November. A purple invitation arrives in the mail, announcing a university weekend for Anaïs Nin at Berkeley, California. I am miserable because I cannot go. I say, “WHY DON’T WE DO ONE HERE?”
Adele answers, “YES, WHY DON’T WE?”
Neither one of us knows whether we can really swim in these new waters or not. We are both hard at our own art work, trying to achieve financial independence, and caring for a family. But we decide to jump in anyway.
Our ideas take shape. We don’t want thousands of people, as were at Berkeley, but an intimate group in a comfortable atmosphere, where conversation and revelation can flow easily. Knowing Anaïs, we feel privacy is a must. There is a place called Wainwright House located in Rye, New York on the Long Island Sound. It is a mansion where weekends of a philosophical or spiritual nature are given regularly for small groups. We could sleep and eat meals there. For an entire weekend we would be able to withdraw from the outside world. It seems a perfect setting. My husband, Larry, offers to be our assistant, but he worries what the people who come will find to talk about.
“Don’t worry”, Adele says, “We won’t be able to stop them”.
We want the weekend to profoundly influence the creative lives of the people who choose to participate. In its design, which involves as much selection and decision making as a work of art, we see it as a new form of education as well as a gift from us to Anaïs Nin. We decide to call our project “Magic Circles”, because of its many meanings for us. First, the magical effect Nin’s writing has on us. Then, we hope that the people who come will intersect with each other, return to their worlds, radiating their new awarenesses in ever expanding concentric circles. Also, magic circle means mandala, which is an archetypal symbol of the soul’s integration. It is a motif which Adele has explored in a long series of paintings.
Throughout January and February we enjoy the fun-work of making plans and contacting people for the program. Anaïs Nin is the center of this magic circle, within which we discern the life motions of Frances Steloff and her long supportative friendship with Anaïs. We think of Anna Balakian, professor of French and Comparative Literature and critic of the Surrealist and Symbolist Movements in Literature, which Anaïs knew well. Balakian had also written excellent reviews of Nin’s work in “The New York Times.” Seeking someone who had taken the trouble to make and print beautiful books with her own hands, as Nin did in the early days of her career, we discover the poet Daisy Aldan, long a friend of Nin’s. We also invite William Claire, because of his knowledge of literary magazines and because Nin was on the advisory board of his “Voyages”. Evelyn Hinz we ask because of her critical study of the complete works of Nin in The Mirror and the Garden. And finally since we want to have a discussion of the special psychological problems involved in being a woman and artist, Anaïs introduces us to Dr. Beatrice Harris, a psychologist. Later on, we discover circles within this circle. For instance, Daisy Aldan worked on a doctorate on Surrealism under the guidance of Anna Balakian and everyone knows Frances Steloff in some way, either as a friend or seller of books.
When we visit Daisy Aldan about her part in the program, she prophetically says, Everything happens for a reason. There are no accidents. Everything is coming together for a purpose.
We write a lot of letters and make many phone calls and trips. Anaïs keeps helpfully in touch and corresponds frequently on purple cards emblazoned with a Pisces symbol. A special, unconscious affinity with Frances Steloff amazes us and continues to do so. The first time we see her is at a lecture on Symbolism at the Gotham Book Mart. Her cat sits on Adele’s lap. The very next day Adele and I are at an Intensive Journal Weekend with depth psychologist Ira Progoff. We are concentrating on our writing. Completely unaware of each other, Adele and I are writing dialogues, using Frances as a wisdom figure.
A tiny white-haired lady tip toes into the room. No one notices her because we are all in a dreamy state, meditating and writing. I look up and go back to my writing. POW! That little old lady flowing beside me is Frances Steloff. Where am I? Am I fantasizing? Awake? Asleep? I explain to Progoff what has happened and how my fantasies are intermingling with reality. He laughs and nods in understanding and says, “Oh, that happens to me all the time. Think nothing of it and continue what you were doing.” THINK NOTHING OF IT, he says with cool.*
[*From Adele’s Dream Log, her personal account of the weekend, the source of all quotations by Adele used in this WWW site.]
We literally vibrate with excitement in describing this event to Frances who enjoys it thoroughly.
One night Anaïs Nin is to read at the Poetry Center and we have dinner with Frances beforehand. We follow her, as she leads us hurriedly to a Japanese restaurant, where she knows we can get good vegetables. She is preoccupied with her responsibility for operating the book table at the Poetry Center. We try to make her understand her important role in the Weekend Celebration, but she does not really believe us then.
At the Poetry Center we help her unload books and set up the table, Anaïs sweeps by us, smiling warmly. Frances, Adele, Larry, and I listen to the reading. Future participants of our Weekend are in the audience but we don’t know them yet. Larry helps us pass out a circular which says,
If You Are Interested In
Spending A Weekend With
Another day we view the films of Ian Hugo. The man — an engraver, filmmaker, and businessman — is charming, intense and friendly. His films are like dreams of color and movement. Adele says, he has said what all painters try to say but can only succeed at in the mind’s eye. We are borne away in the flow of images appearing in the dark and afterwards are reluctant to leave. Out of these marvelous flights via film we select with difficulty three for the program. We choose his biographical one and two with glimpses of Anaïs.
March. Adele and I make a brochure which crystallizes the whole event. We send out a big mailing and hold our breaths about whether others feel the power of the magic too. Surprising letters come in from Ohio, Illinois, Wisconsin, California, Texas, Virginia, Massachusetts, New York, Washington, and Connecticut!
…YES! YES! YES!
I CAN COME.
(PRAISE BE THE POWERS
…I should very much like to join you for the Weekend with Anaïs Nin. I am a professor of French Literature at the University of Massachusetts with a special interest in 19th and 20th century literature and women writers in France, England, and the United States. I have started to work on a study of intimate writings — diary, personal, memoirs, autobiography — that includes the Diaries of Anaïs Nin.
— Elaine Marks
A person unknown to us, named Lynne Honickman, who cannot attend herself, sends a check so that “two others who cannot afford the monetary might have the opportunity/luxury to participate — meet with the labyrinthian wonder of this extraordinary human being.”
One young girl sends her response on a Jasmine soap wrapper from India. It comes folded in a tiny square, wrapped in orange tissue, and sealed with wax.
Another sends a hand-lettered broadsheet quoting Shakespeare. One letter is delicately water-colored.
A college boy writes frequent semi-poetic letters in a thin, tall, Gothic print with his rapidograph pen. He says his brother is coming from San Francisco expressly for this Weekend. In the ensuing days he also telephones several times, always trying to find out more about us and Nin.
The gay originality of these letters tells us a lot about the people who want to come to our Weekend.