...Real creativeness, in my experience, is inextricably linked with the awareness of mortality. The sharper this awareness, the greater the urge to bring forth something new, to participate in the infinitely continuing creativeness in nature, This is what makes out of sex, love; out of the herd, society; out of wheat and fruit, bread and wine; and out of sound, music. This is what makes life livable and incidentally makes therapy possible.
...Gestalt therapy, with its emphasis on immediate awareness and involvement, offers a method for developing the necessary support for a self-continuing creative adjustment which is the only way of coping with the experience of dying and, therefore, of living.
Gestalt Therapy Now
The quotes from Laura Perls included in this issue were compiled by Anne Leibig as a contribution to this issue from the following sources: Fritz Perls, Here and Now, Voices, An Oral History of Gestalt Therapy and The Gestalt Journal.
1905 born Lore Posner in Pforzheim, Germany (near Frankfurt and the Black Forest) "I started to play the piano when I was five. My mother was a good pianist...It was something I grew up with. I know the whole classical literature, all the symphonies, which I had played four hands with my mother, long before I heard an orchestra...I went to a classical gymnasium. There were no girls gymnasiums. The first year I was the only girl. Later on another girl came in, with whom I have remained friends...
Easter Weekend, 1986 Gestalt Institute of Cleveland As the time began there were 16 of us, sitting in chairs in a circle. Laura was sitting directly across from me in the center seat of a comfortable couch with her shoeless feet extended on top of two big pillows. A small woman of 81, her short hair brushed away from her face.
She opened the gathering with the comment that she saw some people were attentive, curious and others looking off in to the distance. She spoke to one man about his one foot on the ground, the other across his leg. Then she looked directly at me and said I did not have enough support for my spine. We had "fronts" but to see a person's support we needed to be aware of the spine. I sat up straight and felt glad to be recognized and called to give more support to myself. A good beginning for me!
After several people had worked I said that I wanted to work. She asked me to come closer because with the light it was difficult for her to see me. I went forward and sat at her feet. I told her that I had come to the workshop to meet her. She asked me to exaggerate the way I was speaking which was with a smile, but with closed teeth. As I did this I said that as I was doing this I felt that I wanted to eat her. She smiled and said she did not know if she would be a tasty morsel.
I remember this beginning but the next -thirty minutes blurs for me. A few morsels I did digest. She commented that I moved too quickly from the "I-Thou" to the "We." When in group interactions I focused on one person who was pregnant, I found that I wanted to touch her belly and feel the baby. Then I went back to focus on Laura and wanted to touch her wiggling toes. I noticed that her fingers and toes were constantly wiggling, energy at her tips. I touched both the pregnant belly and the wiggling toes, and felt embarrassment, excitement. I became aware that in contact I want to eat and touch.
Laura turned perils into pearls.
A Memory of Laura Perls
Toronto, Canada, September 1974. I am a third year student of Gestalt therapy at the Gestalt Institute of Toronto. We have monthly weekend training -- this weekend is special as Laura Perls is coming to work with us.
By the time Laura arrived we were full of stories, anecdotes and perceptions about her. Twenty four students gathered around her on Saturday morning and suddenly I felt rather overwhelmed by this small person who radiated tremendous energy particularly through her eyes. Her eyes were alive, aware, searching, curious, smiling, communicating. To everyone she encountered she expressed a deep curiosity, almost looking into our souls and this curiosity continued through her work, during lunch time and throughout the evening meal.
Sunday morning. I am sitting behind a large couch, my head and upper arms resting on the back of the couch. I am watching Laura work. As she finishes her session, her big curious eyes focus on me. I notice her look and I freeze.
"Young man," she said, "please come out from behind that couch and talk to me."
"Yes," ... I found myself responding quietly and feeling this strong pull towards her. It was like a string that was attached to Laura's eyes was pulling me towards her.
"Please," she said, "Tell me, tell me about your childhood, how did you grow up?"
Without any hesitation I began telling her about being born the first month the World War II started and my family fleeing from Eastern Europe, and the bombs, and my mother's fears and my father's death. I was two years old then.
Laura listened carefully with her eyes. She smiled quietly and said, "Please, now show me how you were growing up, but tell me your story with your body, your movements."
I found myself slowly slouching on the floor and going into a foetal position, then slowly going on my hands and feet all fours and then standing up.
Laura looked at me carefully, following every move I made then when I stood up on my two feet she said:
"I notice that in your growing up you missed one step."
"Oh?" I said, surprised.
"Yes, you missed the crawling stage you are a young man in a great hurry."
You can slow down now," she said, "there is no more war, no need to rush."
That small piece of work with Laura was extremely significant for me. My existence was like fighting a war a war with myself with little satisfaction and a lot of fear. Now I move more with life's flow and ebb. I found my path and my direction. I move with grace, slow when need be, crawl when necessary and run when I want to. I have a purpose, a direction, and a peaceful, successful life.
Thank you Laura.
...I was very good in languages, in Greek and Latin and French. English is the only language I never studied. I read all the modern literature...
I did modern dance since I was eight. I started with Deikraus,...When I was thirteen, fourteen I started with the Lowelin system, which was connected with Rudolph Steiner....I found out later that what they actually did to a great extent were Yoga and Zen techniques. I have kept this interest all my life. Actually in South Africa, there was one of the Lowelin people, and we worked in my garden twice a week." (Voices Vol. 18, No. 2, Summer 82-29-31)
My fondest memories of Laura came after my first three day workshop with her in 1974, sponsored by the Los Angeles Institute. I was 25 years old and a doctoral student living in San Diego. She needed a ride form L.A. to San Diego where Division 29 of APA was having a conference, so I eagerly volunteered to drive her but worried that my small car might be uncomfortable for her.
We arranged to meet the next morning at her hotel. When I met her in the coffee shop, she began giggling and said, "See that young man over there? He's been flirting with me!"
During our drive, Laura was very warm and friendly, and showed genuine interest in my studies and my life. She encouraged me to be a Gestalt therapist, telling me she liked the insights I contributed during the group. I distinctly remember realizing I was privileged to be in the exclusive company of a brilliant master psychotherapist, the co-founder of Gestalt therapy, and that this opportunity would probably never occur again (I was right). After a while, she voluntarily began sharing very intimate details about the nature of her relationship with Fritz. I was struck by how open and self-disclosing she was willing to be with me, a young kid who she knew only by way of a three day workshop experience.
I remember her sensuality and her bubbly, unabashed way of showing her excitement. We talked about meditation, her early life, and gossiped about various personalities in the Gestalt community, each from our own perspective. Many of them had trained with her, whereas for me, I was being trained by them. I loved every second of it and didn't want to leave her when we finally arrived at the conference.
I remember walking her to the front desk of the Hilton hotel, carrying her bags. As she had no reservation, the desk clerk asked for some identification. Laura claimed she had none, which seemed a bit odd to me, given that she was on an extended trip across the country. But I felt like saying to the clerk, "Man, don't you know who this is? This is Laura Perls give her a room immediately!" I didn't and she got her room. She invited me for lunch, which I gladly accepted.
When it was time to say goodbye, I kissed her on the lips, which embarrassed her. Half way to my car I realized I had left my pipe tobacco pouch on the table. It was, of course, an unconscious way of not wanting to break the contact. So, when I came back in to pick it up I kissed her goodbye again.
Laura Perls Impressions
(From October, 1988, until February, 1990, I trained with Laura Perls in an Intensive Training Group for Professionals. I miss you, Laura.)
The Apartment 7 West 96th Street 7C The Door Renate Perls
The Entrance Fritz' enlarged photo larger than life grained, puffed eyes. The Kitchen small, lived in the pot of hot water, the tins of herbal teas, crackers, cheeses, grapes, and bananas all there for our ingestion.
The Living room in which we worked The baby grand in the corner the Schirmer Library music books upon it, rust carpet and rust velvet couch and the "lady's" space in the far corner, so she may stretch out her small, lady" legs. The extra pillow for her back. And P's "chair" bigger and grander facing the sectional. The books line the shelves of one wall Gestalt, psychology, spiritual, etc. A small photo of Fritz sits in a frame on a shelf. I see none of Laura. Some rather large contemporary paintings on the walls and statuettes scattered about. Little order little color few boundaries. It just is. The room does not speak of wealth nor of poverty. Rather, of a time past when its contents might have been more important.
February 17, 1990 (Her last session with us)
Laura said, "Most of the universe is unknown. Michael Vincent Miller spoke at the Institute on the `psychology of the unknown'. I don't quite know what he meant by that. Do you really want to know?"
Did she? What did Laura know that day that she didn't want to know? To my knowledge, it was her last day of training.
Upon arriving that day, S. and A. tell us they have seen Renate, who said, "Laura is dying." She left them the keys to the apartment, and went on to her workshop.
S. begins to work on a dream with Laura. As she works with her, Laura falls asleep. Is this real, or is she frustrating R. to mobilize her aggression?
It's real. She leaves us to rest. We laugh, we're anxious, we're angry, we're sad. We share beliefs regarding death and the hereafter.
One hour later, Laura re-emerges. She is pink and full of energy. She takes her "place" on the couch, and begins work with A. It is of separation, being "kept in the dark," not knowing. Laura is sharp. B. can externalize her negative introject, and briefly becomes the "child" who naturally knows how to know.
Do we really want to know? Or just imagine, fantasize, guess, and hypothesize. Knowing seems in some ways, so final. Laura says, "You're only finished when you're dead." Her curiosity of life and others, her child-like bewilderment, always intrigued me. I miss her presence a quiet way of knowing and not. I think she knew, that last training morning, that life as it has been, was about to change for her and us. And yet, with a whole universe of the "unknown" before her, even the unknown becomes inviting and promising. To know and not know, is akin to being constant, and in a constant state of change. Laura Posner Perls, died approximately five months later on July 13, 1990.
1926 "In the fall of 1926 I was a student in Frankfurt University. My professor Adhemar Gelb and Kurt Goldstein were given a joint seminar on the research they were doing the Gestalt psychology, which was then a new field. I was bored. As I turned my attention from the speakers I saw this man sitting there whom I had never seen before. I didn't know who he was. I had the feeling: "There he is! Fritz was thirty-three when I met him and I was twenty-one. I was very young, naive and inexperienced...yah, he was very impressive." (Jack Gaines, Fritz Perls, Here and Now, Celestial Arts, Millbrae, Calif., 1979, p. 7)
Before her identity was confirmed to me, I saw a woman, walking briskly outside Provincetown Inn, facing up into the wind, and I thought, "I bet that's Laura Perls." And it was.
Laura Perls for me, personifies what Buber describes as the high point of I-Thou relating "by the graciousness of her coming, and the solemn sadness of her going." What a rich legacy!
To live in hearts One leaves behind is not to die.
Eileen Abigail Wright
"Rob, you're a detective story reader, like Fritz; I hate you and love you for that."
My first meeting with Laura Perls was in July, 1961 at the Lake Arrowhead, California Workshop of the American Academy of Psychotherapists.
At that workshop Laura had offered to conduct a Counter-Transference Workshop and I used it as an opportunity to present my "work" with a female patient who had not looked at me or spoken to me for two years. Even now, almost 30 years later, I recall her careful, exquisitely perceptive and sensitive exploration of my mute journey with this patient.
And then, over the years, we became warm and occasional friends, at A.A.P. Workshops and Conferences, at Gestalt meetings in Cleveland, and when I brought her to Peoria to conduct professional workshops. And mostly we danced.
Laura was a woman and therapist of profound wisdom, who emanated a quiet vibrancy and moved with elegant dignity and grace.
I last danced with her in Cleveland in 1988. I shall miss dancing with her again.
Sol S. Rosenberg
Laura was gentle and graceful, but she was also something far beyond these two qualities. She was an effective leader with a penchant for precision and excellence. With a quiet nod, a certain look, or a simple gesture, Laura would support our strivings. Providing us with a safe environment, she would encourage our pushing toward the edge.
This slight, lovely, unassuming person was someone I wished to emulate. She appeared in my life at a time when chaos was a constant companion, and I was searching for a better way. With great care, she guided me during those few sessions in my effort to grow. She was fully available for those of us who were struggling to change.
I shall always remember Laura Perls with fondness and gratitude.
1930 married Fritz Perls in Berlin, Germany.
As we all know, Laura Perls was a low-key, down to earth person, so at any hint of putting her up on a pedestal, she had her own form of iconoclasm, i.e., a lift of the eyebrows and a penetrating look. Respecting her wishes, my offering of memories of Laura are a few light examples of her humanity.
Laura had a beautiful, wrinkle free complexion. Remarking on it, with the assumption that it came from health of mind, body, and spirit, I might have known I'd get a common sense, non nonsense answer that she started using creams when she was very young.
Once I told her that my husband had complained that I was using psychology on him. Her reply, with a chuckle and laughing eyes: "Fritz often told me to stop therapizing."
Something which touched me deeply was her comment when I told her that as a Capricorn, my arduous climb up the mountain was like that of a goat. Her response: "Have you ever seen a goat? They are very graceful animals. They dance up the mountain."
Lastly, how can I ever forget the image of Laura playing Mozart on the piano when we were coming in for group. She was so absorbed that she didn't hear us until we applauded at the end. Then she shared her sadness at not being able to play as well as she used to one of her few regrets about aging.
All Laura's looks and words are in my heart.
"Remember I was a Gestalt Psychologist before I got into psychoanalysis. Fritz was an analyst before he got into Gestalt Psychology. Sometimes it set us an insoluble conflict. I sometimes said I felt like Pavlov's double conditioned dog who fell asleep in the middle of the experiment."..."Tillich and Martin Buber, who was another teacher of mine in Frankfurt, had more influence on me than any other psychologists or psychoanalysts. I was impressed with the way they respected people." (Voices p. 8)
A Reminiscence of Laura Perls
In the early 70's, when Elaine Kepner and I were both at the Gestalt Institute of San Francisco and sharing a house together, Laura would stay with us whenever she came to the institute to do a group. I have some fond memories of Laura and I and sometimes Elaine sitting around the kitchen table chatting over a cup of coffee or tea. She would have been in her late sixties at the time.
I remember once when Laura and I were discussing what seemed then to be the bane of every woman's existence men. We were both complaining. I rued the familiar lament that there were no good men around that were single. Laura disagreed. That wasn't her problem. At sixty-eight, she said she had plenty of men interested in her. Her problem was that they were all in their fifties or early sixties and too young for her. "I want a man my own age," she declared slapping the table emphatically, "someone I can look up to." She signed. Clearly, this would be difficult.
Another time, around the same table in that sunny kitchen in San Francisco, Laura and I were talking more woman-talk this time it was about weight and fitness. I was saying how hard it was to get my tummy flatter. Laura said, "Maybe you're not doing the right exercises." At that point, she left her chair at the table and proceeded to lie down next to the refrigerator to show me the proper way to do sit-ups. Her head touched down perilously close to the cat's dish and water bowl. Aghast, I jumped up to try to dissuade her from what I had no doubt was not the cleanest floor in my middle class neighborhood. Laura shooed me away. "Don't be silly," she chided me impatiently. So there I stood, my feelings mixed with horror and admiration, as the Grande Dame of Gestalt did her well-executed abdominal routine on my cold, hard, not very clean, linoleum-covered kitchen floor.
1931 daughter Renate born "The concept of resistance was always understood in psychoanalysis as an anal feature. Then Fritz wrote a paper for a psychoanalytical conference in 1936 titled Oral Resistances. That paper was originally based on some research I had done earlier in Berlin when my child was born: the methods of feeding and weaning infants. I was mainly interested in the methods of feeding and weaning because my experience right from the hospital and what I had read about the feeding of children were very unsatisfactory to me. The way things are stuffed into little kids. The feeding is...it leads to introjection. They are not allowed enough time to chew. Weaning is often done very early or very late; and the food that the children get first is completely mashed and meally. Mothers are very impatient. Children drink the food instead of learning to chew. Chewing takes time and patience and awareness. I pay a lot of attention to the way people eat. I concentrate on the detailed activities of doing something; chewing as well as studying, putting on one's clothes, having a bath, or walking in the street. Minute work." (Voices p. 22)
I Remember Laura
The Frankfurt sky is grey now. Only a patch of blue over the downtown skyline. Laura told us once how, before the war, Frankfurt was called "Little Paris." Now, it's almost two months since she was buried in Pforzheim.
Laura would stay with us when in summers she did workshops in our training program. It was only a couple of years ago that the 83 steps up to our apartment got too much. She was an easy guest. Willy and I would enjoy talking with her. She liked to prepare little things in the kitchen, or curl up and read on the couch. Sometimes Shorty, our dog, whom she called "my hundele," would curl up next to her. Sometimes she would listen to Edith Piaf and dance around.
I think of a workshop in the late 1960s. San Francisco. It was still Flower Child days. After a whole day of noisy and chaotic demands for attention, her patience ran out. Still, I had been astonished by the contrast in atmosphere to workshops with Fritz, where people were often anxious and very serious. Thinking about this workshop in later years, I considered that with Laura there had been much allowing, and that some self-regulatory dynamic emerged, guided by Laura's patience, acceptance, and approachability.
A few years later when I wrote my dissertation, I credited Laura for being the co-founder of Gestalt therapy. In 1972, Laura's contributions were still largely overshadowed by Fritz' popularity and her apparent unwillingness to own her part in the development of Gestalt therapy. She wrote to thank me, saying no one before had written of her contributions or co-founding role. She added that Paul Goodman was also a co-founder and that without him "there would be no theory of Gestalt therapy." Her inclusion of Goodman showed a quality of loyalty and honesty.
In 1981 at the University of Frankfurt, Laura was honored with a "jubilaum" celebrating 50 years since she had received the Ph.D. from that university. It was intended as a modest event organized by a mutual friend, Dr. Annadore Prengel of the Department of Special Education; perhaps 40 people were expected. Five hundred showed up and the whole thing was moved to a large lecture hall. As we started over, Laura, now very nervous, asked me to hold her hand, which I did proudly. She spoke and then gave a short demonstration. There was no hot seat. No catharsis. No dramatics. Many angry people in the audience protested. Some banged their desks. Some got up and left the hall. This was not Gestalt therapy! With little exception at that time, Gestalt therapy in Germany was guided by some caricature of hot seat technique and Fritz Perls. Laura was shaken by the hostility, but remained dignified and persistent. On that day, we simply fell in love with Laura.
Laura held workshops at a place she loved called Kleinish, near the Moselle River. There was a group of perhaps 16 people. Sunday. The session was just beginning. Laura asked, "Wer will? Was?" (Who wants what?) I had been silent the night before: in the dream, Shorty had died. Laura asked me to identify with the dead Shorty. I refused. She asked me how old I was. I answered, "Fifty-two." She said, "You refuse to identify with the second half of life." I spoke some words quietly and cried and cried. This work took about 3 or 4 minutes and ended with me sitting next to Laura as I continued crying. I shall not forget meeting Laura that morning, which was an experience of sitting in clear light.
1933 Move to Amsterdam "We left Germany in April of '33. It was just beginning then: The Reichstag fire was in February; the boycott day when they closed all the Jewish businesses and broke the windows was the first of April. We were living in Berlin at the time. Many thought that the persecution would last only a year or two (how could an idiot like Hitler last?) but when we saw this developing we thought we would leave Germany." (Gaines p. 13)
"We had over a thousand volumes in our library and we sold it for next to nothing. It was just too awful. We lost everything our library everything...ACH! I can't even talk about it anymore." (Gaines p. 16).
"We tried to get work permits in Amsterdam but we couldn't because there were too many refugees already. Actually it was good luck that we didn't get them, because the ones who stayed all perished. My sister, her family who lived in Holland, all died." (Gaines p. 17)
The first time I met Laura was in my first Gestalt training group in 1971. At the time, I had already read all of the Gestalt literature, but this was to be my initiation to the Gestalt psychotherapy in vivo. Laura came for the weekend, and that Friday night I sat silently transfixed for three hours as I watched Laura work with a very difficult couple. As Laura was winding down the group for the night, I, unlike most of the other more senior members of the group, had said nothing. I got up from my chair and started to dance/walk across the room to somehow thank Laura for a brilliant introduction to Gestalt therapy. Before I was halfway across the room, Laura looked at me with that pixie-is look and said, "Oh, so you're a man who loves to surprise people. I was interested in and wondering about you all night."
At that moment I knew that I wanted to know what this woman knew. So for the past 20 years I have pursued that goal. Thank you Laura, you helped me on my path. I mourn you and carry on the flame.
J. Randolph (Randy) Burnham
In 1976 Rebecca Trautmann (my wife) and I began conducting our therapy and training groups together. We began having difficulty coordinating our styles of working Rebecca complaining that I was too fast with my interventions and I complaining that she was too slow. We decided to seek consultation and went to Laura Perls. After several sessions of working together, we finally brought up the problem of our difficulty of working smoothly and harmoniously in both therapy and training. Laura's response was: "Ach, keep your practices separate. It never works for a couple to work together." Rebecca and I were very disappointed with Laura's response to us, so we went off to lunch and began a series of conversations with each other that has resulted in developing a beautiful flow together over the years.
Several years after that event, I was at a conference where someone complimented us on our working style. I told the above story and how Rebecca and I had resolved the problem through our frustration. Someone else suggested that what Laura had done was a paradoxical intervention. I argued that the use of paradox was inconsistent with the Gestalt approach and that Laura would not have used it. The other person argued that paradox was very much a part of Gestalt therapy and that Laura had used it considerably.
At a dinner conversation some months afterward, I reminded Laura of what she had said some ten years earlier and asked her if it was a paradoxical intervention or whether she had had some other purpose. She smiled and said, "There are no paradoxical interventions in Gestalt therapy. Fritz and I couldn't get along working together and I didn't know what else to tell you, soI told you how Fritz and I solved the problem."
Richard G. Erskine
1934-46 Johannesburg, South Africa
"We were terribly in love with each other and the baby those were very good years. He acknowledged then that I was his wife, his lover and the mother of his child. At first he was crazy after Renate. For the first three or four years of her life she hung on his neck all day long and he loved it." (Gaines, p. 19)
My one personal contact with Laura Perls was a Gestalt-sponsored weekend with her in New Orleans. My drive back to Houston provided time to review the experience, to reinforce and enrich my Gestalt orientation. I even enjoyed the frisson* at being so lucky as to have have this weekend experience with her.
Thank you very much for giving me this opportunity to express my admiration and deep respect for the Great Laura Perls.
Rosemary Becker Hickey
*When we wrote Rosemary and ask about Frisson , she replied: "a shiver, a shudder, a thrill. The best word I could think of that identifies that exquisite little shiver that plays along your spine at such special moments such as above."
1935 Steven was born. "We had our first really serious disagreement when I was pregnant with my second child. It was very early during our first year in South Africa when we were building the practice and a house too. He was afraid another child would be too much of a burden." (Gaines p. 23)
The past few weeks, visual images have surfaced for me, like the first time I heard her firm, direct, yet gentle voice when I called to ask if I could join her training group. When she subsequently interviewed me and learned I had taken German in high school, she scared me by speaking German to me. Amazingly, Laura had a way of making herself understood.
I remember her generosity when I was looking at her book collection and noticed a book I was interested in. She gave it to me saying, "Bring it back next month. I have only two copies."
Once during a training session she was demonstrating something about how we hold our bodies in the world. I was amazed to see Laura get up from the couch and move her body this way and that and emanating such sensuousness as to seem to be demonstrating from a body in her thirties rather than her eighties. She was inspiring.
I remember calling her after our last training session in March to find out how she was feeling. She apologized for not being well enough to finish out the day. She said to me, several times, that the hardest thing about getting old was not being able to do the things you could do before.
When I told her I was upset about her illness, she replied in that gentle but direct voice that I was more upset for myself than for her. She was right. In just the short time I had with this unusual woman she impacted on my understanding of so much. I didn't want to give that up.
I have a certificate attesting to the training I did with Laura. Her signature is so fine and so delicate as to almost not be there. Perhaps that was a sign of the flame going down. I am so appreciative that I had the opportunity to warm myself before the flame went out.
I wish you joy and abundance on your journey. Our talks together and hours of philosophizing still inspire me. I want to thank you for your wisdom when you joined us at the Gestalt Institutes in Chicago and Toronto.
Mainly, thanks for your presence that lives now + now + now.
Sacrament of Life,
At times offering,
At times chewing,
Some times a meeting!
Take and Eat.
1946 New York. "But we had never really intended to stay in South Africa. We had already applied for immigration to America, but the quota was filled. World War II broke out, and after the war, faced with the '48 elections we didn't want to be there anymore." (Gaines p. 31)
We started the institute in 1952 after the publication of Gestalt Therapy: Excitement and Growth in 1950 and it was really then when things started to jell. Up until then what we were doing didn't have any name." (Gaines p. 29)
With you in my mind and my heart as I write to you Laura.
...Memories of the times we spent together...Times in N.Y.C. when on rare occasion I saw you and Fritz together. You trimming Fritz' beard and shaping him up for a paty at your home. The time when you joined Jim and I in L.A. for dinner and a play and we tried to convince you to come to the West Coast and you said, "No, we have everything we need in New York and of better quality."
I recall the times we spent in New Jersey and New York with Paul and Lotte Weiss. I recall you playing the piano at our home wherever we lived. You encouraged Josefa with her music and that you bought her a music book that she wanted.
And seeing you in the airport lugging your baggage with your little beret perched on your head.
1970 Fritz Perls dies in Chicago.
"Bob took us to a place called the Brown Derby. Odetta was singing and just before she came on, at nine o'clock, I tried to phone Fritz' room to see how he was. They said they were busy now in his room and to call back later. About 9:30 Odetta sang something and I said, "Fritz would have liked to have heard that," and it struck me that I had said it as if he was already dead. And at that moment he died." (Gaines p. 412)
"I am not a bitter woman. I have gotten over the mourning...through the years when he came and went...and came and went, it was always another separation and another period of mourning and resentment. Now it is final. I have lived through it and I think I am over it. I am also more creative...and I am enjoying my life again, much more than for many years before." (p. 420)
Lore Perls lived at the boundary, ever present, whole, radiant. She committed herself with loyalty and gentleness to therapy, training, family friends, colleagues, clients, students, music, walking, literature, art, dance, philosophy, forming Gestalt therapy and the New York Institute for Gestalt therapy and perhaps, most of all, to meeting us exactly as we were. She was always Lore, simply and fully Lore, a loving and much loved human being.
(From the program for Laura's memorial service, December 16, 1990)
Easter 1986 "Contact orientation and manipulation is only as good as the support which is available. Upright posture is the main support. Anything acquired, really learned, is support. Anything stuffed in is not. The most important concepts are boundary, contact and support. Support is the most urgent one."
"Improve your awareness in the smallest things!" (Cleveland workshop, Leibig notes)
There was something 18th century about Laura. She stood for refinement, elegance, a way of seeing and feeling that savoured nuance and grace. But she had also a pioneer woman's salty good humor and strength. She was after all a pioneer in psychological thought, and in our technique-ridden profession her work with heartfelt wholeness brought us back again to our deepest roots and most individual flowering. I remember having dinner with her in Berkeley when she was 82. She interrupted our conversation about music to smile with sudden delight at a 3-year old boy a few tables away who was looking alertly around the room. As if she had said, "Music and so on, yes. But there's something." She seemed always to be in touch with that child at another table, or within herself and other adults. And I am more so, because of her.
Bachelard says that memories are housed; that they do not occur so much in our schemes of when something happened but rather in our sense of where.
The last time we saw Laura was at dinner in Cologne, only a few miles from her birthplace and the last visual image we had was of her walking, not as briskly as we were used to, but with an air of easiness, along streets that felt familiar to her.
Laura Perls' death carries with it the sense of a life completed by its geography. She died where she had been born the ends of a circle joined. But what a circle. Interrupted and displaced by a force of evil that the world still recoils from, Laura lived in many places. Not only lived there, but contributed to and influenced many lives that were enriched because of her presence.
Erv and Miriam Polster
...Voluntary commitment demands sacrifices, the giving up of interests and involvements of value for the dedication to a greater value. This is the most difficult aspect of commitment. ...there are choices. The temptations are all around, even in the desert of one's own chosen dedication. There are periodically doubts and regrets, as I have experienced in my own life. But looking around here today at several generations of clients and students and co-workers and friends, I see the desert in bloom and I feel richly rewarded.
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