Robin Sunbeam and Daniel Littlewood

Recorded May 7, 2011 Archived May 7, 2011 42:52 minutes
0:00 / 0:00
Id: MBY007807


Robin Sunbeam (62) tells facilitator Daniel Littlewood (32) about traveling, her daughter, Sudharma Kumari’s life and death.

Subject Log / Time Code

Robin went to India and realized how much time people spend outside.
Robin explains how she met Art Stoyer, with whom she would travel the world and have her daughter.
She didn’t realize she was pregnant until she and Art had left the United States.
She had her baby in a monastery in Sri Lanka. She named her daughter, Sudharma Kumari.
Sudharma died from breathing in lots of charcoal because of a fire that Art made in a fireplace that had no chimney. She was two-years-old.


  • Robin Sunbeam
  • Daniel Littlewood

Venue / Recording Kit


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00:03 Hello, my name is Daniel little would I am 32 years young? It is May 7th 2011 and I'm here in Ukiah, California. I'll be talking to Robin who got a chance to meet.

00:17 And my name is Robin Cole Sunbeam. I'm 62 years old. Today is May 7th. 2011. We're located in Ukiah California, and I just met Daniel have a couple questions. We just met just started talking.

00:39 Aren't you mind if I just ask cuz you had some interesting things to say tell me about this town a little bit. Where are we Ukiah Ukiah spelled haikyuu backwards through the town in northern California about the least 2 hours North of San Francisco on Route 101. It is the county seat of Mendocino County where located in the Emerald Triangle which makes up Mendocino County Humboldt County and I believe Trinity County and everywhere you look you can see grapes and pears growing as far as the eye can see and then beyond where the eye doesn't see. I think that cannabis is the backbone of the local economy. This is a county That's Unique because you can get a 215 card after proposition 215 and you can become a registered Medical

01:39 I want to use her here and the police can stop you up for smoking marijuana and you show them your 215 card and they say okay fine and you keep on going. So that's what makes this. Are you you need that. There's also a lot of very colorful people what I love about Ukiah are in the communities. There's Community overlapping Community here and that's what I was looking for. When I arrived here. Was it a Place full of community where I could raise my children and the one last thing about Ukiah that's unique.

02:20 Is I forgot.

02:26 I forgot it was okay. So part of what I got out of that was that you'd maybe not originally born and raised in backwards Haiku, California from New York. You want some coffee?

02:41 Just had some things I had to get out of here.

02:45 Oh, well, I guess I was living in Vallejo with my husband and two children and I were my husband was becoming angrier and angrier and angrier and I decided I'd rather be a beach bum then have ice assumed his anger was due to the stress of having a successful business. So we closed his business sold all our properties. We bought a motorhome. We traveled all over the United States back and forth several times within 2 years, of course that led to a divorce but when we arrived here in Ukiah one of the reasons we chose Ukiah

03:29 Was because Waldron lives here and there. My life is connected with Waldron and woven mandala of mystery and it just seems that wherever Waldron goes I end up there also also known as Captain clearlight was the guy who made clear light LSD and distributed around the world that's his claim to fame and I met him in 1980 and

04:10 I don't know. We've been connected ever since and one level or another.

04:15 So Ukiah wasn't out of the blue, you actually kind of meant to travel through or at least stop by and suddenly find yourself sticking around Ashland, Oregon to Santa Cruz, California. I went to Venice, you know, I went to all these cute little places and decided that Ukiah was the best place for us leave, California to come back to, California.

04:48 What do you learn about yourself with all the traveling? What what what was it in you that you realized connected here?

04:57 Well

04:59 I it's I guess it's as I was saying, you know, I've been a square peg in a round hole my entire life and it didn't matter whether I was living in New York or Colorado or India or China. I was always a square peg in a round hole and it was kind of the way my life was and then when I arrived in Ukiah amazingly enough, I became normal for the first time in my life. Not that I ever wanted to be normal, but I guess I'm normal because the norm here are colorful people with diverse experiences like me.

05:45 It's also a hotbed of social activism and we all also can boast our own personal chapter of the Ku Klux Klan located right in the center of town on Perkins Street.

05:58 I guess that's social activism to yes. I'm happy. I'm guessing that's not the kind you're talking about. But I mean we have a very diverse population 9% of our county is Native American.

06:12 How does that so how does that diversity appeal to what what is it about that that that you like? Well, I got a master's degree in International cross-cultural Community Health mainly because I just adore.

06:27 Discovering how different kinds of people live and how they you know, how they cook how they sleep how they store their the state their possessions how they travel. I just love that. That's very interesting to me. This is what I was studying or this is what I was thinking about in here. It is happening in front of me that Anythink spring to mind about that.

07:01 Yeah, I guess while I was living in India.

07:05 You know here in America we all we live in these houses with most of us have central heat and we can turn on the faucet and all of that and we sleep on these beds with you know, a boxspring and Mattress or you know, most people do and I got to India and I discovered that most people only use their house for storage and they run their whole life outside and the Richer people have a compound in the middle that they're at their compound is like a big square a rectangle with a veranda in the middle of the house where they where it's open to the open-air and they do stuff there. But the rest of the people just have a hot or a house somewhere and they live their whole life outside and you know, they they what are the things I loved about India. Is that for good?

08:05 They believe you should sleep on the floor. So what they do is every night. They take their bedrolls Out roll them out. They go to sleep and in the morning, they roll their bed roll back up and they store it away in storage area.

08:21 Have you been able to incorporate any of this any of this lifestyle into your own life?

08:26 I did spend a good part when I was a student at naropa Institute in Boulder, Colorado. I lived in a completely Barren apartment with white shag carpets, and I would enroll my bedroll every night sleep on it roll it back up in the morning and then I had a little low table and I'd sit on the floor and I take the low table out of the closet and put it down and I do my school work on the low table put it away when I was done so that I lived in a completely Stark and Barren environment.

09:06 Miss it much.

09:09 I miss that much. I'm not one to wallow in regret. I I I try to be present in the here-and-now moment. And the only the only thing that really dogs me with memory.

09:30 Is the the life and death of my daughter? And other than that, you know, I've worked very hard to move on. I mean after her death, I probably spent 18 years with my heart hardened to Stone and I work very hard on clearing the blockage in my heart and I fell in love and got married and had two more children.

09:58 Boys

10:01 Can we go back a little bit and talk more about that? Sure about your daughter and her life.

10:08 Well

10:10 I was

10:13 I was traveling with the hog farm who is another local group that happens to be here in Mendocino County and they live there station now up in Garberville, but at that time they were running a pig for president and they were a a caravan of painted buses and trucks and vans and they came through I was a student at Sunny Binghamton and they came through Sunny Binghamton and I got on the bus and never look back and they took me to ventrally the New York City to make long story short and Bonnie Jean who's now known as jahanara had a younger brother who was profoundly deaf and he had a lot of phobias and he he was

11:09 A UFO Aficionado and so he needed somebody to help him cross the street in New York City to go see this other guy who was a UFO Aficionado also, so I volunteered to accompany him cuz that's the way I am. I'm always trying to help the needy. So I walked with him whose name. I can't remember right now and he died anyway at but not that day. And and so I walked him to this amazing mansion on Spring Street a 5-story mansion that was built by Aaron Burr that and so we went upstairs and there we found a art store.

11:56 Who had Marie strimples Osteo Spondylitis? And he was one and emaciated and stuck in the bed, and he was delighted to see us but I realized

12:12 That he was a needy person. He was abandoned. There was nobody who came to see him or talk to him or he needed help to get out of bed and get back into bed. And he hadn't had anyone to help him out of bed to the bathroom. And so after our little interview about UFOs, I went back there and I volunteered to help him and I left the hog farm and hooked up with a art store was a comedy writer. He also wrote a lot of Western paperback novels and

12:55 And he was also the writer for

13:01 Let's see. I can't remember Dick Gregory. He was Dick Gregory's Rider and he had several plays on the US steel hour and all of that stuff way back when and so he decided that he wanted to go to India to see meher Baba and have a miracle to cure him.

13:25 So I began living with him and we make a long story short of that part. We sold all his antiques at Park brene and sold his house Jimi Hendrix came by and I met Jimi Hendrix personally, but he decided not to buy the house cuz I had to take him on a tour of the whole house. He's very tall or at least he was when he was alive and it got sold to the air of Hormel ham.

14:00 Whose name? I can't remember and then we packed it in went to Europe went to Holland. We bought a bro Dragon Maid of a Volkswagen Broad and it had a fiberglass roof that allowed you to stand up in it and it was fitted out with a second bedroom in the back and you could pull you could open the back door of this Volkswagen van pull out this platform and put these hangers things there. So the platform wouldn't fall down and then you pull out the second half of the mattress cushion and put this tent thing over the back and you had a second bedroom. It's you just couldn't be driving with the second bedroom open. You always had a packet in but if anyone ever lived in a in a sailboat or you know, you live in a van then you unpack it when you stop and then when you're ready to leave you pack everything in

15:00 The Stow everything down and tie it down and then you drive away kitchen table. So, you know, we'd have to after dinner. We then put up clean up everything put everything away put the questions down make of the bed and so on.

15:24 And so we we then ship that from Trieste Italy to Bombay.

15:31 And little did I know but I had become pregnant in New York now. I I had no idea that you know of

15:48 Crippled dried-up little old man like Arts Tire could give a young girl so much pleasure.

15:59 And that's how I got pregnant.

16:01 And we didn't realize it somewhere traveling around Europe on our way to Trieste.

16:09 He noticed that peculiar little balls at the bottom of my abdomen which I have no experience with and I didn't get morning sickness so that I'd had no idea and then by the time we got to Bombay we decided to start looking for a good place to have a baby. So we traveled here and there around India he decided that he he like the name trincomalee and he wanted to have a baby in trincomalee.

16:46 So we traveled to the southern tip of India to a place called rameshwar am and there was a ship there and to get the the car to rameshwar on there. They had a hurricane or typhoon or something and the road was wiped out so I had to put the car on a box car.

17:11 And so to get it in the Box Car. I had to push the rear view mirrors back. I had to let the air out of the tires a little and then roll it into the boxcar and then when will train boxcar a train boxcar that's right. And then we got to rameshwar. I'm pumped up the tires again put the you know after we got out of the box car and then they got the we put we drove the car across the beach onto ramps on to a pontoon boat.

17:48 And then they went out to the ship in the ship had up I guess so what's it called a crane and the crane lifted it up and put it up on the deck you want you wanted to get it out to that ship and then we we arrived at the we arrived in Sri Lanka. I can't remember the name of the port and we made friends with the young of with the young Customs agent there who that's another story later. Maybe I don't know if we'll get to that story. I have lots of stories. So then we drove around for a few months.

18:37 Yeah, I was pretty big and sub actually because of because I had anorexia nervosa. I was not as big as I should have been.

18:49 And

18:52 And so we drove around and we drove around we went to candy and in candy we passed by this sign in English that said Buddhist publication Society. So all of a sudden heart says, oh wow, you know who does very interested in Buddhism stop here. So we went inside we met Richard. I be a sacred who took us up to njanappana Catera and suddenly art says so I'm at there a he's my Google now, so instead of going to trincomalee we decided to have a baby right there in the up jungle Forest known as the what the Kelly in the middle of Kandy Sri Lanka. So it was the rainy season and we drove around with the what the Kelly looking for a place to park the car and we're going to

19:52 The baby ourselves and I was looking for you know of an area to camp and I we found a clearing off the road and I always walk at first because you never know about the terrain. You don't want to get stuck we can't get out of so I always walk the train first. So I walked into this clearing and then when I came back out again, I had a little bit between my toes and I looked down and it was a leech and then I looked at every inch of my Bearskin. I was covered with leeches. Well, you know, I'm a girl from New York. What do I know about leeches and it was like

20:41 I found that the leash when it's Walk Like an inch worm and when it was taking a step you could flick it off with your finger get all the leeches off of me and then we scrap the idea of camping in the jungle having a baby by ourselves and then we decided we have to turn around but the road was only narrow. The road was very narrow. There was no place to turn around and on the series at at the end of every road. There's a place to turn around. We follow the road through deep puddles of Mudd to the end of the road and at the end of the road there was this very steep rise and it took three different times and attentive to get this Volkswagen van up this steep rise, and I you know, I had to kick it down into first gear and wrap it up and get it up there and we got there and they

21:41 Old monk named Katie mattera came out and he was chewing Betelnut and he had these he had these wrinkles at the side of his mouth and the red the blood red Beetlejuice was made all these wrinkles all blood red and came with his frowning looking face and he walked up to us and we signaled him in hand signals and he point at that aren't pointed to my abdomen and said we want to have a baby here and he agreed he said yeah, yeah.

22:20 Well, he didn't say. Yes. He just shook his head with that frown in the Beetlejuice and it was quite impressive looking and then he sent a villager to somewhere and they came back with a mrs. Luella. Mrs. Poe. Do you do Ella and this is pseudo Ella gone to the best schools and she could speak English. She was the wife of the dro who is the equivalent of the mayor and they happen to live, you know at the edge of wudu out the Kelly

22:52 And so is she translated and we were astonished that he had agreed to have the baby there and the reason was because there was a comet in the sky and he felt that the comment was a portending some strange event.

23:11 And as soon as this crippled guy and the pregnant young girl in the odd-looking Volkswagen van Broward vagan came driving up his driveway. He knew that that's what he's been waiting for. And so he get cleared out a room in the monastery in his Hermitage where he lived and they freshly cow dung the floor to make it very sanitary and we camped out in the front yard of the monastery until the day I went into labor and then we moved into that freshly cow dung room.

23:54 And your daughter was born so my daughter was born at at the a trauma vihara. And ethically the Midwife came in we delivered the baby that night and hummed Rule also known as that was his nickname hum Drew, but that that was a dumb. Akidi Maja Tara and mrs. Who do well it was there and as soon as she was born

24:23 You know, I was a yogi and I wish somebody had told me to relax my bottom because I was it was a very long labor because I was holding the baby in as hard as I was pushing it out, but I know better now and I named her sudama Kumari which means the ultimate truth the princess of the ultimate truth and he popped out. The first thing that happened is a is Tom Drew brought her a teaspoon of tincture of opium and put it in her mouth.

25:11 Because every baby in Sri Lanka that's born is immediately given a spoonful of tincture of opium and she went to sleep.

25:23 And I also went to sleep being exhausted and she woke up and I knew nothing about breastfeeding. I wasn't breast-fed myself. I put her through my breast she latched on and nursed and now a lactation consultant and I can't believe how many American women can't breastfeed their babies and a you know for me it was just the baby woke up 24 hours after she got that tincture of opium and latched on and nursed and we never had a problem there and she was a little underweight. Oh, I forgot to tell you that when I arrived at a rama vihara, Andrew.

26:09 I said I was too skinny, which I was and so he would cook up the most incredible Sri Lankan curries for me. He'd go out into the jungle and Keith collect these flowers and fruits and he can make these amazing curries for me and then he'd stand over me before this was while I was still pregnant to stand over me with his arms folded chewing Betelnut with it dripping in his facial creases.

26:41 Frowning and saying

26:46 And so I gained a lot of weight in that last month or two before the baby was born so that the baby fortunately she was I can't remember her exact weight because they think they waiter with a fish scale and it was 5 some-odd pounds which is just barely small for gestational age, but how you feel?

27:13 Well, I felt a lot better getting the baby out.

27:17 And I remember one incident where she just wouldn't stop crying and she was just crying and crying and I fed her and you know, I did everything I could think of and mrs. Pseudo Ella came by one day and I mean that day and she said I heard the baby crying and I said hi.

27:39 And misses you too. Well, I looked at her and said wet.

27:44 Change the diaper and she went to sleep and I thought so I'm useless as a mother. So I gave the baby to Missy Sue too. Well and I ran away.

27:54 I'm sorry. I ran into town. I ran down the mountain ran into town and it was pouring rain and and I realized I had no money no passport nothing. I had no choice I had to go back. So I went back and Masuda. Well, I was expecting me and she handed the baby back to me and I nursed again. She was hungry by that time.

28:25 So I had a few incidents where I ran away.

28:29 And and so on another

28:43 Unique situation here. I mean where you did you ever going to take a step back and look at it and say I just had a baby at a monastery in Sri Lanka surrounded by maybe one or two people that I know?

28:54 Was there ever a moment of his cuz this is this is where I am now.

28:59 I'm not really sure what you mean by that.

29:04 I I guess I waited until the baby was born before I notify my parents. They had no idea that I was pregnant.

29:16 And

29:19 More or less? Yeah, I wrote them about once a month. They collected all my letters and I have them now in a collection.

29:28 And up

29:31 No, I don't know. I don't think so. Let's move on.

29:37 Oh, so so, you know we got her passport picture remember taking her to get her a smallpox vaccination and mr. Willis said, oh, well, they don't do smallpox vaccinations anymore because you know smallpox been has been wiped off the face of the Earth.

29:59 And I thought well I'm traveling and I don't want my child to get smallpox. So we got her that smallpox vaccination, which I looked at my perfect little healthy baby and that I had scarred her for life on her arm. But we've my age I'll have that little scar on our arm.

30:19 And then we travel to India and we traveled around and we became the Arthur called himself at man. So we became the app man and Robin show starring sudharma Kumari and everywhere. We went in this Volkswagen van as soon as we stop the car exponentially people would gather around the vehicle. They press their noses on the glass. So that within 10 minutes the glass was completely opaque with nose grease. So we developed a technique where we took a neon orange nylon line. And as soon as we parked the car as soon as we stop the car I jump out and tie it to the fender and tie it to a tree and tie it to another tree and tie it back to the other Fender and that was our

31:19 Living area and I said to tell people all you have to stay behind this the wire you have to stay behind the string and that only that prevented All Star windows from getting covered with nose crease and then all they only know is greased on one side and everything. We did was an anomaly in India. So we always got big crowds and I'll skip to the to the death scene and so we we went to see Yogi Chen in kalimpong and he said that my daughter was a reborn somebody or other and that we had to go and she in her previous life. She's been a disciple of the karmapa. So we had to go see him but we couldn't get into suqeim at that time, but we found this Xerox map of the back road.

32:19 Wasn't on any other official map and we travel three days of a very arduous Journey over the Himalayas to to gangtok Sikkim and then we prepared this great up Pooja, you know this offering and we went to see the karmapa. And normally we met we raised to Dharma so she was always very suspicious of strangers because everybody seems to have tuberculosis and so we didn't we'll just want every Indian people that kiss their babies right on the mouth and I didn't want anybody with tuberculosis kissing her on the mouth. So we we raised her to be suspicious of strangers, but when we got to the karmapas Palace, you know,

33:10 Pencil came at room Tech Monastery and she just was so delighted to see him she ran right up to him and he had a funny little dog and and he and she and the dog went off into some back room for 2 hours and and then she came back and she was all happy and everything in the karmapa says to us through a translator. Of course, you're in great danger. Go back to kalimpong immediately.

33:45 And so when we came down from room Tech Monastery, and we got to the crossroads one One Direction going to gangtok in the other direction going to kalimpong heart says to me.

34:00 Now we have to go to Yankee and I said but but you just said the karmapas you knew grew and hate your Guru just told you you have to go the other way and he was saying no, I'm not afraid of any danger. Let's just go to gangtok because it's Maha kala Pooja which means the new moon of February. It's a Chinese New Year's and tomorrow. They're going to be having llama dances in the llamas are going to be eating babies made of some Fado reminiscence of when they were in the burn religion.

34:37 And so I reluctantly I turn because I at that time there was a lot of emotional abuse going on and I had been reduced to a non opinionated of the while. I just carried out his will and so we went we got to Hotel there that was brand-new a brand new hotel and it was owned by the swinfen family now mrs. Swinford was a Nepali lady who's married to a German guy and had two daughters. And so the German man her husband was off somewhere else in Pokhara someplace doing some project and he and so she and the two girls were running the hotel. So we got to the hotel and suites alarm immediately took to their older daughter and that gave us time to clean up.

35:37 Cuz we just done this 3-day arduous Journey over the Himalayas and we were filthy and exhausted and we needed to restock our supplies and everything and so sudharma stayed with her and then

35:53 And then up.

35:55 Do you know we had a birthday party and it we've been because it was sudharma second birthday and it's been so long since we had spaghetti. So we're two bettas live you could get noodles with ketchup on it, which is so we had we had spaghetti and then the serpent brought in buckets of water and we had our bath and they brought in a charcoal Brazier with a 5 gallon bucket of charcoal and I always knew that aren't was had this little peculiarity. He loves to put all the fuel on the fire and make a great big fire and I just begged him not to do it this time because in a few minutes we're going to be under the covers and it's so much healthier to breathe the cool air and it's so first she got a bath to Dharma then I bathe him and I went in for my bath. So when I came back out from my

36:55 He had taught sudharma how to put coals on how to put coals on the fire so that it didn't make any smoke and there was a huge cone of glowing red charcoal and pretty soon. She was throwing up and I held her in my arms and I rocked her and we cried together and I'd of course abusive his usual. Hehe aren't was telling me what a bad mother I am and what a useless person I am and so on and finally she fell asleep every time before that every time she fell asleep. I put her down on the pillow and she'd wake up crying again. So finally she fell asleep and I put her down in my bed was covered with vomit and her head was kind of loose and she had one eye open and one eye closed and I thought to myself, you know, she looks dead. But if she is there's nothing I can do about it.

37:55 Now and if she isn't I'll call a doctor in the morning and all I want to do is go to sleep and I just wanted to fall asleep. So I laid down and a very corner of my bed where there was no vomit and I woke up a couple hours later and my whole body was numb like, you know, when you fall asleep on your arm in the wrong way and it's all like numb and my whole body was numb like that. So I managed to shake and fall to the floor in the impact of hitting the floor put enough circulation into my arms that I was able to pull the legs of the bed and drag my body across the floor and then by the time I got near the door, I was up on my hands and knees and I reached up and open the door and a great gust of cold air came into the room and I call down to mrs. Swinford and she said I figured something was wrong and heard the baby crying and crying so they came up in the first thing they did as they opened all the doors and windows goes. Why do we know who did you know? There was no chimney.

38:55 Beyond that charcoal Brazier, so

38:59 And so I don't know if I can finish this in 2 minutes and this is the best part and now we're do we got to rush through it and that's that not good. And so and so

39:13 You know, I they cleaned up my bed and change the bed sheets and they put the baby in my bed. And and then they then I I just all I want to do is go to sleep. I mean when you've got carbon monoxide poisoning, that's all you can think about is laying down and go to sleep. So they put art in his bed and I got in my bed with the baby and when I woke up she was all bloated and cold like she'd been in a refrigerator and foam was coming out of her mouth. So I woke up fully alert to try to do CPR on her butt rigor mortis had already set in and every time I blew in it just feels her stomach and more bloody phone came out until it was a big puddle of bloody phone and then aren't woke up and he said what's going on and I said well, so dharmakumar he is dead and he said well, give me put a mirror under her nose and I did and of course there was no condensation on the mirror and saw

40:13 All that when I told him that he just cried out with this peel of a grief and to me I was a Buddhist and I thought of Buddha's don't grieve so I held my grief in.

40:29 And and so I mean, I can't finish this story in the amount of time that you're giving me. I'm sorry, but we spent too much on other details and and then a guy then the next morning cheat then Tashi a big businessman who deals and rhododendrons came to our house and he said welcome apple is there in the middle of the night and it and he already extracted her spirit from the from the right aperture and he sent me to help you with the coffin and I bring a Coffin by a later. So we brought this little Pine Box

41:13 And we had two outfits made for her to jumpsuits. So when we were traveling is Sue dharmakumar as the Batman Robin and Sue. McMurray, we wore these costumes so we had to made for her in case she wet her pants. And so we put one on her doll and we put the other one on her and I packed her in the coffin was her favorite blankie and I nailed the nails on to her coffin and then we took the coffin to the back of room Tech Monastery where these horrible people turned that I saw earlier turned out to be the grave diggers and they were they had a grave old dog and karmapa in his whole right and you were there and they did the ceremony for her burial and then I I helped I took the shovel from one of the gravediggers that I helped dig the grave and then I helped put the dirt back on it again, and then she

42:13 Jenpachi asked if we wanted a grave marker and we said no and so he said he'd plant a tree on top of her grave which he did and then

42:28 Okay, so I know there's no way you can tell the story this that has this much in its in the limited amount of time by but I do want to thank you for even couldn't told it in the 40 minutes, but we had to go over all those other details for a stuff. I appreciate you maybe we can find a way to finish up later. But I really appreciate you being willing to talk about it at all. Okay.