Wednesday, December 31, 2008
A musician must make music, a painter must paint, a poet must write if he is to be ultimately at peace with himself. What one can be, one must be.
I'll admit that some years I make new year's resolutions. Goal setting isn't a bad thing at all, though something about the process of setting new year resolutions almost guarantees they can not be accomplished. I think that's because so many people base their resolutions on their desire to become "better" (whatever that means).
The cliched American new year resolution is always about exercise and weight loss. OK. But ... didn't we make that same resolution last year? Self-judgmental resolutions are bound to fail because they rest on a foundation of self-loathing, or at least self-dislike. It just doesn't work. I'm not saying it's wrong to think in terms of changing health habits, I would never say that. The problem is that these kinds of resolutions are almost always punitive, maybe because they are usually made while under the influence of a hangover. Remorse is always part of a hangover, hence the self-judgment, and hence the inevitable failure (that begets more self-dislike). It's a vicious circle.
Do we really have to start the new year by being so harsh with ourselves?
As a little girl, my fabulous niece Tovah resolved to "eat more cake." Now that's a resolution I can get behind. "Have more fun," "Don't work so much," "Goof off." Wouldn't it be great if we hard working Washingtonians made resolutions like that?
My wish for 2009 echoes Abraham Maslow's thoughts: May we all be exactly who we are - no more, no less - in the coming year. Who we are, what we love, what we do, is always enough. Believe me.
Happy new year, ya'll.
Tuesday, December 30, 2008
The reflected clouds look like a brain, don't they?
One of my final projects for 2008 is to dream as much and as vividly as possible, apparently. Every night this week the dreams gallop in on horseback and keep me busy until it's time to rise. My "real" life is, by comparison, rather dull.
Trying to write down as much as I can remember of these dreams, mostly because when I look back on dreams after a few months, I'm always amazed at the power of human imagination. Often I've completely forgotten every detail. Sometimes I think, "Did I really dream that??"
A few dream snips from last night:
Cheetahs and reindeer are living in the triangle park across the street. I'm wondering how they manage to cohabit.
A young boy is looking at me adoringly. He is an heir to a huge ice cream company. I am his grandmother's doppelganger. He loves his grandmother dearly.
I'm on a bus with my sister. Because I'm struggling to organize all my stuff, I don't realize (until she tells me) that we're going in the wrong direction. We get off the bus, catch one going in the other direction.
There is a coffee shop called "Chaos." Everyone tells me they have the very best coffee.
Kind of random, aren't they? I don't perceive any pattern. So I wonder what I'm doing all night long, dreaming and dreaming? It's interesting, but kind of a lot.
Monday, December 29, 2008
I'm almost finished with the essay+photo I'm going to submit to the CLICK! exhibit contest. Very fun that the Smithsonian has invited regular folks to have a go at being featured. The Smithsonian, after all, is venerable, distinguished. Everyone knows you have to be Very Important, Very Established, if you want Smithsonian curators to take you seriously. They are very fussy about what they exhibit, as they probably should be.
But this year, CLICK! is inviting anyone who wants to participate - well, at least to submit entries. It's so modern for the Smithsonian. I'm impressed.
Pictures being (as they are) worth a thousand words, it's an interesting challenge to figure out how to explain what it is that photography makes possible without going on and on and on. And on. The writing as well as the process of choosing which image I want to submit has been lots of fun. Illuminating, too as I watch myself trying to decide what Smithsonian curators would like rather than scanning my pics for an image that makes sense to me. As if I could intuit the inner machinations of Smithsonian curatorial thinking.
For heaven's sake.
Sunday, December 28, 2008
Contrails over Eastern Market, December 27, 2008.
I said a lot of goodbyes in 2008. It was a good year to let go of a whole bunch of different habits, relationships, and personal myths.
I left a business partnership of many years, and in the process, was able to let go of toxic relationships that weren't good for anyone involved. In the wake of that change, and of course with the help of the Sufi acupuncturist, other unhealthy patterns fell away. I say "fell away" because it wasn't hard to stop. These were seriously ingrained patterns. Perhaps the right word is addictions, though stopping was nothing like the misery I associate with rehab.
Addictions I let go of: drinking white wine every night, coffee every morning, eating Clif bars for breakfast, lots of dark chocolate every single day.
When I gave up one of my favorite dinners: popcorn with a side salad, and started cooking actual food for myself every night, the sour stomach I've lived with for decades completely disappeared. Go figure!
A bout of pneumonia that stretched from late September well into October forced me to recycle the myth called I never take antibiotics. The pneumonia served as a powerful healing crisis during which old relational patterns of codependence evaporated into thin air. That illness turned out to be a really good thing, can you imagine?
It's always a scary thing to say farewell, even to unhealthy situations - at least it is for me. But it was all for the good. I feel so much more whole than I did a year ago, so much more optimistic about the year ahead. I can think more clearly, have better energy and am more level headed - and hearted - than I've ever been. So many situations, people and habits that dragged me down are no longer a part of the Saga of Reya. Wow.
Parting is not always a great sorrow, really it isn't. Onwards & upwards, oh yeah!
Sunrise on Tennessee Ave. NE, December 27, 2008
Saturday, December 27, 2008
The moon is dark and 2008 is on its last legs. Just a few more days to slog through, then it'll be 2009.
Don't know about you, but for me the end of anything is always so hard, whether that thing is a year, a relationship, a job. Whatever. I am a lover of beginnings when everything is brand new and it seems like everything is possible. Towards the end of things, I always just want to get it over with.
To boost myself through the dregs of 2008 I cleaned out my closet - again. Afterwards I realized with a shock that I have no clothes. (Why is it always a shock?) Luckily, Santa brought me a gift card to one of my favorite clothing stores. A few new things hanging in my closet should help lift me out of my bottom-of-the-barrel state of mind.
Early next week I'm also going to get my hair cut, receive massage, and see the Sufi acupuncturist.
Maybe the secret to moving through the dregs of the last days of anything has to do with receiving treatments and buying clothes. Do you think? It's worth a try, yes? Yes.
Friday, December 26, 2008
In addition to the way I'm always trying to figure out what fellow passengers are reading on the subway, I find myself now also intensely curious about what they're listening to on their ipods. What kind of music? Podcast? Digital book?
Subway culture requires us to keep the most expressionless face possible. A look of mild ennui is the proper subway facial etiquette whether reading, listening to the ipod, or just standing there. Even so, sometimes people can't help but sway rhythmically or perhaps tap a foot in time to whatever they're listening to. The fact that they can't completely restrain themselves in spite of what they know about proper subway behavior tends to make me even more curious. Enthusiasm is definitely not OK on the Metro.
Naturally I'm not allowed to question my fellow passengers directly, nor is it polite to stare intensely or get too close so as to overhear a snatch of the music.
I love to imagine that "currently playing" forehead LED readouts were de rigeur for the most well mannered subway travelers, don't you?
Thursday, December 25, 2008
Union Station, Washington DC
Apart from a scary nightmare last night, I had a lovely Christmas Eve, and plan to have just as lovely a Christmas Day.
It's mild outside, and so nice and quiet. Everyone is out of town, no one is driving around. It's very peaceful, a soft day. One more Hugh Grant film and it'll all be over till next year.
Merry Christmas, ya'all!
Tuesday, December 23, 2008
I know Christmas is upon us if for no other reason than that I watched a Hugh Grant movie last night. I chose Notting Hill because it was on the top of my stack of Hugh Grant DVDs.
Christmas has always been weird for me because I grew up in an observant Jewish household where we vehemently did NOT celebrate Christmas. We would sit around all day on December 25, purposefully doing nothing special. It was so depressing. I always felt I was missing out on something huge, as if all my friends had gone to a Rolling Stones concert while I had to stay at home.
Later in life I tried repeatedly to horn in on other people's Christmases but I always felt like a fraud, completely out of place. People still invite me to celebrate with them, often referring to me as a "waif" or an "orphan." Honestly, I not a waif or an orphan. I know they are being generous, but I always feel so insulted. That's my problem, not theirs!
I don't even enjoy the Jewish tradition of eating Chinese food and going out to the movies. The Chinese food always gives me a stomach ache - too much MSG, I suppose. Even spending the day as a Jew I always feel somehow that I'm cheating. Don't ask me why, I can't explain it.
So Christmas is always a weird day for me. As a coping mechanism, I watch Hugh Grant movies. Why Hugh Grant, you might wonder. My British friends wonder, definitely, since most of them are anything but enthused by Mr. Grant. As one of my friends explained, "A fumbling posh guy is not so entertaining to many of us."
Oh. That explains a lot.
Truth is, it's not Hugh that I'm particularly interested in. I love his films because most of them carry as an underlying theme the way that people can adopt each other and become family. Four Weddings and a Funeral, About a Boy, Notting Hill, and Love, Actually are all built around a circle of idiosyncratic people who take each other in, accept each other, adopt each other. I love that.
Two more days and three more films, and it'll all be over till next year. Until then, it's Bah Humbug and Hugh Grant all the way. Oh yeah!
Monday, December 22, 2008
The solstice sun has made a strong showing, which bodes well for the coming year. The relentless overcast ripped itself apart yesterday. All afternoon the sky was absolutely clear as a bell and the sun, though of course low in the sky, was as bright as possible, a nice silvery gold.
Dusk came early - as it does at winter solstice - but still, after such a bright afternoon, I said out loud, "Already?" The sunlight and open sky were a tonic for my soul.
Today is super cold, 17 degrees (-8 C) accompanied by a stiff wind. The sun will stream in through the windows at Quiet Waters (where i work) all day today while the super cold will kill lots of nearly ripe mosquitoes and "set" the bulb flowers properly.
I am liking this new solar year. Oh yeah!
Sunday, December 21, 2008
Diagnosis: A serious case of the Mean Reds.
Prescription: Bright blue sky.
Uh oh: No such thing availabe in DC today, for the last few days, or for the next few days.
Consolation (also favorite line from the film Titanic): It'll all be over soon.
Happy solstice, ya'll.
Saturday, December 20, 2008
According to the Cosmology of Reya would have to be a very long book, maybe even a multi-volume set of books because this marvelous existence, at least for me, is so complicated that any attempt to describe it would go on and on. And on.
For instance: angels. I've been thinking about them a lot. What are angels, according to the cosmology of Reya? I think they come into being whenever the quality we call "kindness" organizes itself around sadness or despair. When kindness gathers itself into a concentrated mass, it becomes more than a sum of its parts. Kindness made manifest at unexpected moments feels a lot like angelic presence to me.
I don't think of angels as having personalities. They are more like a single note than a melody. I don't think of them as having once been human (like the ancestors) and I don't even think they are beings who are sent by God to help us. My sense of them is that they are forces of nature. Sadness and despair create energetic vacuums into which, sometimes, more sadness and despair flows. But sometimes, "for reasons not well understood" (as scientists always say about things they don't understand), kindness flows towards sadness, wraps itself around the sadness with a softness and clarity that turns everything around.
But what does that look like? Sometimes it looks like a woman in a Tigger sweatshirt who helps you push your stalled car off the road. Sometimes it's something that a total stranger says to you impulsively, just the thing you needed to hear. Sometimes it doesn't involve another person. Sometimes angelic presence is that experience of suddenly just feeling more hopeful. Hope from out of the nowhere. I know you know what I'm talking about, right?
The cosmology of Reya, I should say, includes the fact that my sense of angels and Barbara Martin's idea (that there are two for every person and that you can speak to them) as well as Gary's niece's sense, that they will tell you their names and protect you, and every other idea about angels are all simultaneously true.
See? My view of the world is like fly vision - lots of different truths all woven together into a tapestry of TRUTH, so complex it boggles our tiny human minds just trying to imagine. That said, I have to laugh thinking of all the arguments I've had with others, in which I'm sure I'm RIGHT and they are WRONG. Sometimes I am so silly.
Friday, December 19, 2008
A Christmas tree with corncobs??? I love it!
I know solstice isn't officially here until tomorrow, but it sure feels DARK out there, really dark. And gray. Have I mentioned how GRAY DC is at the moment?
I always think of this poem at solstice. Love and light to ya'all.
In a Dark Time
In a dark time, the eye begins to see,
I meet my shadow in the deepening shade;
I hear my echo in the echoing wood--
A lord of nature weeping to a tree.
I live between the heron and the wren,
Beasts of the hill and serpents of the den.
What's madness but nobility of soul
At odds with circumstance? The day's on fire!
I know the purity of pure despair,
My shadow pinned against a sweating wall,
That place among the rocks--is it a cave,
Or winding path? The edge is what I have.
A steady stream of correspondences!
A night flowing with birds, a ragged moon,
And in broad day the midnight come again!
A man goes far to find out what he is--
Death of the self in a long, tearless night,
All natural shapes blazing unnatural light.
Dark, dark my light, and darker my desire.
My soul, like some heat-maddened summer fly,
Keeps buzzing at the sill. Which I is _I_?
A fallen man, I climb out of my fear.
The mind enters itself, and God the mind,
And one is One, free in the tearing wind.
-- Theodore Roethke
Thursday, December 18, 2008
It's as if the weather gods have put us on a color diet these last few days. The sky is gray, the streets are gray, the gardens are gray, the houses are gray. The only color to be found today was in reflections. At least in alternative realities, there's some vim, some vigor.
I shouldn't complain. Mostly we have wildly colorful weather here, but every now and then DC goes gray. Really, really gray.
What to do but make ginger cookies, listen to music, drink tea? That's how I whiled away my gray day. And you?
Wednesday, December 17, 2008
My friend Gary wrote about his niece's relationship to angels this week, a lovely post, perfect for this time of year.
I believe in angels, do you? I'm not sure they're always white robed and have wings, though, even if that's how they're mostly depicted. According to the cosmology of Reya, those white winged dudes are a race of bird people who live in the lower atmosphere. Occasionally we catch a glimpse of them, flitting around the clouds. The bird people are beneficent, to be sure, but somewhat different than the angels I know.
In Jewish mysticism it's believed that angels come in and out of being to fulfill specific tasks. Sometimes their lifespans last hundreds of years, sometimes they're only needed for a few seconds. Their size varies greatly, too. They can be as small as a butterfly but are also said to sometimes grow to one-third the size of the earth. Whoa. That would be one hulkin' angel, wouldn't it?
I love every one of the paintings of Jacob fighting the angel. In some of them, it almost looks like Jacob and the angel are dancing. In others it's clear that a struggle is going on. I've had experiences like that, battling against the best of myself (for reasons I can't imagine). My sense of the angel's role in these circumstances is one of extreme patience, just holding me so I can't hurt myself until my tirade or tantrum has passed.
Any time I think about angels, the image of Bruno Ganz in Wings of Desire comes to mind, wearing a black trench coat, his hair slicked back, listening compassionately to the troubled thoughts of we humans. It's a beautiful film, well worth seeing again, or if you haven't seen it, maybe you should put it at the top of your Netflix list.
Images of angels appear everywhere at Christmas, but I think the angels themselves are always around, always available in case we need them. In fact, I'm not sure what we would do without them.
Thanks, angelic presences, for hanging around, for taking such good care of us. I deeply appreciate your goodness! Thank you.
Tuesday, December 16, 2008
It was 70 degrees yesterday (21 C.), balmy, soft air, sweet breeze. In other words, weird. One of my core assumptions (clearly incorrect) is that December is cold.
It's not that unusual to experience a few incredibly warm and springlike December days here in this landscape where the weather is ever changing, ever unpredictable. Still, after almost ten years here, I am surprised when it happens.
I think of the weather as the emotional body of the earth, so expressive and compelling, completely bewildering, even to the meteorological professionals. But ... I'm not complaining. It's nice to put away the hat and gloves for a day, to wander around without shivering. In fact, I love the capricious weather here in the American midatlantic. I really do!
Monday, December 15, 2008
These are Jake's final days. OK, it's possible I'm being a bit dramatic, maybe I should say these are Jake's final weeks. He could stick around for a few more months, even. If he remains in his body for another year I will be very surprised.
As he has for thirteen years, Jake is teaching me great life lessons. I'm seeing that when a creature gets really old, it's actually OK for them to die. I didn't know that since every animal I've ever had has died before its time. My parents died young, my sister died young. I don't have a lot of experience feeling love for really old beings.
Jake is ancient. In dog years he's more than 100 and he's showing it. Bumpy, saggy, scrawny, he spends almost all of his days sleeping. We no longer take our big walks all over Capitol Hill. After a few blocks, he's ready to turn around and go back to his chair (where he sleeps). Some days he has such bad tremors in his leg that he can't quite lift it when he pees. Other days he's confused; I take him out, but five minutes later he thinks he needs to go out again. His hackles come up, then flatten within two seconds. His digestion isn't that great, he has arthritis in his shoulder and hips, his breath is so bad I can hardly believe it.
Truth is, Jake and I are not as close as we once were. Both of us, in our own ways, are preparing for the end of his long life. We love each other, but it's different than it was when he was fierce and going full blast. He doesn't have a lot of energy to focus on me anymore. He loves me, but ... he's starting to check out. It's as it should be. What a great thing to learn!
Some days I think about how I'm going to buy a nice quilt after he's gone, something that won't be torn up when he jumps up there, or how I'll be able to travel without worrying about his care. Other days I am so sad I can barely keep back my tears. It's a trying time, but this last little bit of his life is rich with learning and feeling.
My roommate says it perfectly: what could be better for a rescue dog than to die of old age? Well said, isn't it? Every day until that day I am giving my ancient dog Jake serious love, giving serious thanks to him for all he has taught me. What else can I do? Nothing lives forever, not even my awesome dog. It's OK, it's really OK. Oh yeah.
Sunday, December 14, 2008
Dupont Circle was a busy place last night. People were out, not so much to go to clubs (as the taxi driver explained) but because everyone was going to parties.
I was one of those people, gathering with others to celebrate a friend's fiftieth birthday. It was a beautiful party. I saw lots of people I haven't seen in awhile. There were cakes (nine of them). There was champagne (a bathtub full of bottles). I love cake. I LOVE champagne. I love my dear dear friends.
It was a big party. Big. A hundred people in a small condo. There were so many people and so much noise that I wanted to hide in a corner, I wanted to jump out the window, Once I convinced myself neither option was appropriate, all I could think was wouldn't it be nice to have a conversation with one person at a time, a conversation that could fulfill itself, instead of party conversations in which a couple of sentences are exchanged, and then there's a distraction? Well, wouldn't it??
Small parties I love. A dinner party for six or eight? Perfection. Or a cocktail party for twenty? Really fun. But the party scene from Breakfast at Tiffany's??
All I can say is YIKES.
Friday, December 12, 2008
I didn't have my camera in my pocket which meant I had no choice except to simply stand there and stare into the bright white, perfectly round face of Brother Moon this evening as I walked home from work.
It was incredible. Not only the moon, but the fact that there was nothing between my eyes and that heavenly vision. Sometimes it's a good thing to leave the camera at home.
Saturday morning: Jake and I were out just before sunrise, so I was given a second chance to see the fullest full moon in 14 years. I put my camera between my eye and the moon this morning. Oh yeah. The pic is grainy because my camera is so cheap. Sad that you can't really tell how full it was. Believe me - really really full!
Thursday, December 11, 2008
Damn it's wet out there. A steady rain has been falling from a thick grey overcast all day long. The dogs don't mind. Jake is snoring loudly, happy as a clam. But I'm feeling restless mostly because I wish it was snow falling from the sky. Earlier in the week, the nice weather people on TV promised a first snowfall. In spite of how unpredictable the weather can be, I was counting on it. I like rain, but I LOVE snow. But I shouldn't have expected snow ... what was I thinking?
I believe in direct encounters with the natural world every day, even if the weather isn't exactly perfect, which is why I forced myself outside even though I couldn't find my umbrella. Of course I was drenched within five minutes. I carried on, nevertheless, crossed the park, walked a few blocks to Eastern Market where I bought everything I'll need to make cream of mushroom soup later this afternoon.
By the time I finished my errands, I was so wet that my clothes were saggy and heavy, and my feet made that squishy sound inside my boots like in the cartoons. To cheer myself for the walk home, I bought a nice bottle of red wine. It'll go well with the soup, at least that's my excuse. Maybe I'll surrender to the entropy of the day and watch a Hugh Grant movie this afternoon. Why not?
Wednesday, December 10, 2008
Caroline Casey, astrologer and (I'll concede) genius, likes to say: "Got a problem? Make it worse." I mean really, as if anyone needs to make a problem worse! For heaven's sake.
When it comes to healing, though, I see her point.** Sometimes the only way out of a rut is to dig in deeper. In order to reach the light at the end of a tunnel, you have to go all the way through the tunnel, as unpleasant and/or scary as that might be. It's a core human story, the struggle that precedes triumph.
The pneumonia I suffered from earlier this fall was a truly life-changing healing crisis. In many ways, that bout of illness cured me. It changed the way I eat and what I eat so that, for the first time in my life, my stomach doesn't hurt. The illness and the antibiotics helped me slough off a bunch of old crud physically and emotionally. While I was sick, there was nothing to do but lay in bed and think about things, a condition that helped me shed a number of unhealthy connections to people and ideas.
Of course while I was sick it was not possible for me to understand any of the benefits. In the midst of it, the only things I experienced were fear and suffering. But I was working through something big. And so it goes during the process of healing. Flop around for awhile. Afterwards, reap the rewards.
Every day at work I put my hands on people who are struggling, mucking their way through tunnels of physical, emotional and spiritual issues. Sitting with them as they wrestle with their demons is an honor and a privilege. In spite of all our weaknesses, flaws, and misconceptions, as a species we are, by and large, so brave.
Got a problem? Face it, work with it, explore it and learn something you don't already know about the problem as well as about yourself. There are riches in problems for those who are willing to take them on, riches that can only be found at the end of tunnels sometimes, but riches nonetheless.
But ... make it worse? Oh God, try not to, okay? OK!
**The trickster in her takes it way too far, in my opinion.
Tuesday, December 9, 2008
The beautiful house at 12th St. NE, across the street from Lincoln Park. That red stripe just to the right of the aqua reflection of Jake's coat? That's me in my red coat.
Dion Fortune defined magic as the art of changing consciousness at will. Especially since I left my spell casting days behind me, I've loved that definition because it doesn't require the shaping of energy. According to Dion, conjuring is not necessary.
I believe her. I believe magic unfolds in every moment. We don't have to do anything except pay attention in order to participate. Isn't that nice? The world generously offers up its magic all the time, if only we're willing to notice.
It sounds easy, but paying attention is a big challenge, requiring much more patience and openness than the act of conjuring. Mindfulness is my central practice these days. I think that's why I see dragons and dancers and ghosts in the smoke rising from sticks of incense, and why I so enjoy the reversed and distorted landscapes in shiny car roofs and hoods.
Do you see the dragon, the dancer, the ghost? Smoke is so coherent. Why doesn't it instantly disperse into the air? Why does it form these shapes? I know there's a scientific answer, I know. Just as true as the physics of smoke, though, is the magic of smoke.
Check it out. If you see more than smoke as you watch, you have changed your consciousness. Presto, you're a magician! Very cool!
Monday, December 8, 2008
Housemate John, his dog Tonka, and the almost finished tree.
At Christmastime, we bring the forest into the house on Tennessee. With the tree comes inevitable clutter, a condition that is unusual in our household. In every room, every surface is covered with creche scenes, plastic snowpeople, poinsettias, evergreen branches and ornaments. Strings of pearls and beads are draped from the light fixtures.
In my room there are stacks of potential gifts, Christmas cards strewn everywhere, wrapping paper, ribbon, boxes, bags, scissors, tape ... it's utter chaos.
Everyone in our house prefers clean, uncluttered living. Well, most of the time. At Christmas, though, we blow off our usual aesthetic in order to celebrate the season. Why not?
Sunday, December 7, 2008
The Washington Post Sunday Magazine this week features a story about a guy who is a financial planner as well as a a shaman.
He looks so goofy in his weird outfits, playing his medicine drum, doing ambitious things like blowing fear and greed away from Wall Street. (Keep blowing, brother!)
The website video is very sweet. He admits that he travels between the worlds, but then he says, "But what's real? I mean, what is a credit default swap anyway? Is that real?" Good question!
Listening to him helped me feel slightly less embarrassed about all the shamanic work I did on Civil War battlefields a few years ago. In my own way I was doing just what he's doing. He's trying to blow fear and greed away from Wall Street. Is that less ambitious than trying to help dead soldiers move on to a place of healing and renewal?
I tend to think of my calling as completely at odds with American East Coast culture. Odd or not, though, people continually ask me to put my shamanic spin on the issues they're dealing with. During the past month, I've channeled a dead person for his family, taken two clients back in time to connect with the birth of their souls. Tuesday I'm doing a past life regression for a client. My shamanism dovetails gracefully into the bodywork. I don't talk about it much, but it's there.
Nice for me to know that this guy is banging on his drum, doing his healing in New York City. He's not embarrassed about his calling. Maybe I should stop making fun of myself. Hmmmmm.
Saturday, December 6, 2008
The window at Axis (hair salon) on Dupont Circle.
I spent a lot of time earlier this week trying to capture a picture of myself that really looks like me, the unvarnished me, as it were, to post on my Facebook page. I didn't want the obscured Reya, half hidden behind the camera, or the glamorized Reya, heavily photoshopped (like the green-Reya avatar here on the blog). I just wanted a plain old pic of the "real" me.
It was a challenge, since I hate having my picture taken, even when I'm the photographer. I snapped so many images that after awhile, I got the giggles, a condition that helped me relax enough to get the picture I wanted. It's a little blurry, but it looks like me having a laugh at myself.
All that gazing at my own face apparently brought up some stuff I thought I had laid to rest long ago, because my dreams have been vivid and - well - awful, full of images and people that remind me of the many, many, many, many mistakes I've made in my fifty five years on the planet.
I don't wallow around in guilt much anymore, thank God. Guilt never improves any situation; it just makes things worse. But I do experience regret when I think about mistakes I've made, things I've done or said that were hurtful, bad choices, and for the many times I've cut off my own nose to spite my face. Ouch.
In my dreams, though, I am so pissed off, like last night, yelling at the top of my lungs at my ex-husband about wasting the best years of my life ... etc. Yikes. I must have been thrashing like crazy because when I woke up with a start, Jake was standing right next to the bed gazing directly at me, looking alarmed.
Some self examination is important, necessary. But too much of it, as happened this week during my photo session, just gets me all riled up. From now on, I'm staying behind the camera, oh yeah!
Friday, December 5, 2008
Adrianne asked me to do the book meme. I love books and I love Adrianne so ... why not?
First one disclaimer. The language of this meme uses the phrase "must reads." But one of my core values has to do with my belief that there's no such thing as "the best," or that everyone should do anything, or that there's such a thing as a "must read." I loved reading (and re-reading) these books, but they might not mean a thing to you.
FICTION - This category is hard since I haven't read fiction in more than twenty years. Do myths and folktales count as fiction? I tend to see them as cultural studies, but if they count then my collection of Hans Christian Andersen fairy tales could be the choice here, especially the story The Snow Queen. I've read that story literally a hundred times, maybe more. Another way cool choice would be a collection of Arctic shamanic folktales. They are so WEIRD. I love them! But if we're talking about novels, the last time I latched on to a "must read" novel, it was Hopscotch by Julio Cortazar. Like I said, that was more than 20 years ago. Does that count?
AUTOBIOGRAPHY - Didn't even have to think about this one. Dreams from My Father: A Story of Race and Inheritance by Barack Obama is the autobiography of autobiographies for the early 21st century, oh yeah. The book blew me away.
NON-FICTION - This category, too, was difficult because all I read is non-fiction and there are so many categories of non-fiction that I LOVE, including history, biography, philosophy and poetry, as well as all the hard sciences. I decided, finally, on Annals of the Former World by John McPhee. I'm cheating here, since Annals is a compendium of a whole bunch of his books about geology. I loved every one of the books that are a part of the collection, maybe especially The Control of Nature.
RANDOM BOOK - I turn again and again to a collection of Native American portraits, sepia-toned photos taken around the turn of the 20th century by Edward Curtis. My other favorite is Planet Earth As You've Never Seen It Before, the book version of the National Geographic TV special. WOW.
OK, that's it. I'm all memed out for awhile now. Have a great weekend, ya'll.
Thursday, December 4, 2008
The window at Groovy DC
Is there anything better than a good night's sleep? I can't imagine. Normally I toss and turn, wake up frequently. I am a hyper vigilant sleeper. Sometimes my sleep is so light, I call it "fake sleeping."
Was it the nice massage I received yesterday? Or my productive afternoon cleaning my room, running errands, or the fact that I avoided turning on the television for a change? Whatever the reason(s), last night I slept so deeply I failed to hear my roommates come home (they were out late at a party). That never happens. The window above my bed faces the front of the house so I hear everyone coming and going. At least - usually I do.
Not last night. Last night I didn't wake up the moment Jake decided to get up on the bed with me, (happens every night usually around 3:00 or 4:00 a.m.) I didn't even dream, as far as I can tell.
Can't remember the last time I slept so well. Delicious!
Wednesday, December 3, 2008
I've been re-reading Arctic Dreams by Barry Lopez, one of my favorite nature books. The book is well worn because I've read it so many times. In fact, it looks like my favorite cookbooks, dog-eared, automatically falling open to certain pages. Well worn, but well loved is my copy of Arctic Dreams.
One of the things I love about the book is that it describes, in no uncertain terms, how EXTREME the natural world is. In the Arctic, there's no such thing as moderation. One species after another takes center stage, increasing in numbers in a fast and furious way until the environment can no longer support it, after which another species will rise.
Some species must grasp any chance for omnipotence, like mosquitoes, for instance - because the summers are so short. So they really pour it on as soon as the sun rises high enough for them to hatch. They aren't around for a long time, but during mosquito season, there are a LOT of mosquitoes. A whole lot.
The amazing Tam of the blog Fleeing Muses posted this week about how extreme the seasons are in the valley where she grew up (in the southeastern corner of Africa, so about as far away from the Arctic as you can get).
What touched me about her post is the way Tam expresses homesickness for that land of extremes. It's a revelation for me to imagine feeling homesick for such a place.
All of my adult life, I have strained to become a more moderate person, to incorporate what I call the Tao of Goldilocks. I've worked my butt off trying to find a way to live in the world that is "just right" - neither too hot nor too cold, too soft or too hard, too large or too small. I tilt towards the Tao of Goldilocks whenever I can. It is a good life strategy, I think.
At the end of the day, though, no matter how much I try to channel Goldilocks, my soul is more Arctic, more Luangwa, than gentle and moderate. I am so grateful to Barry Lopez, to Tam and all the rest of my friends who live in Africa for reminding me it's OK to own my extreme nature. It's really OK. Thanks, ya'll!
Tuesday, December 2, 2008
It definitely did not look like an unhappy face to me. I'm talking about a magnificent configuration of Jupiter and Venus along with the crescent moon that adorned the early evening sky last night. The three lights formed a lovely triangle above Washington DC. Did you see it?
The shape created by the three lights was slightly different in Tanzania, proof that the southeastern sector of Africa is really far away from here!
Far away and yet so close because even in Tanzania, I have blogfellows - well - one blogfellow. Because she blogs, I am invited to have a look at the world through her eyes every time she posts. So in a way I feel like I'm sitting at her kitchen table, next to the blackboard, conversing as if we lived next door to each other. I rub shoulders with people in Botswana, S. Africa, Germany, Australia, the U.K., Canada and all over the U.S. every day.
In ways I would never have imagined just a few years ago, I have more in common with my neighbors all over the world than I thought I did. I love that!