The Color Purple

You can see Barbara Meislin coming a block away. It’s the purple. Her car is purple. So are most of her clothes. Purple is also evident in Meislin’s earrings, necklaces, belts, shoes, stockings and—though it’s not confirmed—her undergarments. And, fair warning, don’t get technical with Meislin about the color of the color purple. As far as she is concerned, violet, lavender, amethyst, lilac, mauve, magenta and indigo are all purple. That monochromatic conviction makes it easy for her to buy and wear purple eyeliner, lipstick, mascara, and hair ribbons.

As you might suspect, Meislin not only wears and drives purple, she is surrounded by it at home. Her garden features princess flower bushes; beds of violets; a wisteria-covered gazebo; hanging baskets teeming with fuchsias; fences covered with morning glory; and abundant patches of lavender. Inside her house, you’ll stroll on purple carpets, be surrounded by soft violet walls, stand under a mauve ceiling, and gaze upon magenta vases, indigo candleholders and countless works of art imbued with purple hues.

It’s no surprise, then, that in her hometown of Tiburon (for 41 years) Barbara Meislin is known as the Purple Lady. “For me, purple is the color of joy,” she says. “Having it close by energizes me to live life to its very fullest.”

Meislin—71 and proud of it—feels she has indeed lived life to the hilt. It has not always been a life of joy, though. Nearly 40 years ago, her firstborn daughter, Lori, died suddenly at age seven from a mysterious illness. “Loss can be an incredible teacher,” Meislin says. “Often, the highest and best teachers appear when one’s loss and sorrow is the deepest.”

Since then, Meislin has had two other children, recorded an album of healing music with Elisabeth Kübler-Ross, become an accomplished singer with the nonprofit entertainment group Bread & Roses, founded “Little Lady Lori’s Purple Playground of Friendship” for children in the village of Neve Shalom/Wahat al-Salam (Oasis of Peace), a settlement of Jews and Palestinians near Tel Aviv, donated the meditation gazebo on Richardson Bay near Blackie’s Pasture, established the Marin Hospice Library of Hope, and written a children’s book, No One Can Ever Steal Your Rainbow. She says “creative philosophy” summarizes her approach to giving.

“In a way, I was fortunate to have had my moment of deep hurt rather early in my life,” Meislin reflects. “And instead of destroying me—which it well could have—it eventually inspired me.” Of her accomplishments, she’s most proud of writing No One Can Ever Steal Your Rainbow: “I had no idea how to create a book with a compact disc. But soon it took over my life.” She self-published the 28 pages of verse (featuring rainbows and umpteen shades of purple) and, after winning awards for her inspirational message, decided in 2005 to donate proceeds from the book’s sales to the children’s playground in Israel and charitable organizations that enhance young ones’ lives. The book will be presented as a ballet by the Marin Dance Theater this summer.

“I’ve had a wonderful life,” Meislin says. “I had wonderful teachers who, through silence, meditation and prayer, asked me early on, how will my visit to this earth make a difference?” She answered with a lifetime of action devoted to peaceful living, and she stresses she’s not done yet. “For me, the most purple principle is to carry hope in your heart and to give it away with joy to others.”