Monday, April 13, 2015

Tanna Moontaro: Yasou to A Free Spirit!

This Saturday I went to the Santa Monica Friends Meeting for a memorial service celebrating the life of a dear Friend Tanna Moontaro, whom I have known ever since coming to Southern California twenty five years ago. She was a Quaker ever since her college days--a free spirit who loved art, beauty, peace and justice, and cats. She was proud of the fact that during her college days she sang peace songs so loudly in front of the White House that a staff person came out and admonished her that she was keeping the Nixons awake. Good job, Tanna! She described herself as an activist, musician, singer, writer, and psychological consultant, as well as a mentor and teacher to many. Her friends wrote of "her creative childlike spirit, and sense of adventure, spontaneous wit, joy enormous heart, wisdom and intelligence, beautiful smile, honest and direct communication, compassion, active listening and generosity."

Tanna worked as a costume designer and prop person in New York City for shows like Saturday Night Live and received an Emmy nomination for her work. A confirmed pacifist, she was active in the anti-war movement and passionate about the Alternatives to Violence Project, a program that helped prison inmates learn how to resolve conflicts nonviolently.
Tanna's world: party animals

One connection Tanna and I had was her love of Greece. Whenever we met, I would embrace her and we'd both say, "Yasou," the Greek greeting meaning "Health" or "Hello."

When she was a young woman, having adventures in Europe, Tanna spent time in Greece working on fishing boats and fending off the Greek men. Although we never spoke about these days, I have no doubt she had adventures worthy of Zorba.

She did speak about a time she was in Florence, Italy, painting portraits on the street, and suddenly felt the impulse to sing out "I feel like a natural born woman." The Italians were amazed and applauded. This was a pure Tanna moment.

Last year I had a similar experience in Mykonos, the island where "Mama Mia" was filmed. While waiting for Jill to finish shopping, I was lollygagging in the town square and heard the Zorba song (the sirtaki) playing from a cafe where customers were sitting outdoors. I started to dance and the people started to clap. I made up the moves (Anthony Quinn did the same thing), flowed with the music and pretty soon Jill arrived and joined me. I called this my "Zorba moment."

I could easily have called it a Tanna moment. It certainly  was a moment that Tanna would have relished. Tanna's spirit lives on whenever we let ourselves be free and fully embrace the wonder and joy of being alive. Yasou! Oopa!

Tanna's world: Santa Monica pier

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