Some people make an impression. Heeling Dean was one of them.
Sadly she died last week, and I wanted to dedicate my Soapbox to her in honour of a truly unique individual. In honour of a woman who was seemingly unself-conscious. Who was witchy wise but childlike at the same time. Who was raw, and honest, and both ordinary and unusual. Who was serious and funny. Who could be as easygoing as she could be difficult. Great women are complex. And Heeling was a properly complex woman.
A woman who knew how to be a friend to other women. Her friendships were deep and passionate. You were either in her sunshine or her shade – there wasn’t really anywhere else.
She was drawn to community. She told me once she’d been in the JWs. I could see how she would have loved the fellowship but I couldn’t imagine her sticking to the rules. I couldn’t imagine her pink hair and her fuck-you attitude being dominated by a doctrine that dictated life choices. I guess that’s why spirituality was so important to her. She had a connection but she found a way to live it without the restrictive rules. Free spirits don’t do well living in jars with the lid tightly shut.
After leaving the Jehovah’s she found her place in our esoteric spiritual community. A place much more resonant for someone like Heeling. A place where a naked Heeling would comfortably wander on her verandah chatting to friends on her Facebook Live about whatever her latest clay workshop had brought up or issue she was working through. Nothing was off limits. I relate to that. I share the same lack of filter. It draws people in. There is a certain radiance in the dangerous open-hearted full-tilt approach to how she lived her life.
I remember going there for a tarot reading she had gifted me for my 50th birthday. I was a few years late in showing up because it’s not something I am comfortable with. I turn up at her gorgeous shack in the hills and she asks me to change a lightbulb because at five foot nothing she can’t reach. Then she said, ‘Well you have to go out and come in again! We can’t do a reading when you’ve done a job for me.’ So I leave and turn up a second time. Then she asks, ‘Have you ever had a foot reading?’ No, I have never had a foot reading. She takes in my feet and admires what she calls my ‘power toe’. Apparently it’s quite something. She made me feel nurtured and cared for, something she put a lot of her self into. She made me love my big toes.
Every show I did around here she would be in the front row. Even though I often make jokes about some of the ideas she held dear, she never took it personally. She could laugh at herself. The new-age punk priestess gathered an entourage for every outing. She laughed with her whole body. She saw her role as some sort of divine glue – connecting those who may have never connected. Drawing in people who may not have even liked each other, but were united by the fact Heeling had invited them in: to a show, to a clay-making circle, to a lunch. They dare not say No to Heeling! She didn’t wait for life to happen; Heeling orchestrated it. She was no bystander. She was right there in the middle of the action.
Even when she was unconscious the woman was making waves. International headlines just a few weeks ago read ‘Prominent Byron Bay anti-vax tarot reader in ICU with COVID’.
I felt protective of Heeling. It felt wrong to write about someone who was unable to defend themselves or give consent. To criticise her choices when she was paying so heavily for them. I was appalled at the lack of privacy, and the opportunism of the media singling out Heeling, but for a moment she was famous. And her tribe gathered around her.
I write this as one of her vaccinated friends, who respected her choice, but dearly wished that perhaps she had made another. I write this because she was an extraordinarily kind, eccentric, generous-hearted, and kooky-as-Fuck kick-arse woman.
Goodbye, Heeling Dean.
I get the feeling you’ll be back