Day 34 - Frosty Hesson Part 3 - Strong Women, Love, and Art
Frosty Hesson was married to Robin "Zeuf" Janiszeufski Hesson, a legendary surfer. If you'd like to read more about her life, here's an article from girls4sport: https://www.girls4sport.net/Zeuf-Surfing-s/300.htm
Frosty told me about how the Santa Cruz community did something very unusual for his wife: they did a paddle out while she was still alive. While this was a brilliant idea, it came with some complications. Namely, Zeuf, as was her nature, wanted to be all in.
The day before the paddle out, I said to Zeuf, You know I’m going to pull you. She typically was 150 pounds. She was probably just under 100 pounds at the time. I said, This is going to take so much time. It’ll be too much for you.
The tradition is that you paddle out until you think you are far enough to have people gathered in a circle and not have to worry about waves and then talk story. I knew there would be several hundred people, and I knew that would take time, even if they just said Thank you for being in my life. In her diminished capacity the water would be so cold and it was going to have a toll on her. Before she got to a state where she might not be able to recover, I was going to pull her out of the water.
She said, Nope.
I said, Wrong guy.
She said, Nope.
I wasn’t going to back down.
And then she did what Brenda had done years earlier. The night before Christmas, Brenda would always transform the house into a magical wonderland. We got up at about six in the morning and, as was my habit, I used to listen to the weather box. Where we lived in the canyon in Aptos, we didn’t get any radio reception, but I had found out if I sat on the toilet and leaned toward the metal-framed window, I could get the report. I was listening that Christmas morning because I was expecting a swell.
(On a Mavericks swell, I you could hear the waves reverberate up in the canyon. I’d wake up at 2 or 3 in the morning and Brenda would say, What’s going on? and I’d say, Mav’s is breaking, and she’d say, How can you tell? And I’d say, I can hear it. It was a real deep sound. I could never get back to sleep when I heard it.)
Anyway, I had abused my surfing privileges, and this Christmas morning, at about nine, I abused them again and said, I’ll see you tonight at dinner. She said, What are you talking about? I said, I’m going to surf Mavs. She said, What are you talking about? This is our son’s Christmas! I said, Yeah. He opened a bunch of presents and now it’s time. I’m going to drive up there and the tide will be right. She was so in shock and pissed she couldn’t speak. So I went and caught some waves.
I came back and Brenda said, That was the last time. I said, What are you talking about? She said, You don’t get carte blanche. I said, It can’t be like this. She said, You will not have the life you have unless you do this. I said, How can I do this? She said, You’re a smart guy. Figure it out.
She turned around and walked away.
Zeuf did exactly the same thing when I told her I was going to pull her. She looked at me and said, You’re a smart guy. Figure it out.
I said, That’s not fair. That’s not fucking fair. Okay. I’m a smart guy. I’ll figure it out.
I thought and I thought and I thought, and the next morning, I said, I figured it out. In the morning, instead of having everyone paddle out when we know everyone can’t paddle out, instead, we’re going to have a pre-paddle out where people who want to talk can talk. We’ll put up a shade tent so you can stay out of the sun. We’ll give you a chair. When all of those people have had their say, then we’ll go for a paddle out and that will last for less than an hour. You’ll be happy. I’ll be happy, and you’ll live.
She said, Told you.
Under the tent, everyone was crying. I opened it with, Welcome to the love fest. I knew people were going to pour their hearts out, and they did. Instead of telling each other how much someone mattered, they got to tell the story to the person herself, to Zeuf. It was all so emotional.
Once you’ve seen what opening your heart does, how can you do less?
When Zeuf died, I needed self-prescribed therapy. I needed to get movement out, so I decided to take tissue paper, which is the most fragile thing I could imagine, and tear hearts out of the tissue paper and then tear the hearts apart.
I was using watercolor paper as a canvas and I would use starch to adhere them. I created these collages of torn hearts, and I used to go outside and have my work area all set up, and I’d just in a meditative state of processing. I created a number of these works with the torn hearts and had them in the house.
I had started making art early in my life. I drew a lot, but I didn’t like what I did. I have a vague recollection of some manila paper with charcoal, and I was trying to do something, but I didn’t have the capability of creating something finewith fine lines and to get proportions right. I knew what I wanted to create: I just didn’t have the ability to create what I wanted. But I received a lot of encouragement from my mother and her mother. They liked what I did and said, You need to do more. You need to practice.
Part of growing up for me was dealing with a lot of frustration. I had to make a very conscious choice of accepting that I was either going to be very unhappy in the world because of my expectations of others and of myself, or I’d have to back away from seeking of perfection. Others were always falling short, and I had all these expectations. I was very driven to do everything perfectly.
With the art, I would stay up for days, trying to get it right. I just didn’t have the skill set. What I didn’t understand is that art is also an emotion, so now when I create something, I create it for the emotion. I still don’t have the ability to do fine, fine as in using a thin line for detail, but I have the ability to get an emotional involvement.
I don’t use a brush. I use putty knives and I use a lot of action to create things. I throw a lot of paint. I do something and it evolves, and I either like it or I don’t. I’m looking to capture emotion. I’ll use colors that are provocative. I’ll throw paint to represent explosions.
When I met Dre, she came to the house and she saw one of my works and said, What is that? She’d gone right for the heart.
I told Dre that story, told her about tearing the tissue, and she looked at my work, at my hearts, and she looked at me, and she said, Hearts heal, you know.
That hit me.
And then I never did another one.
At the end of our talk, I asked Frosty to describe his own paddle out. He got quiet and looked around like I’d asked where a bird had gone.
I don’t even care, he finally said. I’m gone. Everything I do before that is what matters.
So this is your paddle out right now? This life?, I asked.
I’m not Jay. I don’t touch people in the same way. I’m not Zeuf. I don’t touch people in the same way. I’m me. I touch people the way that I do, and that’s now. I know the living of my life, the work, is all the example that needs to be. My job is to be available, and to have the truth come out, because that’s what matters. People need to hear how important they are.
Thank you, Frosty.
See you tomorrow.
Art by Frosty Hesson