Nearly two years ago, I followed winding LaHonda and Skyline roads through the fog and driving rain of a California winter. It was a trip that would have been stunning in the sunlight — but was downright terrifying on that day of wind and rain and unearthly mists, with any momentary skid potentially fatal along the treacherous hilltops stretches. But the several hundred people making that journey into the Woodside hills had a somber determination.
The occasion was the memorial service for legendary biographer Diane Middlebrook at the Djerassi Resident Artists Program — in a spacious wooden building up amid the mists and treetops on that cold January day. And the chilly rain did not dampen the gathering as Diane’s husband Carl Djerassi, stepson Dale Djerassi, daughter Leah Middlebrook, and others spoke of the warmth and spirit Diane had brought into their lives.
In addition to being the acclaimed author of Her Husband: Ted Hughes and Sylvia Plath, Anne Sexton: A Biography, and Suits Me: The Double Life of Billy Tipton, Diane was enormously popular and enormously loved — so it’s no surprise that her friends wanted to create a lasting memorial. They are well on their way to doing so, with the Diane Middlebrook Memorial Writers’ Residence on the Djerassi Program campus.
According to her daughter, Leah Middlebrook: “The new residence for writers was a dream of Diane’s, and we can’t think of a more fitting memorial to her spirit. This facility will increase the capacity of the Djerassi Program to host artists by 50 percent. At the same time, it will strengthen the discipline that was Diane’s own.”
Groundbreaking is planned for spring 2010, with a fall occupancy. Organizers are still raising the remaining $200,000 of the $750,000 to complete the residence (Carl contributed $400,000, Sue and John Diekman donated an additional $100,000).
Those who wish to contribute can do so at www.djerassi.org, clicking on “support” and then on “Diane Middlebrook Building Fund.” Click on “donate now” to open a secure donation service — make sure you add “Diane Middlebrook Building Fund” in the gift acknowledgment box.