15th August 1952 – 4th January 2006
Days to come stand in front of us
like a row of burning candles –
golden, warm, and vivid candles.
Days past fall behind us,
a gloomy line of burn-out candles;
the nearest are still smoking,
cold, melted, and bent.
I don’t want to look at them: their shape saddens me,
and it saddens me to remember their original light.
I look ahead at my burning candles.
I don’t want to turn, don’t want to see, terrified,
how quickly that dark line gets longer,
how quickly one more dead candle joins another.
To Mom and Donna,
from whom I learned never to give up. There is a beauty in such strength,
and in La Dolce Vita that you embraced…
From our first dinner on Mexico’s Southern Highlands (where “clouds are
born inside those caves”), through our many years of rich and loving
experiences as companion travelers, on ground, above ground and
To David H,
who apparently invented the word “generosity”, “I’chaim” dear friend, and
a million thanks…
To all my friends,
in the US and the UK , who sent their thoughts and prayers and the kindest
To the Warburton family,
who made me part of theirs…
To the doctors and nurses of Swedish Tumor Institute and Swedish
Peggy, Helene, Sue Ellen, Irene, Shannon, Lisa, Autumn, Heidi and so
….My love and deepest thanks.
Chiaroscuro: Bedford Park
On a winter afternoon—the sky
woad blue and the pavements
drowning in shadow—I walk
the streets that Yeats walked
as a young man. The sun
fires the chimney pots of the tall
houses until they’re baked the same
bright colour of desert stones,
luminous against the fading sky. Silent
as Mary Magdalene in her cave
days, I pace this suburbia (which he hated)
and remember that another meaning
of disillusion is, to enlighten.
(© Estate of Susan Evans)
A life lived to the full
Susan was so many things, but most of all she was a traveler, wordsmith,
poet, and a lover of people, animals, films, music, fine food and good
books. She may have had a too-short life, but she lived it to the full.
First and foremost, she was a rare thing these days: A true Seattlite, born
and bred. As a child, she was a member of the local swim club, and as an
adolescent began writing short stories and playing the guitar. She spent her
summers in Dutch Harbor in the Aleutian Islands, and was captivated by
the stark beauty of that environment. She attended Washington State
University and was actively involved in journalism, filmmaking, and
literature. Back in Seattle after graduating from college, she became an
authority on American and Irish folk music, hosting a radio program on
KRAB, the premier alternative radio station at that time. Her beautiful old
home and big, inviting back yard became the center of many folk music
During her late 20’s and early 30’s Susan worked as a copywriter at Early
Winters, and as a Senior Editor at Eddie Bauer Inc. She traveled
extensively in Asia and Indonesia and later created a popular class at the
University of Washington Extension on “women solo traveling”. She was
also an avid birder; and she found great pleasure sanding and restoring her
wooden canoe in the back yard.
In 1988, on holiday in Mexico, and during an arduous 13-hour bus ride
from Oaxaca to San Christobal Las Casas, she got to talking with a fellow
passenger, an Englishman named John Warburton, with whom she traveled
for the rest of the trip. At his insistence, she joined John in London later
that year, and they subsequently married in July 1989. She rapidly immersed
herself in London life, working for several prominent publishing houses
such as Penguin and Harper Collins, exploring all aspects of British and
European culture, and being active in various environmental groups.
Whether it was showing the Irish how to do the jig at their festivals, or
taking on the Italians at cooking their national dishes, she entered into
everything with her unique blend of curiosity, skill and enthusiasm.
In 1996, Susan moved to Egypt (for John’s work posting), where further
new horizons were opened up. Technically it was illegal for Susan to work
in Egypt, but was this going to stop her? She ended up working for the
World Health Organization, the Egyptian Supreme Constitutional Court,
and the British Council, as well as finding time for a number of voluntary
causes, including teaching English to Sudanese refugees in Cairo.
Returning to London in 1998, she continued her professional writing and
marketing work, but also increasingly made time for voluntary work (such
as with KidsActive) and for her poetry writing, which was becoming a key
part of her life.
Aside from getting a merit at the 2002 Poetry Course run by the University of London, she was one of the founders and a key member of the King’s Poets, a group that still exists and meets regularly. In November 2003 she returned to her beloved Seattle, having been through a sad but not bitter divorce with John, to start work on a whole new series of plans and ideas that she had been cultivating. But in a cruel irony, she was struck down with bladder cancer just two months later. All her plans were laid low, replaced by a two-year fight for life, during which time her body was frequently broken, but her spirit was never beaten. This is what she said about the cancer in the last fortnight of her battle:
· At so many symptoms;
· At not being able to eat because of nausea;
· At not being able to share in meals with friends and family;
· At vomiting – how gross it is;
· At not being able to read!;
· Because I can’t walk far;
· At carrying the (pain) pump everywhere;
· No sleep.
But there are some pay-offs:
· Knowing how loved I am;
· People wanting to help;
· People understanding;
· Better relationships;
· Hearing birdsong.”
Susan lived and worked in, or visited, over 20 countries, including Thailand,
Bali, Malaysia, the United Kingdom, much of Western Europe, Gabon and
Zimbabwe. She loved sub-aqua diving, canoeing, running and cycling, as
much as reading, writing, and the arts, as much as observing and being part
She always cared about and stood up for the oppressed and the under-dog,
be it in the world of office politics or the world of real politics. She often
seemed more concerned for others than for herself. She was an incredible
fighter, whether for her beliefs, or latterly, for her very survival, and her
spirit shone through to the end. She had a quick mind and an even quicker
wit. And she was truly an inspiration to so many around her.
Susan lived a life of honor, laughter, grace and love. Her untimely and
unjust passing leaves a hole in the lives of all of those who were privileged
enough to get to know her, but she will be remembered with love in all our
These are some of her last words, written during her Hospice care:
“The great works of art, music, but especially literature, have the answers to
life if we will only search them out. And, above all, we must learn to
appreciate and protect Nature.
Love and be kind.
Nurture your natural gifts and believe in yourself.
Donations to your favorite animal welfare or nature conservation charity on
my behalf would honor me more than flowers.
The cancer awareness organization that kept me sane for two years was the
Bladder Cancer Website (www.blcwebcafe.org); they accept donations. The
Swedish Cancer Institute (via www.swedish.org/1150.cfm) also deserves
recognition and funding for their exceptional work and caring, brilliant
staff. Do what you can for those still battling cancer and needing your
Susan died peacefully at her mother’s house.
Donna (Evans) Auer
Their spirals overtake us across Sinai’s rumpled turban.
We stop. Heat muscles under doors. Above, a djinn’s
apparition: I count some 50 storks through my hand.
Without a wingbeat, or fear of the overdue khamsíin,
they sashay, cut circles in the blue-bottle sky.
Shadows score the desert fossils. Unseen
thermals spin the birds north, their cry
carried on twilight’s breath. Like Sufis or syzygy,
this whirling migration feels spiritually driven, dry
as its Palearctic sweep. The scene has urgency,
and slack grace. One falls; an omen. Contraband
bones, possessed of a kind of necromancy.
They have meter and purpose. Like your hand,
which beckons me back to the car just
as I bend to pick a shark’s tooth from the sand.
More migrations. London, first light: we trust
in dreams and sleep late, missing the rising urban
sun – heavy, hennaed with spent Saharan dust.
(© Estate of Susan Evans)
We float at a safe distance, with a top-heavy
sway. This apparition spooks easily:
we thrust out gluey hands to wave hellos,
and they reverse down misanthropic burrows.
Our laughter bubbles but sounds like groans.
More long draws from a tinny canister—
this intimate with my breath, it sounds sinister.
Thoughts struggle on this primal frequency
and fade out. A slight, drowning personality
might be, in the end, all that one owns.
(Once a diver spent 24 hours submerged.
Sounds bold, but boredom soon verged
on insanity. Even the fish ignored him.
He discovered poverty at sea bottom.)
Like unfurling party hooters, their group bravado
sees off intruders, averts imbroglio.
They form a glistening, artful weave
but we can feel them waiting for us to leave.
One glance back: simpleton question marks,
in italics, linger on cartoon backdrops.
Unskinned, we shiver: Where did the sun go?
Twilight ignites the desert’s pink fossil glow.
We sift the soft grains, a cascade
of tiny shells. Some stick to your skin;
I pick off one to balance on the head of a pin.
(© Estate of Susan Evans)