Like a bird on a wire
Like a drunk in a midnight choir
I have tried in my way to be free— Leonard Cohen
Caron McCloud flew peacefully and powerfully into her future at her home in Port Townsend, Washington. Caron was born in Oakland, California to Eden McCloud and Eugene Grant.
Caron was married to her Beloved husband of 26 years, Jim Wilson. She is survived by three children. Her first born child, Brent and wife Brenda Johnson with their three daughters, Kirsten, Morgan, and Haley, their husbands and 6 grandsons. Her cherished daughter, Shannon Cinnamon McCloud (Johnson). Her daughter Shiloh Sophia and husband, Jonathan McCloud (Lewis). As well as Jonathan’s children, Christopher and Alex Lewis and their partners and children. Her sister and best friend, Janet Seaforth, and niece Bridget McBride and her husband, Andrew as well Bridget’s children Ezekiel and Maia Lemann. Her niece Aleta, and nephews Lael and Brian Grant, their partners who are the children of her brother Bob Grant and her 6 great-nieces and nephews. Her brother Chuck and his wife Sheila Leith and their children Christopher, Kate and their partners and children. As well as her step-son, Tommy Herndon.
Caron will be especially missed by her long-time friends Nanci Gilbert, Brigitta and George D'Amato, Donna Fitzpatrick, Greg Davis, Molly and Michael Lewis and one of her oldest friends, Lloyd Johnson.
Caron will be greatly missed as one of the Art Matriarchs in her women’s community, most especially by Mary MacDonald and Havi Mandell, and many more who found in Caron an uncommon kinship. Caron is celebrated by hundreds of community members who studied with her and her daughter Shiloh in Intentional Creativity -- especifically Red Madonna, Color of Woman, and Cosmic Cowgirls, who called her “Mama Cloud.”
Caron lived her early life in Oakland and Orland, followed by a long cycle in West Marin and then Sonoma. She lived and worked much of her life in San Francisco and the Bay Area, followed by Mendocino County and eventually in Port Townsend.
Caron was multi-talented. Her gifts include seamstress, painter, carpenter, tapestry-maker, teacher, writer, illustrator and designer. She was an avid and well-read scholar and teacher of philosophy, religion, poetry and truly celebrated the intellect. Caron was a rare genius, weaving disparate fields of study and finding connections between history, science, quantum physics, language, theology, symbology, sacred math, culture, and the shaping of identity. Whether she was quoting Jesus, Albert Einstein, Rainer Maria Rilke or Willie Nelson, Caron was able to illuminate hidden teachings that ordinary ears could not hear. Caron was a designer of ideas, as well as a maker of art.
In Caron’s childhood, she did a lot of fashion drawing. Then as a young adult she began making dresses with her mother Eden, a seamstress and pattern-maker. They made a lot of their own clothing, blankets, curtains, clothing for their children and decorated their homes with colorful fabrics. The mother and daughter opened two dress shops, one in Sonoma and one in Sausalito called “The Vagabond House” as well as an art gallery. By the age of forty Caron had her own successful clothing line called ‘Karen Johnson’ and she is the maker of the ‘Forever Dress.’ Her slogan was “If she really did only have one dress to her name, it would be a Karen Johnson.”
Caron loved entrepreneurship and thrived as a designer and a manufacturer of her clothing line which was featured in high-end department stores, appeared on fashion catwalks and was sold in hundreds of stores with tens of thousands of clients. Caron was in business with her mother for many years. The two were very close and co-created many beautiful projects as mother and daughter.
Later in life, when Eden changed her name from Merle Kinney to Eden McCloud, Caron followed her in changing her name from Karen Johnson, to Caron McCloud. Other family members soon followed in the tradition. You might say the women in the family have a bit of a wild streak and truly choose their own identity and story. Historically, you can also see that the name change marks a moment in time when both women chose to live the rest of their lives as writers and artists and claim a matriarchal name.
Throughout her life Caron was a devoted advocate for Civil Rights and Women’s Rights. She was always an activist for the under-served and sought justice and to eliminate systemic oppression of every kind she encountered, including working towards anti-racism, gender equality and women’s liberation. There were many times when Caron found herself being on the front lines of revolutions and revelations. She passed the vision for equality, justice and compassion onto her children. One of Caron’s gifts was the ability to ‘see the other side’ of every situation, and she was known for a depth of compassion that few had ever experienced.
In the late sixties Caron was encouraged by her partner at the time, the artist Sue Hoya Sellars, to begin writing down her thoughts. To her students and in her poetry, Caron often told the story of struggling from depression and not wanting to document the experience. Sue told Caron that all of those experiences had cost her a lot, and that her creativity would begin to bloom out of the compost of her past. This concept of ‘including the shadows’ in her work was the liberation Caron needed to begin writing. Many years later, those early writings and Sue’s encouragement sparked her first chapbook, called February Soul.
Throughout her life, Caron, along with her children, attended Glide Church in San Francisco and engaged in many projects including working with the homeless and were a part of The Hunger Project. Caron engaged in daylong fasts on behalf of those who are hungry, and taught her family how caring for others beyond the home and one’s immediate needs is a part of our work as humans.
One of Caron’s powerful teachings is summarized by Shiloh this way: “In order for there to be true freedom in an intimate relationship or authentic connection in community, each of us has to be able to stand in our own truth. If we can stand in our own truth, without making another person’s stand wrong, OR needing anyone to validate our stand OR being silenced for our view, then we have something to work with. Otherwise, we are all just watering our passion down in order to fit in and keep up with the status quo of whatever circle we are in and no one feels truly free to speak their mind. When we cherish our diversity we can find unity through our authenticity.”
Caron went on to teach that even in the privacy of our minds, we should not project our views onto others; rather, create a space where we are all free to speak.
In her poem, Long Have We Gazed Upon Beauty, we hear Caron’s call to beauty. Noticing and appreciating beauty was one of her most persistent invitations to those she loved.
“And we gazed upon our beautiful mother,
and she said: Thousands of years from now,
when people say, How beautiful your children are!
tell them to teach the children to speak
as I have spoken. Teach the children to say:
Stop, and look upon one another!
For long have we gazed upon Beauty.”
Pursuing a creative life took many forms for Caron over the years. Eventually Caron left the Bay Area and followed her sister Janet, her niece Bridget and life-long friend Sue Hoya Sellars in a return to Anderson Valley. They had founded ‘women’s land’ and were working as potters and sculptors.
Caron was a big part of the community through her work with women, her writings and her marriage to Donald Pardini for over ten years. She had been friends with the Pardini family since her early life and was close with Donald’s first wife Donna and their children, Ernie, Julie and Tony, as well as Annie, Donald’s mother, his sister Eva and his brother, Robert. In Boonville, Caron continued her design business, played the piano, and began being more devoted to writing her poetry and wrote a novel, a romance. She performed at open mics all over Mendocino County and self-published her first ‘chapbooks’, which are collections of poetry. She received many awards and publications of her work and eventually resided at Greenwood Ridge, where she had lived over twenty-five years before, with Sue Hoya Sellars and her children. Caron felt truly at home in the Anderson Valley and wrote for the Anderson Valley Advertiser from time to time.
Caron’s passion for perspective and language flowed into her writings. First and foremost Caron cherished being a poet and wanted to be remembered as a poet. She always said she just wanted the word, ‘POET’ on her headstone. She published many major award winning books of poetry, book of non-fiction and had many more works in progress until the day she left her physical form. In her last days she continued to design and work with concepts that she wanted to bring to life with her concept “Mattering Matters.”
Caron was a member of the Washington Poet’s Association where she was a semifinalist in the “Bart Baxter Performance Poetry” competition three out of three times entered, and won a “Carlin Aden Award'' for her Alexandrian sonnet, Last Trump Tango. S he was a 1st place winner of the “Charlie Proctor Award” for her poem Holmes Ranch Hags, which she also read as the introduction for the Alice Walker and Sue Hoya Sellars event “Neighbors and Artists” in Berkeley, California, produced by her daughter Shiloh. She has been a guest on many radio shows and was a reader for the poetry collection by J. Glenn Evans CD, Windows in the Sky. She was a participant in the “PoetSpeak Reading Series'' at Frye Art Museum in Seattle, with poems published in “Poets West Literary Journal.” Her poem Common Ancestry was 1 of 14 of the 400 contest entries selected to be included in the poetry contest chapbook, Saltwater. She recited her poetry at Cosmic Cowgirls and Musea, and taught poetry to women all over the world. Besides being published in various other venues she has over a dozen chapbooks to her credit, most of which she made by hand with a stitched binding. Caron was also a contributing author and designer in the book Heart of the Visionary for women in business published by Cosmic Cowgirls Ink, LLC, of which she and her mother Eden, were a co-owners with over 100 other women.
Caron wrote and self-published a book called Rachels’ Bag - In Search of the Qabalah of our Mothers bringing justice and voice to the often mis-understood women of the Old Testament. She taught her version of Messianic Christianity to many and she spent the last twenty years teaching and refining her work with the Tree of Life. She was also an incredible support and encouragement to others with their writings. She gathered a stout volume of thousands of pages of poetry, teachings, and stories which her family hopes to publish as a collection in the future.
Caron was always willing to question existing systems, challenge old ideas and bring forward the ways the feminine needed to be included in our spiritual traditions. She often taught from Genesis in connection with the Hebrew word, Elohim, as being both a masculine and feminine word and how that is missed in our traditions, and how that translates to the treatment of women. She brought her love of scripture into her teachings, her poetry, her art and her relationships.
About being an artist of many mediums Caron says this:
“The one thing crosses over and informs the other, as all skills do. Some of my poems are inspired by my art and some of my art arises from my writing. I love the feel of my tools, and my palette of paint and textiles. Working with my hands provides a much-needed balance and reprieve from the intense concentration and involuted process of writing.
“My very first memories are of being caught in the spell of some creative process— reading and writing, singing and dancing, drawing, coloring, painting, sewing, crocheting, knitting, carpentry—making things, the feel of a tool in my hand. Even when I was a little kid, I knew there was not going to be time enough. I started taking notes and making lists.
”My love of poetry and drawing started before I was old enough to go to school and came from spells cast by my father, Gene Grant— poet, musician, carpenter, and fisherman. He used to sign his gifts and letters to me: “Love, Trust, Dare.” I added “Create, Pray, Dance” and made it my slogan. I remember my father’s hands in the lamplight and amber glow from the dial on the console radio, as he peeled the wood with exquisite precision from a yellow #2 pencil with his pocket knife. The smell of tiny shavings and lead scrapings drifting from the emerging, long, shining point; my ecstatic anticipation while waiting to feel the pencil between my fingers, and the excitement of the exact moment when that point would make contact with my clean, white, 8 1/2 x 11-inch sheet of paper, and then— getting to watch where that little trail it laid down would lead me. It has led me to produce over a dozen chapbooks of poetry, and even win some awards. This led to cartooning, fashion renderings, and oil painting.”
Caron’s creativity was not limited by how often she moved, she brought her tools along with her and even if she was in a place for a short time, she would build her own work-table with her skill saw and plywood. She did a lot of moving on and what she called ‘off to the Next Great Adventure’.
One time when Shannon, known as The Cinnamon Cowgirl, asked her mother to explain some of what informed her life choices, Caron responded with these words, now famous in our family for summarizing her views.
“We have arrived at our truths
by forgetting the parts we didn’t like,
making up the parts that were missing
and holding on for dear life
to the little we came upon
that we could trust.”
The next great adventure in love happened when Caron met and married Jim Wilson when they were in their late 50s. Jim was also an artist living in the Anderson Valley. The two were proud members of AA, and would fondly tell the story of meeting each other at a local meeting. The two fell madly in love and were ready for a fresh start and so off they went to find their next home. The couple chose Port Townsend, Washington where the two lived on Water Street pursuing their art and their spiritual path. Jim was also a carpenter and builder, and with Caron’s encouragement began to pursue painting and drawing, also coming to claim himself as an artist. Caron’s mother Eden came along with them and enjoyed life as an artist as well, having her thread tapestry work featured in local galleries and being a part of art walks.
Jim describes their home as a “museum” because it is highly curated with art from every family member, including their own work. Caron and Jim were avid Sabbath keepers and the pair were very devoted to fellowship, attending the Seventh Day Adventist Church for many years, followed by Messianic Christian ministries that keep the Feast Days and the Sabbath. Caron and Jim shared a profoundly loving connection and relationship with their Lord and the Great Mystery, endlessly studying and talking late into the night about what mattered to them in a relationship with God. They refer to Jesus as Yeshua haMashiach.
Even though far away from her family in California, Caron got to spend time with her brother Bob’s family in Washington in the last twenty years of her life. She and her brother were very bonded and often spent the night playing piano, telling stories and dancing together.
Caron and Jim made regular trips to California to see her children and grandchildren and to pursue her career in teaching which started after the age of seventy. As an Elder, Caron taught along with Sue Hoya Sellars and Shiloh Sophia, informing a legacy of teachings called Intentional Creativity®. Caron and Sue both approached their art making as a form of consciousness, love in action and storytelling, and passed that onto their family and students.
Caron is considered an “Art Ancestor” and the foundational teaching on story and identity taught in the course ‘Legend’ were sparked by Caron’s perspectives on “mattering.” She taught that you have to “decide you matter” to yourself first. Caron taught in person at the The Legend Course, the Color of Woman Training, and recorded video teachings and poetry performances. Caron was one of the primary leaders in the Red Madonna Sisterhood for ten years, a community of women from all spiritual traditions, yet with a focus on the intersection of the Divine Feminine, Judaism and Christianity. Her teachings on The Tree of Life and her own relationship with her Creator were at the core of her ministry for this “women’s church.”
Caron also taught on her favorite “c” words: Create, Context and Content, which she said she learned a lot about from Werner Erhard. Her core philosophy in her curriculum was rooted in her quote, “Create the Context in which Concept is Converted into Content.
In Caron’s poem, Holmes Ranch Hags, she celebrates Elderhood and often re-claims things that women are criticized for.
“I am skinny, wrinkled, old and brown.
I live in a shack way outta’ town.
I dig in the dirt all hunkered down
and cackle with cronies
when they come around.”
Caron had a great sense of humor and style. As an oil painter, she painted mythic portraits of her daughters, Shannon and Shiloh, emphasizing the qualities of her daughters she found endearing. Shannon is seen in her green and cowgirls boots with an alligator draped over her shoulders and a devil-may-care attitude. Shiloh is in hot pink, lounging on a devan drinking tea and eating grapes with her mother’s cat, Ralphie, and she has her hand on a dove. She also did other paintings all featuring women, animals or insects and vibrant colors.
Caron was also a phenomenal fiber artist, creating intricate hand-stitched quilts and tapestries that many in the field of quilting consider unparalleled. She started making tapestries using the leftover fabric from her fashion design days. She completed over six major tapestries, some masterworks up to 12X6 feet wide. Musea, a museum and school founded by her family, hopes to feature Caron’s fiber work in the future.
In the future Cosmic Cowgirls Ink, LLC hopes to publish her volume of poetry called Neon Cuneiform, dedicated to Jim Wilson. The book covers vast ground from her relationship with her Lord, her creativity, her sexuality, her approach to consciousness, her honor of language, and her hopes. Here is a quote from the opening poem. The title is “An ode’ to the most modern form of language (neon) and one of the oldest forms of language (cuneiform).”
the resolution of the vision
contained within the word,
in the shape of information
exposing the anatomy of thought
where it lies suspended
upon the architecture of the mind.”
Caron believed that each one of us needs to decide that we matter and to start acting accordingly so that each of us could become the author of our own life. Her teachings would reach over 100,000 women throughout the world over the years, and she brought a new level of awareness to the shaping of each person’s content, and the curation of identity and consciousness. She felt we had a lot of authorship in what we could make of ourselves and our lives and felt that art, writing, and drawing specifically were ways to access our information. She also studied brain science, and how to be at cause for changing our default thinking and being.
We must also mention that Caron loved to dance! On her 80th birthday, her family hired a band and Caron danced the night away as well as performed her poetry. She inspired many young women that night. Her sensuality, personality, and charm astonished all who beheld her graceful prowess that night. She got to dance with two others that night, who have become Art Ancestors, Mary Gibbons Landor and Carmen Baraka.
Caron partook in a very deep relationship with all three of her children. She spoke to her son Brent for hours about God and the great adventure and with her daughter Shannon, she shared a love of cats, humor, irony, and music. With her daughter Shiloh, she shared in the love of art, the feminine, and creativity, and the two worked together on publishing, poetry, and creating a ‘church’ for their women’s circle. Caron enjoyed a rich and storied relationship with her sister Janet Seaforth, her brother Chuck and her brother Bob Grant. Their father Eugene was an artist of many trades and he passed that onto his children, all becoming artists of different mediums. Almost every member of Caron’s family considers themselves an artist, designer, or carpenter.
To contribute in honor of Caron you can visit her last design project, Mattering Matters. During a visit in December, Caron was clear that she wanted to design one last project that mattered to her. Caron was a lifelong entrepreneur and so the family got together to support her in bringing the project to life. She wanted everyone to know they mattered.
Caron McCloud is brilliant and beautiful. All who know her agreed that she is one of the most extraordinary people they had ever met. Her ability to treat others as if they truly mattered was one of her unique gifts -- she could find the best in everyone and bring it forward in them. Many people said that no one had ever felt seen like that before. She was naturally joyful and witty in groups, often becoming the life of the party.
Caron was also one of the wildest truest souls most of us had ever met, as well as being a romantic. Caron loved to love and be loved. She blessed our lives with immeasurable love, wisdom, and creativity. She is remembered and her teachings practiced. Her daughter Shiloh says “My Mama embodied compassion, wild wisdom and grace. She taught many of us to see the world with new eyes. Her perspective informed my way of seeing, and shaped the life work that I do with women. She was my most powerful partner in business and teaching. She taught with me until she was 82 years old. She is the best friend I have ever had.”
Caron will be greatly missed by many for all of our lives. She was laid to rest in a green burial at Herland Forest in Washington in a circle of ancient oak trees with a ceremony attended by her family. Her family also sprinkled the ashes of her mother, Eden McCloud at the same time. May she rest in peace in the arms of our Lord, for He was her shepherd.
Shannon says “I believe that my Mama and Gramma will be spending a lot of time working in the Garden of Eden.”
Fly free Caron McCloud, your life is cherished. Your name is spoken. Your words are read. Your life mattered to us.
“In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God.” ~ Gospel of John
Jim Wilson: firstname.lastname@example.org
Caron’s Design line of shirts, cups, posters and more: fineartamerica.com/featured/mattering-matters-caron-mccloud.html
We will celebrate with a poetry reading and storytelling in honor of Caron on Sunday, September 19, 2021 from 12-2 pm for friends, family, and community. Mark your calendar now and then check www.musea.org for details in September. Cards can be sent to Jim Wilson, PO Box 2110, Port Townsend, Washington 98368, and to her children at ℅ Musea - Brent, Shannon and Shiloh 75 Fremont Drive, Sonoma, California 95476.