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I have known Lisa since she was 10 – always spirited and fun to be with. Lisa’s grandmother, Dorothy, was my sister’s ( Linda Robertt ) mother in law. My daughters, Laura and Dana, had so much fun with their cousins Glen and Heather. Thanksgivings in Southern California were a joyous occasion with Lisa, Jill, their mother, Sherrie and their grandma, Dorothy and Doug,
Lisa Robin Marks, a Recollection
Lisa was a contemplative who wanted to know the truth. I was a friend of her first husband, Al Webber, a professor at UCI in Comparative Literature. I met Al Webber hanging around with a group who studied Greek philosophy, Eastern Religion and Dream work and got together weekly for discussions at Orange Coast College. Most of these students of philosophy lived out on the Costa Mesa bluff, including Al and Lisa. Lisa was drawn to Al because of his esoteric interests and participated fully.
Later, when I lived in Madison WI where I was in the Buddhist Studies program at University Wisconsin Madison, Al and Lisa came to visit. They were traveling in a blue van visiting Buddhist centers across the US, interviewing prominent Tibetan Buddhist teachers on the meaning and significance of the Tibetan Book of the Dead. Much later, when Alan died, from cancer, he followed the instructions in that manual of dying, which Lisa read to him. She was very impressed with how Alan died in a conscious, peaceful way.
Lisa and Al, together, built a very tasteful natural wood condo on Pacific drive on the Costa Mesa bluff and renovated a house there that they lived in on the bluff. Lisa was also very active in lobbying to save the open area on and around the bluff from further development. I always stayed with Al and Lisa when I came down from the Bay Area to visit family and that continued on through the years up to the present. I came down to So Cal almost every year and stayed with Lisa in Laguna.
In the 90’s Lisa moved to Berkeley, where I was living, to enter a Masters program in math at UCB, a very highly regarded math dept. It was no small feat that she accomplished that with honors as it was a highly regarded math department. During that time she met Kem, who became her husband also. They bought a house in Berkeley and later moved back to laguna where they bought the house on Eagle Rock.
Lisa was an engaged environmentalist and when she moved to South Laguna she was very active in trying to save the rare native plants on the hills there and stop construction of humongous houses across the top of the beautiful South Laguna hills. She was chosen to go and present a paper at some prestigious environmental organizations, working with the city of Laguna in this endeavor.
Over time, Lisa studied various forms of Buddhism, especially Zen and Tibetan Buddhism as she attended a retreat in far Northern CA with a well-known Tibetan Lama; Tsoknyi Rinpoche. Lisa was also interested in the new research on psychedelic use in therapeutic treatment of PTSD, addiction, and end of life anxiety. We attended the Psychedelic Science Conference in 2019 in Oakland together and was, similarly, interested in Shamanism.
Lisa was a dear friend to me and I always treasured our discussions and inquiries into the nature of existence, the nature of the universe and mind. And yet she was fun to be with, we went dancing together, laughed and giggled like teenagers at times. My dear friend was up at my house in Lake County, above Napa, the end of October 2019. She loved to go to Harbin Hot Springs and soak in the baths. We were going to go there but there were storms, a fire in Geyserville and electrical black outs to prevent the spread of fire , so we huddled at home. The weather cleared up, even if the power was off, so we went for a drive in northern Lake County. It was a beautiful sunny day and we went for a walk in the woods and did yoga on the picnic tables. it was, as always, a joy to have her here. She was like the sister I never had and kindred souls, as well.
Lisa left my house on October 27th to visit a friend in Sacramento. On November 18th I got the call from Cheryl that sweet Lisa was staying in bed, not eating or sleeping and seemed confused, she was in the ER and the scan showed the glioblastoma of her prefrontal cortex.
I was shocked and dumbfounded. It was downhill from there, with little glimmers of hope now and then. I wasn’t able to go down and stay with her until about Dec. 12th, the day after my 73rd birthday. I was there a week when she went from being communicative with her body and eyes to being very restricted in affect. One day when I was mostly alone with her she took a turn for the worst and I could barely get her up off the furniture which was on the floor.
Members of the local support community came and we decided to call in hospice as it was becoming difficult to manage her daily needs and it was clear she wasn’t coming back. Yet, there was a sweetness in our treasured friend and she was able to follow conversations with her eyes. I was devastated, but tried to muster every ounce of my being to help her and to enlist the Buddha’s to guide and protect her. That effort saved me from falling into bottomless grief. Later I arranged with my Tibetan Lama-ess, teacher, to have monasteries performing final prayers for her to protect her in the Bardo (after death spirit passage) and guide her toward a blessed rebirth.
When Lisa had passed and all that was done, I finally felt the vacuum…she’s gone. The dear friend that had been such a part of my life for so long would not be there again. It’s hard to comprehend… I still send prayers everyday for her protection and guidance to the most auspicious life possible. Tears fall, like a spring rain that will hopefully bring something fresh to birth.
Lisa Robin Marks was my dear friend. I miss her more than I can say.
Lisa was capable of deep friendship and enduring friendship (twins Shawn & Shannon since early childhood, and Rifka and Elyse for roughly 40 years). She tended to her friends’ needs as if they were close family, and was eager to offer assistance — thoughtful advice especially — and brainstorming to help solve difficult personal problems. She was one of the best conversationalists I’ve ever met. She was always keen to listen, but never too shy to speak — which made truly balanced exchanges easy to come by and deeply satisfying. She could also be a trusted and most thoughtful confidante.
She was highly perceptive and intelligent. This made it possible for her to quickly sort sense from nonsense — especially in the realms of politics and public policy. It also allowed her to accurately ‘size people up’, and to then effectively form relationships, or not. This intelligence also supported her completion of a masters degree program in mathematics at UC Berkeley in the 1990s. It also made it possible for her enjoy decoding the mysteries of music theory… and to manage the complex business of Jill’s caregiver program.
Beyond her natural mental agility, Lisa developed an illuminated personal wisdom over the course of her life, which guided her approach in general, but especially her interaction with other people, and with her friends especially. This ‘deep-self’ awareness also allowed her to take the Big Step back that revealed her own thinking and her own emotional states to not be her self per se, but rather aspects of her self, and thus subject to her will, and self-repairable. She would treat her own mental and emotional difficulties in much the same way that she might advise a friend experiencing similar trouble. Lisa was so mirror-clear herself that it could be challenging to spend time with her, because any lapse in one’s own expression would become uncomfortably obvious. On the other hand, it was of great help to her friends (this one at least) in their own efforts to right their own ship of self.
Lisa was an incredibly responsible adult. We know this from her political work (support for Harley Rouda’s successful 2018 campaign) and permaculture activism (I believe that Jodi said that she was Chairperson of Earthroots’ board of directors in 2012). The greatest and most obvious indication of this, though, was her lifelong care for her beloved big sis Jill. The trials of managing Jill’s caregiver program was a near-continuous burden for the latter part of Lisa’s adult life, and it was often difficult for her to take a break from it. Lisa loved Jill unconditionally, which made her the best caregiver (among some great ones) ever for Jill. Lisa’s own caregiving sessions for Jill were very much labors of love, and were full of passionate singing (‘Mimi’ and others of Jill’s favorite songs), wild laughter, intense and unique dramatic play, and much warm physical affection. (Some of these sessions are among my fondest memories of both Lisa and Jill.)
Lisa loved adventure in general — hiking, camping, kelp-tending, road trips to visit friends and family in Nevada and No Cal, attending concerts at local venues and the Segerstrom Center (everything from Mavis Staples to Rachmaninoff), and regular morning swims in the ocean. She was also compelled to explore the mysteries of her own unique consciousness.
Lisa was a creative musician. Her first love, from early childhood, was piano. Though she often regretted not having more time for it, she was able to make considerable progress in recent years with the help of her friend and piano teacher Richie F. Music was at the heart of my friendship with Lisa, and we had at least a hundred piano and electric guitar jam sessions together over her final five years. These jams were inspiring creative outlets for both of us. She would improvise compelling chord progressions on the spot, and I’d explore melodic lines to fit them, or we’d play favorite songs together, like \’Red Tail Hawk’ or ‘The Air that I Breathe’. We took this project public a couple of times, providing music for two local Dance Journey events. We often fantasized about playing on the street corner in Laguna, and went so far as to shop for a portable keyboard for her. She often played her little melodica keyboard when she was on the road or camping, and in our jams. Lisa could also play guitar, and was learning to play harmonica, much to Jill’s delight, who was keen to play along, sort of, on one that I bought for her.
She was in for fun, when she could manage a break from her work, and she excelled at both experiencing it and creating it — especially with music and dance improvisation. Her joyful and dynamic dancing was a wonder to behold, and a deep pleasure to engage with (though not necessarily easy to keep up with!).
Lisa was vivaciously beautiful. She was full of life, to overflowing. Her earned wisdom and natural enthusiasm for life radiated through her athletic body, her movements, her speech, and her expression — and induced respect, admiration, and affection in all privileged to know her, however well. It was a joy just to see her smiling face, and to hear her musical voice, and to hold her hands.
I have known Lisa Marks for about 15 years. We were friends, neighbors, and civic/environmental activists together. We served together on the City’s Environmental Committee and worked together as members of the board of directors of the South Laguna Civic Association.
On the City’s Environmental Committee, Lisa put to public use her impressive math skills by making sure the calculations in our Climate Protection Action Plan (unanimously approved by City Council in 2009) were correct. She attended our many Saturday morning meetings to keep our writing of the plan on schedule. As chair of the work group writing the plan, I knew I could count on Lisa to fill in and help out wherever she was needed.
Lisa’s membership on the South Laguna Civic Association’s board of directors was also exemplary and largely environmentally oriented. She was a strong supporter and advocate for establishing a Marine Protected Area in South Laguna to safeguard marine habitat and replenish fish stocks. Beyond her MPA advocacy, Lisa took a strong stand on protecting native plants on South Laguna’s hillsides when some people in the community favored maximum trimming of all vegetation for fire protection. In addition to this environmental work, Lisa took on the daunting task of editing SLCA’s Bulletin that went out to our membership three times a year. This means she solicited article submissions, edited them, did the layout, and saw to the publication and mailing of each issue of the Bulletin. Our SLCA board of directors now has at least five people to handle the Bulletin, that is, doing what Lisa did largely by herself.
Lastly, my fondest memories of Lisa are of swimming with her several times down at Table Rock Beach in South Laguna. She loved the ocean and her face lit up when out in the water on a clear Summer day. On those occasions and on many others Lisa followed her bliss while serving as a steward of the environment.
As we collectively mourn the loss of one of our incredible community members, we are reminded of how precious life is. Lisa Marks was a bright light, a devoted sister, an activist, in love with the earth and the ocean, dedicated to mindfulness and wellbeing, and one who gave generously to dozens of causes around the world and at home in Orange County. Lisa died last Sunday at her home, in her sleep having been diagnosed with brain cancer only two months prior. With her passing, we are reminded to appreciate the gift of life, as we never truly know what the next day may bring.
When I first met Lisa in 2004, she was introduced to me as the “worm composter” of South Laguna. She volunteered to care for the worm bin and brought dark, rich soil to the community garden. At that time, I was leading classes for children at the garden and our mutual care for the earth brought us together to become good friends.
Lisa was a supporter of Earthroots from the very beginning. A few years after meeting, we were sitting around Lisa’s kitchen table with a couple of friends envisioning the direction for Earthroots Field School. With the support of those friends, we became a non-profit organization and Lisa was the founding President on Earthroots Board of Directors. Lisa embodied the role fully and was a critical leader in the growth of the organization and the purchase of Big Oak Canyon. She volunteered regularly in classes and loved camping under the stars at Big Oak. Lisa was moved by our dedication to fostering continued nature connection opportunities for children, teens, and adults, and pushed us as an organization to thoughtfully and strategically transform our expansive vision into reality. There are countless individuals and families who have benefited from her contributions to Earthroots over the years. We are forever grateful.
Lisa was a talented musician, a kind and gentle spirit, she inspired everyone with her dance moves, always said “YES!” when invited on a backcountry camping trip, was a math professor, had a unique way of connecting from her heart, and on top of it all, took great pride in lovingly caring for her sister Jill.
Lisa brought joy to so many. Her bright light will continue to shine in the hearts and smiles of her community. We will look upon her as an ancestor now and ask for her guidance from the stars.
With Love and Gratitude to a remarkable soul, and to the incredible gift of life.
Lisa was a creative part of Kelpfest, an annual Laguna Beach celebration, adorned with strands of kelp looking like a sea goddess she danced and encouraged others to celebrate the ocean.
She worked to find other solutions to grazing the goats on South Laguna hillsides.When we look at Aliso Peak now blooming with the white Ceianothis flowers, we’re reminded how Lisa worked with South Coast Water District to avoid placing a wide Access Road that would have scarred the peak. She helped convince officials that a foot path was all that was necessary to bury the utility lines.Following that she again worked with SLCA and our local water district to install a water treatment plant to clean their recycled water so more could be used on the golf course rather than discharged to the ocean at Aliso.
Her love of the ocean showed most brightly when she spoke passionately to help our community effort to convince Fish and Wildlife officials to protect the marine life along our coast and create our Marine Protected Areas. Lisa could be found almost every day swimming at Treasure Cove or Table Rock throughout the summer. She was a rare conbination of a brilliant mind with a Masters degree in Mathematics nurtured by the best of hippie love of dance, music and joy.
Lisa was an intellectual, and a lifelong seeker. She was always ready to embrace a complex topic, to tease out meaning and revel in the process. She had an enlightened way of holding everything both equally precious and light hearted. Lisa was thoughtful and tenacious, and some decisions took her on a long journey of detailed exploration, ultimately leading to a carefully well-crafted decision/ action. Lisa stands out as a deeply ethical human being who dedicated herself to walking upright and lightly on this planet. I have long admired the simplicity of her approach to material possessions… quality and meaning, spaciousness. Over the many years of our friendship, I have regularly reflected on how fully she created and embraced opportunities to experience, and learn from the experience. Lisa was an adventurer. Though gentle in manner, she had a strong fire to bring to important causes and gave generously of herself to support efforts. She was keenly intelligent, insightful and courageous, and this made her a powerful leader and a spearhead for important projects (political, ecological, social. Lisa also had the humility of the lifelong student which made her a wonderful attribute in a support role. Lisa was a true fun/ joy lover, and did not confine herself to a menu of possible delights, she just went for what came her way, playing with gleeful childlike surrender to experience while stretching open to create opportunities. She loved to laugh and her brilliant blue eyes shone when she was particularly excited or happy. Making music, sharing music, receiving music were very important in Lisa’s life, as was dance. She really knew how to celebrate and let go and she inspired others to do the same, turning on the taps, celebrating life, letting go. We shared many, many delicious meals, and nourishing vibrant natural healing was a particular focus and source of inspiration of Lisa’s daily life. From regular early morning dives in cold ocean water to get tingly and fresh, to regular solo sleep outs under the stars in wild places, Iyengar yoga, local, organic, conscious foods, hydration and healthy water, medicinal herbs, quietude, self-care was a lifelong focus for Lisa. This focus was a dynamic edge of discovery for her and a fertile place of sharing and mutual inspiration with friends. My understanding of committed friendship has grown immensely through my connection with Lisa. As is evident from the beautiful array of amazing friends, from multiple walks of life who have been actively present and engaged in her life, Lisa was a wonderful friend and ally. Lisa was a true Renaissance woman, an authentic, a bright light, an open heart.
I first met Lisa around 1978, and we’ve been loving friends since that first moment. She was a 20 years old student of philosophy, drawn in by her love of the mind and her own desire to know the Truth of Reality. For Lisa – Truth, Justice, Beauty, and the Good – these were not simply intellectual concepts, but energies and movements that guided her heart and being. She lived her life by these standards of Reality. Lisa was born a lover of Wisdom. Joy was in her nature. She was inspired by Love and Light. And she had a depth of character and sincerity, which moved people, and which touched everything she did in her life. It also created in her an exquisite sensitivity and creativity. And sometimes the world was a challenging place for her. She was gentle by nature, willing to see the best in others, hopeful that people could learn to live in harmony with each other and with nature. She even tackled difficult issues of environment, water, and land development in local government, and she fought long and hard to bring about positive and reasonable change. She not only helped politicians get elected, but also supported causes that were willing to stand for environmental and social justice. She actively led the way and inspired others to join in. Integrity, commitment and love all came together in her support for nature and for children’s development, and in her relationship with her sister Jill, who was born with serious birth defects. From childhood to maturity, Lisa cared for Jill’s physical health and emotional well-being. It was moving and inspiring to see the two sisters together, playing zestfully or tenderly, dancing and singing … in mutual love. Over the 41 years of our friendship, I witnessed Lisa in moments of peace and in moments of turmoil. She was human, after all … yet her joy and her sadness were felt more deeply, than most people feel. Through the years, I witnessed her develop into a beautiful and accomplished woman, with many talents and interests. She was truly a unique and inspiring human being. I miss you, Lisa. Your family and friends miss you. And I know that even the earth and the sea miss your gentle loving friendship and support. Have a wondrous journey, my friend … as you’re off exploring other dimensions of Reality. Your friend, Rifka