I have this friend. She is deeply humble — so much so that she always seems surprised when I give her a compliment. I don’t think she realizes the grandeur of her amazingness, the scope of her beauty. I hope I don’t embarrass her too much by waxing poetic about all the things about her I find utterly remarkable.
My first experience of Kayna was at a Salon dinner at Vibrant Studios. I found her unassumingly striking, understatedly stunning, small in stature but statuesque nonetheless. She didn’t speak much, but when she did, it was always about something that interested me. She drank red wine heartily, ate a full plate of vegetables in all permutations with relish, and held space for others at the event with a presence that required no words to convey her power. As she became a loyal return customer at the Salons (making an appearance at nearly every dinner she was in town), she began to open up more, and her profound passion for caring for those around her, and devotion to self and world betterment, was incontestable. She has since become a beloved figure in the Vibrant community: one who many brilliant people speak of with deep fondness, and who is able to evoke a broad smile from all sorts of colorful characters who have come to know and love her.
I have the privilege of calling Kayna my friend — our relationship has deepened to sharing one-on-one conversations over all sorts of delicious meals across Portland. I find Kayna’s stories remarkable (yes, she has indeed completed half or full marathons on every single one of the continents! And her 60 times around the sun have granted a magnificent and diverse set of experiences, full of darkness and bright light alike), but more than anything else, I am inspired by her constant curiosity and inquisition. Perhaps her introversion affords her many opportunities to listen fully, but what truly sets her apart is her ability to learn from the knowledge she acquires, and assimilate it into her being. Additionally, I see in Kayna a woman who is so strong, but simultaneously experiences heartbreak nearly everyday when faced by the tragedies in the world around her. I imagine this may feel burdensome for her sometimes — the fact that she feels so deeply the enormity of the pain of people, places, animals, and communities who are suffering — but I see a soul with such compassion, such empathy, that it reverberates and shines and holds emotions that are sometimes overpoweringly sad, but other times beatifically happy.
She spent her 60th birthday last year at Vibrant Studios, surrounded by that aforementioned colorful cast of characters who have come to love her so dearly. We cooked some of her favorite foods, made a big beautiful dessert, sang and lit candles and made all the fuss she allowed for. I can only hope I will spend more similar occasions with her, and that I will be able to hold space and share in the celebrations and sadness alike that the future will bring. Kayna, please know that you will always have a seat at the expansive Vibrant table, and also at the tiny one tucked away in the corner of my apartment. Please choose a fund or a charity you would be proud to support, as I will be making a donation on your behalf.