I spoke to Sally at length only infrequently. The times I most vividly recall were our long nights on Tinos, but there were others. And in all of them — and equally so in lesser conversation – I was struck by this fact: although Sally often strongly disagreed with me, I never felt judged, that is judged to be culpable as a result of her judgment: so the quietness and ease with which she held her different views never led me to feel defensive or in need of exculpation. When she agreed with me, as indeed she frequently did, and even sometimes admired my views, I never felt flattered; congratulated perhaps but never complimented. Listening to Sally felt like listening to the voice of truth; not that everything she said was true, bur rather that it had the quietness of truth.
Sally listened and read with what felt like a divine dispassion. And then responded with such ease. Yes, no, wrong, good — without rancor or disdain in either direction, but also without ever removing herself or giving any indication of being above or beyond the humanity of people she agreed or disagreed with.
I realize that what I’ve remembered may make it sound as if my thoughts of Sally were of the polemical or forensic where it’s just the opposite. Judgment for Sally, even though she had decided views on issues, was a species of appreciation. And she also had – and I think this must be connected or maybe even the same thing– a genuine interest in things, and a curiosity about them – not so much a scientist’s curiosity in how they worked, but a kind of interest in what place they played in the economy of the lives of the people she was always interested in. She was a woman perhaps with less passion than with genuine affection for how things are. Where she was there was a contagious lightening of things; the world rose in our eyes to meet her appreciation.
When I saw Sally with family I was struck by how all of these qualities of quiet strength turned to the virtues Sally opened our eyes to in her writing: the nurturing and loving care sustained by her appreciation for how things are.
I felt blessed to know her, and that blessing continues in my remembering of her.