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Message from Ethan's Family
We are devastated.
Our sorrow knows no boundaries.
Through this darkness we appreciate all the kindnesses, generosity, support and love given to us by Ethan’s and Xena’s friends and colleagues. We thank all of you for everything you’ve done.
Let us all keep in our minds and hearts Ethan’s example and energy and skill so that we can grow better and not let his life be in vain.
Message from Xena
I want you to know that I feel surrounded by your love and it is working. Your love is getting through. I know I am not alone. Thank You. I love you. Xena
Ethan always had a basic delight in working out the mysteries of any puzzle, problem, sport, dilemma, equation etc. he worked quietly and patiently like a clockmaker, like it was a game he could play but maybe never finish. playfully systematic , humbly persistent . whether it was a pie or a tennis stroke or a passage on the trumpet or in the lab, he brought an intention of gently coaxing the essence out of it all. A subtle nudge here, a sly tap there, a wry stroke over there.
he was a masterful, gentle, wry man who played among us and befriended us and taught us and made us laugh and tricked us into being who we really are.
I would do anything to hear his voice on the phone angling for a free supper at our house. I was just getting to know him. goodbye Eathan I love you
There were so many things I wanted to do with Ethan and I knew I eventually would have. Now that is unimaginally taken away from me…us…all of us……….we had talked many times of canoeing the Kinnikinic river…………I wanted to ski trip with him[I wouldnt have been able to keep up………..I wanted to hike paddle thru the wilderness with him[I wouldnt have been able to keep up]……… I wanted to skate accross frozen surfaces in communal amazement and joy of the most magic season of all boy like chasing a black puck to the crystylline sounds of swishing beneath our feet. But most of all I wanted to continue to know Ethan’ experiance life when our paths would cross……… to be so warmly greeted by him and personably addressed…………and just to know that he and Xena were out there living their very colorful people and nature filled life together. I am deeply saddened and dimminished by this cruel reality…………yet i am grateful for knowing Ethan and Xena.
I’ve had Ethan’s rendition of Little Red Riding Hood running through my head for the past few days.
Thanks for the grins, great sparkle, corazon, and quiet joy Ethan.
Ladle Rat Rotten Hut
by H.L. Chace
From the Anguish Languish, by Howard Chace.
Wants pawn term, dare worsted ladle gull hoe lift wetter murder inner ladle cordage, honor itch off lodge, dock florist. Disk ladle gull orphan worry putty ladle rat cluck wetter ladle rat hut, and fur disk raisin, pimple colder Ladle Rat Rotten Hut. Wan moaning, Ladle Rat Rotten Hut’s murder colder inset. ”Ladle Rat Rotten Hut, heresy ladle basking winsome burden barter and shirker cockles. Tick disk ladle basking tutor cordage offer groin-murder hoe lifts honor udder site offer florist. Shaker lake! Dun stopper laundry wrote! Dun stopper peck floors! Dun daily-doily inner florist, an yonder nor sorghum-stenches, dun stoper torque wet strainers!” ”Hoe-cake, murder,” resplendent Ladle Rat Rotten, and tickle ladle basking an stutter oft. Honor wrote tutor cordage offer groin-murder, Ladle Rat Rotten Hut mitten anomalous woof. ”Wail, wail, wail!” set disk wicket woof, “Evanescent Ladle Rat Rotten Hut! Wares are putty ladle gull goring wizard ladle basking?” ”Armor goring tumor groin-murder’s,” reprisal ladle gull. “grammar’s seeking bet. Armor ticking arson burden barter an shirker cockles.” ”O hoe! Heifer gnats woke,” setter wicket woof, butter taught tomb shelf,”Oil tickle shirt court tutor cordage offer groin-murder. Oil ketchup wetter letter, an den — O bore!” Soda wicket woof tucker shirt court, an whinny retched a cordage offer groin-murder, picked inner windrow, an sore debtor pore oil worming worse lion inner bet. Inner flesh, disk abdominal woof lipped honor bet, paunched honor pore oil worming, an garbled erupt. Den disk ratchet ammonol pot honor groin-murder’s nut cup and gnat-gun, any curdled ope inner bet. Inner ladle wile, Ladle Rat Rotten Hut a raft attar cordage, an ranker dough ball. “Comb ink, sweat hard,” setter wicket woof, disgracing is verse. Ladle Rat Rotten Hut entity bet rum, and stud buyer groin-murder’s bet. ”O Grammar!” crater ladle historically, “Water bag icer gut! A nervous sausage bag ice!” ”Battered lucky chew whiff, sweat hard,” setter bloat-Thursday woof, wetter wicket small honors phase. ”O Grammar, water bag noise! A nervous sore suture anomalous prognosis!” ”Battered small your whiff, doling,” whiskered dole woof, ants mouse worse waddling. ”O Grammar, water bag mouser gut! A nervous sore suture bag mouse!” Daze worry on-forger-nut ladle gull’s lest warts. Oil offer sodden, caking offer carvers an sprinkling otter bet, disk hoard-hoarded woof lipped own pore Ladle Rat Rotten Hut and garbled erupt. MURAL: Yonder nor sorghum stenches shut ladle gulls stopper torque wet strainers.
From Anguish Languish by Howard L. Chace, (c)1956
Thank you to those of you who set up this website. It is great to see the photos of Ethan and hear about the plans for the celebration.
Even though I didn’t spend too much time with Ethan, I really appreciated his gentle, creative, sweet spirit.
I met Ethan at this year’s May Day parade. I am sorry to hear of his passing. Condolences to his family and friends.
I’ve known ethan since we were graduate students at the university of washington many years ago. Ethan was a few years ahead of me, working on photosynthesis in a basement lab. His work revolved around a laser-table loaded with a very intricate and very cool experiment. We interacted in so many ways, from running and climbing, to discussing the quantum mechanics of photosynthesis and everything in between. He recently came to play in NYC and I had him swing by my lab to give a talk to everyone about his work: his work in the lab was as creative as what he did (what don’t ethan and xena do?) outside the lab. I am a person who lets the study of natural sciences mix with my overall need to understand my life and understand the interaction of my life’s work with my community (a bit too much). I could talk at any level about this lifelong train of thought with ethan and he would without fail add new insights and point out hidden angles.
After hearing the news this last week I’ve talked to many of my friends from graduate school and many of them have not seen ethan in 6 years or so. I had a chance to visit Ethan and Xena recently and was blow away by how much they have continued to flower, expand their interests, and enrich their community. Ethan was a complete person in ways that are not common these days.
Ethan was so great. He joined the band a very short three years or so ago, and I can’t even remember a time when he (and Xena) wasn’t a part of it. His presence was so quiet and unassuming, and through example strong and powerful.
Ethan was the perfect Brass Messenger. He had so much personality in that quiet, shyly funny frame, and that is the most important characteristic of being a Brass Messenger, personality. He was such a funny trumpet player. Not particularly rhythmic. But Scientific. And it has been awesome having that approach surrounded by all the other approaches in the group. I would call on him to solo, and he would clam up, shake his head no, no, no. Then give it a shot, and get flustered. The next week, Ethan would blaze through a solo that was really methodical, studied from a reference song (whether Gypsy or African, South American or New Oreleans). The following week, the methodical solo became his own. He was the scientist. Analyze, process, then explore. He was also immensely creative. So warm and so fun and really funny.
A year ago, I was ready to quit my community. Frustrated with my closest friends to the point of wanting to run away from them all. Ethan kept me in my community, more than he knew. Our day with Ryan in New York, with Ethan playing the chess master in Washington Square, eating fancy seafood and street hot dogs in the meat packing district, checking out NYC park design, eating street food and trying to stay awake during a truly New York City Free Jazz concert. Then I spent a day sitting in Ethan’s office amidst the shaking beakers with a full beaker of coffee brewed in a questionable pot from a scary sink talking about stuff. Life and it’s richness. Art and it’s challenges. Our work as “scientists”. Our musical friendship. And friends. Our mutual and musical friends and frustrations. He kept me in my community with that one day in New York, and that one afternoon in his office. While I had grown angry with many of my closest friends, one of them, Ethan, sat there and listened, and because he did, I stayed. He heard my frustration, expressed his own, and helped keep me sane. He didn’t really even engage in my anger. He listened, and I heard. He helped prevent me from running away from a huge part of my life.
I sometimes am not good with boundaries. Ethan loved it, and I loved him for it. Sometimes I get carried away in words and action. Sometimes, it comes in the way of full body hugs. Ethan loved these because he got it. It was love, and humor and fun, and it pushed our boundaries. He always lost it when I pushed past his boundary and mine. That big smile. So warm and genuine.
I could go on, and on. Thanks Ethan. I miss you more than you can know and I miss all the things we were going to still do together.
Ethan played in the May Day parade sometimes, with the rag tag band that was the inspiration for those of you who have gone on to build the most incredible band, The Brass Messengers. I have been a member of the May Day band since 1982, with my husband Steve Epp. Every year we have danced down the street, celebrating spring, and life and the joy of being on Bloomington Avenue, through thick and thin. I remember that Ethan is a very good trumpet player. Every year I get to kiss each of the band members on the cheek, because I wear red lipstick on May Day, and the mark of the red kiss on the cheek means you’re in the band. I wish I could kiss Ethan’s cheek now and see his sweet smile and that we could all burst into “Riverside.” It is heartbreaking beyond words when someone dies so suddenly, so young and so full of life. I send all my love to all the Brass Messengers, and to Ethan’s partner and family. I wish you peace.
I met Ethan through my husband, Rich, who wrote in below. I meet a lot of scientists through Rich. I go to parties where I am surrounded by them. Living in Seattle I worked in the theatre and could barely follow most conversations at these “science” parties as so many people talked about their work. Ethan was different. He was one of those people who could talk about anything to anyone. He was always genuinely interested in what other people did and what it meant to them. He instantly landed a permanent place in my heart and he would light up the room when he walked in with that wonderful grin; a grin that could say “I’m so happy to be here and to see you” or “I wonder what mischief we can get into” or, oftentimes, both. When I remember Ethan I remember that smile, his soft voice and his wonderful hugs. He perfected the art of the hug. He would really wrap his arms around a person and squeeze. How I will miss those hugs.
After we all left Seattle, Ethan, Xena, Rich and I, flitted in and out of each other’s lives but no matter how much time passed, each time we saw each other we could pick right up where we left off. I am so, so happy that we saw Ethan on his recent visit to NYC. He got to meet our oldest son who is almost 4. I have a picture of him sitting with Theo in a tiny chair at Theo’s tiny table. I will always treasure his friendship and the mark he left on this world.
I did not know Ethan, I know Xena through Hub Of Heaven garden as a gardener.
Get well Xena, love and light
Dear Xena and all;
I was fortunate to have you as neighbors for a few years while we all lived in Seward and while I lived above Rita and Adam. Amazing that we moved on the same day, away, from the neighborhood. I have vivid clips of you, Xena, and Ethan on your bikes, in your yard, back by the alley, talking with “Mayor Ron”. The vitality in your relationship was always apparent when I saw you and though we didn’t hang out much, I felt a warm and strong, kindred vibe from both of you and appreciate that we shared a similar space in time.
I wish you warmth and love in the days to come. My hand is on my heart.
Your former neighbor, Sandy
It’s hard to know what to write when someone so young, so full of life, so memorable is taken away. Xena, I am holding my arms out to you. I will miss thinking of Ethan by your side creating puppets and tunes, romping around the streets of Minneapolis on foot and bike, feeding his family and the world with all of his goodness. Big, big love.
I always thought i had a special connection with Ethan. I realize now he made everyone feel that way. He took the time to have a special connection with everyone he talked to. so wonderful. i surprisingly ran into ethan and xena at the chocolate moose in Ely right after their boundry waters trip. i’ll hold their wonder and awe as they described the wolves in my heart. sending much love to Ethan, Xena, friends and family.
My life is better because I knew Ethan. I will miss him during cross-country ski season. I will miss him during May Day season. I will miss him during Barebones Halloween season. I will miss him when it is a beautiful day to run outside and say “harah!” I’m glad to know that his spirit and spark will still be there at all these times. Xena, I am sending you hugs everyday from British Columbia. You and Ethan belong to a very special place in my heart.
Dear Xena –
I am shocked and saddened by Ethan’s passing. As a wife, mom, and sister this has hit me at all levels and I am so sorry for everyone’s loss. As his older cousin I will miss knowing that he is around making the world a better place. Our family will forever be marked by his passing. Please know that I am praying for you and am so encouraged to know that you have an amazing support system.
SOCCER THIS SUNDAY IN ETHAN’S MEMORY
Ethan and Xena came running across the street and into my life when they joined our kids and families pick-up soccer game at Seward’s Matthews Park one Sunday. Their enthusiasm helped make those gatherings especially fun, and Ethan’s soccer knowledge helped us all develop our skills.
Many of the girls at “Sunday Soccer” play on a Matthews Park girls’ soccer team that Ethan and Xena came to support as fans and as occasional guest coaches. Two of the players (Maddy and Chiara) knew Ethan particularly well.
On the Tuesday that Ethan died, the team wildly celebrated its first-ever victory in three seasons. Most of the players were not aware of Ethan and Xena’s tragedy until after the game. That night a few attended a neighborhood vigil where one player placed a soccer ball amid the candles in Ethan’s memory.
At the next night’s practice, the team enthusiastically dedicated its historic win to Ethan. Chiara shared stories about Ethan, including two of his soccer tips:
• If you’re afraid of the ball coming at you, turn and use your butt to stop it
• when all else fails with an opponent, “act weird”
The team continues to think of Ethan every time it does a drill that Ethan taught us. His photo is on the team’s website.
In honor of Ethan, we will have a Sunday Soccer event this week (Sunday, Oct. 3) from 1 to 2:30 PM at Matthews Park. ALL ages and ALL abilities are invited to join. Musical instruments and players are also welcome to provide accompaniment to the game!
I am holding Ethan and Xena and their marvelous communities in my heart and mind.
So many times, when I was feeling sad, the Brass Messengers and Ethan’s energetic coronet solos came to the rescue. Our last staff Holiday Party at the Walker Art Center was turned from a rather drab office function into a real celebration by the raucous jazz and roots music blasted out by Ethan and the band. And, Xena’s creative spirit and energy, was such a welcome contribution to this summer’s Live Art Workshop on Madeline Island. She took on puppeting my Blue Winged Teal and led the Birds to the delight of thousands of people.
We’ll all miss Ethan and hold Xena in our hearts and lives. They are both such a huge part of our community. In the BareBones Halloween Show, we remember and honor all those who have passed through the thin veil separating the worlds. But, for me, this year’s show is especially dedicated to Ethan and Xena.
SOMETIMES A LIFE
by Perie Longo
Sometimes the world is too large to fit on a page,
the woods eventually closing us out. I must stop
giving myself these impossible tasks.
Sometimes a life is too much to fit on a page.
I tried today, tried to describe his coming
and going, our laughing and weeping.
Sometimes a day is too complicated to fit on a page,
how it suddenly changes from bursts of red trees
to gray. Best to not talk about love.
Sometimes a love is too grand to fit on a page.
It needs a country to contain its edges and alleys,
not an open woods filled with bears and high peaks.
Let us be dark for a while. Sometimes you need
a whole night to weep. After all, the moon is full
and the world once too large to fit on this page
has become terribly small.
from the book “With Nothing Behind But Sky”
IF SOMEONE ASKS
by Ryokan, 1758-1831
If someone asks
“The east edge of
The Milky Way.”
Like a drifting cloud,
Bound by nothing:
I just let go
Giving myself up
To the whim of the wind.
Xena..the poem below says it all I feel right now..I have so many wonderful memories of both of you and will always keep Ethan in a special place in my heart’ Jonny and I will see you on the 12th all my love..gerlinde
Dear Steve, Beverly and Erica,
We all (Dick, Judy, Eli and Sara) are saddened by your loss of Ethan and Steve’s injury.
I (Dick) last saw Ethan likely ten years ago when he presented his beautiful doctoral research at The University of Montana.
Best wishes for your recovery.
I ran the TC10 on Sunday. A few years ago, when running that race, I wore a wristband I made noting each mile which I dedicated to someone’s life. I called on their energy during that mile to help me stay strong. I didn’t need a wristband this year to track the names and miles because this year I dedicated every mile to Ethan. Whenever I felt tired,felt like walking, felt like going slower, I thought of Ethan and called on him for energy. I thought about his fantastic grin, his energy, his unending happiness, I heard him playing his trumpet. Those thoughts carried me through the miles and my race was stronger and easier than it’s ever been. I powered up the hills as if they didn’t exist. Lost in thoughts, I didn’t even realize I was going up two of them until I was at the top. Anytime I wanted to go slower, I called upon Ethan’s energy and went faster! I remembered Ethan telling me about racing in the Birkebeiner and I focused on picturing him strongly navigating that course so that I could strongly navigate the course I was on.
–Thank you Ethan for empowering all of us. You’ve helped us all to be better people by pushing ourselves further than we thought was possible!
Take Care Xena!
With lots of love,
I have not written because I cannot really find words. All the words written here have helped , and the poem tracy shared. What is held in my heart Xena, is the great love that I could see/can see between the two of you. And that that love was/is warm enough to nourish so many others. this will never go away. As I search through the debris of grief, I find the generous smile that Ethan always had for me, and oh how I cherish that now. I knew we shared a certain quietness as a face to the world, and I always felt the great depth ( and joy) that Ethan had behind that quietness. I love you Xena!
I am at a loss for words
My heart aches.
My mind trying to understand why.
My soul still feeling the connection.
Ethan brought such joy into this community. I am thankful to have had the time to get to know him.
Xena , I love you and I love what you and Ethan brought to my life!
Hello all. Needless to say, it has been a trying couple of weeks, with a whole host of feelings about this terrible event. It has also been difficult to be so far away (Seattle), though finding solace in friends here, and waiting for the upcoming week to make the trip to Minnesota. The Minneapolis community, via what I’ve read on the internet and via this amazing web page, has been so amazing during all of this. I, and some friends of Ethan’s, have contributed some photos, which I’ve added to the photos link of this webpage, to bring a little northwest to this wonderful midwest energy.
The harvest moon waxed full last night on the autumnal equinox. They won’t coincide again until 2029. It was Ethan Johnson’s 38th birthday. Ethan is a quiet man, a bio-scientist, a trumpeter, a man with a beautiful wife and oodles of friends.
They gathered at the St. Paul side of the Lake Street Bridge to take a bike ride in his honor, around 6 o’clock. The Brass Messengers brought their horns. Ethan’s wife rode the pink flamingo bike. Ethan wasn’t there.
When to change verb tense is among the awkward questions death delivers. Ethan still is. Less than three days ago he was killed. A man from Itasca County ran a stop sign at a high rate of speed, perhaps high on speed or meth. A coward who fled the accident scene, I will not give his name.
I will tell about last night’s bike ride.
On the Lake Street Bridge, the regular Wednesday peace vigil was just breaking-up. The sky was low as a living room ceiling. A bland wind tussled the rooster-bike’s paper cockscomb and swung the tail of the cardboard caterpillar. As sundown neared well more than a hundred people and bikes clogged the ramp from East River Road. With brief words and a cornet flourish, we were off.
The bicyclists peddle-pumped across the Mississippi. Here, the steep banks form a canyon. The wind rolled down the ravine, snatching a top hat and wrestling for control of the big puppets. Ah, the noble struggle of Paper Mache, of those who oppose the blow with paper creations. It can rain! Fools dare the rain with tempura paint. What is Paper Mache? It is layers and layers of imagination. It is paste. It is old newspaper and chicken wire. It is nothing.
A Minneapolis squad car met us at the foot of Lake Street. We saw the flashing lights. Puppets and bikes can scare police. They might stop us from riding. But it was a lone man in the squad and he escorted us.
The rooster and the emerald ash borer led. Some rode in band uniforms, or furry animal hats, many wore black, and an unusually large number wore brightly striped socks. A woman (she’d lost her own sweet-friend just months ago) carried a bell. It was quiet. Although we were all together, each of us rode in the space of our own thoughts. At intervals the bell would ping.
On East Lake Street, the Taco Bell is boarded up and so is the Freedom gas station. The Blue Moon was busy and many were sitting with coffee outside. A little girl stood from the group and walked to the corner her face alight with the unexpected parade. As I biked past, her face changed. I heard her say, “Daddy, they’re not smiling.”
But I was a little bit happy. It was Wednesday and I was riding behind a giant chicken on a gray day exactly halfway to winter. We didn’t stop for red lights. The air felt good in my hair. I was with friends and it didn’t feel so bad to be sad and shocked together.
I took a turn blocking traffic at the intersection and looked backward into faces as the parade passed. Two thirds down, in the midst came the widow, Ethan’s wife, Xena, the flamingo bike aflutter, a fedora pulled over her curls. “Thank you for being here,” she said to me with her famous strawberry smile. And it was sad, so sad, sadder than you can say – the kind of sad which perches between love and loss, the equinox of emotion, the struggle of birth and the rest of death.
When we turned down Cedar to the accident site, it seemed like such a bad idea. The burger smell from Matt’s Bar hung around that corner. Xena and Ethan had just eaten at Matt’s on Monday before the accident. They were just two blocks from home, their new home in a neighborhood full of old friends. The man who killed Ethan had slammed him and Xena and their red Mazda wagon into the church parking lot. The brick pillar was knocked over. The white cross was upright. There were pieces of red metal in the street.
And, of course, the smell of burgers, those Juicy Lucy’s being grilled-up, just down the block. People ordering baskets of fries and those gooey burgers with the cheese in the middle that the waitresses were trained to warn you about. The cheese can be hot! Be careful!
The Brass Messengers played a dirge. We sang the song from the Bare Bones Halloween show: When we are gone They will be remain, the sun and the snow, the wind and rain. It is sung in call-and-response style. I never think I can remember the words but they are there. They can be called from me. We had a few rounds of “Donna Nobis Pacem”. The Brass Messengers might have played a cheery number at that point, like they play in New Orleans after they’ve left the graveyard, they pick-up an upbeat beat. But the band had lost one of their own.
Xena came around and gave me, and then Allen a hug. “Ethan wanted to take up badminton,” she told Allen. “He would have been good of course. He was good at everything.”
And now, the real rain was coming, a monumental storm. We scooted up the alley on our bikes, each heading home.
Our thoughts and prayers go out to Steve and Susan and family and friends. We were all heartbroken to learn of Ethan’s passing, a loss without words big enough, but one acutely and deeply felt.
We’re all continuing to send prayers and good thoughts for a good recovery for Steve, and for bringing with time, peace to the hearts of all who lost their dear friend, son and brother in Ethan.
Please know we will be with you all tomorrow . We know we are not alone in our sadness at losing Ethan. He was a remarkable person who is loved by so many. We send our love to Xena and all Ethan’s family and friends.
I do not know how to share the grief of not being able to share the grief. I want to be with you all tomorrow and I can’t be there. Whatever I can do in spirit or mind to close the gulf I will do. Thank you to the chronicler of the bicycle memorial. May there be chroniclers of this memorial as well. Xena, I so recall the glint of steely yet playful and amused determination in your eye in the middle of Desnoyer Avenue, just about one sad year ago, when you expressed how much you and Ethan wanted to buy the house left behind as a consequence of yet another avoidable death. It is all too much.
I met Xena during the Fringe last year when we were sharing the shop space at Bedlam and I was instantly a fan of hers. I met Ethan when he played trumpet for the Holiday Pageant last year and I was instantly a fan of his. Then I found out they were a couple and I couldn’t handle how awesome that was.
I can’t be there tonight, but know that I am thinking of you, Xena.
I hope I see you soon.
all my love,
This evening, as we were driving home in silence from the powerful procession,
Amos (5 years old) said: ” Ethan must be very very special”
“why do you think so?”
“It just feels that way”.
Woke up this morning with Stevie Wonder singing, “…you can feel it all over, you can feel it all over people. …you can feel it all over …you-can-feel-it-all-over people….(brass solo) dunt. dunna dunt. dunna dunt… dun-na duun-na….
So sweet to feel Ethan right here with me, in all of you and in the sunrise this morning and oh!
You can feel it all over, people.
Hello dear friends and family of Ethan. I keep checking back here for more stories about Ethan. I miss him so much and long to talk about him and hear more stories. I have a few, so in case I’m not alone in checking this site for more stories; here they are.
When E first joined the band I could tell he had a big life. I wasn’t in on how he joined the band, for me, he just appeared; in a bird mask and dancing all up in my horn. It was a show at Bedlam and I think it was Halloween. There was so much mischief in him, and, though I love the stage antics myself, I didn’t know what to make of him, he was annoying me, and so I actually moved to the other side of the stage to get away from him. He followed. We ended up chasing each other around, dancing, and getting to know each other in that strange – I’m in a band with you – way that happens when you share sound, space, time and your spirit.
I lived in Seward, just a few houses down from Ethan and Xena. That first year of Ethan being in the band we would talk about future gigs alot; when he biked by, on his way to work, when I called to talk about carpooling, when he called to ask about a venue. We often ran into each other in the neighborhood. We chatted, talked about his work, my kid, the music, and we talked alot about logistics. It usually went like this; I would mention our next gig, he would pause and say something to the effect that he would try to come, I would look at him and say, “have you talked to Tony?” he would hem and haw and say he wasn’t sure what he and Xena had planned. I would give him a look and he would give me a grin. I don’t think he really thought he was in the band yet.
That first year I got the sense that he was pulled in many directions and his compass was wavering about whether the Brass Messengers was going to be a priority. I took to calling him before or after just about every gig, “you know we need you on this one”, or “It’s a wedding, it’s going to be a blast!”, or “we get beer and food, what’s not to like?” or “It’s a tour, I know it’s only to Wisconsin, but that still counts!” I don’t know what his conversations with Xena were like, but I can imagine. And I thank her for her generosity with her man. The band takes a ton of time and other things are inevitably sacrificed. I just know I was immensely grateful every time Ethan showed up and when Xena started to come to gigs, and joined our amazing bevy of brass ladies, I felt a huge sense of relief. He was a keeper.
The last two months of Ethans life Tony and Phillip were in Europe. We lean on those two for so much and without them we all knew we would have to step up. It gives me a bit of comfort to know that some of the most amazing gigs we have ever played were during those two months and Ethan enjoyed them with his characteristic zest. And I know he also felt a great sense of accomplishment, as did we all, for we were forced to grow and to develop our ability to play without Tony and Phillip and we did. It was a great bonding feeling to feel ourselves growing stronger as a band. I think Tony and Phillip would have been proud to hear how Ethan playing evolved in those few gigs.
The Onion Fest will go down as one of the best ever; the setting was an art farm nestled in the hills of Southeastern Minnesota. We played to a small but enthusiastic audience, grew in our confidence and musicianship as we won them over, and enjoyed delicious food together. Being in the Brass Messengers is really like an endless slumber party, complete with pranks, kitchen raids for snacks, and staying up late. We all spent the night, some of us under the stars on couches we dragged out from the barn and others in tents. E pitched his tent deep in the woods on a point next to a little river. Splendid. There was midnight skinny dipping and Ethan was the only one who dared to grab the rope swing and hurl himself into the air. I remember him being so happy. We were all aware of how blessed we were and sitting around the campfire into the night, the joy was palpable as J.B. played music and we shared the only four beers that were to be found. (we forgot to put “provide beer” in our contract evidently.)
Then there was Simone and Johns wedding. They called it the “Lovefest” and it was. The place was Whitewater State Park. If you haven’t gone, put it on the list. A Lodge made for dancing and an array of small cabins, sheer cliffs surrounding them on one side and on the other sides, woods with a small river burbling through. They did it up right with a tent, flowers for days, amazing food and fellow performers all as glad to be there to play for John and Simone as we were.
I am so grateful I carpooled with Ethan for this one. Chris and Meghan and Ethan and I were having such a great conversation that we drove 60 miles too far! We did a u-turn and high tailed it to the gig just in time. It was hairy but Ethan helped to keep things light in the car. I remember his special talent for keeping things in perspective.
Once there, we knew we were in for something special. To participate in folks celebrations and ceremonies is always an honor. There is an amazing balance of gravity and lightness. As a band it sometimes feels as if we are all in the delivery room together as we witness these rites of passage and contribute our sounds to the communal stew. This night was love compounded to the enth degree; the playing was fun and loose and the audience was appreciative and lively. We danced together, outside, I think there may have been a full moon, I’m not sure, but somehow the night seemed to conspire with Monie and John as if giving them their blessing. The bonfires sparks flew up and all our hearts opened as we celebrated this incredible match together. I remember it felt like band camp as we divied up the bunks in our cabin and told silly bedtime stories and tried to scare each other before falling asleep.
In the morning we ate breakfast together, packed up our gear and drove home. Again we had a lively time talking. We dropped Ethan off first. It is hard to end such a lovely time, so we got out and stretched our legs. Ethan showed us the house, talked about his upcoming trip to the Boundary Waters with Xena and then we gave each other hugs and said, “See ya”. I am so so glad I got a good long hug in. And I am so grateful to know that E and his beloved Xena spent those last days in the woods together. As Ethan told us about looking forward this trip, his eyes shined.
I never got to meet Ethan. From all I can see and read here and elsewhere, it was an astonishing life he led. I felt the same when I heard of Loren’s passing last year. I wish I could cross paths with such amazing people, but our language differences keep me on a slightly different track. I am the poorer for it.
Xena, we have never met except through email but I think of you every October as Halloween approaches. Your assistance in making Barebones accessible has not been forgotten. Please accept my condolences and best wishes at such a difficult time.
Although we never knew Ethan personally, we thought it might be some small comfort to his friends and family to know how we came to learn of his life.
During this year’s iGEM competition, we met the University of Minnesota team, which Ethan had been advising over the summer. They had created a simple but extremely touching memorial for him by printing his photo and biography on their presentation poster and affixing his conference name tag beneath it. When we approached the team to offer our sympathies, his students spoke with clear love and admiration for him, and urged us to heed the example of dedication and passion that Ethan had set for them in his own life. We know that we, and every other student who saw Ethan’s memorial, will return home and work a little bit harder and a little bit longer to do the kind of work that he loved. We hope his family knows that his inspiration continues to drive students whom he never knew.
Our thoughts are with you.
Tonight I called out sincerely to Ethan while looking up at the kitchen ceiling. I even tried to drop my squeaky sniveling tone that makes him cringe. I was crying and somewhat repetitive but confident. I didn’t hear his voice or see any clear signs of him but he is sneaky so I wouldn’t be surprised if he leaves something subtle. What if there is an afterlife and maybe he is there sitting on a cloud or sleeping on a bench. Ethan may still play the trumpet everyday and maybe he is even meeting new people. He could also be transformed into a pack of crows with no idea that he was once Ethan. I wonder if he will send a post card. I always got his attention before when I started rushing the gravy or mixing salt improperly. Maybe I should try that now do those things that he just couldn’t stand to watch me ruin. I wonder if he is blind there without his eyes. I miss making him laugh and chuckle and find himself unexpectedly joyful in a dull part of life. I miss tackling him. This afterlife place feels so far away where is the consciousness of Ethan?
I came across this website by chance and am crying reading all of the posts and all of the love and missing Ethan. I don’t know if there’s afterlife on a cloud… but I do know that sometimes I feel it. I don’t know if this post will comfort or infuriate you, because who knows how one feels from day to day. But I wanted to share, and I remember a time I was getting work done by Kris and you came to my mind and I mentioned you, and Kris said “maybe Ethan can help”. This was after I met you. And I feel like he heard. I don’t know him, but I felt his presence and his ‘picture’ even before I saw the picture on this website. I knew he had a beard. Also; once I was looking at a gorgeous gorgeous sunset in western ND driving towards mountainous Montana and saw these amazing orange clouds. I commented on them, and my dad said “That’s what the soul eats; those orange clouds. That’s the color they take in.” that was really comforting. I love you Xena. Hope to talk soon.
It has taken me sometime to get the courage to write one here. I read all the postings and see all the notes that are left one here from all those the knew Ethan and Xena. I was lucky to call he my brother (step), I still carry the picture he sent me while I was over seas fighting and some of his letters as tucked away in a fire proof box so that they will never be taken away or lost, or destroyed. The picture I carry is just of a rock he took in the grass there on the campus somewhere near one of the walkways and he said it reminded him of me and I do not know why. So as I fish for the salmon here in Alaska I carry it with me in my favorite flannel fishing shirt, in the pocket on my chest and it goes where I go when I fish. For that one chance I might see another rock like it. Take its picture, then I can say to myself ” it will come full circle in the end my brother” I truley wish you could have been up here to see and catch some of these fish with me, and to walk the glaciers. I think about you when I see the northern lights and the ever elusive Beluga Whale. The wife and I have missed you dearly,
Its hard to believe its been about a year. I don’t feel like at any time Ethan has been too far from my thoughts over the past months. These past couple of weeks I am thinking of him and Xena too, and his family, so much. Its been nice sifting through all the memories. Remembering all the good times. There were so many good times! Its wonderful and bittersweet too. Today I am making veggie hot pot. I have the recipe on an index card in Ethan’s writing. He wrote on it, I cooked this once for you at your house and you loved it. I remember that. Why was he making us dinner at our house? Always a better and more willing cook than either Matt or I. I loved that about our friendship with Ethan during our Seattle days. He was a part of the family we made there. It was never any big thing for him to just sleep at our place after a night out, or come over and make dinner in our kitchen after Frisbee, or anything like that. He was so easy to be with, so funny, so smart, so good at everything, so interesting, so impish. Such a sense of fun and such a willingness. There’s no part of him that feels gone to me. He is still just as he was. Except I can’t see or talk to him. That’s the part I miss so much. He still is, but I can’t interact with it. Only in memories where we’re both there together. I miss you Ethan. We miss you. And we love you and treasure you too. All the minutes.
Sending out love to all of those who are still trying to find their bearings even after a whole year since Ethan’s death. We were away from Powderhorn when it happened but felt the wave of emotions as we received pieces of news, videos and then this wonderful website that became the place that “held it all.”
Tonight we took a slow and pensive walk down 16th Avenue (the Chamberlain house), 17th Avenue (Xena’s house), 18th Avenue (the accident site). We paused. We lit candles. We drew chalk hearts and ended the evening with a trumpet solo.
We send love out to all who are still trying to find their bearings. Kristin, Ella and Bill
Every fall as I am pressing cider, taking a run in the cool crisp autumn air, eating plums just ripe off the trees, and reflecting back on the year gone by, I will think of Ethan and remember fondly the times I got to spend with him and learn from him and share life’s mysteries together. I miss him dearly and wonder how life continues without him here.
Written for Xena this September:
I’ve been thinking a lot about Ethan these last few days. How he came back to us from a Canada conference with museum-visit-notes in his journal and tales of Dog the Bounty Hunter on the hotel TV. Ethan filling a water bottle with berries when we went camping in the cascades. Ethan tearing my cap off at my graduation when he remembered we thought I might have lice. Ethan’s hand on my back, cycling next to me up some enormous Seattle hill. Ethan leading us through yoga poses in that lacy bed and breakfast when we went skiing halfway between our cities. Ethan laughing. And laughing. Ethan dancing with us at that Somali nightclub near your Seward house. Tracing Ethan onto a roll of paper in Keith’s attic apartment late one bleary night. And laughing. Ethan catching grapes lobbed into his mouth. Ethan biking a puppet-bird down the hill, flapping up to the windows of the Walker. Ethan playing the guitar. The trumpet. The dice game. Wizard. Ethan jumping into the lake, naked, at 5am and watching the world cup in the pub where my IT client worked. Ethan dressed up as a rat and climbing into a Ballard dumpster. Ethan learning to be one of the best head-scratchers ever. Ethan listening over a meal, a cup of tea. Ethan sining in the back of the Lopez pick-up truck. Ethan excitedly howling. Ethan reciting Ladle Rat Rotten Hut. Ethan laughing.
….oh…..Ethan…I miss you. yesterday I made a crisp with tart apples and sweet pears…and a few late peaches and some blueberries….it made me think of your birthday cakes….the ones eaten in the parking lot of the Wabasha caves…chocolate and carrot cake…pound cake…a pistachio cake, once at a party with so many friends and so many cakes…I wish I were making the cake today for your 40th birthday tomorrow. Love, always, Sarah K.
While cleaning my email, I accidentally ran into a old email message from Ethan. This was shortly after a temporary move to hawaii for health issues for our children . I miss him. 🙁
Thanks Ethan for being our friend. I only wished that you had lived to see our children, you would’ve loved them and they would have adored you.
It’s windy and blustery here at Lopez today, and I think you’re mad because you aren’t here to enjoy your birthday. But I know your spirit is here, making its presence strongly felt.
It’s been three awful years, and I’m still in shock and disbelief. I keep imagining at any moment you will barge through the front door, calling, “Hey, Mom, guess what?” I can’t begin to tell you how huge your loss has been to all of us. You were so very alive, so very engaged, so very inspiring, to say nothing of how much fun you were to be with, it’s just unbelievable that all we have left are our sweet memories of you. As I think of your younger years, I am so touched with how loving, gentle, and clever you were. You were such a tease: remember how you at 18 months would touch the forbidden picture above the couch with just one finger and a grin on your face, as if to say, “Now, what are you going to do, Mom?” You were so accepting and patient. Remember when you at age 2 1/2 fell off the mule, broke your leg, but hardly cried a peep while we carried you out of the woods for a day and a half? Even though you had strong feelings, you were so gentle: remember when age 3 1/2, when Erica was just a week old, you said, “Well, she’s cute, but isn’t it time we took her back to the hospital?” And I simply can’t remember a time in all your life when you raised your voice in anger. If you were frustrated, you simply thought, “OK, how are we going to do this differently so it works?” Also, you were good at thinking outside the box: remember when Grandma saw all the many toys you (age 4) had in your crowded room and commented on that, implying maybe it was time to get rid of some of them, and you aid, “Yes, I’ve been thinking I need a bigger room.” You were so self-contained, playing with toys on the floor for hours, looking at picture books and talking to yourself for hours. When you learned to read, you not only devoured books your whole childhood, you remembered them all and understood and absorbed their messages.
As you got a little older, you continued to be a quiet tease. Remember at age 8 when Aunt Pam and Aunt Char babysat you at Lopez for a week? When asked the first day what you’d like for dinner (maybe hamburgers or hot dogs) you replied that Veal Oskar would be nice. They knew right then it was going to be an interesting week. As cute as you were, you also were reliable and dependable. I was and am very lucky to be your mother.
As you grew into high school age, I began to realize how well you were remembering things and how easily you learned new facts, ideas, and concepts. You truly were a natural student, not only loving to learn for its own sake, but blending new concepts and ideas into your own thoughts. Remember your application essay to Cornell’s freshman honor’s writing seminar? It was about Ithaca, mixing up all kinds of mythology and literary characters in a humorous way. You didn’t think it was strange at all to write a humorous parody to the august committee at Cornell. They definitely appreciated it too.
You never wanted to close a door: you couldn’t decide if you wanted to major in music (trumpet), Classics or Physics. What a range. You wanted it all. It all came easily, and it was very hard for you to decide what to do with your life. You made great choices all the way along, and as frustrating hard as scientific research is, I know you made the right choice of careers for you. It is our great loss that you weren’t able to continue to refine the research problems you were working on. Alongside your professional life, you achieved a rare and enviable balance in life. You always knew what was important to you, and were able to craft the shape of your life so you didn’t have to sacrifice your free time and adventures to someone else’s timetable.
We miss your laugh, your twinkle, your wit, your ideas, your energy so much. You were so much fun to be with. I know your spirit is still with us, as the breeze in the treetops. I take you along everywhere I go and in everything I do, not wanting to leave you behind. You will never be forgotten. You will always be our inspiration. We miss you and love you so much. Every September is very painful, but I will try to relate some more anecdotes each year on this website, for others to enjoy and so you know you’re not left out of our lives.
With love forever,
Once again this sad time of year has rolled around. We think of you every day, but your birthday time is especially poignant. I have received numerous calls and emails from your friends, sending me their regards and stating how you have remained a very positive force in their lives. We miss you terribly and hope you are resting in peace.
I know you’re in a good place but I sure wish you were around so we could play some music together. I was looking forward to it before you left.
The Autumn Moon festival was last week and we had moon cakes. Too sweet for me but I’m guessing you’d like them – you’ve had some, right?
Missed hanging out with you and Xena during the last World Cup games but you didn’t care for that Germany-Brazil game, did you? I’m sure you were cheering for Brazil in the Olympic final. Right?
Margaret lent me a book: “The Gene” and I’m getting to the good part about the kind of experiments you were doing in your lab. Would have been great to ask you about your work. All the good things you would have done!
Wish you were here with us,
Listening to Bob Dylan last weekend, just days after he won the Nobel prize, I remember the afternoon at the house in Ithaca that you and I played several of his albums back to back. I can’t help but think of you when I hear Dylan and the incredible loss I feel when I miss your friendship.
Thinking about you today, Ethan, and so many other days.
Ethan- We wish you were here with us today picking chanterelles in the woods of the pacific northwest. I think of you often and miss you dearly. Love, Dara