“A personal loss, and a self-restoration” – by editor/publisher Joe Maita

July 25th, 2022

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My home in Portland, Oregon

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“The only way to make sense out of change is to plunge into it, move with it and join the dance.”

-Alan Watts

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…..I write this from the basement office space in my home of 35 years.  I am surrounded by stuff I love – record albums, books, photographs, art.  All are reminders of a life well-spent and well-lived.

…..My girlfriend and I serendipitously found this four-story home in a classic Northeast Portland, Oregon neighborhood while taking a wondrous evening walk in April of 1987.   We had been together a year and spoke of how beautifully matched we were, and symbolically compared our love to a peeling onion – the more we peeled its layers back, the closer we got to its core.  We were ready for big things together.

…..A sign in front of the house read: “For sale by owner.”    We stopped, shared an interested glance, and agreed to investigate.  Would it be rude to do so?  We sheepishly knocked on the door.  A friendly couple several years older invited us in.  They showed us around and we instantly fell in love with its charms and warmth, and began to do what young couples tend to  – imagine living in the space.  Here is where we will put the baby crib.  Those are the steps our daughter will walk down, dressed for the prom.  Blue is the color for this bedroom, beige in that one.  And those vinyl kitchen countertops have to go.  We returned to our rental duplex and told each other that, along with our undying love, this home could become the foundation of a life together.  We bought the house in May, moved into it in July, and married in August.

…..Over the years our home was central to our family’s life. We hosted holiday dinners and set up the backyard barbeque.  Our children’s schools and friends were a short walk away.  Our parents could easily visit from Seattle and San Francisco.  They’d sleep on the fold-out couch in the family room and, in winter, sit with us in front of the fire at 7:00 AM for coffee and at 5:00 PM for cocktail hour.  They’d watch our kids unwrap gifts under the Christmas tree and gleefully listen to their clumsy rendition of “We Three Kings” on the piano.  Our life wasn’t a Rockwell painting, but it was close.

…..Our house was built in 1894, the oldest home in this neighborhood.  Unsightly mid-century remodels faded its charm, but the bones were good, and after 20 years here we chose to open our wallets and make a major investment in reviving it.  We tore off exterior shingles and restored its original 19th century siding, added ornamental touches, ripped up carpeting and rescued the original hardwood flooring underneath, tore apart walls and added insulation, installed air conditioning, and brought the plumbing and electricity up to code.  After several years of reconstruction and exhausting expenses, the house became its Victorian farmhouse self again.

…..These efforts made our house cosmetically gorgeous.  It was featured in local and national home restoration magazines.  It was part of Portland’s Architectural Home Tour.  Neighbors and passers-by would stand outside and take it in, often thanking us for revitalizing our home.   It was a wonderful feeling, and we basked in this for a time, but I knew something they didn’t – that all of this beauty was held up by a 110-year-old brick-and-mortar foundation that would likely crumble in even the slightest Pacific Northwest earthquake.  We had performed impeccable cosmetic surgery on its outer layers, but overlooked its interior core.

…..So, we took a breath and then set out to learn about foundation work and what option for rebuilding it would give our house the best chance of surviving a major earthquake.  The contractors we hired convinced us the best solution was to cut a three-foot-deep trench alongside the original brick foundation, fill it with concrete and rebar, nail 2×4’s from the new foundation to the floor joists in the basement ceiling, and, finally, build new walls and paint them.  Now, in addition to the house being the symbolic foundation of our family, it was literally secured by a strong, technologically-sound, 21st century foundation.  We had braced the house, and seemingly ourselves, for impending old age.

…..But things changed.  I retired.  My wife didn’t.  We started taking separate vacations and pursued different interests and friendships.  We were growing more distant.  And then, COVID hit, confining us to our house, and to a feeling, at times, of a separate existence within it. During this time, vulnerabilities became harder to effectively share, my old and weary feeling of “unworthiness” re-emerged, and only the outer layers of our relationship onion were being peeled – its core harder to get to.

…..Then, in the late winter of last year, an “earthquake” hit our home.  My wife left.  It wasn’t what I anticipated or wanted, and I was hurt for me, for us, and for all who love us.  It was (and is) distressing, depressing, sad, and awful.  But it happened.  I was plunged into change.

…..Since, I have felt the support of loving family and longtime friends.  I’ve also made a couple of transformative, soulful friendships.  My relationships with my children and siblings have deepened.  I walk an awful lot.  I also read, keep a daily journal, listen to music, meditate, explore podcasts, publish this website, and even play a little bit more golf.  I am working through my grief and am generally doing better, but I have my days when a new realization hits hard – like the one that surfaced the other day, about how my wife of 35 years won’t be sitting with me by the fire in old age, reflecting on a life together.  It can be heartbreaking.

…..So, while shaken, it turns out that my own foundation is made of sturdier material than brick-and-mortar.  It has mostly held up well during these tough days, but like my house several years ago, it is currently undergoing a necessary restoration.

…..The most recent effort at this took place in June, when I went on a 30-day road/camping trip with Terry – a cherished friend of 45 years – and his dog “Moose.”  We drove his van along the back roads of Ohio, Pennsylvania, New York and much of New England, witnessing the sacred beauty of the country, but also how fractured it is economically, spiritually, and politically.  (This country’s foundation is made of brick-and-mortar).  From there we explored the Maritime Provinces of Canada, and into Quebec.  All along the way we laughed and listened and explored, and I allowed myself time to think.  What will I do now? What opportunities will come from the death of my marriage, and the death of the old me?  What will tether me to the world, and shield me from another psychic earthquake?

…..The most meaningful decision I’ve made during this time is to keep this beloved home.  It’s probably too big and it can feel empty at times, but its walls hold loving voices and cherished history, and I’m embraced by a community of supportive and respectful neighbors.  It is also a place in which I can pull my chair beside the warmth of a familiar fire.

…..During the road trip, when looking toward a future I hadn’t originally pictured, thoughts frequently brought me to this website, and how blessed I have been to publish it for 25 years, to sense its worth to the community grow, and to feel a critical vitality from editing it.  It is a link to a world I find comfort in, a place to flourish and learn, and a space in which to develop and honor new relationships.  Along with family and friends, it is a critical part of my foundation.

…..And, while I imagined new avenues for contributors to participate in, I became aware that I have only shared my own outer layers here, that my interior core is not often revealed.  So, I am making a conscious commitment to share myself a bit more and move beyond the malignant  feeling of unworthiness, to further engage with readers and writers, and to write more, with the intention of sharing my personal experiences with the music and culture that connects this community – to plunge deeper into this change, move with it, and passionately join the dance.

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Joe Maita
Editor/Publisher
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On Prince Edward Island, along the Gulf of St. Lawrence

June 19, 2022

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Listen to the 1960 recording of John Coltrane playing “Giant Steps” [Rhino/Atlantic]

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21 comments on ““A personal loss, and a self-restoration” – by editor/publisher Joe Maita”

  1. How brave you are to share these feelings. And gracious. I think when you openly peel back layers it makes us all feel less alone. Thanks for sharing!

  2. What a beautiful, yet sad peek into your life, Joe. I consider you a friend and I am reminded of the song by Gladys Knight, I Hope You Dance. Much love to you.

  3. Joe, life goes on even after major breakups. I should know.
    You are valued by so many poets and jazz enthusiasts,
    worth your weight in gold, platinum, and all the blue note
    records put together.

  4. With admiration for your strong foundation and everything you continue to build. Wishing you many better and happier days.

  5. Joe, I was so touched by your story. I could only write a short poem. Please Be well.

    Almost four decades/so much dust/swirling dry monsoons/outlines of footprints/imprinted with rain/trace your walk/while moving forward/on the beach/red blue sunsets/in your hands.

  6. I love your website! Newby reader here of 2 yrs . . . and it’s now more lovelier to savor after allowing us all to peek inside the founder of this wonderful website, thank you!

  7. Dear, dear Joe,
    I am so happy to get insights into the email/invisible you. A photo! A warm and revealing you in words. Gosh, gosh, so brave and yet so necessary (as you can often see from my jazz themed poetry – autobiographical all. It was gladdening and inspiring.
    Yes, by all means (well, by means of writing, really) include your modest and obviously productive self in every issue. First of all, it’s obvious you write well! Interestingly, gently,,and importantly, philosophically yet everyday-ly. (I guess there is no second or third of all, first of all covering all my needs) It will be a pleasure to be enriched by your additions to JerryJazzMusician ( I never have understood the name).

  8. Joe, along with being a great ally to our music you are also a brilliant writer. Thanks for sharing and keep in mind that James Moody re- married in his 70’s! and also that loss in these cases goes two ways… all best to you from Alto Manhattan

  9. Joe, after emailing you this morning, I read all the comments folks have made and am pleased it’s out there how much you mean to so many of us and how much we all appreciate your work and you.

  10. Thank you, Joe, for sharing your story. Continue your journey of self-revelation. We, your readers, can only be enriched by your sincerity. And thank you for Jerry Jazz Musician, a valuable site for jazz lovers. You posted some of my poems. I am now working on a novel.
    And my father was born on Prince Edward Island, a preciouys place whose beaches promote self-reflection.
    Best.

  11. Thanks for sharing your story with us. For strategies in processing the trauma of what you are experiencing, may I suggest talk or emdr therapy to help you take care of the anger and the sadness that you have understandably been suffering.
    Thanks again for giving us the chance to meet with Amy Albany, Buck O’Neil, David Maraniss and Sue Mingus who sadly died this week. Fortaleza!

  12. I was deeply moved by your very well written article revealing your loss. It is reassuring that you have the love and support of your children, friends and community. As they say, learning to dance in the rain is a key skill to survival. Keep on dancing Joe. You do it well.

  13. A beautiful and heart-breaking story, Joe. This point in life for so many of us can be so poignant with depth opening up when we least expect it. I love your words here. They likely give strength to all of us reading them. I’m glad you are remaining connected to your house. Glad too that you are still publishing Jerry Jazz Musician. It really is a gem and why the internet still has value.

  14. Been reading your Website for years. If its not true that ” writers must read constantly to become great writers ” it will be Ok by me. You craft jazz stories from your heart ❤️. Your personal story brought me near tears. Comfort and strength to you. We need recipes for love and aging. Thank God for Jazz cuz ” Rhythm will save the world ???? “

  15. Joe – I read this when it first appeared, but tonight re-read it and was even more touched by your story. The world is a mess right now, but it’s the personal stories, one at a time, that really move us. I’ve been listening to more jazz these days and I know why. Years ago, in a magazine article about jazz a man was quoted saying, “The music never lets you down.” Sometimes you hang on to whatever you can. Working now on poetry. Soon…
    Molly

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