by Malka Weitman
I caught up with Liz Raymer in the weeks before the latest of her many travel adventures—this one six weeks exploring Eastern Europe. It was a Sunday afternoon, and Liz was just coming from a rehearsal of the Berkeley Community Chorus, where she has been singing for over twenty years, and was on her way home to spend time with one of her grandchildren. At age 83, Liz says with gusto: “I enjoy my life.”
In fact, Liz has had several lives. During the 1950s, she was the typical housewife, quitting college at age 21 to marry and raise three daughters. She found that life stifling and went back to school, earning a degree in psychology and going on to train as a psychotherapist. The degree was her “ticket to freedom”; she eventually left the marriage and became involved with the feminist outpouring of the 1970s. “It was a great time to hang out with women,” she recalls. In a meditation group, she met and fell love with a woman and came out as a lesbian; it was “liberating” and the beginning of a long involvement in women’s issues.
Liz spent two years in India in a serious meditation retreat. When she returned in the late ‘70s, she opened a part-time psychotherapy practice in Santa Rosa and joined a group of idealistic women who were farming the land in Mendocino. She also became involved in political action, joining demonstrations at Diablo Canyon and Livermore Lab, among others.
In 1988 Liz moved to Berkeley and the following year, met Ronnie Boynton, her partner of 23 years. Together they raised their many children and step-children, and have 25 grand- and great-grandchildren. “We’re busy,” she said. An understatement, perhaps? She and Ronnie travel frequently, staying three to six weeks in a region so they can really get to know it. Music is another part of their lives: in addition to Liz’s participation in the Berkeley Community Chorus (she also served on their Board for 13 years), she and Ronnie are avid concert-goers. One favorite is Saturday morning broadcasts of the Metropolitan Opera live on the big screen at the AMC Theater in Emeryville.
Buddhist practice is another integral part of Liz’s life. It is the foundation of her obvious comfortableness with herself, and her graceful acceptance of aging and the impermanence of life.
At Ashby Village, which she and Ronnie joined two years ago, Liz is helping to shape the newly-created Program Leadership Team. She works to find balance between “the monk” in herself and her curious nature and desire to be immersed in the world, between her rich relationships, and interests in singing and politics. “I have a hard time not being involved,” she says.
We’re very happy she is!