Friday, April 30, 2010

Hearts Slowly Opening

The Summerhouse on the grounds of the Capitol. It is one of the most healing locations in Washington DC.

A big ole gassho to Jack Kornfield, the Dalai Lama, Pema Chodron, Thich Nhat Hanh, Sharon Salzburg and all the many others who brought Buddhism into the minds and hearts of Americans.

Though I am not now, nor have I ever been a Buddhist, I, like many Americans, have borrowed/studied Buddhism. Everything I've learned has helped me so much, as well as benefitting all the people I interact with. Buddhist practice has made me kinder. It's such a good thing! There are so many different kinds of Buddhism, of course, but some of the basic practices, such as the importance of sitting down every day to be quiet for awhile, mindfulness, and non aggression, are absolutely beautiful, practical, and evolutionary, too.

I've been reading this week about how scientists have suddenly discovered that chimps grieve much as we do. Surely it was possible before now to notice this behavior since we've been spying on our cousins for decades. That we have just now noticed, and that scientists are writing about it all of a sudden, is such a great sign of the emerging empathic society. I credit the Buddhists for opening our minds and hearts, I do.

What I hope is that these same scientists put two and two together one of these days. What I'm saying is, I hope they realize, sooner rather than later, that imprisoning monkeys and experimenting on them for our own benefit is absolutely cruel and inhumane. Zoos? Equally cruel. Hello? Are any of you guys listening?

Apparently not. When I googled "grieving chimps" this morning, I found reference to several articles just published a day or two ago by scientists who think further scrutiny is needed to "prove" that the chimps are grieving. Dudes. Sit down and meditate. Watch the footage again. Open your minds and your hearts, please?

Facing west from the front entrance of the Summerhouse.

Thursday, April 29, 2010

A Girl's Best Friend

I'm thinking about diamonds this morning. I am.

If not for the unimaginable pressures that are a feature of the upper mantle layer of the earth, there would be no diamonds, just lumps of carbon. And, too, if not for unimaginably violent, sudden and extreme volcanic eruptions, all those glittery stones would still be one hundred miles below the surface.

In the case of diamonds, pressure and violence beget beauty. It's such a difficult truth for me to take in. According to the cosmology of Reya, only peace, and love, and of course beauty should beget beauty. It's just wrong, I tell you.

There are times when the insights I receive from the depths of my dreamscape are just like diamonds. Last night, for instance, under the influence of that "old devil moon," as Willow would say, I tossed and turned. The sheets and bedspread were twisted, untucked and rumpled by the time I finally woke up. My hair was snarled and my jaw hurt from clenching all night. I felt disoriented and exhausted. My back ached. I had to jump directly into the shower to ease all the stiffness and soreness left over from the night's exertions. Whew!

But - I wasn't having nightmares. I was involved in a series of beautiful dreams centered around being nurtured, welcomed, and cared for by people I haven't seen in a long, long time. Weird, huh? Ah, such are the gifts of a serious Scorpio full moon just before Beltane.

Go figure.

Wednesday, April 28, 2010

Behind the Wheel

There's the Capitol dome behind the trees. Cool, eh?

Sometimes when I'm driving my Zipcar back and forth from Whole Foods, I stick my camera out the window (while keeping my eye on the road) and take shots randomly. Sometimes I turn on the zoom, sometimes not. Sometimes I take a sequence of pictures, sometimes just one or two.

This practice helps soothe me while I wait for traffic to clear or the light to change. You see, I really hate driving. Likewise, I hate being in cars even when I'm not driving. It's quite unAmerican of me, indeed. Anything I can do to make the time more pleasant helps.

You might be thinking it's just because I live in Washington DC that I hate the whole automobile thing so much, and you might be on to something. DC, Virginia and Maryland drivers are by far the worst I have ever encountered. Everyone needs to be important in DC, which means there's a feng shui on the streets that feels suspiciously like sharks in the midst of a feeding frenzy. It's pretty scary.

I'm not saying San Francisco drivers are the best, but as I remember, they are at least in the habit of looking for pedestrians, for instance. In DC, if drivers bother to look for pedestrians, (something that only happens intermittently) they actually speed up, as if angered to see a vulnerable human body in the crosswalk.

Strangely, I become just as evil behind the wheel as people who drive every day even though I do not own a car and rarely drive. I find it puzzling and frankly humiliating to admit this. I lean on the horn if someone in front of me should dare to make a left turn, I become frantic if I have to stop for a red light, I deeply resent the people who want to cross the street. Why? I'm never in a hurry on my way back and forth from the grocery store. Why do I get so possessed?? Driving does NOT bring out the best in me! Yikes.

Equally puzzling and definitely humiliating is the fact that the pics I take randomly while driving always seem to be so interesting. These random pics always have such cool angles and fabulous compositions. Dang, man.

What I really wanted to write about today is the nature of art, which I'm now thinking of as series of odes to instinct. But my thoughts around this are not yet speech ripe (spruchreif in German - thanks, Angela). Hence my sad confessions about driving and photography. Oh well.

Tuesday, April 27, 2010

An Extended Season of Hope

At my first initiation into earth-based wiccan spirituality, way back in the wayback machine, one of the "gifts of the earth" I was given was iris, a single stalk with a tight bud at the tip. The high priestess said, "Here is iris, for hope ... though ... this one looks dead." Indeed it did look dead, all brown and slightly shrivelled. Everyone laughed.

After the ritual, I spread newspapers over the floor in a sunny room in my house. I placed all the herbs and flowers I had been given on the newspapers. My plan was to dry them thoroughly, then maybe make a pillow stuffed with these magical plants.

A couple of days later when I went into the room to see how the mummification process was proceeding, I saw at once that the allegedly dead iris had bloomed, without water, without anyone's loving attention. Ah. Hope springs eternal, I thought. I took a polaroid of this miraculous event, because even staring at it directly, I couldn't believe it had happened. Isn't that something? That the dead iris bloomed? I think it is.

I am not a cynic, or at least I try not to be. In my society at this moment in history, it is so hard to resist the urge to get tight and brittle, to criticize everything and always expect the worst from everyone. I know lots of people who are proud to be cynical; they consider it realistic - whatever that is.

What I know is that when I lapse into cynicism, I feel mean, bitter. My energy gets so tight that I feel like I can't breathe. I want to hurt someone's feelings, hurl insults for no reason at all. I feel fragile, like I could shatter into a million sharp little pieces at any second. I HATE feeling cynical! It's exhausting.

This spring in Washington DC we are having a long, luxurious and extended iris season. Ordinarily they don't begin to bloom until right around the first of May. By May 15th they are usually done. But this year they bloomed early, at least two weeks ago. Their voluptuous flowers continue to open all over Capitol Hill and I assume all over the city as well.

As a committed non-cynic, I am LOVING this. No matter how disheartened and divided we are in the U.S., no matter how cranky, cynical, and derisive we are, no matter whether or not I'm the only one to notice, hope springs eternal. Where there's hope, cynicism melts like the wicked witch of the west. Oh yeah.

With a bow and a salute to my allies the iris: THANK YOU!! We need you. We do.

Monday, April 26, 2010

Out of Sync

Roses blooming in April? Oh yeah. All over the Hill. This is VERY early for roses here. Wow.

I've been busy. This is a good thing, it is. I love teaching, so that's good, and working a lot (excellent for my poor bank account). I've attended more than the usual amount of social gatherings, experienced unexpected intersects with people I haven't seen in awhile, and I'm working on a couple of projects, PLUS I'm reading a great book I don't want to put down.

It's all a bit much. Many people I know live like this all the time. How in the world do they do it?

Just this morning I am realizing how much I value my ordinarily spacious life. Almost always, my life has lots of wiggle room between scheduled events. To paraphrase my beloved Gertrude Stein, it takes a lot of time to live the way I like to live - and I am NO genius, believe me. The contemplative life requires a lot of sitting around doing nothing, really doing nothing.

I feel out of it - out of touch with my blogfellows, out of touch with the landscape (since I've been rushing from one destination to the next, not stopping to take pictures or think or notice). My room looks as if a small bomb has exploded recently. Stacks of Reiki handouts, clothes, books, coffee cups and partially read New Yorkers are everywhere.

After today I'll have a little bit more time for my usual pursuits. I've been having a lot of fun with all the busyness of late, but enough is enough! Whew.

Sunday, April 25, 2010

Come As You Are

Capitol Hill Yoga is such a beautiful studio. I took this during a class break yesterday.

For those who read this blog, it might come as a surprise to learn that I tend to forget how off the mainstream my thought process and "lifestyle" truly is. To most folks in my society, and in particular here in Washington DC, my world view could be seen as a bit more than a few chips short of a fish dinner. After all, I talk to ghosts, I think the sun is my brother (as is the wind), I'm in relationship with various species of people who live among the clouds. I have past lives and parallel existences, and I share "soul bits" with someone I met through blogging. I have spirit guides and animal guides, and ... Should I go on? Probably it's not necessary.

One of the reasons I forget how odd I am is that I am so warmly accepted, as is, here in the blog realm, on Facebook and in "real" life here on Capitol Hill. I've never lived anywhere where I felt so much a part of the fabric of the community, not even in San Francisco where you're supposed to be odd.

Yesterday I was reminded, during Reiki class, of how "out there" my sense of the world truly is. It was a great class, a fabulous gathering of individuals, some of whom know Reiki extremely well, others who just thought it would be fun to try. Even the skeptics were such good sports when confronted with my thoughts about "reality." It was very generous of them!

My dance of shamanic alignment with the world as I know it is quite abnormal, compared to most, but I look completely normal, I'm not vociferous about my worldview, and, too, I have a sense of humor about it. And - I live on Capitol Hill where I am graciously accepted.

I'm tired today after having to focus, and interact with a group, for so many hours yesterday. But it's a good kind of tired. It was a great class yesterday, in a beautiful yoga studio, among wonderful people. All I can say is: wow.

Friday, April 23, 2010

A Full Dance Card

Tree canopy and sunlight reflected from the hood of a black car.

Brother Sun has moved into the sign of Taurus, the roses are in bloom and the upwards moving springtime energy has opened, too. Instead of that geyser-like sense of fast rising life force, the energy now feels like it rises, then spirals outwards, expands in a voluptuous, "full-figured" way. (I've always loved that euphemism for big boobs.)

My schedule of stuff to do has likewise expanded, as if to dance in shamanic alignment with the roses. I'm working hard all weekend, a very good thing. What I'm most looking forward to is teaching a Reiki class at Capitol Hill Yoga tomorrow.

I've been thinking Reiki, feeling Reiki, dreaming Reiki. Last night I dreamed that Dr. Usui, the man who "discovered" Reiki, was having coffee with me.

When I realize it's him, I start laughing.

Me: "Are you kidding me? What are you doing here?"
Dr. Usui: "I get around!"
Me: "Apparently!"
Dr. Usui: "Don't rush through class, OK? It's not a race. Let the students talk a lot about their experience. Keep asking if they have anything else to say."
Me: "Good advice. Thanks."

We do the knuckle to knuckle gesture, after which I wake up.

... I wonder if there's a name for touching fists? It's the contemporary version of a "High Five." I googled "touch fists" but could not find a name for the gesture. One of the sites that came up explained it this way:

its a gesture of:

I never knew Dr. Usui was so cool! But the dream makes me think Reiki class is going to be a lot of fun. Happy weekend, y'all! (touch fists) Oh yeah.

Thursday, April 22, 2010

The Empathic Civilization

Happy Earth Day! I was 17 when the first Earth Day was celebrated. It was a tender age at which to receive the shocking news that the way we lived was extremely destructive to plants and animals. I knew war was not healthy for children and other living things, but my basic belief at the time was that sex, drugs and rock 'n roll would save the world. I had never considered the impact of the gluttonous, wasteful American lifestyle on all the other species we share space with here on this beautiful planet.

When my mother, and so many other early feminists, bought piles of war is not healthy medallions, bumper stickers, posters, pins, tote bags and t-shirts, I'm sure they were - at that moment in time - completely unaware of the truth that the production of all that junk was equally unhealthy for children and other living things, such as animals and plants, rivers, forests and oceans. I'm sure she only thought about how important it was to make the statement.

Until the 1970's, we drove around in gas guzzlin', super charged cars without giving that practice a second thought. In fact, taking a "Sunday drive" was thought to be a lovely idea.

The food we ate? Oh. My. God. The late '60's was a truly hideous time in terms of consciousness about food. Hamburger Helper. Canned veggies. Old, withered looking iceberg lettuce with transfat filled "creme" salad dressing, high fructose corn syrup in everything, margarine, TV dinners, "soft serve" ice cream, Cool Whip, instant coffee with "cremer" - an awful powder made from god knows what. "Instant potatoes?" What the hell is that? Fake food and fast food were all the rage. No one I knew tried to figure out where their food came from, or how wholesome it might be.

According to, the term endangered species was not part of the American lexicon until 1965 and did not come into common use until at least ten years later. Though organic farming was coined in a book in 1940, no one I knew used that term or thought about the impact of pouring pesticides on food until after the first Earth Day. I know there were earth saavy people before that, but I didn't know any of them. Now I don't know anyone who isn't aware of these issues.

I love watching films from the early 1960's. When someone is ill or faints, a caring person will inevitably pour brandy down their throats. When they wake up, someone will hand them a cigarette. People in 1960's movies smoked cigarettes while in the hospital. Wow. Hmmm ... unclear on the concept, eh? When a film character is experiencing grief or sadness, inevitably a caring someone will say, "Stop crying. Here. Have a martini and a cigarette." Wow.

So many things have changed since the first Earth Day. I think Jeremy Rifkin is correct when he says that our species is capable of great empathy. It was from our kind hearts that Earth Day was created. It's true that we were so naive then. But we started waking up at that time, and have been in the process of becoming more empathic every year, to children, animals, plants, rivers, bays, oceans and the land, too. American consciousness is much more evolved than in the "good old days." It is! Believe me.

Hug a tree today, yes? I say yes. Happy Earth Day! And many more.

Wednesday, April 21, 2010

Happy Hour

Twilight at Lincoln Park

The sun sets late at this time of year here in the northern hemisphere. During winter, I often miss twilight because I'm still working when Brother Sun sets. In winter, I only notice because I have to turn on the lights.

But in late spring at the conclusion of a long walk, (for instance) I can dance in shamanic alignment with the twilight. It is so beautiful. Wow. I was thinking last night that twilight is luxurious, like satin or velvet. Once the sun dips beneath the horizon, all the colors deepen. The sky deepens, the trees, too. The world becomes saturated by deep cobalt while the birds sing their lullabye songs. After those few minutes of luxury, the streetlights switch on and then it becomes absolutely dark. Night is magic, but not nearly so entrancing as dusk.

One of the reasons I would love to visit the far north (or far south) some day is to experience the lengthy twilights and dawns of those landscapes. One of my teachers used to refer to dawn and dusk as "cracks between the worlds" during which anything could happen. It really feels that way to me when I'm out and about at twilight. At least it did last night. What a beautiful evening it was! Oh yeah.

Woman with a dog in her backpack, riding her bike on the sidewalk, at twilight. I know it's blurry, but I kind of like it. It's painterly.

Tuesday, April 20, 2010


Yep. That's pollen.


Etymology: Italian, from present participle of dilettare to delight
1 : an admirer or lover of the arts
2 : a person having a superficial interest in an art or a branch of knowledge : dabbler
synonyms see amateur

I'm content to be a dilettante. Indeed I am so happy to dip first into one topic, then another, then another. I like full-spectrum learning, a bit of this, a bit of that.

Don't misunderstand: I so admire the kind of person who is able to identify one area of interest so absorbing that they spend the rest of their lives learning and researching or practicing that one thing. The dedication of those who study piano, cooking, the history of the American civil war, neurology (etc., etc.) blows my dilettantish mind. And I benefit GREATLY from the books that get written, the records that get recorded, the cookbooks and movies made as the result of that kind of focus. In fact, specialists make my life as a dilettante easy, by doing the hard work of delving deep so I don't have to.

Jack Weatherford is one of the specialists I so admire. He has spent decades studying Ghenghis Khan and the history of the Mongolian empire. His revisionist historical biography, Ghenghis Khan and the Making of the Modern World is a fabulous book. I was so enlightened and excited when I read it a few years ago, I made this short film as a tribute.

Now I'm into his book The Mongol Queens which is all about the wives, daughters, and granddaughters of Ghenghis. It is such an incredible book! The detail with which he is able to describe that way of life makes me feel like I'm sitting inside a ger next to these incredible women, perhaps catching a buzz from drinking a bit too much fermented mare's milk, telling stories, sending prayers up to the gold light of the Eternal Blue Sky.

Mr. Weatherford's books, in fact, remind me of the great blogs Monkeys on the Roof and Ngorobob Hill House, both written by women who live in Africa, whose lives are as different from mine as can be imagined and yet with whom I have much in common in terms of how we think.

The Mongol Queens is taking me around the world and backwards in time to 1300 and making me feel like I know these people, I know that life and that time period. It is so cool! If I make a little video about it, I think Respect, sung of course by Aretha Franklin, would be the proper musical background.

This dilettante says two thumbs up. Fabulous book. Oh yeah.

Monday, April 19, 2010

Ashes to Ashes

This is not a photo of pagoda turrets over the jungle in Thailand, nope. It's a bird's-eye view of the tree canopy over Capitol Hill. It's so exotic looking, isn't it? I never think about this view living, as I do, on the forest floor.

"Because of the volcano ..." is not the way most conversations begin, at least it has not been a part of any conversation I can ever remember, not even after Mt. St. Helen exploded in 1980.

Over the weekend I've had several such conversations, most of them with Nancy U. of the blog Science Girl (link on my list of Blogfellows) who was planning a visit to DC. We were supposed to have dinner on Saturday. After that plan got scrapped we decided to meet for drinks Tuesday. Now? We have no idea when or even if she'll get to DC.

At 4:30 a.m. this morning I heard my phone do its text ringtone. Unable to understand who would be texting at that hour, I got up to discover that, "Because of the volcano ..." one of my clients would not be able to make his appointment today. He left unexpectedly early for his holiday in France, landed in Madrid and is now making his way north to Paris.

In terms of excuses for disrupted plans, a volcano rates among the most glamorous and interesting, at least to me. It's not possible to fight Mama Gaia after all. So it's disheartening to see that pressure is being put on the avaiation people in Europe to lift the bans because cancelling 63,000 flights causes serious economic problems. I'm sorry about the chaos and loss of money, but for heaven's sake, people! The bottom line is never the best reason to put anyone in danger.

What are they thinking?

I've been missing Jake terribly lately. This is one of the last pics I took of him last spring, shortly before he died.

Saturday, April 17, 2010

Just Passin' Through

The sky was crazy yesterday, covered by a dark grey overcast for a few minutes, then clear, then gauzy with ribbons of high cloud, then overloaded with fluffy cumulus, then clear. And so on and so on.

The spring sky is always turbulent in Washington DC, changeable. It's a great reminder that we're here today but it could all change tomorrow, or even later today for that matter.

I like the reminder because the truth that everything has its moment, after which that moment passes, helps me feel intimately connected with the cycle of life as it always has been, as it always will be, at least on this beautiful blue marble of a planet.

Aging in my society is not a pleasant or easy undertaking. It's "not for sissies" as Bette Davis said. Though no one I know would admit it, I believe the underlying thought-form about aging is that somehow it's unnatural, that it's a disorder which should be avoided at all costs. Talk about denial! Wow.

So when I watch the clouds race by overhead, leaving not a trace of themselves behind, when the seasons turn, the days lengthen - then shorten - then lengthen again, I feel encouraged, cheered on my Mama Nature. The prevailing ideas about aging are, just like everything, short-lived and will shift or disappear sooner or later.

Every dog has his day. I've had most of mine, now I am beginning the process of decline. No need to be alarmed, I tell myself on days like yesterday. This is what's supposed to happen. It's all good. Oh yeah.

What you're seeing above took less than five minutes to unfold.

Friday, April 16, 2010

Oh My!

Lilacs are erupting all over Capitol Hill.

Earthquakes, meteors streaking through the sky, volcanic eruptions that interrupt air travel?? What the heck is going on, Mama Gaia?

Some of my Facebook friends are wondering whether the CERN particle collider is shaking things up in ways even the glamorous, cheerful and brilliant Brian Cox couldn't predict.

Hmmm ...

The earth is a living being. Something is definitely going on. Strangely I do not have any theories at the moment, but I am paying attention. Something is up. I am listening.

Have a wonderful weekend, y'all!

Thursday, April 15, 2010

Results May Vary

I'm groggy. I love that word, but I don't love the condition. For two nights I've been suffering from insomnia, hence the grogginess. I am very very very lucky to be such a good sleeper. Usually. Every now and then, for reasons unknown, I toss and turn, worry excessively, imagine the worst. Who knows why.

I know, I'm not supposed to worry when I can't sleep. A great therapist told me once that while lying in bed, one is in a passive posture which makes the worries seem worse. She said, "If you want to worry in the middle of the night, stand up, put your shoulders back, lift your chin. Then worry as much as you want."

Great practical advice.

Tuesday night I decided to go with the flow of sleeplessness. I worried for awhile, then tried re-arranging the pillows in every possible configuration. The tossing and turning was so intense, it was probably aerobic. The novelty of such a night was slightly amusing, I must admit. I thought about Harold and the Purple Crayon, and other famous insomniacs. I listened to the robins singing late into the night (someone told me they sing at night because it's so noisy in the morning they can't hear each other). But last night when I again couldn't locate the Sandman no matter how much I wanted him to come visit, I kept myself busy with some techniques for falling asleep that I suggest to clients when they complain of insomnia.

Count backwards from 100. (Didn't work.)
Slow down my breathing, just slightly. (Didn't work.)
Do that yoga thing of putting my feet up a wall for a few minutes. (Didn't work.)
Think of 10 things I'm thankful for. (The gratitude practice was great, but it didn't work.)

I wasn't cranky about it, though I'll admit I was impressed that none of the above was having any effect. At last, just to be retro, I decided to count sheep. I imagined cute, fluffy little cartoon sheep leaping, one after another, over a cartoon fence in the midst of a cartoon landscape. The next thing I knew, the sun was shining through the crystal I have hanging in the window, lighting up the room with tiny rainbows.

Hmm. So - counting sheep worked? Who knew? Very interesting - and - I hope tonight I can return to my usual pattern of going to bed and getting to sleep in a timely manner. As for today, I think a second cup of tea is definitely in order. Oh yeah.

Wednesday, April 14, 2010

There is definitely no halo above my head!

Nice rain yesterday.

The Sufi acupuncturist says that a "saintly" person (his word) tends to be content with their areas of weakness. Saintly folk can have a strong physiological aversion to - say - oak pollen, but because of their pure and gentle natures, they can allow that physical aversion to just BE, and therefore not react when the trees are rutting.

For most of us, he says, a more practical strategy is to build up the immune system. When the immune system is robust, it is less likely to call up the warrior histamines to fight against the "invader." In my case, that would be pollen. Before I began my journey into Chinese medicine, I was so allergic that even if I saw a photograph of pollen (on car windshields, for instance) or an image of grass going to seed, I would begin to react, to sneeze and become congested. I was so not saintly then! Wow.

For two and a half years, the Sufi acupuncturist (and I) have been working to strengthen my immune system, to bolster my deficient kidney yang, as they say in Chinese medicine, to "awaken" my Qi so that my body doesn't feel it must fight for its life while the pollen flies. It's working. There were those two ridiculous days last week when the pollen was so heavy I could actually see clouds of it moving past the window. On that day I decided to be saintly; I closed the windows and remained indoors, I decided to be happy with that situation. I decided to be grateful I could avoid the triggers. And so I didn't get all congested, I didn't sneeze a single time all day, even while watching the clouds of pollen fly. I remained calm. It was kind of a miracle.

And so it goes with my curiosity, that can be, when I allow it, overly zealous. I wonder what kind of weakness it is that propels me to go so far beyond healthy curiosity into what I've decided to call "grasping" curiosity sometimes? What part of me can I bolster in order to help me open to the world, ask the questions (of course!) but then not be tyrannized by the curiosity? How can I be gentle with my curiosity? How can I let go of the little questions so as to free up more time for the big questions that are well worth pondering (as long as I let go of any ambition to answer every one of them)?

There are SO MANY GREAT comments attached to yesterday's post. The combination of opinions has set me on a path towards a place of balance and healing around this great, and sometimes burdensome, curiosity of mine. I'm going to mention it to the Sufi acupuncturist as well. I know he will have many wise and helpful things to say about it.

You - you blogfellows? You are AWESOME in every way possible. Thank you so much for your wisdom and advice. Bravo! Thanks. I salute you.

Tuesday, April 13, 2010

Is it true that curiosity killed the ...

Only recently have I begun to consider the possibility that curiosity is not ALWAYS a good thing. I am an intensely curious person, always brimming, frequently overflowing, with questions large and small. Some can be answered, some can't. In spite of the futility of pursuing some of the paths my curiosity lays out before me, I yearn to know All The Answers.

For instance: Am I vain because I'm impressed, on a daily basis, by how much better I look after I apply a little bit of make-up?

Is it rude of me, when people say, "Reya you look great! Have you lost weight?" to respond by saying, "Actually, I've gained weight." OK I know the answer to that one: RUDE. I haven't gained or lost weight; I am simply offended by the idea that losing weight is a precursor to looking good.

Is it weird that when people say, "You look much younger than 57!" I bristle at the idea of saying thank you? Why isn't it OK to look my age? And, they're trying to be nice. Why do I bristle? WHY??

All of the above describes the stupidest, most insignificant category of questions that cycle through my mind. I wonder, too, about the Great Truths. Many a blog post has been inspired by those kinds of questions. I include the stupid questions in an effort to describe exactly how curious I really am.

Lately I've been wondering if I'm too curious. What would it mean if I could simply set aside some of these questions? How about having an open mind instead of being so damn curious? The idea of an open mind/heart seems gentler, more mature, wiser. Instead of questing at all times, what would it be like to be open to new information but without all that grasping for answers?

I suppose this line of inquiry is also a part of my voracious curiosity, though I think not as stupid at the most banal questions I'm forever asking. What do you think?

Monday, April 12, 2010

Mark Booth has left the room

Tulips in front of the Supreme Court.

When you start a book do you feel like you have to read the whole thing? Not me. I have no problem with abruptly sticking an unfinished book on the shelf. If it isn't teaching me anything, if it doesn't hold my attention after 50 pages, or if it's actively annoying, that's it. I quit reading Eat, Pray, Love on page 136 because even though everyone told me I would LOVE that book, I found it completely predictable in every way. Plus I couldn't stand what's-her-name who wrote it. I know it is a classic among many. I didn't like it, and since I'll never have the time to read all the books I'm interested in, when one doesn't grab me, it's prudent to move on. Do you agree?

When I tried to read Natalie Angiers book, The Canon, I eventually became exasperated by her snotty dismissal of all things mystic. As of this morning, I'm beginning to feel the same way about A Secret History of the World, only in reverse. The author, Mark Booth, keeps referring to scientists as atheists who suffer from "reductive" thinking, whatever that means. In his view, "ancient" world views are more valuable than contemporary thought, a purely romanticized perspective. He's just as prejudiced as Natalie Angiers, though he stands on the other side of the looking glass.

Wouldn't it be great if there was One Perfect Way to understand the world? If ALL mystics were nuts or ALL scientists were atheists? It would make life so simple. OK maybe it wouldn't be great, maybe it would render the complexity of the world somewhat less intricate. And anyway, it's not true.

Albert Einstein said, “Logic will get you from A to B. Imagination will take you everywhere." That's not reductive, is it? And as for mystics, well, is the Dalai Lama a nut? Of course not. He is a voice of reason helping people reconnect with spirit and compassion.

So I'm going to chuck this book into a drawer until Tom of the blog Half-Moose with a Twist comes to town. If anyone can get the wisdom of A Secret History ..., it's Tom.

As for myself, I will turn instead to The Mongol Queens. Life is short. Carpe diem!!

Sunday, April 11, 2010

History's Mysteries

I'm reading The Secret History of the World by Mark Booth. What a hoot. It is a history told from the point of view of European and American secret societies and magical traditions since the middle ages. It is so so funny, totally reflecting the opportunistic "us first" mindset of we Europe-centric people. That mindset, that the world was created exclusively for us, and to hell with other cultures as well as every other species, extended deeply into every corner of our thinking, including, of course, religious and mystical traditions.

For heaven's sake.

Is it any surprise that the U.S. was founded by members of one such secret society, the Freemasons? When you think of U.S. history in that light, so much of what went wrong here makes perfect sense. Manifest destiny and all other related Euro-centric ideas, like "the sun never sets on the British Empire," are fantasies that have passed their expiration dates. But I'm glad he wrote the book because it is SO entertaining.

I am so NOT a magical thinker anymore. Secrets held by mystical hierarchies are more about the egos of the adepts than about any "real" truth, according to the cosmology of Reya, that is. The world makes itself available to every one of us whether we are a high fallutin' windbag of a high priestess (as I once was) or just some ordinary Joe. Do you want to become one with the multiverse? Go sit outside in a beautiful place and quiet your mind. Or go to a yoga class, any yoga class. Open your mind, the truths will come into it. You do not have to be initiated or apprentice yourself to some mystical egomaniac. You're just as capable of penetrating the mysteries as any High Poobah. Believe me!

The practice of superimposing symbols on top of everything, occult ritual, the idea that there are secret methods out there, secret teachings through which we can become more powerful than we already are, methods that can only be learned from those higher up on the ladder of mystical hierarchy, is total crap. That kind of thinking leads to conflict, power struggles, and paranoia and paradoxically away from empowerment. It all seems funny to me these days.

I'm looking forward to reading Jack Weatherford's new book, The Mongol Queens which is all about the daughters of Ghenghis Khan and how they saved his empire, or so it says on the cover of the book. His revisionist history of the life of Ghenghis Khan is fabulous and available in paperback. Well worth reading!

Saturday, April 10, 2010

Shabbat Shalom, Y'all!


A scarf trailing
over the lilac sunset,
fair weather clouds,
cirrus uncinus
silk chiffon.
Twilight softens the air,
whispering, come,
lie down with me.

Untie the knots of the will.
your clenched grip
barren hills of bone.
Here, no edges to hone,
only the palm fallen
open as a rose about
to toss its petals.

What you have made,
what you have spoiled
let go.
Let twilight empty
the crowded rooms
quiet the jostling colors
to hues of swirling water
pearls of fog.

This is the time
for letting time go
like a released balloon
Tilt your neck and let
your face open to the sky
like a pond catching light
drinking the darkness.

--Marge Piercy

Friday, April 9, 2010


Honestly, it's too much. Seriously.

I sing praises for rain. I offer prayers of thanks. I open my window and breathe deeply - because I can! My head bows low in gratitude for the arrival of the cold front last night in Washington DC.

Spring has been so impatient this year. All of the green world has been in a frenzy of popping, blooming and bombing the landscape with pollen. Yikes. The nice cold rain last night brought down the green dust. The temperature has dropped by 35 degrees F. What a relief!

Gods and goddesses of springtime blossom and pollination, listen up: May cooler heads prevail!! THANK YOU!!

I've been trying to capture the incredible magic of this wysteria vine for years. Though the collage below falls far short of truly representing its magnificence, at least you get the idea of how HUGE it is, how FABULOUS it is as it twists and winds up the front of a BEAUTIFUL, three-story Victorian on Lincoln Park. Every year I stop and stare. All I can say is: wow.

Thursday, April 8, 2010

Meteorological Passions Run Amok

Logan Circle

The earth is a living being. When I say that, I'm not being poetic or metaphorical; it is literally true, at least according to the cosmology of Reya.

Of course I have created a complicated structural schematic of the living being we are a part of. What I'm thinking about today is the weather, which I think of as the emotional body of the earth. Complicated, changeable, and frequently unpredictable, earth's weather patterns are not unlike my own human emotional body. My moods pass through me like weather fronts, often surprising me with the power they have to change my inner landscape. Sometimes when I get angry I feel as if tiny lightning bolts shoot out of my eyes. When I'm calm and content, it feels like I am emanating gold sunlight. Sometimes my mood is windy. At those times I can not stop talking. I could go on, but you get the idea.

The earth's weather patterns are inextricably interwoven with the currents of our oceans, as well as with the seasons. Seasonal weather is all about which hemisphere is leaning away from (or towards) Brother Sun of course. The dance of the earth and sun is so interesting to me, as is the hard-wired relationship of the seasons to the emotional body of every landscape on earth.

I'm thinking about the emotional body of our beautiful, living planet because of the weirdness of this particular spring in DC. What is normally a slowly unfolding season of color and energy is, this year, an explosion. The sky is full, all of a sudden, with waving green leaves. Usually it goes like this: tree bloom, then tiny specks of green, next tiny, tender little leaves and then finally, in mid-May, the leaf canopy fills in. But not this year! This year there was the bloom, then KA POW - full leaf canopy. It seemed to happen almost overnight. We've had three days of 90 degree heat, something that doesn't usually happen until late May. All that sultry summertime heat must have inspired the trees to jump into full leaf ASAP. I guess.

The dogwoods have bloomed, too, and iris and all kinds of flowering bushes that, during an ordinary spring, don't open until May.

This spring reminds me of those times when I can't hold back, when an emotion comes up inside me so strongly that it bursts out. Have you ever had that experience? Yesterday I was thinking about my sister Hannah shouting, "I LOVE EVERYONE IN THIS ROOM!" just after the conclusion of a beautiful wedding ceremony. That's how it is in Washington this week.

Explosions, even "positive" explosions like passionate expressions of love, have an impact. For those of us who are allergic to the erotic springtime dance of the green world, it's an especially great time to hunker down indoors until things settle down.

Looks like I'll have plenty of time to catch up on my blog reading today. I've decided to look at this situation in the most positive light possible. Love is a many splendored thing. Oh yeah.

Dogwoods? Already?? What next - roses in April? It could happen this spring.

Wednesday, April 7, 2010


As you are aware from our previous communication, in a world-first film making exercise, we are gathering 6,000 people from around the world to collaborate in the making of The Difference™ film and TV show. By tapping into the collective conscious and unconscious of a global group of open hearted, service oriented people, an influential film and TV show will be produced that will open humanity’s heart and make a significant difference to many people throughout the world.

Yesterday I attended the project briefing. I've been curious and bewildered that I was invited to be part of this. Following the briefing, I'll admit to being even more confused. The other people there were truly amazing. One of them lived off the grid with her twin sons for ten years in a community that didn't understand they were living "green." They had every creature comfort, she said, except cars. All their energy was solar-generated. One woman has written a book about connecting with the sacred divine. She hopes to help people find joy and direction in life without having to be part of "organized" religion. Another person teaches inmates to train therapy dogs, thereby healing those incarcerated by way of dog magic. Wow. She had one of her therapy dogs with her, an Irish setter named Jack. That was the BEST dog!

I'm not trolling for compliments here, honestly. My question is, why was I part of this group? I don't do anything like these people. One of the first exercises we did was to sit in small groups so we could explain to each other how we make a difference in the world. Not only could I not think of a single thing to say, but in my heart of hearts I'm not clear that I (or anyone, for that matter) has to change the world. Are we required to make a difference? I think we are fine just as we are. The world is OK, it will carry on with us or without us.

I do believe it's important to make the commitment, every day, to TRY to be a good person, you know: fair, tolerant, good hearted and good humored. I think it's important to do the right thing whenever possible, and to make amends when it doesn't feel possible. Some days I am able to live accordingly, other days - well - not so much. Does that make a difference? I'm not clear that it does, and that's OK with me.

Obviously they found me through the blog. My question is, do I come off here like someone who has a message to pass on to the world? They kept talking about getting the word out about what we do in order to make change available to people who want something different from their lives but aren't sure how to go about it. Do I have a message? Do I? I don't think I do.

Occasionally some people we invite to be part of The Difference™ comment, “Why me? What do I have to contribute? What difference will I make?” In response to these questions, The Difference’s™ Executive Producer Jacqueline Bignell says, “There is a reason you need to be involved in The Difference™ even if we do not know what that is right now. There are many people who need to hear your message. But even if it is only one person living on the other side of the world who needs to hear what you have to say and it makes a difference to them, your work is done. The ripple effects of the difference you make to that one person will be far reaching across many generations.”

OK, that appeals to my ego, but I still don't get it. There's a lot more to say about yesterday's experience, but it isn't "speech-ripe" yet (as my old cohort Anne Hill used to say). Picture me scratching my head, brows knitted, wondering, wondering. All I can say is, "Huh???"

Tuesday, April 6, 2010

Detente would be good enough for me.

I can almost hear the oak trees whispering "Reya must die!" Actually, I think they're shouting.

Diplomacy is an excellent skill to cultivate. It really benefits interactions among our own species, or at least it can. Yesterday and today I'm wondering whether it's possible to negotiate successfully between humans and plants. Is it? Of course many plants are already our allies, so there's no need for diplomacy there.

But what about the plants that are openly aggressive towards our species? No one would ever say that poison ivy, for instance, is a great ally, right? Do we try to seek a peaceful relationship with poison ivy? Never. Right? Everyone I know, when encountering poison ivy, puts on big gloves, then yanks it out of the ground without a second thought. End of story.

In a blog I read yesterday, the writer was trying to figure out how far she should go to accommodate a wasp who decided to build a nest in a porch planter. (She decided against allowing it, flooded the nest when the wasp had flown away.)

My quarrel with the oak trees is seasonal. During the summer they are great allies, providing cool circles of shade that protect me against the hideous DC summer sun. They're beautiful to look at in all seasons, quite regal, in fact. But in spring when they are pollinating, they are NOT my friend. Like the Hatfields and McCoys, we just don't get along.

The common wisdom among humans is that we should tank up with antihistamines and pretend we're allies even if we aren't. I'm all for tanking up on herbs and drugs, but I also very consciously avoid their territory. I want to be respectful, even though I admit that I do feel mighty hostile towards them at this time of year. Sad but true is that when the breeze blows, oak pollen can travel far and wide. Sometimes pollen from a particular oak is found forty miles away, or so I learned this morning. Hence I'm thinking there's no avoiding them, no matter what, especially in DC where there are a million of them.

You see all of this is my attempt to lift my annual allergy whinge to the level of philosophy. Pathetic attempt, eh? OK. I'll stop now.

Loved these little girls on scooters and tiny bikes, zipping around the periphery of Lincoln Park last night, clearly oblivious to the lurking presence of oak pollen.

Monday, April 5, 2010

The Green Dust

Yesterday I saw the first of the iris - one of my very favorite of the springtime array. (It's amazing how hard it is to capture that beautiful amethyst flower digitally. I find that dramatic shots taken from below the bloom reveal more of its complex, sexy shape than those taken from above - which is odd since the pollinating insects come from above. Surely they're looking at the flower differently than I am, yes?)

OK, where was I? Oh yeah, the first iris. That always marks the beginning of my Season of Sneeze, a.k.a. the Tyranny of the Green Dust, a.k.a. oy vey. What it means is that I have to close my windows during the most beautiful spring days of soft air and low humidity. Whenever I step outside, My hair goes under a hat. When I return home, I wash my face, snort saline then blow my brains out, change my shirt and hope for the best. At this time of year I change my pillowcase every day. Seriously. I place homeopathic eye drops in my poor, bloodshot, itchy eyes, guzzle Chinese medicinal herb tea brewed from a witchy-looking bunch of stalks, pods, and dried out flowers. I take Claritin, receive acupuncture, gulp tinctures to strengthen my immune system. On the worst days I just have to lie still in my hermetically sealed room while trying to breathe, my eyes squeezed shut in spite of the soothing effect that comes from the steeped dandelion teabags and cold washcloths I place over my eyes.

I try, oh God I TRY SO HARD not to rub my eyes because that just makes everything worse. Sometimes, though, like Dr. Strangelove I lose control. Before I know it, my fist locates an eye socket. After that, my histamines are in a frenzy.

Oy. vey.

Also it is my tradition to complain every year here on the blog. Mea culpa!! Maybe next year I'll have health insurance. Maybe I'll get a prescription for some heavy-duty allopathic allergy meds. Maybe I'll get allergy shots. Maybe I won't complain. Ya think?

Maybe! In the meantime I'll hunker down while the green world does its wild, frenetic, crazy fertility dance. L'chaim. Ah-choooo!! Oh yeah.

Sunday, April 4, 2010

Happy Easter to all!

by Mary Oliver

You do not have to be good.
You do not have to walk on your knees
For a hundred miles through the desert, repenting.
You only have to let the soft animal of your body
love what it loves.
Tell me about your despair, yours, and I will tell you mine.
Meanwhile the world goes on.
Meanwhile the sun and the clear pebbles of the rain
are moving across the landscapes,
over the prairies and the deep trees,
the mountains and the rivers.
Meanwhile the wild geese, high in the clean blue air,
are heading home again.
Whoever you are, no matter how lonely,
the world offers itself to your imagination,
calls to you like the wild geese, harsh and exciting --
over and over announcing your place
in the family of things.