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Remembering Michelle

It has been 6 weeks since Michelle said farewell to this world. I am still grieving terribly, even though she is in my heart and giving me strength. We were together nearly every day for the past 15 years, and I miss her so.


I know that may of you do as well, even if your moment-to-moment awareness of Michelle's absence from this plane is not as acute as mine.


Because of the challenges of the pandemic and the fact that Michelle's friends are scattered across the globe, I have not held a memorial service. I hope to do so next year when the world opens up (we can hope!). I've spoken to some of you individually, but Michelle's community is so vast that I haven't been able to reach you all.


So I'd like to use this post as a place where we can share our stories about Michelle with one another, as we would do if we were all gathered together.


How did you meet Michelle? What is one of your favorite memories of your time with her? Which of her qualities do you particularly cherish? How did Michelle touch your life?


Please share your story or stories with all of us in the comments below. If you have a picture, you can add that too. And when read a story that speaks to you, I hope that you will feel free to write a reply, engaging in a conversation and learning about the many ways that Michelle changed our worlds.


Scroll down to see my story. But first...


Some logistics

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The story of how we met

It was the spring of 2005, and California was having a wildflower superbloom. I had gone to Death Valley (which was having one of its biggest flowering years of the century) over spring break, and when I got home to Santa Barbara I discovered that my friend Satie had been there too. We both wanted more, so we made plans for an overnight trip to Carrizzo Plains the following weekend. A day later she called and asked if she could invite a friend, and I said yes.


So off the three of us went on a wildflower safari. It was actually less spectacular than Death Valley, but we still had a good time. I was driving, and Satie kept insisting that Michelle sit in the front seat. But in all the pictures of the three of us, Satie was in the middle, as Michelle and I each wanted to be next to our dear friend! We enjoyed each other's company, but there was absolutely no chemistry.


A year passed. Michelle had been planning to go to Peace Corps, but that fell through. Instead, she spent three months in Mexico working with a small nonprofit that does cycad conservation, and then came home and remodeled her condo.


In March 2006 she threw an open house/housewarming party (Michelle loved to host parties!). As she was putting together the invitations, she scrolled through her email contacts, and thought, "Oh, Bruce! He was nice, I'll invite him." When I got the Evite, I thought, "Oh, Michelle! She was nice, I'll stop by for 15 minutes or so."

As we tell the story together, we then say, "Bruce came for 15 minutes, and never left!"


The details are interesting, though. I arrived at the very beginning of the party, and the only guests there were Jane and Lara, who had helped Michelle with setup. The four of us had some intimate time together, which I enjoyed. Then the rest of the guests started arriving. The only one I knew was Satie, and at that time I didn't really enjoy interacting with strangers, especially in large parties. And yet, every single person I talked to I found to be interesting and enjoyable, and so I never had the urge to leave until the party came to an end.


This was a harbinger of things to come: I have found that I genuinely like every single one of Michelle's friends. This extraordinary fact is not just down to our compatibility; I think that Michelle inspires people to bring out the best in themselves, and in particular to be genuinely present and heartfelt. This is one of her superpowers.


When I gushed over the experience to my friend Allison a few days later, she stepped back and observed, "You know, it's really Michelle who you're excited about." She helped me gain the courage to ask Michelle out on a date (I had always been shy and terrified about that process), and she coached me through the first few dates, to help me show clearly that they were dates and not just friends getting together. Our first date (which was almost a month out, Michelle's social calendar was so full) was to go to a concert of Ravi and Anoushka Shankar, the great sitar players.


Michelle says that she knew I was the one by the third date.


About a year later, long after we had moved in together, it suddenly occurred to us, "I wonder if that camping trip was a deliberate setup by Satie?" We called her, and she laughed, saying, "Of course it was! You were my first attempt at matchmaking, and I was a little bit sad when nothing seemed to happen. But I'm so delighted that you reconnected and that my first instincts about you were correct!"


Thank you, Satie, for bringing us together. And Allison, thank you for helping me show my best self to Michelle.


Michelle thanks both of you too.



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I just discovered this message from Michelle in the "Drafts" section of the blog, written in summer 2021. Apparently, she started it to be an announcement of the research paper from her collaboration