since I have discovered the feminists, and populated my apartment house with my friends from the center.

I have also found the spiritual roots of the movement in the Suffragists from a hundred years ago. Elisabeth Cady Stanton was so bold she attacked the Bible. She claimed it was written over and over, changed many, many times, according to the paid clerks, assigned this task by rulers such as King James. At this time I was sent out to speak about women’s spirituality, which organically connected to the general purpose of Equality. I was attacked regularly by some male audience member who thought that freedom for women was against god's plan. They called me Satan’s daughter. The nerve. But this got me thinking. I have now found enough evidence and material to create a book, something that would speak to women and give us back some of that old fashioned wisdom. Libraries were very cagey about letting me look at some serious books, by Bachofen for example, who advocated for Matriarchy.

In the meantime our coven meetings continued, equinoxes and solstices and high points in between. I felt that we ourselves are loaded with wisdom. When in circle, it will come out. So I have announced that those interested to create a Woman’s Holy Book meet with me in Mama’s Cafe in Malibu.

This has been totally magical. We gathered, and took assignments to write about this or that. Herbology, theology, sacred songs, sacred prayers and rituals. Global Goddess with the thousands of names and cultures.

Writing the Holy Book was an ecstatic joy. It had given us something real to do, collecting and trying out new ways to call HER NAME. As a writer I was very excited about creating the Holy Book of Women’s Mysteries. I was the carrier of much folklore from my mom, and observations when she cast a spell on the winds. And I was fearless.

When the work was done we had about 6oo pages. And it didn’t even contain all the spells. We could not print it in this form. It took too much money.

So I wrote a shorter version, called it the Feminist Book of Lights and Shadows. Helen, my lover at that time, worked in a print shop. We printed it late at night, after hours. And so it was born! We too, had a seriously important Goddess book now, just in time to take to the very first Goddess Conference at Boston University.

Over 2 thousand women gathered there. We have printed 785 copies of the FBLSH. When Helen opened our book bag, in front of all the ladies, I looked away a moment. When I returned my attention, most of our books were gone! Five dollars bills were raining down on us. That’s was the price of the book. What a high! From here on the book has become a source of income for me. I could quit my job as a house cleaner.

Copyright © 2018 by Zsuzsanna Budapest

ALL RIGHTS RESERVED. NO PART OF THIS PUBLICATION MAY BE REPRODUCED, DISTRIBUTED, OR TRANSMITTED IN ANY FORM OR BY ANY MEANS, INCLUDING PHOTOCOPYING, RECORDING, OR OTHER ELECTRONIC OR MECHANICAL METHODS, WITHOUT THE PRIOR WRITTEN PERMISSION OF THE AUTHOR, EXCEPT IN THE CASE OF BRIEF QUOTATIONS EMBODIED IN CRITICAL REVIEWS AND CERTAIN OTHER NONCOMMERCIAL USES PERMITTED BY COPYRIGHT LAW. FOR PERMISSION REQUESTS, WRITE TO Z DIRECTLY AT ZBUDAPEST@GMAIL.COM.