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Pagan Passages: The Circle Dance of Life...
The cycle of the seasons... The cycle of life... Here we celebrate births, deaths, handfastings and other rites of passage related to the online Witch community

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 VoxPath:   Home / passages / Pagan Passages for 2000 Posted: 1/7/2000   Views: 5,488 

A Tribute To Leslie Payne Dauterman
by Stacy Bartley

As I sit down to write this tribute to Leslie Dauterman I find myself conflicted because there is a part of me that knows that no matter what I write, I will still not give the full essence of who she was and what she meant to all of us here in the PCCO and those who attended Summerset.

Every so often in a lifetime you are destined to meet someone who will change your life, and leave a lasting mark on your heart forever. Leslie was one such person for me, and I think for many others.

To sum up the entirety of who she was, it is necessary to look at all the parts of who she was.

Part of that was her sense of humor. Leslie loved to do what she called "gotcha's", and she had racked up an impressive score over the years.

This is the girl who for a certain amount of just retaliation toward a particularly unpleasant school librarian convinced the entire high school at Whetstone to check out as many books as they could, so deliciously evil was this plot even the school teachers bought into it and sent their classes to the library to check out books.

At the end of four days the library was a shambles, the librarian was a nervous wreck, and the school library was closed for three days so that they could put everything back in order as those books that went out all came back in.


Or before she and I started going out, I helped her wallpaper one of her rooms in her house. She had zinged me a few times during the evening, so I good naturedly zinged her back, and she got this look on her face, and she put her head down looking like she was going to cry, "I don't know how you could be so mean Stacy, I never would try to hurt you that way!" At which point I fell over myself apologizing, at which point she looked up and with a positively evil grin of triumph she said "Gotcha!"

Or at the very first Summerset work weekend back in 1991, after she and I had started going out, we did a little sparking down in the tall grass, but smooching as she put it, was as far as she was going to go where there were bugs.

Later we were sitting at the picnic table waiting for everyone to gather before we left for the day, and one couple who had gotten together that weekend and seemed particularly enamored of each others company hadn't returned yet. Leslie suggested I honk the horn.

I said I didn't want to interrupt anything, to which she responded "Spoken like a man who's tried it and failed!" Whereupon everyone who had gathered around the table stepped back away for the bloodletting they believed that was going to ensue.

But it didn't

I used to tell Leslie, "Leslie you are an evil black hearted bitch. And I like that in a woman." Which always made her smile. One day I made the mistake of saying that to another lady, whereupon Leslie cornered me later and gave me hell, "I thought that was your special name for me!" she wailed.

I have to say that I had had a serious crush on Leslie for some time but she was still going out with Dave in those days. But others had told her "He'd do anything for you. He thinks you're the neatest thing since sliced bread."

And I would have and I did.

But my crush on her was a quiet thing that I never expected to go anywhere. I admired Leslie because in the beginning of the Council she seemed to be one of the few people that was half way grounded, who had a real job, and had an inordinate amount of willpower. I loved her for her strength and determination. But I never expected anything to happen.

Then one day, she took me aside and told me that she had feelings for me too. Needless to say I was elated, if the Goddess herself had descended from the sky and offered to shack up with me I could not have been happier.

This started a long very special time in both of our lives. Over the next nine years we worked together on the PCCO, building the organization, building our events-especially Summerset and having many adventures.

Because of Leslie's more self effacing nature, many people are not aware of the pivotal role that she has played in the development of this organization. Leslie quietly did much of the work in getting the first fund raiser the PCCO ever did, the Kenny & Tzipora concert.

It was Leslie who when the PCCO didn't have the funds to pay for the first Summerset flyer, dipped into her own savings to cover the difference, and then resisted mightily as we finally convinced her to be reimbursed.

It was Leslie who came up with the idea for Winterfire our Yule retreat and proposed that since the ancients drummed back the sun on the longest night of the year that it should be about drumming.

It was Leslie who proposed the name of our newsletter, when after a long time wrangling over the name, finally said "Let's just call it Yet ANOTHER Pagan Newsletter." And YAPN it is to this very day.

It was Leslie who when the 300 anniversary of the Salem Witch trials came up that said "We should do something at the statehouse.". And we did reading the names of those who had been accused and condemned, and thanks to Leslie's scholarship the letter of recantation of the Salem jury.

It was Leslie who felt that we need to reclaim Halloween as Samhain and proposed we do a public ritual-and Take Back The Rite our public Samhain ritual was born.

It was also Leslie who felt that on Beggars Night we should go PCCO adults and their children from door to door and ask for "Cans Not Candy" gather the food for the needy.

It was Leslie that was always the prime mover in formulating our family friendly attitude for our events, and was always the person behind child care where her magic showed up for all to see.

Those who watched Leslie's transformation with children were struck with awe at the amazing skills that she had in bringing forth all the best that a child had to offer. Leslie never spoke down to a child, never belittled their dreams and instead instilled in them a sense of empowerment and personal worth.

So Leslie saw nothing unusual in letting the children have their own ritual and bonfire, or having the children bless the festival site. And like a Pied Piper she would lead them through the woods on adventures of joy and discovery

Leslie led the children through such workshops as mask making, rain sticks, wands, designing their own capes and many more-and the kids had a blast. In fact so much fun were they having that after a while adults would come up and bashfully ask if they could take the workshop too.

Leslie was pure magic with children and the joy on her face and the joy in the children's eyes would causing even the hardened heart to soften and a smile to appear on the lips.

No one who knew Leslie and I would accuse us of having a quiet calm relationship. We didn't-our fights became the stuff of legend itself in our years in the council.

Perhaps our most famous set to ended up with her pushing me out the front picture window of her house just as a police cruiser was passing. We both had to tap dance a bit to keep from being arrested. But from that day to this discussion of the word "defenestration" would get a smile from both of us.

One night I came back to the house and found her with that pit bull look in her eyes "Oh, oh!" I thought. Bravely I decided to take the offensive "OK, what did I do this time?

"You want to know what I'm mad about? You want to know what I'm mad about? I'll TELL you what I'm mad about! Every time we have an argument-EVERY time, I'm always wrong!"

"Honey that's just not so!" I protested.

"SEE!" she yelled in triumph.

Well I couldn't stand it, I cracked up laughing, and after a moment so did she, but after a little bit she got that look again and said "Well it's TRUE!"

I would give anything to have one of those fights again.

Leslie was a fighter, a real scrapper, who would stand up for what she believed in and back down for nothing. Everyone has some gift that makes them magical, Leslie had many but her chief gift was her indomitable will. It was her will that kept her going through the Councils bad winter of 1991 after the first early crisis when many of the founders of the PCCO left for various reasons leaving only Leslie and I to pull things together that first Winter after we had had a very successful first Summerset.

Leslie was once mugged one morning while waiting for the bus. The robber grabbed her purse and said "I'm robbing you. Ok?" Well Leslie let him take the money from her purse, but then her assailant saw the dollar bus fare she had in her hand. "Gimme that!" yelled the thug, but Leslie wouldn't- "NO! It's my bus fare!" And a great tug of war ensued that Leslie won by sheer tenacity.

"Why do you love me?" she would ask. And I would remind her of that story. She said "What? Because I wouldn't give him my dollar you love me?!?" I smiled and said "No, because you had the spirit not to give him your dollar."

Leslie had that spirit for a reason, she was born with a genetic malformation in the brain called an AVM-artero-venous-malformation. This means rather than a normal amount of blood vessels in the brain, she had a huge knot of them all wrapped up in a knot.

This thing would also grow, and after a while it started causing her to have epileptic seizures, and began to impinge on her eye sight and eventually it would have affected her hearing.

Her mother, who was also a fighter in her own right, wouldn't accept this and finally hooked up with one of the finest neurosurgeons in America, the man who saved James Brady's life after the Reagan assassination attempt. They spoke to Leslie about the possibilities and at the age of 14 Leslie was given the decision to have this very risky surgery. In fact after having been opened up once, she had to make decision to let them go in again the very next day. And she did that too.

I want people to understand this was 26 years ago. At that time they had very little of the modern technology that they have to day that would have made this a less risky surgery.

The doctors were only partially successful in reducing the size of the AVM. But they stopped the progressive brain damage that it would have caused left alone.

Even while recovery Leslie was less concerned about her own plight than the other children in the ward that she used to put puppet shows with her puppet Emerson Tiger.

The day after Leslie came home, much to her parents distress she was up into her tree house.

You see Leslie didn't want to let her medical condition rule her life. She was bound and determined that she was going to live as full a life as possible, and that's what she did.

While many people would not realize it, Leslie was extremely fragile and literally had a time bomb in her head.

I don't want to dwell on this very much. Because Leslie refused to let her life be defined by it. But it makes her efforts and her life much more admirable that she did it despite such adversity.

I found a poem and gave it to her once.

There is no chance, no destiny, no fate,
Can circumvent or hinder or control
The firm resolve of a determined soul.

Gifts count for nothing; will alone is great;
All things give way before it, soon or late.
What obstacle can stay the mighty force
Of the sea seeking river in its course,
Or cause the ascending orb of day to wait?

Each well born soul must win what it deserves.
Let the fool prate of luck. The fortunate
Is he whose earnest purpose never swerves

Whose slightest action or inaction serves
The one great aim. Why even Death stands still,
And waits an hour sometimes for such a will

Ella Wheeler Wilcox

I mentioned earlier Leslie's childlike sense of wonder. This did much to endear her to me. I would go out of my way to see if I could arrange bring wonder in her life. One of the first things we did when we started going out was go to a local metro park where we watched group of dear drinking at the pond. This was to be topped many years later when walking a path in Shenandoah national forest and we came to within five feet of a fawn. Her eyes got as big as pie plates, and her mouth opened wide and she was like a child on Christmas morn.

This look would also come over her face when I would bring her a new born kitten. Joy and wonder.

It is too bad that as adults we forget the sense of wonder that we had as a child. That the sight of a butterfly, or a cloud was a full of wonder and mystery as the universe itself, but Leslie never forgot this. She had it with her every day. And walks with her would be punctuated with her grabbing my arm and saying "Isn't it wonderful?".

And it always was.

Leslie was very active in the Children's Playhouse Theatre group, and early on she got chosen to play Wendy in the stage production of Peter Pan, and Leslie was Wendy in a very real sense throughout her life. I got to be her Peter Pan, but I think she taught me how to fly.

How can such a spirit not change everyone it encounters? I believe that Leslie is such a force. She has crossed this sea of life, yet her wake has crossed the bows of many souls, and I feel that these ripples will cris-cross this sea of life, like echoes telling us that Leslie Payne Dauterman was here and she made a difference and even now will continue to do so..

I want to take a moment to thank all of the people who stood by her in final illness. All the people who sent healing energy, who believed in Leslie and gave her strength.

This is a far better testimonial than I can offer in mere words of this woman's worth to so many of us.

As the reality of her death set in, I wondered to myself how it was that I never had written her a poem? Then while going through some papers of hers I found that I had. It had been back in the first year of our relationship, and this is what I said:

    Think not of tomorrow
    It is an illusion
    For as it comes
    It vanishes
    Only here and now remaining

    Elusive as a rainbow
    Ever beyond reach
    It is a glimmer
    An illusion
    Lost in the winds of time

    The future will be coming
    Becoming the present
    And eternal instant
    Locked between
    All our yesterdays and tomorrows

    Worry not for the day after
    It will pay no heed
    Knows not love
    Nor hate
    A mere cosmic abstraction

    But have we not the now?
    An eternal present before us
    Present given unasked
    Unto us
    To lose or use with wisdom

    Love is in truth a flower
    A rich ripe blossom
    Exists for an instant
    Ever unending
    In glory eternal

    It is the jest of time
    That this we forget
    There are no endings
    Only now
    If we only have eyes to see

    Let us reap the fruit
    Of this very moment
    A true eternity
    Before us
    Let us not allow its waste

Leslie had been saying how much she was looking forward to dancing again at Summerset. Especially this Summerset our tenth one. Had things been different, she would have been dragging me into fabric stores looking at fabric because she wanted the perfect bonfire outfit. She would probably have forced some of her friends to go too. And every once in a while she would get someone else excited about it too and they'd both go out to find the perfect fabric for the perfect bonfire outfit.

For Leslie the dancing was her way of touching the divine. In fact I could say with some honesty at least part of why I have helped to put on the PCCO events on through these years is to make sure Leslie had plenty of bonfires to dance around.

But despite the fact that she was so in love with dancing her physical disabilities limited her as to what she could do. So she followed a very careful routine that was within her capabilities. She no longer has those limitations.

Tonight at the bonfire, after the lighting and we have been drumming and dancing for a while, the bell will toll three times. At this point we ask that the dancers leave the circle. I will give a brief reading. The drummers will resume, and for three minutes we will give the fire to Leslie so that she can have her last dance around the bonfire. It is her moment of triumph

So much of the spirit of the PCCO has been Leslie. So much of what we accomplished, so much of what we aspire to accomplish come from her. We are going to miss her very much.

I have lost not just my soul mate but a piece of my soul. For she was part of me and I her. I am spiritually impoverished by her loss. But I have been given wealth beyond measure to have known her, loved her and been loved by her.

I know that she waits for me like Penelope in Ithaca as I continue in my wanderings in this odyssey of life. Yet I know that at journey's end, she'll be waiting for me so we may start new journeys together in the greater mystery.

Yet, let us not yield to sorrow. For sorrowful that we have lost her, more joyful should we be that we knew this wonderful person at all. This is a celebration, not just for Summerset, because we are 10, not just for the Pagan community for the spirit that it engenders, but for Leslie who's dreams and energy have made it happen.


At midnight at the bonfire (At Summerset) the bell rang three times. The drumming stopped for a moment as the dancers departed the circle. The following was read:


"Every warrior has a place to die, A place of his predilection which is soaked with unforgettable memories, where powerful events left their mark, a place where he has witnessed marvels, where secrets have been revealed to him, a place where he has stored personal power.

"And finally one day when his time on earth is up and he feels the tap of death on his left shoulder, his spirit which is always ready, flies to the place of his predilection and there the warrior dances to his death.

"Death cannot overtake the warrior who is recounting the toil of his life for the last time until he has finished his dance.

"And thus you will dance to your death here, on this hilltop, at the end of the day. And in your last dance you will tell of your struggle, of the battles you have won and of those you have lost; you will tell of your joys and bewilderments upon encountering personal power. Your dance will tell about the secrets and about the marvels you have stored. And your death will sit here and watch you.

"The dying sun will glow on you without burning, as it has done today. The wind will be soft and mellow and the hilltop will tremble. As you reach the end of your dance you will look at the sun, for you will never see it again in waking or in dreaming, and then your death will point to the south. To the vastness.


The drumming resumed, and Leslie had her moment with destiny and for three minutes she had her dance. Sparks flew up from the bonfire in a mysterious rainbow hues clearly from the spirit of Iris, Leslie's patron Goddess. Many people saw her, or sensed her. At the end of the three minutes a burning arrow arched across the sky like a shooting star showing that Leslie had passed among us in a blaze of glory.

The dancer returned to the circle, and Leslie's spirit was with for for the whole night. We think she will be back again in the future.

She is not finished dancing.

Bright Blessings Of The Gods On All Who Walk This Path!

Stacy Bartley

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