Liza Behrendt: Scriber Lake High School teacher, arts advocate

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Liza Behrendt

Liza Behrendt hiked, biked and danced on this earth and made art in honor of its waters for 53 years and five days. A wise soul whose ability to go deep instantly, to get to the core of what mattered, to create a clear space for herself and host that space for others, allowed her to touch the lives of all who knew her.

She viewed those she loved with unconditional, adoring eyes and listened to the point of truly hearing. This complete acceptance made us all strive to be better — and to make our surroundings better. We need more Lizas in our world.

Liza possessed deep self-knowledge, and arrived there through continually reinventing herself. For the past seven years of her life she was devoted to the students of Scriber Lake High School in Edmonds. Her passions were with the outdoor program (INSTEP) and as an art and leadership teacher.

Her gift was in facilitating profound, transformational experiences. She introduced students to Northwest surroundings through hikes and backpacking adventures. She led trips to art museums and invited guest artists into her classroom.

She ignited commitment to serving the homeless community and infused confidence and strength into the students in her leadership class, helping them to recognize their core potential. Always, always, Liza’s goal was to “circle-up,” reflect and meditate on the deep truths that nature and community had to teach. Many students now plan to treat the earth gently as they carry her bright light into the future.

For more than five of her teaching years, she was dealing with the physical challenges of multiple myeloma, a cancer that especially affects blood and bones. She often said that cancer was one of her teachers.

She accepted cancer as part of her life, but believed in overcoming it almost until the end. “What is everyone going to say when they see me playing beach volleyball next year?” she would say, with her matchless sense of humor. And, “If I get the chance, I will dance more – and see art whenever possible.”

Prior to her years at Scriber Lake, she founded a nonprofit organization, Beauty of Water. Her vision was “to generate collaborative art experiences in communities around the world on the theme of appreciation of water” (www.beautyofwater.org). After getting the “initial download” for the idea while living in California in 2006, the organization’s first projects took place in Kerala, India.

Liza believed in small steps to empower her big vision, as she explained in an interview with the Arts and Healing Network in 2009 after receiving an award for “bringing transformational creativity to one of the most important and threatened resources on our planet.”

With typical eloquence, Liza said, “We can take regular inventory of every little thing we are doing with heart, with love, with intention, and with yearning for something greater. That’s excellent. We need to remember to feel good about even just having a wish.”

Liza’s work also included IT project management, arts direction and administration, health and well-being counseling, fundraising, youth programming, and performing arts. Her love of travel took her all over the world, and the mountains she climbed were many.

Her nephew, Benji (5), brought her tons of joy in these past few years, and her other nephew, Cedar (19), and niece Sierra (16) had no bigger fan than Liza. She passionately and actively supported their dreams, interests and aspirations. Her family’s roots are in Wisconsin, but Liza paved the way to the Seattle area and was soon followed by sisters Lynne and Sarah, as well as father Dave, after their mother Mary’s death in 1998.

Liza was pure kindness, pure grace, sincerely curious. Her essence will linger with us in multiple spaces, and her spirit will continue to encourage us to be the best version of ourselves.

We will celebrate Liza’s life at Edmonds Lutheran Church, 23525 84th Ave. W., at 2 p.m. Sunday, Feb. 4.

In lieu of flowers, donations may be made to these organizations, chosen by Liza:

• Technology and Information for all (TINFA) www.tinfa.org

• Think Dance www.thinkdance.org

• The UN Refugee Agency www.unhcr.org

• Your local small farm or family farm trust, such as www.pccfarmlandtrust.org

If all of our world’s problems were solved and all of our personal and interpersonal problems faded, what would we humans do? I imagine that there would be little left to do but have extremely fun parties and make amazing art.

– Liza Behrendt, Jan. 13, 1965-Jan. 18, 2018

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