Ann Helena Kearney Elliott, TSSF, 83, died Friday, June 22, 2012, of complications of brain cancer. She was surrounded by her six children and other family members. Born on April 7, 1929, in the small Midwestern town of Holden, Missouri, she was a mother, a writer, and a spiritual visionary. With her late husband Robert Kingwill Elliott (1927-2006), Ann was the spiritual co-leader of a community of people, many of whom lived near them in the Murray Creek Valley near San Andreas, California, in the foothills of the Sierra Nevada.
As Ann K. Elliott, she wrote 8 books, including Christian arts and crafts books Eyes to See God (1966/1977) and Christian Folk Art (1979); food books Fat Year/Lean Years (1980), Eight Grains/Eight Legumes (1982), and Seasoning Secrets for Vegetable Lovers (1984); and books on spirituality Becoming Real (1975), Return to the Whole (1996), and Higher Ground (2000-2003). She was also an active developer of web resources, including The Murray Creek Labyrinth (2002) and The Infinite Possibilities Mandala Maker (2006), as well as Ann’s Blog (2007-2011). Most of these can be found at: murraycreek.net or clcpress.com.
Ann’s parents were both journalists and co-published the local newspaper. They had met in Mexico City where her father was on assignment for a Washington DC newspaper and where her mother was doing advanced studies at the University of Mexico. When Ann was six they separated and she moved to Kansas City, where her mother began a long career in radio and television. In high school Ann was sent east to Penn Hall in Chambersburg, Pennsylvania. There she met Bob who was attending Mercersburg Academy, the nearby boys’ prep school.
In the fall of 1947 Ann and Bob were married and the following spring left for Stanford University, where Bob finished his undergraduate and went on to earn his law degree in 1952, by which time they were expecting the second of what would be their six children. During Bob's years at Stanford Ann studied and worked in the field of design, even establishing her own small business. More importantly, this led to her interest in symbolism, and the study of symbolism awakened her interest in spirituality, a combination that led to an interest in Jungian psychology at about the time Jung's writings were beginning to appear in English.
It was through the writings of Christian Jungians such as John Sanford and Morton Kelsey that Ann became interested in the psycho-spiritual approaches to inner healing. Eventually she would connect with the three grand women founders of the San Francisco based Guild For Psychological Studies, all of whom had studied with Jung in Zurich. Together the three -- Elizabeth Boynton Howes, Sheila Moon, and Luella Seibald -- had established the Four Springs retreat center in Northern California where they conducted seminars based on "The Records of the Life of Jesus of Nazareth" according to a modified Socratic method. Ann participated in the Records and other related seminars at Four Springs during the 1980s.
The 1970's found Ann and Bob increasingly convinced that western civilization was on the verge of environmental, economic, and political collapse. They became gentle survivalists, stockpiled food and explored self-sufficiency. Beginning in 1974 they purchased 60 acres in the Murray Creek Valley, where they raised dairy goats and followed organic gardening practices and frugal living. After 1977, they and four other families moved permanently to the valley, in order to create an alternative community organized on spiritual and progressive principles. In addition, they developed a retreat center for Inner Healing. This was the beginning of Creative Living Center and the CLC Press, which gradually evolved into an on-line means of sharing what they were learning and experiencing about the processes of becoming whole.
One of the significant works during this time was the construction of the Murray Creek Labyrinth, created in 1988, a 52-foot traditional 7-circuit Cretan/Hopi labyrinth used as a meditation space and walking meditation site, located along the Murray Creek beneath a large-spreading “mother” oak.
Ann had been writing off and on for a number of years, with numerous writings on symbolism published in magazines and journals, as well as two books on the use of symbolism in Christian education. In 1996-7 Parts I and II of Return to the Whole were published on the C G Jung Web Page, and this was the beginning of web publishing for Ann as a means of sharing the synthesis of ways to inner healing and wholeness she and Bob had experienced and been sharing throughout their years at Murray Creek. From 1984 until their retirement in 1998 Ann had served as Bob's legal secretary; after that, Ann began writing and editing full time.
In 1992 Ann learned she was eligible to "test her vocation" as an Anglican Franciscan and after an inquiry and formation of some five years was, in 1997, professed. These are the TSSF initials that follow her name--The Society of Saint Francis--and for which order she served as a formation counselor. Additionally she served as a Benedictine trained spiritual director and served in this capacity also to whoever was willing to make the narrow, winding trip out Murray Creek Road.
In her last years, Ann focused extensively on healthy living and eating. She also established Murray Creek as a Quiet Garden, part of a world-wide ministry of hospitality. After Bob’s death in 2006, she travelled between her children’s homes and Murray Creek, bringing her passionate, wise presence and illuminating smile, and continuing her studies of Jung, Swedenborg, Eckhart Tolle, focusing on studies of mystical and post-death experiences and the Divine Couple, some of which can be found on Ann’s Blog. Finally, in 2010, she established the Elliott Family Trust, which is dedicated to the preservation and care of the Murray Creek property as a place of natural beauty and quiet, as a sanctuary for its wildlife, and as a gift to be shared with others.
Family was always central in Ann’s life, and beyond Bob and their six children, her family so far has grown to include 14 grandchildren, three great-grandchildren, and innumerable friends, fellow spirits and mentees within a large-spreading spiritual family, including her many friends in The Society of Saint Francis, at Trinity Episcopal Church in Sutter Creek and at St. Mathews Episcopal Church, San Andreas. It has often been observed that her smile “lit up the room.”
She is survived by her sister-in-law Eleanor Main; children Robert Elliott Jr. (Diane), Willy Elliott-McCrea (Katie Elliott-McCrea), anna elliott (Jim Madden), Louisa Hunter (Steve), Conal Elliott (Holly Croydon), Joseph Elliott (Ebru); grandchildren Brendan Elliott, Kenneth Elliott, Kellan Elliott-McCrea, Aidan Elliott-McCrea, Fiona Elliott-McCrea, Luke Madden, Antony Heiland, Natasha Heiland, Jacob Elliott, Rebecca Elliott, Charlotte Elliott, Patrick Elliott, Ayla Elliott, and Erhan Elliott; great grand-children Audrey Elliott-Heye, Mizuki Elliott, and Eliza Bean Bland-Elliott; nephew Elliott Main (Denise), and nieces Courtenay Harding (Everett Burton), Wingate Payne, Daphne Butterbaugh (Jack).
There will be a celebration of Ann’s life and spirit on Saturday, August 18, 2012, from 10 am, at the Murray Creek property, 3111 Murraydale Lane 95249. For more information, email firstname.lastname@example.org. In lieu of flowers and in keeping with Ann’s life-long interest in healthy eating and service to the community, the family invites contributions to Second Harvest Food Bank (P.O. 990, Watsonville, CA 95077 or www.thefoodbank.org.
For more information about Ann and her life, visit: murraycreek.net.
A set of poems about Ann, written by her oldest son, Robert, can be found at: murraycreek.net/poems.html.