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"Shower" by Kevin Dooley is licensed under CC BY 2.0.

When I am in my shower, I try to be aware of gratitude. I love showering. I love the sound of the water and the way it blocks out other sounds, the feeling as it hits my skin, the temperature, the humidity, the feeling of being cocooned in this space. When I was fortunate enough to be able to design and build my house, I created a beautiful bathroom with a great shower. I am grateful for my shower.

I try to remember that what I have is extraordinary. I am able to shower every day. I can take a nice, long, hot shower. I can shower simply because I want to even if I don’t really “need” to. These facts are incredible. This is an amazing gift I give to myself. This is an astonishing opportunity that I have. And this is something that I always remember is rare indeed.

I live in a time and place where the municipality provides clean, safe water directly to my house, and utility companies deliver the energy needed to warm that water to whatever temperature I desire. A thousand years ago only a few hundred people in the world would have been able to access an effectively unlimited supply of hot, fresh water, and fewer still would have been able to indulge themselves in this way with any frequency. But even today, in most parts of the world, it is only the wealthiest individuals that can indulge such pleasures. For most people in most places around the world and across all of time, enjoying a shower would be unimaginable decadence.

Indeed, the access to clean, safe, reliable water in any form for most of humanity is something to be prayed for – I flush such water down the toilet. It is not lost on me that someday the drought in the western United States, exacerbated by climate change, will cause the water will run out, or my health will run out, or this space will be gone… someday this will be just a memory of a sweet, long-lost time. This is something that I appreciate when I am in the shower.

It is not lost on me that I have such wealth that I was able to create this space, and to purchase water and fuel. It is not lost on me that I have the freedom to choose to live in a place where clean water is delivered to my home. It is not lost on me that California is in a drought and that should the water stop, I can choose to move. It is not lost on me that I have the time to enjoy this.

I also do not take for granted the fact that I am able to shower without assistance. In her later days, my mother loved Thursday, because that was the day that her caregiver helped her to take a shower. She couldn’t undress herself alone, nor safely get into or out of the shower. She certainly couldn’t control her body sufficiently to wash her hair. I think of Senator John McCain, who, due to torture in Viet Nam, could not lift his arms over his head. Did he have to rely on others to wash his hair for him? I am aware of those in wheelchairs, paraplegics, and quadriplegics, for whom showering is likely a lengthy and involved process and may be impossible without assistance.

For myself, there was a time, not long ago, when due to medical devices attached to my body, I had to prepare myself for a shower. I had to wrap my arm in plastic wrap and tape it in place to keep my arm dry, and I had to keep my showering brief to reduce the risk of water getting under the wrapping. For a while I needed someone to help me wrap my arm, and then to unwrap it afterwards. Washing my hair alone was challenging because of limited mobility. If I could wash my hair at all, it was only with one arm. What a gift that taking a shower no longer requires any preparation beyond disrobing, and I need to do nothing more than dry off and dress afterwards.

I indulge myself in these moments of peace and beauty, knowing that just a few miles from my shower there are people living in tent camps. I don’t know how they bathe themselves. I don’t know how far they must travel, nor what they have to do to get to any kind of washing facilities at all. I indulge myself, well aware of the fact that there are uncounted millions around the world without access to safe drinking water, let alone a shower.

Sometimes these thoughts make me sad, so I cut my showering short. But more often I just try to appreciate this amazing experience, this incredible experience, this rare, unique, gift of an experience.

Forgive me for waxing poetical about the joys of showering. But I encourage all to find something in your life that you are taking for granted, and to instead give it the attention that it deserves.


When I was a child, Thanksgiving meant a day off from school, and a big, delicious meal prepared by my mother. Later on, living on my own, invited to friends’ houses for Thanksgiving, I was introduced to the ritual of each person at the table saying what they were thankful for. We had never done that in my family, and I thought it was silly, but being a good guest, I went along with it, coming up with some statement of thankfulness. Now that I am older, with the perspective provided by time, and experience, and loss, and pain, I try to be thankful every day for all the great gifts that I have received. I am so very grateful for friends, and health, and food, and freedom, and among the many, many fortunes that I have, I am grateful for my shower.

I wonder if caterpillars know that they will become butterflies. When a caterpillar on a leaf sees a butterfly flying around, does it think, “that will be me some day”? Or perhaps, “I hope I become a butterfly like that one.” Or does it just see butterflies as another of the many things in its universe? Can a caterpillar, in its limited capacity, even conceive of a relationship between itself and a butterfly?

I wonder if butterflies know that they were caterpillars. When they are drinking nectar from a flower and notice a caterpillar on a leaf, do they reminisce about those bygone days? Do they think caterpillars are cute? Do they look forward to laying eggs, or fertilizing eggs, that will become caterpillars?

I wonder if we are the larval form of something else… some next existence of which we cannot conceive. Butterflies aren’t just caterpillars with wings glued on. So, rather than floating around on clouds in heaven in humanesque bodies with wings, perhaps we become something inconceivable. In our extraordinary capacities, we can imagine quite a lot. But I wonder if there might be an afterlife after all – merely one that even we cannot conceive.

What do caterpillars think of their lives? I doubt that caterpillars have existential crises in which they wonder about the meaning of their existence. But if they did, would knowing that they are larval butterflies make them feel any better? Would that give them a sense of purpose? Meanwhile, who is to say that being a butterfly is any better than being a caterpillar. From our human aesthetic, butterflies are pretty, and airborne, and visit flowers, while caterpillars are usually more drab, climb on plants, and eat leaves. But perhaps being a caterpillar is an idyllic carefree childhood, while being a butterfly is an anxiety-filled adulthood, desperately trying to reproduce.

This human life seems rather pointless, but maybe we are larval stages of something else. Would knowing that make this life feel more purposeful? Do metamorphosized “people” look at humans with any recognition of a connection? And if there is some next existence, who’s to say if this life is idyllic childhood, or if that next life is beatific flitting from flower to flower.

I have heard it said that to name something is to destroy it. Once it is named, the thing that is right in front of you is then just an example of “one of those”, and you no longer see the thing itself.

I was reminded of this idea this morning. There was a rainbow over Oakland. I counted off the colors: ROYGBIV - Red, Orange, Yellow, Green, Blue, Indigo, Violet. Then I looked to see where the sun was. I noted that it was in the east and the rainbow was to the west, just the way the science of physics tells us it will be.

In looking at the rainbow, I realized that I wasn’t seeing it as a beautiful phenomenon. I was seeing it as an artifact of atmospheric conditions and the mechanics of light. Like knowing how a trick is done, or the answer to a riddle, or that in the end the universe is saved but the hero dies, knowing how a rainbow works takes away the magic.

Perhaps physics classes should come with a warning: “Spoiler alert.” Now it is up to me to put knowledge aside and see the rainbow as beautiful again.

Riding home on BART last night I felt so lonely. Everyone on the train was somewhere else. Most people had some kind of earbuds or headphones on, and almost everyone was looking at their cell phones.

I was listening to music on my phone with my earbuds and really rather enjoying it. But then a person sat down next to me, and I realized that they weren't really there. It wasn't just, "sitting next to someone I don't know"; it was sitting next to someone that wasn't sitting next to me at all.

So, I took out my earbuds and put away my phone. I wanted to connect in even the most trivial of ways.

I noticed another man, of about my age, on the train. He didn't have anything on his ears, nor was he holding a phone. He was behind me, so I had to turn pretty obviously to look at him. He didn't look back. I wanted to signal to him in some way that we were kind of kindred spirits, but, of course, we were strangers on a train, and I was a stranger craning around to look at him.

I thought about when the Sony Walkman came out. The "older generation" decried it as the end to sociability. Perhaps it was the first drop in the bucket, the first chip in the glass, the first step on the journey to isolation.

The difference is that now many of the people on the train probably are being social - it is likely that they are on their phones using social media or doing email. They're just not being social with those humans around them. They aren't isolated from those nearby by music on a Walkman, they are somewhere else, with someone else, as I sat alone on the train.

The 4th of July occurred (inconveniently) on a Tuesday this year (2023). This got me thinking about US holidays which are fixed to a certain date in the year, vs. those that are (currently) always celebrated on a Monday.

We have New Years Day, which is always January 1; "The 4th of July", always celebrated on July 4; Christmas is December 25th; and most recently Juneteenth, which is June 19. [Note that for the Federal Government, and many businesses, if one of these dates falls on a weekend it is then "observed" on either the preceding Friday or the following Monday.]

Then we have the so called "Monday holidays", which occur on different dates each year, corresponding to a Monday (though some of them used to be holidays fixed to a date): Martin Luther King Day, President's Day, Memorial Day, Labor Day, etc.

Lastly, we have the oddity of Thanksgiving, which is observed on the 4th Thursday in November - so the date floats, but it is always a Thursday.

I can't help thinking that if we just called this holiday by its proper name, "Independence Day", it could be turned into a Monday holiday. It is only fixed to a specific date because it is commonly referred to as "The 4th of July".

Independence Day is particularly ripe for becoming a floating holiday because it isn't even clear that July 4, 1776, is the most significant date in relation to the Independence of the United States from Great Britain. After all, the declaration was ratified by Congress on July 2, 1776, and the "official" copy on display at the National Archives was signed (primarily) on August 2. Meanwhile, the war with Britain began in April 1775, more than a year before the declaration was ratified let alone signed. The war wasn't officially over until the signing of the Treaty of Paris, September 3, 1783. Arguably, independence wasn't assured until that happened.

Moreover, "The 4th of July" tells us nothing about what we are celebrating. The holiday is intended to commemorate the anniversary of the colonies making up the "United States" declaring independence from Great Britain. Calling the holiday by its true name makes it much more meaningful than simply referring to the date in July on which we have chosen to commemorate it. Celebrating July 4, by that name, makes no more sense than celebrating any other date on the calendar.

So, we really ought to refer to this holiday as "Independence Day" and celebrate it on the first Monday in July, regardless of the calendar date on which that Monday happens to fall.

Just my 2 cents.

My sister Erica Sigal and I are proud to announce the creation of an endowment at the Arnold Arboretum of Harvard University in memory of our mother. This endowment, the Elise C. Sigal Research and Education Fund, will be used by the Arboretum to promote research and education about the plant kingdom, particularly in the fields of horticulture, arboriculture, and botany.

We are creating this fund today, on what would have been our mother’s 90th birthday, to honor her love of horticulture and of the Arnold Arboretum, where she was a volunteer for over 40 years.

We hope that this fund will help students and researchers to learn about and advance our knowledge of the plant kingdom and that it will do so for generations to come.

Here in my part of the United States we experienced the switch to Daylight Savings Time last night. That is to say, we transitioned from “Standard Time” to “Daylight Time”. I live in California, so that means going from Pacific Standard Time (PST) to Pacific Daylight Time (PDT). I hate the daylight savings time switch. I have always hated daylight savings time whether we were moving our clocks forward in the spring, or back in the fall. I used to say that it was like getting jetlag without the benefit of going anywhere. This morning, as I lay in bed, I realized that that little joke obscured the true reason why I find this time change so unpleasant.

I was thinking about what it would be like if we hadn’t gone to daylight time last night, but instead, I had taken a red-eye flight to somewhere one time zone to the east. For me that could mean flying from San Francisco to Denver. When I landed in Denver I would have reset my watch to one hour later – ugh. But the transition to DST is worse than that. Why? Is it just because I am now in Denver and able to visit friends and see and do things that I cant do back home? That is what I used to think, but that is not the real reason.

I realized that at any given moment there are three kinds of time going on that are relevant to my normal life. There is what I call “clock time”, the time displayed on a clock, there is “solar time”, the place where the sun is in the sky (which is the time that would be displayed on a sundial), and there is “circadian time”, the time that it subjectively feels like to my body.

If I flew from San Francisco to Denver I would experience jetlag because my circadian time would be out of sync with clock time. But it wouldn’t be that bad because the local clock time and solar time would be in sync. For me the sun would rise and set 23 hours after the last time I had seen it rise and set. My body would adapt relatively quickly, taking its cue from the sun, causing my circadian time to come into alignment with both the local solar time and clock time.

The transition from PST to PDT is much worse than that. This is because the morning after the switch both my circadian time and solar time would be out of sync with clock time. The clock would tell me that the sun rose 23 hours after the prior sunrise. But that wouldn’t be true. I would experience (approximately) 24 hours between sunrise on the morning before the switchover and the morning after the time change.

At this time of year in California, the sun rises 1 or 2 minutes earlier each day (because of elliptical orbits and the tilt of the earth’s axis, the change in time of sunrise from one day to the next is not constant.) That means that it will be April 24th before the solar time and the new DST clock time are back in sync again. My body is able to adjust to the daily 1 or 2 minute change in solar time that occurs throughout the year without my even noticing it. My body is able to adjust to travel between time zones because the solar time in the new time zone corresponds to the local clock time, helping me correct my circadian clock. But I have a terrible time with the daylight savings time change because only the clock time has changed – my circadian time and the solar time are both out of sync with what the government tells me the time is now.


The US Congress faces yet another debate about raising the debt ceiling, and a group of Representatives are threatening to hold the debt ceiling “hostage” to extract promises of cuts to Social Security and Medicare. Meanwhile, not long ago there was the raging months-long debate about the omnibus spending bill, and some kind of spending bill will need to be debated and voted upon again later this year. On and on. Round and round. Year after year.

I hate the way the conversation around the budget is framed. It's not so much who wants to spend or not spend on this or that which bothers me (though I certainly have opinions), it is the way we have taken to talking about the matter. The way I want the conversation to be framed, by the government, the media, and the people, is simply this: what does the collective population want, and how do we want to pay for it. Because really, at the end of the day, that is what it is all about. This way of thinking paints a much clearer picture about all the nonsense that takes place along the way.

There are those that will claim that that is the oversimplification of the century, so, allow me to explain.

The American people, through their representatives, demand that the Federal government provide a certain set of goods and services. Of course, there are endless compromises as no two people want exactly the same things in exactly the same amounts at exactly the same time. Indeed, often there are things which one group considers absolutely vital, which another considers anathema. Moreover, the “basket” of goods and services provided by the government is so vast and complex that no one citizen could ever get a handle on it all, let alone make thousands of choices between each of them. What we do instead is to elect representatives who claim to know the needs and wants of their constituents. Those representatives in turn hire armies of aids and advisors to help them make choices – choices which may or may not represent what they told their constituents they were going to do.

In the end, through a seemingly endless process of haggling and horse trading, a grand agreement is made, specifying what the Federal government will, or will not, provide. Along the way, experts, such as those at the Office of Budget and Management, will have come up with estimates of what each of these many, many line items might cost. Total that up and you’ve got the list of goods and services that the American people have demanded and an estimate of what that will cost.

At this point it is certainly possible that Congress might look at that dollar figure and say, “yikes!” So, back they go to trim and cut and tweak to get that amount down to something that won't make their constituents grab torches and pitchforks. Eventually the final, final agreement is arrived at, voted on, and passed.

Now the question is simply how do we want to pay for it. Ooops. Did I say, “simply”? Well, it's fairly simple in theory. The Federal Government has a few ways to pay for things. (1) Tax the population and other entities such as businesses. (2) Borrow money by issuing bonds. (3) Print more money. Each of these options have their own pros and cons.

People don’t really like it when the government takes some of their money to pay for stuff, even if those self-same people asked for that stuff. The more money the government takes, the less people like it, until finally, out come those torches and pitchforks again. Meanwhile, changes to taxes in any direction have impacts on the economy which can upset the whole apple cart, effecting how much money the government will receive in the end and how many goods and services people will need from them.

Borrowing money is nice in the short run, because the government gets money to spend but taxpayers aren’t immediately on the hook for it. Of course, borrowing has the problem that sooner or later the money has to be paid back, plus interest, and that becomes an issue for some future budget. And, as usual, there are impacts on the economy when the Federal Government starts issuing more debt. In particular, the government is then competing with other borrowers in the debt market, that raises interest rates, which causes a whole cascade of effects of its own. Indeed, the Federal Reserve does a lot of buying and selling of bonds specifically to manipulate the economy.

Finally, printing money is the easiest thing to do. Voila! Incurring no debt and not raising people’s taxes! What could be better? Well, it isn’t that easy. Printing money devalues the currency which decreases everyone’s buying power. So, it fundamentally has the same effect as raising taxes. Taxing people (and corporations, et als) leaves them with less money to spend. Printing money makes the money that people have worth less, requiring more of it to buy the same things (inflation.) Printing money also has the danger of upsetting foreign countries, unsettling foreign exchange markets, and in the extreme, has the risk of reducing the importance of the US dollar as a major world currency for transactions (which is useful to the USA for a separate set of reasons.)

The government, through various branches and offices, gets to choose how much money it wants to raise by each of these means to pay for the items in the budget. Within each of these methods for funding, there are additional decisions.

Printing money is the simplest. The only decision (after how much) is how fast. Raising money by taking on debt is also comparatively simple in terms of decisions. How many bonds of what payment durations, sold how quickly at what interest rates. Note that it’s not actually simple, its just comparatively simple.

Taxation is the killer, which is unfortunate since it is also the least problematic. How much money is the government going to take from which groups of actors in the economy. Will these payments be a flat amount, or a percentage of earnings, or based on something else. Will certain actors or activities be exempt from taxation. And so on. That is why the IRS tax code runs to thousands of pages.

At the Federal level, there it is. What goods and services do we want the Federal Government to provide, and how do we want to pay for it.

At the state level, the process is pretty much the same, except that states cant print their own money, but they can ask the Federal Government for funding assistance. Also, states have opportunities to tax things that the Federal Government generally doesn’t, such as property, various kinds of licenses, sales, and so forth. Similarly, counties and cities make decisions about goods and services to be provided to their citizens, and how they are going to pay for it, including getting money from their state governments.

So, at its core, the issue really is that simple. What do the people want, and how do they want to pay for it.

Into all of this, politicians have tossed things like the debt ceiling. These are all just ruses to allow groups to renege on their agreements. By invoking these limiting mechanisms, whichever group is wielding the levers of power at the moment gets to use these mechanisms to cut back on the purchase of goods and services that they had previously agreed to as part of compromises made in good faith. “Yes”, they say, “we agreed to spend money on this bridge, and those entitlements, and that tax cut, but, we hit the debt ceiling, so were taking back the money that was allocated to the things that we don’t like.” [Note: this isn't entirely accurate. It's more like the group in power is able to use the threat of not raising the debt ceiling force certain cuts to current spending and to get the other side to pre-conceded cuts in the next budget before those negotiations even begin.]

This, of course, is bullshit. The set of goods and services were negotiated and decided. The cost was estimated. It was understood that the money was going to have to be raised from various sources. Those means were chosen. But now that we are in the process of buying, using, and paying for this stuff, we are shocked to discover that we don’t have enough money to pay for it all.

Rather than having a cudgel like the debt ceiling which allows one party or the other to smash bits of the agreements that they don’t like, we should have a law that says that Congress needs to negotiate the budget in good faith, needs to decide honestly how it will be paid for, needs to accept the future impacts of these decisions (such as increasing the national debt), and provides, in advance, a contingency plan for what happens if we blow the budget for any reason.

I want to hear the conversation framed as; what goods and services do you want? OK. That is going to cost approximately this amount – are you willing to spend that amount? If not, what are you willing to give up? If so, how do you want to get that amount of money? Yes, the devil is in the details, but framing the conversation in a way that is simple, straightforward, and accurate will make the debates about those details clearer and more rational.


My mother with a friend's dog, Harry

Dear Mom,

There are so many things that I want to tell you, but I can’t make it through telling you these things in person. So, I have written them down and asked your caregiver to read this to you.

I wanted to tell you how much I love you. How terribly important you have been to me throughout my life. How much of you is in me. How much you have made me who I am. I am the child of both you and dad, but I wanted to make sure that you know how much I cherish those aspects of myself which came from you. More than anything the kindness and caring, but also your love of knowledge, your breadth of interests, and your sense of humor, subtle and ironic.

Did you know that for me, every dinner was a conversation about nurturing and love? That I had watched the hours of effort you put in and the stress you endured when dad was on his way home amid the rush to get dinner ready on time. His entrance demanding, “when’s dinner!” was made all the more painful because I had been watching you working. I was sitting in the kitchen, watching TV, but you were at the stove just beyond the TV, so I was watching you too. This was a conversation in which dad did not participate, spoken in a language which he did not appear to understand. He sat down at the dinner table, ate, and then left. The love and nurturing were between us. Of course, I didn’t understand this ‘till many years later. It was only in my late 20’s that I began to figure this out, and later still that I felt I understood how food represented to me love, caring, and compassion.

For my whole life I have never understood the word “milquetoast” (a timid or feeble person), because to me, “milk toast” was one of the things that you gave to someone you cared about when they were sick. Milk toast, bananas, apple sauce, and love. So too I find the term “mamas’ boy” absurd, defined as “a boy or man who is excessively influenced by or attached to his mother.” How could being attached to or influenced by one’s mother ever be excessive.

I remember tiny little things from growing up. I remember you at the kitchen sink, doing dishes, and then hitting Spot on the back with a fork when he bit Seymour for stealing his food. I remember you closing the window at the bottom of the stairs at the house on North Street, telling me that if cold air blew over your chest you would get a cold. I remember that you could never get a blueberry pie to set up, so you called it “blueberry pie soup.” I remember lying on the couch in the living room at North Street after coming home from school with what turned out to be a fractured arm, and the concerned look on your face when I slept through that whole day.

I remember losing my shoe in mud on a beach in Canada, and you trying to wash me off in water that turned out to be electric due to a downed power cable. I remember stepping into an elevator, thinking that you were behind me, only to discover when the doors had closed that I was alone.

I remember gerbils in terrariums in the room between the kitchen and the garage. I remember hatching chickens in an incubator in the kitchen. I remember taking your wristwatch apart, but not being able to put it back together. You didn’t scold me. I remember you driving me and some other kids to day-camp. I remember making paintings by blowing paint over sheets of paper with straws.

I remember you letting me stay home from school when I was “sick”, even though I was clearly faking it. I remember going with you to the Cambridge Center for Adult Education – you took classes in paper sculpture, and flower arranging, and stained glass, and jewelry making, and mosaics. I remember talking you into buying things for me: a block of balsa wood at Ken-Kay-Krafts, and endless bottles of Testor’s paints for model cars and planes; cactus and other plants that ultimately you had to take care of; raspberry-lime rickeys from Brigham’s. I remember you buying me marbles and maple syrup candy somewhere – maybe it was the Salem Witch House?

I remember watching the first moon landing from your and dad’s bed. And Thalassa Cruso’s Making Things Grow, and The Galloping Gourmet too. I remember watching endless hours of cartoons in the kitchen while you made dinner at night, or breakfast on Sunday morning.

I remember a piece of cardboard with coins taped onto it which you used to teach us about money. I remember you typing my school papers for me because I had left my assignment till the last minute and didn’t have time to type it myself. I remember dad complaining that you walked too slowly and having to choose between keeping up with him or hanging back to walk with you.

I remember calling you from the bed in my hospital room after my heart-attack - asking you to come out to be with me, even though I knew you hated travel.

I remember shopping trips to the kitchen supply store on Newbury Street, and Mass Hardware, and I remember hiding in the middle of the round racks of clothing at Jordan Marsh while you shopped. I remember your driving what seemed at the time to be a ridiculous distance to Waltham to buy bread, or to get pizza at the really good place that was worth the long drive.

I remember the vegetable garden on the far side of the garage at North Street. I remember somewhere getting the plant growth hormone called gibberellic acid. I wanted to see what would happen if I injected it into plants instead of putting it on the leaves as you were supposed to do. For some reason you let me try it. I remember making Halloween costumes from sheets, and carving pumpkins – wondering if some day my pumpkins would come out as well as yours (they never have.)

I remember you bathing me in the bathtub in the new bathroom at North Street after the renovation, and I remember the old, long bathroom from before the renovation. I feel like I remember the changing table in that old bathroom, but I am sure that must be a false memory. Was the room light yellow? Was there a window at the end of the room? Were there sheer curtains with embroidered flowers on them? That is how I remember it, but it is likely to be something part remembered, and part imagined.

I have travelled an unorthodox path through my life; taking years to get through college, not marrying nor having children, leaving my career at its peak to go off and have fun. But I hope that I have made you proud. I hope that I didn’t cause you too much grief along the way.

You said to me recently that you don’t want to be an “inconvenience” or a “bother”. You took care of me my entire life. That is something that I can never repay, nor do I want to repay it. This is not about reciprocity. This is about love. There is no inconvenience. There is no bother. My only wish is that you be as comfortable as possible.

I want you to live forever, but no one does, and “death comes to us all.” I want you to know that I understand. That you did everything you were supposed to do, and you did it so well. I understand that you have to leave.

I want you to know that you should feel completely free stay as long as you want, but also to leave whenever you need to, whenever you want to. I will cry for a long time, but that too is inevitable – that is the inevitable consequence of your being such a great mother, such a great person, and such a deeply caring caregiver to me all of my life. You have done everything necessary to make me the man that I am today, able to stand on my own, able to care for you now, and able to survive after you are gone. Please stay, if you want to stay, but don’t stay because of me. Go when you are ready. There is nothing you need to worry about. Erica and I will take care of everything.

And I will always love you.

 Elise Cunin Sigal, my beloved mother


Elise C. Sigal, 89, of Oakland, CA and formerly of Newton, MA, passed away peacefully on Monday, October 30, 2022, surrounded by her children. For 63 years the beloved wife of the late Marlowe A. Sigal. Devoted mother of Erica Sigal and Andrew Sigal.

Born in Bath, PA, and raised in Allentown, PA, Elise spent most of her adult life in Boston and Newton, MA, before moving to Oakland, CA, to be close to her children. She graduated from Brandeis University with a degree in music history.

Elise was an avid gardener; she turned her especial love of trees into a volunteer position at Harvard’s Arnold Arboretum, assisting in a variety of roles for over two decades, ultimately running their plant information phone line. She was an active participant in the Newton community. She worked with the Newton Creative Arts Committee where she served for a time as Chairperson. 

She shared her late husband’s passion for early music, antiques, and historic homes, frequently attending performances and museums. Elise also hosted visits to her home by musicians and early music organizations. 

She is missed by all those whose lives she touched.

In lieu of flowers, the family asks that remembrances be made to the Cunin/Sigal Research Award Endowment at the Arnold Arboretum, Boston, MA or the Elise C. Sigal Musical Education Fund at the Sigal Music Museum, Greenville, SC.