In this, her second memoir, New Prairie Woman is Susie Rosso Wolf’s depiction of her journey from Los Angeles to the historical town of Three Forks, Montana. On these pages you will discover the grandeur of “The Last Best Place” through her writing, poetry and photography, the challenges of living in a twenty foot trailer in sub-zero temperatures and how love, perseverance, and the miracle of faith can lift a soul up from the depths of the deepest, darkest waters.
Born in Santa Monica, California, I was raised in the small bedroom community of Sunkist Park that borders Culver City, Playa del Rey, Mar Vista and Venice. I attended Venice High School, West LA Community College and California Institute of the Arts. My studies included English, English Literature, Poetry, Creative Writing, Choir, Classical Voice, Shakespeare, Musical Theater, Television and Film Acting and Art History. In 1980, I relocated to the Pacific Northwest and in 1982 I married Kurt Wolf in Corvallis, Oregon. During the course of our long journey together, I have remained devoted to not only my husband, but to my friends and family, and the arts. What defines me most is my passion for expression through art. I’m an avid reader, writer and poet.I also enjoy painting and photography. Additionally, some folks consider me a pretty good cook.
Purple, pink and gray flames over Galpin Ford factory Oxford White flashed through each turn and curve of Topanga Canyon as my racy little Ford Ranger low profile truck zipped off corner to corner from Northridge to Sunset & Pacific Coast Highway. As the brightness of early spring daylight encouraged lace like shadows along the leafy tree lined two lane road I fell into a trance of blissful meditation. Drenched in spiritual awareness, meditation became an important daily ritual that saved me from drowning in depression. No longer “trying” to forget the pain of my failed relationships, I began to recognize the feeling of peace, once again, and cherished the quiet reflections that meditation was allowing me. My destination was Lake Shrine, the non-denominational church of *Self Realization Fellowship. The SRF temple was nestled in the sleepy coastal hillside of Pacific Palisades, California. Ten full acres of carefully designed grounds surrounded the sparkling lake where swans and ducks and turtles coexisted with hundreds of lotus pads, reeds, natural grasses and flowers galore. A walking trail provided reflective leisure as natural seating of wood carved benches gave respite to those who desired to sit a while to commune with God.
About half way up Topanga Canyon just after the sharp rocky peak curves, I felt a strange yet incredible rush of sweetness come over me that caused an enormous smile to emerge from within and suddenly I began to weep. My eyes were filled with tears so quickly I pulled Zippy to a turn out and shut off the engine. I sat back in my seat trying to catch my breath as I began to understand what exactly was happening. As if an angel covered me in a blanket of love, I felt the presence of God all around me. I felt funny even thinking about something so wonderful happening, because we are all, always asking, does He really exist? Is there really a God? What is this feeling I’m feeling if it isn’t God? What is this lovely warmth filling me up, this sense of pure love and joy? I sank so deep into meditation on the side of the road it must have been an hour before I realized where I was and that I needed to get back to driving. The feeling of God’s loving presence persisted as I drove into the driveway of Lake Shrine. I was so relieved to be there, where I could continue on with this glorious communion. Love radiated from every cell in my body and I knew that my eyes must have been shining brighter than the brightest star in the heavens. My aura had to have been a beautiful hue of soft blue as I practically floated to the lake.
I sat for hours watching the swans glide across the shimmering lake and the ducks dip below the water then pop back up again. My heart was bursting with happiness as I reflected on the many days I spent walking these grounds when I was a young girl, as I visited my maternal grandmother while she volunteered her time working in the gift shop on the grounds. Every Friday my father would pick me up from school and we would drive to Pacific Palisades to fetch Nana and drive her back home where she lived with us on Bray Street. Although I had spent most of my life as a catholic school girl, I enjoyed learning about yoga, meditation and “Divine Mother” from Nana and the monks and nuns that were devotees of SRF. I was always curious about the peace promoting religion and its cultural practices that were mainly Hindu. Aside from the unusual wardrobe they all wore; Sari’s for the women and Nehru style shirts for the men, all of the “devotees” were always so calm, and sweet. Quite different from the more abrasive demeanor of the priests and nuns that I was used to in school. Inasmuch as I had difficulty imagining the SRF nuns taking a good whack at my knuckles with a hard yard stick if I was disobeying or the monks to take a ping pong paddle to the back side of the boys in class for “clowning around” I suppose my natural ability to cherish and admire the Sisters of the Holy Name Order and the Los Angeles Archdiocesan Priests in charge of my education and religious training was inspired by catholic devotion and respect. Like the SRF nuns, Nana herself was deeply peaceful and considered by all who knew her to be simply “saintly.” It wasn’t unusual for her to dress me in leotards and tights when I was a little girl of maybe six or seven years old, to have me follow along with her while she performed her yoga exercises and meditation. I never really questioned these practices because I always felt good after a session of deep breathing, stretching and twisting, standing on my head to “get the blood to your brain and improve your thinking,” and quiet prayer. Nana remained a devotee of SRF until the day she died at 87 years old, and her memorial service took place right there on the lake, in the darling little wind mill chapel that sat on the grounds and held about 100 people.
After my walk around the lake and my meditation, I drifted over to the gift shop to purchase some incense as a gift for Kurt, and to admire the beautiful fabrics and trinkets that were imported from India. I noticed a collection of gorgeous little gold lotus shaped charms on gold chain necklaces that represented the ancient symbol of enlightenment. I remembered Nana’s gold lotus necklace that she never removed from her neck and wondered whatever had happened to it. Other memories of her entered my mind as I enjoyed looking at all of the many beautiful items so elegantly displayed and soon I was drifting back to a time of innocence and love. I left the lake on a cloud of peace and harmony and chanted songs to continue this spiritual connection for the entire drive back to the valley.
The moment I arrived home I gently planted myself onto my porch swing and opened the little book of “Metaphysical Meditations” that was written by SRF’s founder, a swami from India, Paramahansa Yogananda. His writings of deeply moving and prayerful mantras and meditations were so uplifting; I devoured every word as if I were drinking pure silk and it tasted sweet. I was finally in a good place in my life. Transformed from pain, illness and chaos, no longer was it necessary for me to try to put the agony of head injury, seizures, cancer surgeries, knee injury, back injuries, multiple bouts of pneumonia and Robert’s behavior, behind me. I had moved forward. I found peace, through loving God. It was nothing more than that, really. It was actually so simple, sitting with God and loving Him. That was all I needed to do to find my footing. And every day I worked out in the gardens with a higher purpose as I tilled the soil and clipped old blooms from the roses. Keeping up with my newly discovered quest for higher consciousness was very important to me. I knew I had to continue on with my daily practices if I wanted to avoid slipping back into the dark world of “what he did to me.” So the pleasure derived from my daily devotions carried me through the war between family members who for some reason could not come back together after a long history of love and companionship. Dependent on my time out there, each morning and afternoon, I scheduled my entire life around this private time, not allowing anyone or anything to invade my spiritual space.
The healing persisted and I felt free to live again. Life was wonderful again. I had recovered. And the recovery was holding. Everyone was amazed and relieved that I was able to function and smile and laugh like I had not laughed in so very long. My girlfriends came by to visit and to join me in shopping excursions. Diane and I were thick as thieves and we laughed hysterically at some dumb jokes while we shared lunches of pizza and gourmet salads. I was making jewelry and shooting beautiful photographs with my new camera Kurt bought for me for my birthday. Writing poems to each photo became a new art for me, that Kurt called PHOETRY; a fusion of my photography and my poetry. Busy with my many interests and visits with my girlfriends, trips to Pyramid Lake with Kurt in our boat and socializing with our friends at the house for barbeques and big spaghetti dinners, our lives resumed as normal and it was good.