Saturday, October 31, 2009

Creeped Out

Halloween is here and the dead are everywhere. OK, so I'll admit I occasionally get a good scare from my dead brothers and sisters, every now and then they sneak up on me. But mostly the dead don't spook me.

You want to know what scares me, what makes the hair on my neck stand up straight, what gives me the chills and the icky kind of goosebumps? A.I. Yes. Artificial intelligence. A.I. seriously creeps me out.

When I think of all those brilliant computer geeks at M.I.T. and many other places, working diligently and creatively to make smart machines, it really gives me the willies! Haven't they seen ANY of the movies about ALL the things that can go wrong once you bestow intelligence? Whoa. What the hell are they thinking?

Today, fittingly for Halloween, I'm reading about these intelligent robots who are meant to act as therapists for people recovering from strokes, or kids with autism, but, oh dear Maja Matarić, please honey, take a break and watch The Matrix. I beg of you, do it! Or Terminator or Terminator II. C'mon, please! Before it's too late!!

It's Halloween and I'm spooked, just as I should be. Oh yeah!!

Friday, October 30, 2009

Lost in Translation

When you think about how much trouble we have communicating with each other, it follows that there are going to be some serious misunderstandings between the living and the dead. Ghosts and humans have had a terrible time, throughout the ages, trying to talk to each other. Even mediums and other psychics who channel the dead (this is one of the things I do, btw) are just guessing. At least I am which is why it's always so amazing how my clients appreciate even my second class translations of what the ghosts want to convey. Sheesh.

One of the big obstacles to mutual understanding is that ghosts don't have, as a primary directive, the survival instinct. They may moan and groan about how much they miss the sensory delights of being a human, but in fact they forget that we MUST breathe, drink water and eat food, or. we'll. die. They're already dead, of course, hence way outside of the food chain. If you can imagine what that would look like, an existence not dependent on survival issues, you can begin to get why we've had so many misunderstandings throughout history.

My dear brother Donald Engstrom insists that the ancestors MUST help us. In return, we must honor them, remember them. We're not too good at that here in the U.S. at this moment in history. In my culture, we are not great with ghosts. We dismiss them summarily, the first culture in all of history to be so rude. Instead of building beautiful shrines to honor our ancestors, in general when we contact the dead, we regress and behave so recklessly.

We spook each other out by telling ghost stories even though officially we don't believe in ghosts. I'm sure they love this. No wonder they add a nice cold chill to the room when the story calls for it, oh yeah! When we're frightened, we're very vivid which they appreciate. But there are other, more pleasant ways to be vivid!

To be fair, it's hard to imagine any truly easy relationship between the living and the dead, no matter where you are, (though I imagine - is this a fantasy? - that the everyday communication between living and dead on the continent of Africa, for instance, is completely different than here. I have no idea, I've never been there, just guessing.)

My ancestor altar is different every year. Sometimes it's quite elaborate, other times not so much. This year it is completely basic, featuring only my immediate family. That's my father and mother holding opposite poles on the altar (very much as they did in life). Of course Jake is prominently featured. The other pic is of my sister Karen with two of the living: my sister Deborah and me, as a baby. The herbs are rosemary, thyme, marigolds and one sprig of late-blooming lavendar.

N.B. When I talk about ghosts or spirits, I usually mean the whole lot of the dead - including the neurotic ones. When I say ancestor I mean a soul that, in some way I don't pretend to understand, has done some serious apres-life healing and has returned to our realm, on purpose, to assist us. The ancestors are wise counselors, a completely different animal than the jerks who come when you pull out the Ouija board.

Thursday, October 29, 2009

Heads Up

They say (and I believe it) that the veil between the realms of the living and dead thins at this time of year in this hemisphere. The veil thins just like the tree canopy when it drops its leaves in October. At this time, we put on crazy costumes of every kind you can imagine, and party hard. The kids party on sugar, the adults on intoxicants of other varieties. Halloween is our carnival. We really get into it.

Very cool that we Americans willingly celebrate a non-Christian holiday that is also not a day of military remembrance or other patriotic fervor, or honoring a "great man." Halloween is pure paganism, oh yeah! This year Halloween falls on a Saturday night making elaborate celebrations a lot easier for those who work Monday through Friday. I've been invited to seven parties. Yes, SEVEN. Ordinarily I'm invited to one or two, but seven? Can you imagine the mood in DC? I predict a serious toad strangler of a fete, oh yeah.

Here's the thing - when the veil is thin, not only is it easier for us to sense the ghosts and spirits all around us, but I think it's easier for them to sense us as well. The Dead are no smarter than the living, remember, and they always seem kind of stoned out to me. I think they have a hard time understanding the difference between when we're awake or asleep, for instance, which is why they sit around whispering at us all night long.

There are very beneficient and/or curious spirits hanging out on Halloween, but there are also the kinds of ghosts you really don't want at your party: unhappy, angry or needy ghosts who can glom on you so easily if you've had a couple too many drinks. It's a free for all because of easy access through the thinned veil. Did you know that's why we hand out sweets to people dressed in masquerade on Halloween? We do it because you never know who is behind the mask. I mean you really don't know. Handing out candy is an offering that appeases the hungry ghosts.

My plan is to firmly set my intention, put my intention out into the world, that I would like to be guided and visited by wise, kind, and helpful ancestors rather than every Tom Dick and Harry of the ghost world. HELLO!! Are y'all listening in the spirit world? JUST the good ones. If you're in a bad mood, go haunt someone else! BOOO!!

I'm going to watch my back at the two parties I will attend, hope you take it easy, too, if possible. Just to appease my superstitiousness, hang a bulb of garlic and a sprig of rosemary on your front door, OK? Will you?

Wednesday, October 28, 2009

Hey Jude

I can't remember where I read it, the idea that since evolution and change is so intrinsic in the universe, probably even the laws of nature evolve over time. What we think is set in concrete is just as changeable as anything else. Even the laws of nature.

I say YES! I say YAY!! Let the whole of "reality" be ever-shifting, ever-changing. That "truth" makes anything possible, really anything. I love that.

Just this morning I read about how doctors are figuring out that sometimes cancer goes away on its own. Well, it can, and does - probably more often than they think, since they're used to studying only the cancers that continue to develop.

I find this story incredibly encouraging - not that I'm counting on this new "truth" to mean that all my friends and clients who have cancer will suddenly be completely cured, unfortunately, no I won't go there. It's the tendency of cancer to grow, but how amazing to learn that it doesn't always get worse. Wow.

That gives me hope for all supposed lost causes. Thank you so much all you intrepid cancer researchers. May your efforts prevail!!

Tuesday, October 27, 2009

My Dream Job

It is a dream job - well - except for the volunteer part.

OK, there's no money changing hands, but still, I am going to love being a docent (tour guide) for the upcoming Terra Cotta Warriors exhibit at National Geographic.

I am required to learn all about the individual pieces in the show, but will also be delving deep into the story of the first Emperor of China. I've read a lot, seen a couple of great Chinese movies about him, but for this show, since I'm allowed - encouraged even! - to be a know-it-all, I would like to actually BE a know it all, instead of bluffing, as I admit I sometimes do.

There is nothing my brain likes better than learning followed by time to think about it all. There's nothing my ego likes better than standing around lecturing about all the things I'm thinking about. I get to do both bits, plus this job will provide me with a captive audience. I've got it made!

BTW I'm not saying I don't love massage. I do, so so much. But the docent gig will be great fun, absolutely different, and will get me off the Hill every week. Oh yeah!

Monday, October 26, 2009

As Is

My feet, reversed and distorted in this reflection shot. I'm wearing decidedly non-glamorous sneakers.

One great thing about living a long life is that only over time can a person gather lots of experiences. Only over time can a person access some perspective on those experiences, only over time can a person develop wisdom. When I see that someone in his/her thirties has written a memoir, I have to laugh. I know that the society I live within is built on the idea that old age should be avoided at all costs, so perhaps that leads folks to believe a memoir is best written before the age of forty. Isn't that sad? A memoir of young adulthood is not a story of a whole life, is it? Seems premature unless the assumption is that any life experience occuring after age forty is not worth writing about. I guess!

I've broken no laws by growing older, I've done nothing wrong; I just haven't died yet. Why is getting older seen as so heinous? Why should I be ashamed, and try to hide my age? Why??

Looking through my boxes of photos, thinking back on who I was during all the past lifetimes of this particular life - the one I'm now living - I've been reminded how much better suited I am, temperamentally, to middle age. I have a feeling I'll be even more at home as an old lady, in spite of all the physical changes that are a part of aging.

I'm all done with this bout of reminiscence. Onwards & upwards. Though, it was fun slogging through the dropped leaves of past decades, and lots of fun sharing pictures here. I would LOVE to see old pics on other blogs, hint, hint.

I like being 56, almost 57. I love looking at the old pics but I'm just as happy looking into the mirror at who I am now, a bit worse for wear perhaps, no longer svelte or glamorous, but comfortable, healthy, and cheerful. As is, that's me. As is. Love it or leave it, people! Oh yeah!

Here is a pic of my Fluevog angel boots, all glittered up. In October, 1999, I was a guest high priestess/master of ceremonies at the Halloween/Samhain ritual held for the Reclaiming community in Vancouver, British Columbia. That ritual, the Spiral Dance, was the biggest event of the year, hence the need for seriously great ritual outfits for visiting priestesses. I loved those boots.

Sunday, October 25, 2009

One or Two Things

My friends Doug, Nate and Michael, performing a Very Strange Version of the Wichita Lineman at my wedding.


Don’t bother me.
I’ve just
been born.

The butterfly’s loping flight
carries it through the country of the leaves
delicately, and well enough to get it
where it wants to go, wherever that is, stopping
here and there to fuzzle the damp throats
of flowers and the black mud; up
and down it swings, frenzied and aimless; and sometimes

for long delicious moments it is perfectly
lazy, riding motionless in the breeze on the soft stalk
of some ordinary flower.

This is my third grade picture. That hair. OMG.

The god of dirt
came up to me many times and said
so many wise and delectable things, I lay
on the grass listening
to his dog voice,
crow voice,
frog voice; now,
he said, and now,

and never once mentioned forever,

which has nevertheless always been,
like a sharp iron hoof,
at the center of my mind.

One or two things are all you need
to travel over the blue pond, over the deep
roughage of the trees and through the stiff
flowers of lightning — some deep
memory of pleasure, some cutting
knowledge of pain.

But to lift the hoof!
For that you need
an idea.

For years and years I struggled
just to love my life. And then

the butterfly
rose, weightless, in the wind.
“Don’t love your life
too much,” it said,

and vanished
into the world.

--Mary Oliver

This is Jake when he was about 6 months old, on the porch of our house in Glen Park, a neighborhood in San Francisco.

Saturday, October 24, 2009

What is Remembered, Lives

This is one of my favorite pics from my childhood. That's me, the one smiling at the camera. You won't find a lot of pics of me smiling, gazing into the lens. I always have hated having my picture taken. My sister Hannah understands. She always used to say "It is hard to pose for a piece of film going by." Now it's even a stranger experience, being pixilated. Pixilized? Digitized? Digilated? What is the right verb here?

My father was a very good photographer. He rarely took posed pictures of us, and in fact he often told us not to pose. I believe I am smiling in the above picture because, due to my contrarian nature, I decided at the last second to break the rule. I do look adorable, though, as do we all. The tall woman is my oldest sister Karen. Nice coat, eh? She is so MAD MEN, isn't she? Deborah is gazing up at her, as she frequently did, and my "Irish twin" sister Hannah is the other adorable little girl. Look at those cars! Man. I am SO OLD.

Sometimes my father posed us for formal portraits (see below.) Looking at that second picture, I have to agree with my old man: posed pictures tend to make the people look stiff and lifeless, as if posing for a daguerreotype. He felt, and I agree, that it's much more interesting to capture people in the midst of living life.

Karen isn't in the pic below, but my brother Josh has arrived. We're in Kansas City now; it is 1961. Deborah is the tall older sister, that's me in the bad glasses, and my sister Hannah looking somewhat discouraged on the right side of the pic. Becky Gamble, an adopted member of our family peeks over Deborah's shoulder on the left. We are dressed up for Shabbat dinner, something we did when I was young. I loved Shabbat dinners. We all tried our hardest to put aside our cares and worries, and just enjoy ourselves. Clearly though in the pic below, we were all still wrapped up in our own thoughts and concerns. I always laugh when I look at that picture.

My sister Karen died from leukemia on October 28, 1988. She was intelligent, classy, passionate about the arts and politics, so proud to be an intellectual Jew, well read. She was a great cook and loved to laugh - and - she was kind of a snob, too. She had style. I remember and love you, Karen. Always will, I promise. Fly high sister, fly high.

Happy Saturday!

Friday, October 23, 2009

Everything's Jake

My little cheap camera does not like taking snaps of physical photographs. It always blurs the image ... sorry about that. This was taken in San Francisco when Jake was quite young. He sneezed at the perfect second. Isn't it sweet?

I took a walk around Takoma Park yesterday. They call it "the Berkeley of the DC area". Oh yeah.

I saw a sign in the window of the pet store announcing that they sell products for "socially conscious pets." So - your dog and cat must be socially conscious? For heaven's sake.

At another shop, there were onesies for sale that said, "Stop the killing, stop the war - for me, please." That's an awful big burden to put on an infant, don't you think? My goodness, even newborns must advocate against war, before they can speak, before they can even crawl. Poor little things. Put a dollar in the therapy jar for those kids - because if it starts within weeks of their birth, you can only imagine the heavy responsibilities their parents will load onto their tiny shoulders by the time they're in kindergarten. Sheesh.

When I first came to the DC area I lived for two years in Takoma Park. I thought I would enjoy it since I am a serious lefty and felt I would be amongst like minds. Maybe I should say I am a lefty, but not so serious that I think my pet has to be socially conscious, that my baby has to save the world.

Do you think that sort of self-righteous indignation is a veneer that covers a pervasive species-wide self hatred? I wonder. I firmly believe we human beings are definitely the most self-critical species on earth.

On the right side of the political spectrum all the hatred aimed at gay people or non-Christians, for instance, is a different way of expressing our tendency to loathe homo sapiens. I'm a lone voice out there, it seems, always defending my species. We do the best we can and though we often make a mess of things, I don't believe we're any worse than, say, beavers or grasshoppers - except that we have opposable thumbs and overly developed frontal cortexes, which enables us to make the biggest messes you can imagine. But we're not trying to be awful. Well, maybe Dick Cheney tries, but most folks? We're just living our lives as best we can.

Live and let live, I say. That thought form rings true to me and shows me, in no uncertain terms, why I really disliked living in Takoma. Yuck!

As for the nostalgia, it began to fade yesterday when I realized what's actually going on is that I'm grieving the loss of Jake. I really miss him. I loved that dog so much!

Happy Friday and weekend y'all. I'm off to work. Hope you have a good one.

Here I am on a windy day in San Francisco. I think I'm squinting because of the sun and wind, but I do appear quite hauty, as if I could be a citizen of Takoma Park. I'm about 33 or 34. My t-shirt (loved that shirt) is a Roy Lichenstein print. The cartoon character woman is saying, "Nuclear war?? What about my career??" The man is saying, "You can get another job, darling."

Thursday, October 22, 2009

The Nostalgist

I had no luck chasing away my fit of nostalgia by focusing on the now, something I tried all day yesterday. By evening I realized that resistance was futile, so I abandoned all attempts to banish the nostalgia, turned 180 degrees to a strategy to indulgence. If you can't beat 'em, join 'em.

From the back of my closet, I retrieved many boxes of old, non-digital pictures, went through them one by one. There is something so great about holding actual physical photographs in hand, as opposed to viewing digitized pics on screen, (though in fact today I'm going to digitize some of them. Nostalgia or no nostalgia, it would be fun to share a few old images here: Jake sneezing while wearing a fez, me as a 20-something juicy hot girl, the Martini Club from my days at the San Francisco Symphony, my BFF and I roller skating at Lake Tahoe.)

One interesting aspect of this bout of nostalgia is that it didn't stop my urge to purge. I ended up throwing away dozens of old pics - of people I didn't recognize, or blurry "art" pics I took, once upon a time, while stoned. I threw away lots of pictures I took when my ex husband and I renovated our Bernal Hill house. Why was I saving them anyway?

Today I'm going to continue indulging my nostalgia. I'm going up to Takoma Park where I lived when I first moved to DC at the end of 1998, walk around, shop at the thrift stores.

I hope this phase passes sooner rather than later! Onwards & upwards? Please??

Wednesday, October 21, 2009

When Overly Nostalgic, I Turn to Pema for Advice

"When you open yourself to the continually changing, impermanent, dynamic nature of your own being and of reality, you increase your capacity to love and care about other people and your capacity to not be afraid. You're able to keep your eyes open, your heart open, and your mind open. And you notice when you get caught up in prejudice, bias, and aggression. You develop an enthusiasm for no longer watering those negative seeds, from now until the day you die. And, you begin to think of your life as offering endless opportunities to start to do things differently."

— Pema Chödrön (Practicing Peace in Times of War)

Tuesday, October 20, 2009


I've been feeling mighty nostalgic lately, which is par for the course during autumn.

I guess.

Been thinking fondly about Jake, remembering some of his adorable behaviors from a few years ago, from the time before he got so old and sick. In my dreams, I have been visiting my San Francisco life, before my involvement in Reclaiming, also before I became involved with my ex-husband. Those really were the good old days. Oh man. Can y'all hear the tiny violins playing? I can. I really can. I literally can, since at that time I worked for the San Francisco Symphony. It was a great job.

And though in order to be truly mindful, I'm not supposed to include the past in the now, especially when I'm feeling regretful or nostalgic, it's always there, moment to moment. If we don't learn from history, we are bound to repeat our mistakes. Who said that originally? Some very smart person, I think.

The past has brought me into the present in no uncertain terms, so why would I ever exclude it? Similarly, dreaming and planning for the future keeps me from stalling out in the now, guides me forwards, signals my consciousness to scan for people and situations that can help me become what I wish to be. Thinking about the future keeps me oriented along the path followed by the arrow of time. I like to include the future, too, in my present moment.

Clearly my present moment is a complex montage of all that was and all that could be, though it includes the now as well. I know, I know ... I'm definitely NOT a Buddhist. Oh well. Back to my nostalgia ....

Sunday, October 18, 2009


That's me in the purple.


1 a : an overflowing of the land by water b : a drenching rain
2 : an overwhelming amount or number, i.e. received a deluge of offers

I think the rain has stopped at last. I know California and other locations have had much more rain than we did, but wow. We got plenty. Usually the way it rains here is by way of a series of showers or downpours with breaks between. But not since Thursday. It rained non stop, 24/7. It was a steady rain, light to medium serious, more like the way I remember Pacific Northwest rains than midatlantic.

In a way the deluge was kind of fun, at least for me. Please remember that I have no commute whatsoever, and that I know how to dress for the weather. My sneakers are waterproof, I have the world's most giganto umbrella, and, too - I'm not afraid of rain. It is, after all, just water. So I can afford to be generous.

Steve at Lafayette Park.

H2O was only one aspect of the deluge of recent days. I've been busy, at work yes and also away from work. Every year as fall progresses, I inevitably get busier, swept up in a deluge of activity. I've wondered if autumnal busy-ness is simply my way of dancing in shamanic alignment with the energy of the harvest. The fall harvest season was a very busy time for our species back when we lived in agrarian societies, so I figure the tendency towards busy-ness must be encoded somewhere in my DNA. Go with the flow.

Today the rain stopped, though a thick and wintery-feeling overcast hung low over the capital all day. Towards dusk, the clouds began to pull themselves apart. Whoa. When I haven't seen the sky in a few days, the first glimpse of blue is almost shocking in its simple beauty.

We in DC are well quenched, and ready for some sunlight. But it honestly has been fun having you here for a visit, Brother Rain. Hope you're headed for some places around the planet that need you, eh? Well? Why not? Just sayin.

Saturday, October 17, 2009

Secret Societies

As any urban dog owner will tell you, when you have a dog, a brand new societal world opens up, the subculture of other dog owners. For many years, I lived in that subculture, not only when I was walking Jake, but at other times as well. In some way I can't explain, the rhythms of my whole life aligned with those of other dog owners. I was part of dog owner society. By virtue of having Jake, I belonged.

When Jake died, that society vanished. I see people with their dogs, but it is not the same. I'm no longer one of them; a veil has dropped between myself and dog owner society. I live in a different reality now.

There are a number of societal subsets hidden beneath the veneer of Capitol Hill culture. Moms with young children have have created a very powerful society of their own. In fact they are quite organized. They call themselves "Moms on the Hill." MOTH is a formidable group you don't want to cross, a maternal mafia that kicks ass and takes names. It was MOTH that got the city of DC to investigate the lead levels in our tap water. Wow. They are powerful.

I remember when gay society was localized to specific neighborhoods, restaurants and clubs. Now that it isn't such a stigma to be gay (I credit the old TV show Queer Eye for the Straight Guy with finally bringing homosexuality into the mainstream) the substrata of gay society isn't as separate as it once was.

Here in the blog world, there are many subcultures. Knitters, cooks, poets, photographers, etc. I could go on and on and on.

I miss being part of dog owner society. That was such a nice, non-formal and friendly crowd to hang with. I miss Jake - though - on this dark gray chilly rainy morning, I must admit, I don't miss walking Jake. I really don't. My bad?

Happy Saturday, y'all.

Friday, October 16, 2009

Blog Inaction Day, Part II

Busy work day, followed by dinner with one of my beloveds. I've got things to write about, but no time to write them down here, such as: hope I didn't sound pessimistic yesterday. Also I'm wondering why in the world my psychic downloads of the past year all relate to soul retrieval, since as a shaman I am not the fighting type, and soul retrievals always involve battles in creepy underworld scenarios. I'm a lover, not a fighter, a healer, not a warrior. I like the middle world better than the upper and lower worlds. I can't even play the drum!!

So why all this information? Any theories?

I'm off. Happy friday, y'all!

Thursday, October 15, 2009

Blog Inaction Day

This probably is not the right blog to visit today, because this is Blog Action Day. Many bloggers are posting about climate change - they are so good! You could start with Mouse Medicine (link on my list of Blogfellows) and move on from there.

Please understand: I TOTALLY SUPPORT ACTIVISM! The fact that we are still allowed, to one extent or another, to express our political beliefs is one of the reasons I am proud to be a citizen of the U.S. The thing is, I am not an activist. I'm an inactivist. Is there such a thing?

The older I get, the less certain I become about large societal situations. I'm unclear that there are simple solutions for complex problems. We tend to think we can fix things, but historically fixes bring with them terrible side effects. It has always been that way, why should I think that we know better about anything?

Yesterday, the Senate Finance Committe passed the bill for health care reform, a bill that says all Americans must have health insurance. We must ALL make the insurance companies richer. Allegedly, anyone who does not buy health insurance will have to pay a penalty. Huh?? Insurance companies lie at the foundation of our problems with health care, but now we all have to give them our money? What is up with that? And ... just how will this be enforced? That is total craziness, if you ask me.

As far as climate change is concerned, well, this planet periodically heats up and cools down, and has been doing so since long before we were here. So in a sense, climate change is normal behavior for our beautiful planet. If the climate warms dramatically enough to kill off most of the species currently alive, then - hmmm - too bad for our species, but mass extinctions are also a part of normal behavior for our planet.

That said, I believe we (in my society) have become weak and indulgent, wasteful, thoughtless, mindless. In a perfect world, we would realize that the resources of the earth cannot support the way we live. We would give up our cars, avoid travel by air, stop eating so much junk meat, eschew packaging whenever possible and stop buying stuff we don't need. If I were in charge, I would propose a gentle strategy of less, followed by a period of waiting, and noticing how the change in behavior affects the environment. My ideas are diametrically opposed to activism. In my mind at least.

I expect that, because of our societal expectations of excess, it'll take a big ole crisis before we stop. But I don't want to get cynical here. We might change before everything goes to hell. Maybe.

Is this a blog action post? You tell me.

Wednesday, October 14, 2009

All Things Must Pass Away

I think we're going to experience a serious fall day today in Washington DC. I'm kind of excited to think that, for the first time since early spring, I will need to wear a jacket when I go out. I might even wrap my neck with a scarf. Very cool (using that word on several levels).

A nice cold snap brings to an end the autumn allergy season - oh yeah - and also signals the beginning of the end of the mosquitoes. I am never sad to see the end of insect season, oh no.

Meanwhile the days grow shorter and the Dead are wandering, wandering, as they do at this time of year. Life, despite its dramas and inevitable suffering, is such a precious existence. Even those who are free of it still long, in some way, for the festival of the five senses, for flesh and blood, and all carnal delights.

Today I will build my ancestor altar, light candles and gaze into the photographs of all those people who lived their lives, wrapped things up and moved back behind the veil. Then I'm going to spend some time offering prayers of thanks for my lucky life, prayers of appreciation for being right here, right now. Life is good and I am grateful!

How sweet to honor the passing of the dodo.

Tuesday, October 13, 2009

Gotta Dance

What could be more fun than trying to decide what to wear to Willow's Blogger Ball? I tried on so many gowns! Frankly I am no spring chicken, but I thought I looked kind of great in many of them. Above I'm wearing a gown once worn by Lana Turner, and though black is very chic, I decided against it. It's a little too serious for my tastes.

Here I am taking a break from gown shopping with dear friend Clark Gable. The shiny gown is very sophisticated, but in the end I decided it was just a bit too flashy for the event at Willow Manor.

Even more fun than shopping for gowns is actually attending the ball. That's my date, Will Smith (Jada was busy filming her TV show, and was kind of relieved Will found someone to escort). Why he's carrying an old style gun is beyond me. Maybe a throwback to his rapper days? Maybe it's a squirt gun, who knows? Will is so much fun!

And yes I believe that IS a "funny" cigarette in my cigarette holder. Oh yeah, this ball should be a lot of fun!

Hope to see you all there!

My gown was worn originally by Jean Harlow. It's in excellent shape considering its age. And ... well ... so am I, don't you think, considering my age??

Monday, October 12, 2009

Thinking about Jake

Fall was Jake's favorite season. I know because he always perked up as soon as fall's cool weather arrived. Fall was hunting season as far as Jake was concerned, and though I never allowed him to actually kill a squirrel I did indulge his need to stalk and charge. Dogs are social predators; hunting was a scratch that needed itching for my dog, especially during the fall. I made up a chant to keep myself occupied while he hunkered down and slowly approached first one squirrel and then another:

Hunt and stalk
Hunt and stalk
I prefer it to a walk.
Eviscerate, eviscerate
Hunting squirrels is just my fate

I wish I could sing the chant for you. It's better with a melody.

Needless to say, as soon as squirrels noticed Jake, they ran like hell up the nearest tree. For Jake this was not a disappointment in any way. He would simply shift his focus to the next squirrel, hunker, and stalk. If dogs wore bumper stickers, Jake's would have said "I'd rather be hunting."

This fall the squirrels don't give a rat's ass about my presence. Without Jake by my side, I am no threat. On days when I'm really missing Jake, sometimes I shout Scram you little rodent! just to get them riled a little bit. Sometimes it works, sometimes not. DC squirrels are mighty cheeky.

Yesterday there was nothing I could do to convince this squirrel that he should abandon his pumpkin lunch. Oh well.

Sunday, October 11, 2009

Masonic Diary

Painting and jug, creating a nice still life, on the back porch.

Yesterday was, for me, a "staycation." In my case, it was a porchcation. I sat on the sofa on the back porch for most of the day, reading The Lost Symbol, writing in my journal, drawing and sketching, petting the household dogs, thinking. I did get out for a walk during the afternoon, but for most of the day, all the arrows of my attention were pointing inwards and downwards, instead of outwards as they usually are.

Dan Brown's book is almost identical to The DaVinci Code in terms of its essence: there are beautiful, luminous truths about our humanity that are being held in trust by secret societies until we as a species are "ready" to receive them. And there are Very Bad Guys who want to destroy all evidence of these truths. He's not a great writer nor much of an original thinker.

Still, I'm enjoying the book because it's reminding me of how American history came alive for me suddenly and for the first time when I moved to DC. History is so real and present here. Almost as soon as I moved, I began studying the American past with a voracious curiosity. Because I was, up until a few years ago, a High Priestess with a love of public ritual, I couldn't help but adapt what I was learning into material for my shamanic rituals.

Looking back on these rituals, I tend to see them more as performance art than anything else, but the Sufi acupuncturist tells me I shouldn't demean my work in that way. I was following a path of spirit, after all, and the rituals - at least some of them - were really interesting.

Snapshot: Me, at Mt. Vernon, standing next to George Washington's tomb (not the swanky crypt he's in now. I'm talking about the earth-covered small room where he was originally buried). I am dumping a liter of ice cold water on the tomb, while almost shouting, "WAKE UP!! We NEED YOUR GUIDANCE! HEY!!! GEORGE!! WAKE UP!!!!" That was early into the first Bush administration when it became clear just how bad things were going to get.

Snapshot: With cohorts I am conducting rituals of recognition at each of the original Masonic cornerstones of the District, each stone precisely aligned to a cardinal direction. We offered wine and cornmeal, cleaned up the sites, danced around, sang songs, etc. We spent a whole year doing Connect DC. It was very fun.

Snapshot: Along with some of my cohorts I am standing in the rotunda of the Capitol. It is August 17, 2001. Three of us are standing in a triangle around the center of the rotunda, holding pieces of rose quartz. One is holding a sphere, one an egg, and one a long, pyramidal point. We are casting a "Triangle of Stillness" in the midst of the crazy central vortex of the Capitol, beneath the Apotheosis of Washington. (After that day I "saw" the triangle of stillness crystalize into a protective shield. After 9/11, my cohorts and I were convinced that our ritual had somehow protected the Capitol.) Yeah. Magicians tend to be grandiose.

Snapshot: I am standing at a fountain below the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier at Arlington National Cemetery, flinging dozens of marigolds into the water, sobbing, chanting, "Drink! Drink! Drink!!" (I still don't know what that one was about!)

I could go on with the snapshots: a year and a half of rituals at Logan Circle, Dupont Circle, Lafayette Park in front of the White House, at the Washington Monument, the Lincoln, on the American Civil War battlefields, etc. Oh yeah I was a very busy ritualist for a few years. I'll stop now with the snapshots, though, as I understand just how boring it is to look through someone else's photo album.

No Masons for me today: I have a full schedule at work. I'm looking forward to it! Have a wonderful Sunday.

Shadow, the ancient household dog, on the porch.

Saturday, October 10, 2009


I'm deep into Dan Brown's new thriller, Lost Symbol. Of course I am - it's centered around Washington DC and the Masons. I didn't know a thing about the Masons when I moved here, but have studied them extensively ever since. Oh the stories I could tell - and have told, actually. I've written a ton of posts about my Masonic magic days in DC.

Lost Symbol, like The DaVinci Code, is a hoot, an easy read, a fabulous distraction from the habit of worry, a perfect thing to delve into on a windy, overcast Saturday.

Speaking as a student of the Masons, a lover of American history and a longtime resident of the District, if you pick up this book, please don't believe everything you read, OK? Though he says repeatedly that all his history is correct, Mr. Brown lets you know right off the bat, at the very beginning of the book, that he's writing about a fictional DC. The location of his novel is as made up as his characters.

On page 13, as Robert Langdon crosses Memorial Bridge:

"Langdon gazed, left, across the Tidal Basin, towards the gracefully rounded silhouette of the Jefferson Memorial -- America's Pantheon, as many called it. Directly in front of the car, the Lindoln Memorial rose with rigid austerity, its orthogonal lines reminiscent of Athens's ancient Parthenon."

Looking to the left from Memorial Bridge, headed towards the Lincoln, you would see Key Bridge and Georgetown, and parts of Rosslyn across the river. The Tidal Basin, and the Jefferson Memorial would be to the right. Anyone who has been in DC would realize it right away. Dan Brown left a clue in his book of clues about the "truth" of his novel.

He must have so much fun writing his books, sprinkling in some truths and some fabrications, and a lot of clues, too. It's a perfect read for today, definitely! Happy Saturday, y'all.

Friday, October 9, 2009

Knitted Brows

A man and his little dog Lana. I put a slight diffuse glow around the pic because Lana appeared completely worried. Does it help?

I am a mighty worrier. That's right: WORRIER, not WARRIOR. When Jake was alive I had plenty to worry about, i.e. Would he bite the UPS man? Is he sick? Why is he eating so many American Elm leaves? Does he need to go out? Is he hungry? etc. Now that he's gone I don't have the same focus for my habit of worry. Hence I've been worried about a whole host of other things.

Naturally I've worried about the bank account looting. That was deserving of a good worry, eh? I've been a little bit worried about my own health, too, mostly the result of transferred worry about Jake's health back on myself.

Also, I've returned to an old habit of worrying about the world, as if it can't take care of itself. For heaven's sake. For instance: as a "can-do" kind of species, we tend to want to fix things. There are scientists who think they can reverse global warming by seeding the ocean beds with something, carbon dioxide, I think. What I wish the scientists could remember is that we tend to create BIGGER problems every time we try to fix things. Leave the ocean beds, alone, please!! Instead of fixing global warming, why not turn all cars into hybrids, work on public transportation, lower the quantity of beef produced around the world, reduce manufacturing, eliminate packaging, as much as possible, in other words stop creating global warming. And then we could just see what happens. My sense is that the earth is self-healing, given a chance.

I could name many other reasons to worry about the world, but you get the picture, yes?

One thing that doesn't worry me is the news today that President Obama has been chosen as the recipient of the Nobel Peace Prize. This is great for him, but also GREAT for the U.S. presidency, a very flawed and impossible job. Obama is bringing great energy into the oval office, thank God!

Today I'm going to do a lot of mindful breathing inbetween clients, see if I can exhale some of the pervasive worry I'm carrying around. Wish me luck!

This pidgeon died gracefully. May we all go so beautifully (when the time arrives, of course)

Thursday, October 8, 2009

With all due respect to my beloved Freya

Sprinklers in Lafayette Park. Looks like the eagle could be taking a quick shower.

Ing is a god in the Norse pantheon, one of my favorites, though I really love almost all of the completely disfunctional family of Norse cosmology. A high goddess who trades sex with the elves in exchange for a nice necklace, a supreme god who willingly pokes his eye out in exchange for wisdom. Odin also stabs himself in the side, hangs from a tree for eight days in exchange for the wisdom of the runes. My goodness. What is up with that? Norse cosmology includes giants made of ice, a world tree called Ygdrassil (LOVE that name) and a rainbow bridge connecting the world of the divine with the world of humans. Their creation myth involves the alchemy of hailstones mixed with fire, and their doomsday scenario is truly fabulous. It's a cosmology of great drama.

Not so much drama with Ing, though. One story about this humble god is that he was farming his land one day while still human, when suddenly the thought struck him that maybe he could be a god. So he went to the gods and told them he thought he could do the job. They agreed and immediately deitized him. Who knew it could be so simple?

His life as a god is not that different than his human life. Tales of Ing often include him riding around the countryside in his humble cart, spreading prosperity and fertility wherever he goes.

See? What's not to like about Ing?

I was thinking about Ing before the bank account looting, though he is even more on my mind since. I was thinking about the harshness of the weather and seasons in Scandinavia and Iceland, how survival was certainly more strenuous than in more comfortable landscapes during the time when storytellers were developing the cosmology. It's little wonder that the myth cycle is so intense, reflecting the land from which it arose. (I believe all myth cycles come from the landscape; are channeled by humans but are not originally human stories. Which is why it's so hard for Americans to relate to the Judeo-Christian myth cycle that is inherently north African/middle eastern in nature.)

The Vikings are renowned for their toughness and brash courage, also for their looting and pillaging whenever possible. Whoever it was who stole my bank number is, in my mind at least, a modern day Viking, made unethical by virtue of some sense that he/she/they can not take care of themselves unless they steal. Thieves can be arrogant, but are rarely truly confident. I think of arrogance as no more than the flip side of insecurity so therefore quite brittle. You can't depend on arrogance, nope.

Ing had perfect self-confidence as a farmer and later as a god. Confidence makes it a lot easier to lead an ethical life. Confidence brings integrity, at least in terms of being honest. I'm thinking about Ing so much, asking for a sprinkle of prosperity, for lessons in gentle self-confidence. ING. Yes.

Wednesday, October 7, 2009

Settle Down, Reya!

Are you superstitious? I am, always have been. Well, kind of. If I see a black cat when I'm out walking around, I will invariably say to her, "Don't cross my path! I mean it." But if the cat does anyway (they always do whatever they want) I don't turn and walk in the other direction. Classic superstitions don't mean much to me, however I have a lot of personal habits that revolve around this same concept.

For instance, I have "good luck" and "bad luck" clothing. Any time I wear certain pieces of clothing, I invariably have a bad day. Other items of clothing bring good luck, or at least I think they do. I wear four different perfumes, not all at once of course. Each fragrance brings a certain quality into my day - or so I think! My personal system of superstitions is like an ideosyncratic version of feng shui. Is that a superstition or not? You tell me.

All the usual superstitions have no impact on me. Walking under a ladder? No problem. Stepping on a crack in the sidewalk? Who cares? Rabbits' feet should stay on the animal, and horseshoes are just horseshoes, nothing else. So am I superstitious or not? I think I am.

Following the recent looting of my bank account, I notice that my tendency towards superstition is amplified, compared to "normal." I passed on a chain letter for abundance, something I never do, and I'm thinking about buying a lottery ticket at the new moon on the 18th. I've never bought a lottery ticket.

Clearly the bank account looting was more traumatic than I allowed myself to understand. It shook me up. Whew!!