The painting leans against the wall in her lanai. Unimposing, its subject matter seems curious: Rocks. Why would anybody paint rocks? For Lin Weber — marriage and family therapist, local historian and author and, most recently, artist — the answer reveals her philosophy of life.
“It’s called Community of Rocks,” explains Lin. “You can take one rock, but this rock occurs on the beach. I like to paint so that you get a sense of things as they occur in their environment. Which is nice because even color — the thing will reflect the color of the thing next to it. Very subtle. You don’t know it, you don’t know you’re seeing that, but you are.”
Born in Mineola, New York, Lin’s early years were spent on the north shore of Long Island. Several family moves later she headed off to Wheaton College, an all-women’s college in Norton, Massachusetts.
In her senior year Lin became the Class Historian and spoke at graduation, sharing the stage with politician Daniel Patrick Moynihan.
“It was like I didn’t think I couldn’t, so I just did it,” said Lin. It’s a sentiment, a theme that surfaced again and again as she told me the story of her life.
I don’t think women get that way overnight. Their inner authority has guided them at each turn in their lives. Perhaps it just becomes more apparent when, instead of succumbing to a future of invisibility (expected of women who are “over the hill”) they continue to launch into new adventures and activities. Like Lin has done with her painting.
Camping up in the absolute wilds of Mendocino County a couple of years ago, Lin took a picture of the reeds in a little pond. Click. She thought they looked like modern art. When she got home she decided she would paint them.
With no real formal training, she thought about how to do it, got some paints, set herself up and painted the picture. In her words, “It actually worked out very well. It looked just like the photo. And I thought, whoa, who knew! So I started painting.”
Sixty-some paintings later, Lin recently exhibited at the Napa Valley Coffee Roasting Company in St. Helena. I was there. I was amazed at the variety of her subjects, the richness of color, her acrylic spontaneity.
But then Lin herself is eclectic, richly colorful and spontaneous. Full of surprises and entertaining vignettes.
Like when she was fresh out of Wheaton College and circumstances led her to sing for Jackie Gleason, then Ed Sullivan. Songs she had written. Following that she made a demo record and was introduced to Steve Allen who told her, “I have a class; I’ll teach you music. Meanwhile, we’ll arrange to have an interview with you with a guy named Jay Traynor (Jay & The Americans).” After meeting with Traynor he wanted to try her demo out with some of their subsidiary record labels. She was to call back in a couple of days. She didn’t, because she realized that was not what she really wanted.
“I didn’t want to become a famous singer and songwriter,” explained Lin. “Because it just didn’t seem like that was really what I was doing. It wasn’t important, and I knew I could be sidetracked. So you have to know that the main thing is to make the main thing the main thing. And the main thing is who’s in your life and who you love.”
Following her intrinsic inner authority she got a job as a writer, instead, working in public relations for the New York Life Insurance Company in Manhattan. Meanwhile she met and married Chris, her husband of 39 years.
They had just bought a house when Chris got transferred to California. Lin followed him to St. Helena in 1970, with their first child, Christie, and they have lived in the same house ever since. Then a few years after son Peter was born she was hired as a long-term substitute teaching P.E., about which she says knew nothing. But she had a great time playing with the kids. As a result of that they’d come and talk to her. She was so interested in what the kids had to say! She thought, what can I do with that?
What else? She went back to school and became a therapist, graduating with a master’s degree in counseling psychology from Sonoma State University.
“In being a therapist, every person that walks in has a different story. And everybody is interesting. (The same as) whether you are painting a picture of a dog, or reeds in a pond, or lemons; it’s all interesting. To be respected as its own entity and in its environment, in its own milieu.”
She was over by White Sulphur Springs looking at all the Spanish moss in the trees. She pulled over and just sort of sat there and thought, “Boy, this place feels really old. It feels like there’s more to it than I can see.” She decided to find out more about the area.
She found an old book at the library that was written by the Department of Mines that talked about earthquake faults and the geology of this area. Then, typically Lin, because she was so interested and since there weren’t really many books that talked much about the history of the Napa Valley, she decided to write a book about it herself.
She called one of the librarians and told her that she’d like to write a little book about the Napa Valley. And the librarian said, “Oh, we don’t need a little book. We need a great big book!” So Lin said, “Okay, I’ll write a great big book!”
It never occurred to her that she couldn’t do it, or might not be qualified to do it. It took seven years. A lot of it was research, poring over the microfilm machines in Napa and in St. Helena. She read every single issue of the St. Helena Star on microfilm up to 1900. The rest is history. Lin became our local, award-winning historian and author of not just one, but three books, “Old Napa Valley,” “Roots of the Present,” and “Under the Vine and the Fig Tree.” Since then she has written four other books and numerous articles.
Lin says she’s like a lighthouse with a very intense beam. When she is shining on something or somebody she is totally focused. Which explains how she taught herself German when she first met Chris. And wrote such comprehensive histories on the Napa Valley. And is currently mastering acrylic painting.
When thinking about her metaphor of a lighthouse, which she feels does, for better and for worse, pretty well describe her, she says she includes the place the lighthouse is on: a rock. A rock of sanity.
“Just think, Chris and I will be married 40 years this coming July, having spent 38 of them in the same house. I’ve been a marriage and family therapist for 25 years. I may change my focus, but there’s an underlying stability or conservatism that really hasn’t altered much at all for decades.”
Maybe that’s what we sixty-something women are. Maybe we’re decaying a little bit, but from that soil can grow good stuff that you can’t have unless you have some depth. Depth that comes from living and being and weathering. The depth of being 60 is a much slower and deeper thing than the brilliance of being 30. Not better or worse; just different.
Lin’s parting admonition: Don’t be afraid to decay!
(Patricia Struntz is an author, speaker, and life coach living in St. Helena. Her column is dedicated to local women who are turning or who have turned sixty-something. She will listen to you, record your memories, your stories, your metaphors, and share them with the readers of the Star. You may contact her at firstname.lastname@example.org. To learn more about Patricia, visit her Web site at www.onewomansway.com.)