Monday, May 31, 2010

What is remembered, lives

I'm thinking about you today, dear ones, holding you close to my heart. It's not a difficult task because I love you. I really do. You know who you are: you who had the nerve, or were naive enough to be convinced, or had a great conviction about what you were doing when you signed the contract, when you picked up a weapon, when you followed orders and put your life on the line.

What the terra cotta warriors told me is that at the confluence of two mighty rivers, there is chaos and destruction. They were describing what happens during a battle between two armies.

For whatever reasons, you found yourself, at some point, at the center of a destructive confluence. You died or you lived, for some of you I'm guessing it was a little bit of both or a whole lot of both. You, my loves, know in your blood and in your bones, the chaos at the center of the vortex.

I am in awe of you, all of you, who served. Dead and alive, just coming out of the storm of war, or just heading in, those of you who do the dirty work on the ground or in the air, on the water, all I can say is: thank you. I'm against war of every kind, but I salute you and love you, dearly dearly.


Sunday, May 30, 2010

With a deep bow of respect to the Fairy Queen

For all who wander, lost or misplaced, for those who do not know their own hearts or their own truths, for the dead, for the living, a wish and a hope that you are guided to, or stumble upon, the third road. May it be so.


True Thomas lay on Huntlie bank,
A marvel with his eye spied he.
There he saw a lady bright
Come riding by the Eildon Tree.

Her skirt was of the grass-green silk,
Her mantle of the velvet fine,
At every lock of her horse's mane
Hung fifty silver bells and nine.

True Thomas he pulled off his cap
And bowed down to his knee:
"All hail, thou Queen of Heaven!
For thy peer on earth I never did see."

"O no, O no, Thomas," she said,
"That name does not belong to me;
I am but the queen of fair Elfland
That am hither come to visit thee."

"Sing and play, Thomas," she said
"Sing and play along with me,
And if ye dare to kiss my lips,
Sure of your body I will be."

"Betide me weal, betide me woe,
That fate shall never frighten me."
And he has kissed her rosy lips,
All under the Eildon Tree.

"Now ye must go with me," she said,
"True Thomas, ye must go with me,
And ye must serve me seven years,
Through weal and woe, as chance may be."

She mounted on her milk-white steed,
She's taken True Thomas up behind,
And every time her bridle rung
The steed flew faster than the wind.

O they rode on, and farther on,
The steed went swifter than the wind;
Until they reached a desert wide,
And living land was left behind.

"Lie down, lie down now, True Thomas,
And rest your head upon my knee;
Abide and rest a little space,
And I will show you wonders three."

"O see ye not yon narrow road,
So thick beset with thorns and briars?
That is the path of righteousness,
Though after it but few enquire."

"And see ye not that broad, broad road
That lies across the lily leven?
That is the path of wickedness,
Though some call it the road to heaven."

"And see ye not that lovely road,
That winds about the fern'd hillside?
That is the road to fair Elfland,
Where thou and I this night must ride."

"But Thomas, you must hold your tongue,
Whatever you might hear or see,
For if you speak in fair Elfland,
You'll never get back to your own country."

Soon they came to a garden green,
And she pulled an apple from a tree;
"Take this for thy wages, True Thomas,
It will give ye the tongue than can never lie."

"My tongue is my own," True Thomas said,
"A goodly gift ye would give to me!
I'd neither dare to buy or sell,
At fair or tryst where I may be."

"I dare neither speak to prince or lord
Or ask favor from fair lady -"
"Now hold thy peace," the Lady said,
"For as I say, so must it be!"

He has gotten a coat of velvet cloth,
And a pair of shoes of velvet green,
And till seven years were gone and past
True Thomas on earth was never seen.

Saturday, May 29, 2010

Among the Living

Annapolis magnolias are just as lovely as DC mags

Part of the reason I so enjoy hanging out with ghosts is that I'm an introvert. Somehow their presence isn't as exhausting for me as being in a group of living humans. Ghostly presence is kind of like being with people who are very stoned; you can interact or not as you wish, without appearing rude.

But running with the pack is good for me, it really is. By that I mean, spending time in the company of my fellow fleshy humans. Oh yeah. Even in my dream last night I resisted the siren song of the dead. When invited into a bright white mist of partying ghosts, I said no. Believe me they made the invitation very seductive, but I resisted, stood my ground. Woke up suddenly, my heart racing.

I am liking Uranus in Aries. So far it is working for me.

Spent all day today in Annapolis, soaking up sun, doing art projects, eating and drinking and laughing with a good friend and her husband, dog and two cats. These people are seriously talented when it comes to feasting and relaxing. It was a perfect day.

Didn't leave a lot of time for blogging or reading, though. xxoo

Friday, May 28, 2010


A very smart friend advised me yesterday to back slowly away from the cemetery and from all the throngs of dead soldiers who are in town for the weekend. She said, "Go to Crate and Barrel and buy table linens. Hang out with the living." Well. I am so lucky to have smart friends like her!

Oh yeah.

In fact there are so many living people available to interact with the dead this weekend, it's not necessary for me to go with the ghosts. Also, thematically, I should be shopping for table linens, having a beer with friends, moving forward, step by step, towards all the big life changes ahead.

Astrologically, yesterday was a hulkin' dude of a day. Uranus moved into Aries for the first time since 1927. The moon was full and magic was afoot. Did you feel it?

Aries is the first sign of the zodiac, which means (to those of us interested in the positions of the planets) that we're in for surprises, unexpected good luck, electrical zings and other energetic shifts. I am such a Uranian kind of gal, I am, astrologically but also temperamentally. In order to dance in shamanic alignment with this brand new Uranian cycle, I am going to engage with the living more fully and completely than I have in the past.

I will always have a relationship with the dead. I love history in all its forms. But for now, there's no use in sidestepping life. L'chaim, y'all! And happy weekend.

Thursday, May 27, 2010


It's hot and humid in DC today, the stifling, oppressive heat that I usually associate with August. At this time of year, it won't last. It's a pre-quel to the late summer weather we're famous for here in the capital swamp.

Naturally I don't dismiss these conditions according to simple meteorological explanations, not only because it's "too early," but also because of the timing. Memorial Day is just around the corner.

On the way here to celebrate their day of rememberance are Vietnam vets, such a crusty bunch of dudes: wrinkly, hairy, careworn and sunburned. For me, the grumble of Rolling Thunder is a sure sign that summer is about to begin. As well, the last of the WWII vets will show up, many in wheel chairs or using walkers. In contrast to the Vietnam vets, they are smooth skinned, well groomed, carefully shaved. It's an interesting juxtaposition that no doubt says something about the generations themselves, but also speaks to the energy of those two very different wars. The WWII generation is on the verge of passing away; may the energy of the Holocaust finally unwind when the last of them is laid to rest, please!

Along with the living vets, throngs of dead soldiers stream into the city at this time of year. They gather at the memorials on the National Mall, as if waiting for orders. I associate this kind of excessive heat and humidity with the gathering of the dead. Too many ghosts, no matter what the temperature is, create an oppressive feeling in the air.

Once upon a time I thought I could help them cross over or find their way to the light. I overwhelmed myself many a time trying. My goodness I was ambitious. These days when they cluster around me, I tell them to go look for their grandparents. I believe the ancestors also gather in DC for Memorial Day. I believe they come here so they can lead the ghosts out of whatever loop they're tracing, take them onwards and upwards to a place of healing and renewal. All the ghosts have to do is notice, and ask for help. But since ghosts are kind of stoned (don't ask me why), sometimes they don't get it.

Ironically my subway ride today (I'm heading into the Commonwealth to go see the osteopath) rolls right underneath Arlington National Cemetery. Maybe I'll stop on the way home, wander through that well ordered, respectful place and say hello. Though no longer so codependent to soldier ghosts, I still really enjoy their company. Might as well say hi, sit around sweating and telling jokes, yes? Why not?

Wednesday, May 26, 2010


The magnolias are blooming. Unbelievably beautiful.

The last time I lived alone was more than twenty-five years ago. (Whoa.) I lived in a sweet little house tucked into a lush garden behind the California Historical Society at the very top of Laguna Street in Pacific Heights, a seriously posh neighborhood in San Francisco. The house was basically one large room with a tiny, cute kitchen and a rather lavish bathroom. There were windows on all four sides of the house. In front of the house was a large patio with funny neo-classical columns. Why? Never found out. The garden completely surrounded the house. Imagine exotic ferns, huge palm trees and other California-ish plants. You could barely see the building from the street. Every time I unlocked the gate and walked into the garden, I felt I had entered a magical realm.

I loved that place. When I saw the ad in the paper, I should have raced right over, but I waited a day. By the time I got around to seeing it, the person in charge of renting the house told me it had already been taken, but let me have a look at it anyway. I was so disappointed to lose out because I hadn't jumped on the opportunity. What was I thinking?

A couple of days later I got a call from the woman saying that the renter figured out her furniture wouldn't fit in the house. She said, "For some reason, yours is the only phone number we saved. So if you want the house, it's yours." It was, no doubt, a case of angelic intervention. Wow.

At the time, I was still fiercely bohemian. I didn't cook, decorate or really care in any way about domestic pursuits. The only thing you would have found in the fridge was beer and take-out Thai food. I had stacks of heavy books piled up on top of the refrigerator; it was small and cheap, and tended to jump around unless weighed down. If there had been food inside, it would not have been a problem. In the main space was my futon and piles of books. Maybe I had a lamp. The stereo of course. That was it.

As I get ready to embark on living alone again, I am kind of flabbergasted. It has been a LONG time since 24 Palms, as I called that house in San Francisco. I love to cook these days, and though still not completely domesticated, I do enjoy the ambience of good feng shui, the pleasures of comfortable upholstery. I'm about to find out what life is like on my own for the first time in a long time. I am so excited.

The people currently living in my new apartment are having trouble working through the details (jumping through hoops, actually) required to buy their new apartment, so my move has been delayed. Somehow it seems fitting and proper that there is a temporary setback. That's how it works for me, or so it seems. It's OK, it is SO OK. I don't mind taking time to wrap my mind around this big change. Oh yeah.

Tuesday, May 25, 2010

Play it again, Sam

I've finished Jack Weatherford's The Mongol Queens, a revisionist history about Ghenghis Khan's wives, daughters and granddaughters. Fascinating book, though I still think his first book, Ghenghis Khan and the Making of the Modern World, is better.

It seems to me that certain authors write a really great first book. After that, they write the same book over and over again. With each re-telling, the story becomes weaker. I could name a bunch of examples, but you probably know what I'm talking about.

Sometimes I wonder if I'm writing the same blog post over and over. I often ask myself, "Have I already done this post?" I have the same problem with my pictures. Sometimes, perhaps even after I've placed my finger on the button, I stop, while asking myself, "How many times do I need to take this picture?" - even though the images are digital and therefore easily disposed of.

The collage pic above includes the tower of a church at Sixth Street and Mass Avenue, just east of Stanton Park. I have taken dozens - perhaps even hundreds - of pics of that church tower. It always looks so nice with a backdrop of fluffy clouds.

Little church next to a big church.

Of course performers sing the same songs, dance the same dances or enact the same dramatic roles over and over again. Glenn Gould most likely played the Bach variations thousands of times, for instance. Sometimes I think about the actors who were part of A Chorus Line or Cats on Broadway. Can you imagine what it would be like to do the same show exactly, every night, year after year?

This train of thought, if followed, inevitably brings up the memory of one of my favorite films, Groundhog Day, in which Bill Murray lives the same day over and over for 10,000 years, (or so says Harold Ramis, the director). Finally, he figures out that what makes the repetitive nature of life satisfying are acts of kindness, creative expression, and heart connections with others.

There is beauty and symmetry in repetition. I should remember that when I start to censor myself. I meditate every morning; it's the every morning part that makes the practice so great. There is no such thing as too many sweet kisses or loving hugs, right? And I never say no to a strong cup of black tea, no matter how many cups I've enjoyed in the past.

Maybe I shouldn't stop myself when I get in a mood to take yet another pic of that church tower. I like it; my eye is always drawn to it when I cross the park. So - why not? Well? Why not?

Monday, May 24, 2010

Bonjour, y'all

I read somewhere that, one hundred years ago, the volume of birdsong in the midatlantic was twice the decibel level that it is now. It's hard to imagine, at this time of year, at dawn, how it could be any louder.

Just as the sky begins to get light, the cacaphony of chirps, tweets, whistles and calls is a solid wall of sound. How could it have been twice as loud? I can not imagine.

Sometimes I try to put myself into bird-mind. When I do, I can see how, when the sun rises, the attending birdish emotion is so overwhelming that chirping is automatic, irresistable. I don't believe they're thinking, "Oh. Dawn is coming. Time to sing." I think it rises up in their feathery chests and bursts out all at once. In my imagination, it's like those times when you can't stop yourself from bursting into tears, or can't stifle a big laugh, or the way in which, in musicals, all of a sudden the characters explode into song. In my imagination at least, sunrise birdsong is a dance of shamanic alignment between Brother Bird and Brother Sun.

When I googled the question, "Why do birds sing at sunrise" the answers I found were much less esoteric in nature. I like the idea (uk yahoo that they are announcing their location, and specifically at sunrise are letting their fellow birds know they are still there, alive and well, ready for another day.

No matter what the official answer might be, the truth is that morning birdsong is definitely a joyful announcement: Day has once again arrived, and I'm still here. Oh yeah.

Saturday, May 22, 2010


Tiger lilies already? Usually I associate these flowers with the 4th of July. But everything is early this year.

My hair is long these days. It's hippie length, it's extreme. It's "all over my head" as one friend would say, or as my sister Hannah says, "You've got some serious hair going on."

I should post a picture of it sometime before I get it cut. I don't think it has ever been so long or so wild. Yeah.

My theories about being in my fifties (in the past) revolved around shrinking, shriveling, wrinkling, and generally losing the fizz I associate with youth. I'll admit it: I can't party like I used to, not without serious consequences. OK. This is a Very Good Thing! And yeah, when I wake up I have to stretch and do yoga and stand under a hot shower before I can actually move with any kind of ease. Yes, it's true that gravity is definitely gaining a foothold over my body.

But this time in my life? It's my favorite era so far. I still have some umph and plenty of physical strength. I have just enough bravado to get me through the day, but not so much that I can't sleep well at night. My brain still works as well as any brain could at this age, maybe better than in the past. I have a joie de vivre I never had as a younger woman. It's a lightness of being in which I'm shocked and thrilled to realize: I'm no longer ashamed. I remember crazy adventures from my youth and think, "How cute!" or "Darn. Wasn't I full of myself?" or "My goodness those hormones-drugs-reckless ideas really got me into some interesting situations."

Even just a few years ago I would have been mortified to remember how boyfriends in my high school creative writing class and I were always feeling each other up when the teacher wasn't looking, or how I shop-lifted, or the vast quantities of marijuana I smoked, once upon a time. Looking back on it all now, I'm amused by my errors in judgment, for sloppy behavior, for coloring outside the lines so many times, for following my instincts instead of adhering to societal protocols. Why the hell not get a little carried away, eh?

They say that when you die, you will never regret what you did, but might very well regret what you didn't do. All I can say is, if I die tomorrow, I will feel quite proud of the places I've been, the things I've done, the people I've loved and the adventures I've had. Does it get better than that?

Allegedly this weekend is an astrologically difficult time. I can't remember the particulars, but it's supposed to be rather harrowing, or so my favorite astrologers say. But I'm feeling good ... smooth ... OK with who I am and what I've done. It's such a lovely feeling. May the smoothness linger! Please?

Friday, May 21, 2010

Another week bites the dust

The Mayans had their three calendars that somehow they were able to reconcile, or so it says in a book I read a few years ago. How did they do it? I was unable to wrap my mind around the explanations offered in the book, probably because time, in smaller or larger increments, doesn't make sense to me.

I've posted before about what I call the geometry of time. If you're traveling east, you are moving forward in time, for instance. Traveling south during the summer months means you are moving forward in seasonal time, though if you go up into the mountains, you will move backwards in seasonal time. I've written before, so won't again, about how, once you take off in an airplane, you really aren't in any earthly time, except maybe "day" or "night." Time zones are rather arbitrary, too. The sun sets sooner on the eastern edge of a time zone than on the western edge, but allegedly the whole zone is experiencing time the same way? Says who?

Speaking of HUH?? what about the International Date Line? I can never remember if, when crossing that line, it becomes tomorrow or yesterday or what that means. I read blogs written by people in Australia, Africa, Europe and North America so even by reading these blogs I am time traveling. Sheesh.

We have our seven day weeks, the origin of which no one really knows, then we have our lunar months which are quite wonky in that they don't align with the phases of moon, and the solar year that has to be adjusted every four years or so because it isn't quite right either. None of these systems line up exactly. We try, but it's like attempting to jam a puzzle piece into a space that almost fits.

I'm thinking about this today because I'm wondering where in the world did this week go? It flew hard and fast, and now it's done and time for me to go back to work. What happened?? Huh?? Please explain?

Thursday, May 20, 2010

One foot in front of the other

I didn't ride my bike even once last year. Its tires are deflated and it is covered with dust. Apparently, given a choice, I will always walk. It's nerve-wracking here in the District to ride a bike. There is a notorious antipathy between drivers and bikers. I've seen many times the dazed bikers sitting on the side of the road, or being loaded into an ambulance, after being hit. I've also seen bikers cursing at drivers, slamming their fists on car hoods, and so on. In DC, bikers and drivers do not generously share the road. Oh no.

When I ride my bike, I'm always surprised to remember how hard it is to stop for annoying things like red lights and stop signs. It's a momentum thing. After a hard stop, it's a whole lot harder to get going again, hence the urge to just glide through intersections, if possible. I notice I am not the only one out there who has this particular problem, though I TRY to always stop.

Then there's the whole bike helmet conversation that I must engage in AGAIN and AGAIN and AGAIN. I don't wear a helmet and I have my reasons. It's one of those things people feel they must lecture me about, fingers wagging, even after I ask them to imagine how many times I've heard the lecture already.

It's true that I can get places in the city on a bike that would be somewhat inaccessible by foot just because of the distances involved. After a long ride to some otherwise inaccessible location, my neck always hurts. No matter how upright I sit, or how many forward bends I do when stopped at a light, my neck gets stiff from overextension.

I can't stop and smell the roses when I'm traveling by bike. I can't gaze at the sky or the architecture, and I'm not as likely to stop and chat with the neighbors. (On my bike, I just wave and keep going.)

I believe I have a constitutional aversion to bicycling; it just doesn't fit. So I'm going to sell the lovely Obsydia (my bike), get a good pair of walking sandals, and leave the biking to those who actually enjoy it. Steven I so look forward to your summer bike ride photos and meditations! And to all the rest of your bikers as well: bravo! Have a nice ride.

I'll be on the sidewalk, taking pictures and stopping to stare at something. To each his own, oh yeah.

Wednesday, May 19, 2010

Natural and Unnatural Disasters

I don't often quote the Bible, oh no. But today this is a perfect intro:

From Psalm 8:6 - "You made him ruler over the works of your hands; you put everything under his feet."

Once upon a time it was quite fashionable to think of humans as the rulers of the earth. We were given the power, by God, to "control" nature. What a legacy to pass through generations of Jews, Christians - (and Muslims? Are there psalms in the Koran?) What a burden! What an impossibility.

After thousands of years of alleged dominion, suddenly during the 1960's and 1970's, environmentalism upset the biblical paradigm. Swamps became wetlands, jungles became rain forests, and suddenly human beings, instead of being rulers of the world via manifest destiny, became evil tyrants whose greed and thoughtlessness would eventually ruin the biosystems of our beautiful planet. All at once (or so it seems in retrospect) the prevailing thought form became all about living in harmony with nature.

But you know, it isn't possible for our species to live "in harmony" with tornadoes, hurricanes, volcanic ash, earthquakes and Mama Gaia's other broad strokes. Mama Gaia is a big ole planet while we are a rather sturdy and clever species, but still small and short-lived by comparison.

It's no wonder that we, once upon a time at least, thought of God as a sociopath. When a tornado rips through the landscape, destroying everything, or a hurricane or earthquake levels all our structures, kills our beloveds, I can see how it would seem like divine punishment. I can see why we sacrificed animals, tried to appease this terrible God. We still use the language of the sociopathic God, i.e. "raging storm," "angry sky," "brutal wind," etc.

It's also no wonder that, once upon a time, we hoped to "control" the intensity of these events. I always say, when someone is maligning our species, that we didn't set out to control nature because of butterflies or soft spring breezes. Nope. It was the reality of natural disasters, disease, starvation, thirst, creepy bugs and snakes and such, that inspired us to at least try to put a damper on the unpredictabilities of our world. Partly survival instinct, partly empathy at work there - we hated to see the suffering that was the result of the natural course of things.

Of course that was foolish, grandiose, to imagine that we could become lords of the earth. I think in the 1960's we finally just gave up. Now, humiliated and disgraced by our pathetic efforts, we prefer self-loathing to the idea of admitting we just aren't big enough, smart enough or powerful enough to put a dent in the workings of this powerful, intense planet.

OK. I'm going on and on. I'll stop now. Reading about the Ruskin tornado, taking in my friends' stories about that terrible night, I'm thinking that in many ways our lives are defined by these unimaginable events. We get over it, mostly, well some of us do. But one of my friends who wrote about the tornado said that bringing back the memories had her in tears all day, even though the tornado ripped through Ruskin Heights in 1957. Still it gets to her. Wow.

I bow low before your omnipotence, Mama Gaia. With love and respect, oh yeah.

Tuesday, May 18, 2010

The Death of Disappointment

Don't cry over spilled milk. Awww. Why not? Once upon a time I would have vociferously defended all the emotions that are associated with disappointment. This was during a time when my prime directive was all about authenticity. If one FEELS disappointed, then masking, ignoring or turning one's back on that emotion would be wrong.

Ah the mind. Maybe I should say ahhh MY mind. I can rationalize just about anything, I can. And make it sound (at least in my own head) completely right and proper.

I'm older these days (as I am continually saying here). These days what I think is that life is short and though sometimes it's not possible to avoid petty disappointments, MOST of the time it's completely doable as well as utterly authentic, to turn away from the vortex of that set of emotions, open the heart to some other way of being.

I'm not talking about great overarching grief or terrible regret or anything serious like that. I'm referring here to spilled milk, or as they spelled it on wikidictionary, "spilt" milk. Things don't always work out as they're supposed to. So what?

When I think of all the time I've invested in small disappointments, I'm kind of amazed. For heaven's sake.

Monday, May 17, 2010

Today's Schedule

The answer to Mary Oliver's question is, "Go to work." Which is a good thing, perhaps as good as wandering through the fields all day. I do believe I am working directly with the terrain when I do massage.

But going to work means I don't have time for this, or to look at other blogs, not yet. Not till tonight. Hence I'm borrowing Mary Oliver's words to fill the space between the photos. Thanks, Mary!!


Who made the world?
Who made the swan, and the black bear?
Who made the grasshopper?
This grasshopper, I mean-
the one who has flung herself out of the grass,
the one who is eating sugar out of my hand,
who is moving her jaws back and forth instead of up and down-
who is gazing around with her enormous and complicated eyes.
Now she lifts her pale forearms and thoroughly washes her face.
Now she snaps her wings open, and floats away.
I don't know exactly what a prayer is.
I do know how to pay attention, how to fall down
into the grass, how to kneel down in the grass,
how to be idle and blessed, how to stroll through the fields,
which is what I have been doing all day.
Tell me, what else should I have done?
Doesn't everything die at last, and too soon?
Tell me, what is it you plan to do
with your one wild and precious life?

--Mary Oliver

Sunday, May 16, 2010


Too much of anything is harmful, it is. Even too much divine light. We need the connection to the Divine, in some form or another. Without that unraveling energy we become fixed, heavy. Without divine light, we turn to stone or worse, we tumble into the dark.

But too much divine light causes problems, too. It makes people crazy, as can be seen by thinking about anyone who lives in the middle east. I believe there's something about the land currently known as Israel that attracts a whole lot of divine light, hence three pretty hefty religions originated there. It seems that people can visit and even live there awhile without going crazy, but leave our open, impressionable hearts in that area for too long and there's going to be trouble.

In some traditions, we humans wear little caps or fancy hats, scarves and other head coverings in order to remain slightly protected from divine light. In others, the crown of the head is shaved, or the entire head is shaved, perhaps so as to call in more light. You would have to be pretty grounded to go that route, I would think.

According to the cosmology of Reya, divine light dissolves everything: thoughts, ideas, emotions, matter and form. Praying feels to me like an unwinding, a loosening and a release of what keeps me bound most of the time. Unwinding is good, very good. After praying every morning I make coffee and breakfast, read the newspaper, do regular "real life" stuff like taking a shower, putting on clothes and such. By praying I unwind enough that I can begin again, as is characteristic of my species, to rewind; to build and shape and create my day.

I'm thinking about this because one of my clients has flown perhaps a bit too close to the sun (as it were) and is suffering from a divine light sunburn. She is exhausted and tender because of it, in need of a lot of cool, tender, loving aloe vera-like energy. Poor thing. She'll be OK, but right now ... ouch!

Happy Sunday!

Saturday, May 15, 2010

Thank god for Advil

Pic taken at dusk. In that inbetween light, the roses look so other-worldly.

Not all hangovers are created equal, no they are not. In fact, though of course always the result of drinking too much, the severity and mood of every hangover seems quite different, at least to me.

One of the fortunate aspects of growing older is that it becomes increasingly difficult to drink enough to get a hangover. The headaches begin before the party ends usually, or I have the maturity or at least presence of mind to stop with the liquor and launch into a big glass of water before it's too late. When I tie one on these days, it's dainty - a pastel ribbon twisted into a pretty bow - as opposed to a noose made of rough, heavy rope, yanked tight around my head (which is what hangovers felt like during my early adulthood.)

Last night's festivities included some red wine which sounds quite civilized, doesn't it? I mean, we weren't drinking it straight from the bottle, after all. But then Manuel switched on some Brazilian music and began to dance around. The next thing I knew we were dancing and going on and on about how we would miss each other when I move out. It was sweet and sappy and very loving.

When I noticed John had decided that washing the dinner dishes was more entertaining than watching us dance, it occurred to me that perhaps Manuel and I had become a little more unglued than we suspected. Sure enough, this morning I'm gulping down Advil, large glasses of water, and I felt the need for a triple latte, too.

That said, this is a happy hangover, if that's possible. I don't feel remorse over getting a little bit carried away last night. Today is the ninth anniversary of my move into this house. Just as it was nine years ago, the birds are singing, the air is clean, a sparkling green crystal. The children are playing on the sidewalk and the neighbors are all out, pulling weeds or chatting.

When I moved to Tennessee Avenue, I had nothing, and I do mean NOTHING. I was scared, bitter, lost and desperate. After nine years, I've become part of the tapestry of Tennessee Avenue. I've watched the kids grow up and the parents grow older. I remember many of the old neighbors who have passed away or moved on. I hold so much of the recent history of this street. Indeed, my feet feel perfectly at home here on the brick sidewalks, tracing the same paths that citizens of Tennessee Avenue have followed for more than two hundred years.

It is understandable, perhaps even appropriate, to get a little sloppy at the idea of moving away from Tennessee Avenue on the eve of my nine year anniversary. OK, maybe not appropriate. OK. Mea culpa. Happy Saturday to all. Cheers!

Friday, May 14, 2010

The Lights Are On, But ...

Sunset reflected from the hood of a blue BMW.

I'm sifting through my books - again - and beginning to pull dusty boxes out of the little cubbyholes in my room. I'm sorting, sifting, recycling, all in preparation for what I hope will be a timely, easy, low-stress move into the new apartment. (Details still not nailed down because the new landlords are out of town. Please, Multiverse, no jinxes, OK?)

The biggest pile of give-away books includes most of my books about witchcraft and magic. I never look at these books anymore; they should go to people who can use them. In fact many have already been claimed by friends here and elsewhere. It's a good feeling to know that tying up the last loose ends of my old career as priestess and witch will be a friendly endeavor.

Tucked between Margaret Murray's The God of the Witches and Doreen Valiente's ABC of Witchcraft I found an old notebook full of SECRET MATERIAL from one of the traditions into which I was initiated. I remember receiving this information after my initiation and wondering about it, wondering if it would make me More Powerful (a major concern in that tradition). After I left the path, this same information seemed evil to me. It simultaneously embarrassed and creeped me out to think I had ever taken any of it seriously. Leaving that path was such a shock, like an icy drink tossed directly in my face. Afterwards I thought, "Wow. I BELIEVED all that?" It was so unnerving.

Yesterday, leafing through the notebook, I found myself chuckling. Oh yeah, there is such crazy shit in there, pardon my French. Really crazy. But instead of becoming alarmed, or feeling mortified that I had been sucked in to the cult, the SECRET MATERIAL seemed funny. What that means to me is that I have completed the trajectory of that era of my life. Every page from the notebook has been tossed into the recycling bin. The notebooks are now clear, and so is my heart.

My career as a priestess/witch, as well as all the time I spent recovering from that era, is now out of the saga. Onwards and upwards. Whew!

Lights shining from the windows of the Library of Congress at dusk last night.

Thursday, May 13, 2010

All Roads Lead to Home Sweet Home

If you don't know where you are going, any road will take you there. --Lewis Carroll

Even if you know where you're going, I would argue, any road will take you there. Some roads are circuitous, some are more scenic, some roads provide ample opportunities for creative tangents, others are fairly straight and narrow, but all roads, if followed, will take us through space/time which is the point of life in this form, yes?

Of course we're all headed to the same destination, after all, or maybe I should say we're all going to end up the same way. You know what I'm talking about, right?

But in the meantime ...

In the meantime I am surprised every day by the twists and turns of this long and winding road of life. It appears that, after nine years here on Tennessee Avenue, I'm going to move house. It's an exciting development. The details are not yet nailed down, so I don't want to jinx it by saying too much yet, but wow.

A year ago I didn't know if I would ever move out. My housemates and I are well used to each other's quirks. We are so tolerant of each other, you wouldn't believe it. My thinking a year ago was centered around the idea of: If it ain't broke, don't fix it.

Nevertheless, at some point during the third blizzard last winter, I had a revelation that opened my mind to a different perspective. I began to wonder whether perhaps it was time to gather my wits about me and shake things up. Then my birthday came and went, bringing with it a consciousness of the passing of time. It was a shocking birthday for me. Fifty-seven? REALLY? After several weeks of careful rumination, I talked to my housemates about moving. Though every one of us is kind of freaked out by the idea, we're all in agreement that it's right and proper. Everything has a life span, everything.

When I started looking at possible places, I became confused all over again. You would not believe what some people think is an acceptable space to rent. Whoa. I'll say no more about it except that as a result of looking at all those awful spaces, I began to wonder if I'd been wrong about the timing of my move. But then things turned again and an apartment suddenly became available, a sweet, sweet space with everything I need. The right vibes and the right light. Wow.

I'm still pondering the concept of carpe diem, of happily ever after, as those ideas apply to making myself at home in the here and now, and what that has to do with the actual physical place where I live.

This process is not unlike walking the labyrinth. In fact, it's exactly like walking the labyrinth, navigating the hairpin turns, following the twisting, meandering path. All I have to do is put one foot in front of the other. I can do that. Oh yeah.

Wednesday, May 12, 2010

Just call me "Your Majesty"

From a review posted on Donna Henes's site:

In The Queen of My Self, Donna Henes boldly and audaciously — as any Queen worth her salt would do — challenges the popular paradigm of the three phases in a woman’s life, that of Maiden, Mother, Crone. Henes is all for celebrating a woman’s midlife achievements. However, she suggests a new archetype be introduced (instead of jumping the gun from mother to crone), that of "the Queen."

I really love the idea of being in my Queenship right now. Yeah. It is true that we 50-somethings are not yet old ladies, but neither are we still in the mother phase of life. The term "middle-aged" does not adequately describe this age either, since not all of us are planning to live to the age of 110. But to be in our queenship? Oh yeah!! I am way into this idea.

Now, all I need is a crown. And my own fiefdom. Or perhaps a fiefdomette? Yeah!

Tuesday, May 11, 2010

It's the journey, not the destination

I love Once upon a time ... It is such a great way to get immersed in a story. It takes the reader (or listener, if someone is telling the story out loud) far away from the right here and the right now. Once upon a time ... oh yeah. When I read or hear those words my consciousness shifts, I become curious and open. I'm ready to dive in to the plot head first.

What I don't get, never have, is ... and they lived happily ever after. What does that mean? That from then on, ever after, none of life's conflicts, challenges and problems will ever rear their ugly heads again? Does it mean that, from then on, life will be a series of smooth transitions, that the protagonists, who have faced hell and high water, will suddenly settle down into a life of contentment and ease? Are all adventures over and done? No more pain, no more tears, no more friction? Huh??

Why not just say, "And that is the end of the story"? One of the things I love about the Icelandic sagas is that no one lives happily ever after. When a character dies or moves away, that transition is described very plainly: ... now Snorri is out of the saga. 'Nuff said.

I think ... they lived happily ever after is kind of a set-up. It plants a seed in the mind of the listener, an idea that gets translated into thought forms like: if you marry and have children or lose 20 pounds or get a promotion or whatever, you will ... yep ... live happily ever after.

When I was in my 20's, I imagined that by age 40 I'd be set. I thought by then I would be wise enough and successful enough that I might be able to avoid the vicissitudes of life from then on, that I could live happily ever after. Ha ha. When I was 40, I thought maybe by 50.

It's beginning to dawn on me that there is no such thing as happily ever after. There's "happy," oh yeah, "happy" has been a big part of my life's story, always interwoven with sad, confused, conflicted, fearful, hopeful and all the other situations that are a part of the complex tapestry of life as a human.

Are you waiting for some big development to occur that will finally make you live happily ever after? My advice: be happy now, don't wait. We - all of us, you and me - will soon enough be out of the saga. Carpe diem, y'all!

Monday, May 10, 2010

Old Dogs, New Tricks

We do get set in our ways as we get older. Oh. Maybe I should speak for myself. I get set in MY ways. Oh yeah.

This is, in my opinion, not a good thing. It doesn't help my brain stay plastic, it doesn't open my mind to anything new, and it isn't great for my heart either (not my physical heart, I mean the throne on which my soul rests).

In older age, the human body settles and dries out, becoming a much more concentrated form of what it once was, a mineral salt residue of youthful juiciness. It's good to mix things up in older age, it helps, it does. Believe me!

The above is a pep talk I'm delivering to myself while my roommates renovate the kitchen. Nothing is where I'm used to finding it, my morning routine has been interrupted, altered or slowed down, depending on the phase of renovation in the works. And I am in such a tizzy over it all.

Actually it's kind of funny to see how off-balance I have become, without my beloved kitchen in perfect working order. For heaven's sake, Reya, go with the flow. Go. With. The. Flow.

Sunday, May 9, 2010

I Remember Elizabeth**

My mother was a complicated person, a very private person as far as her emotional states were concerned, but a very public person when it came to her views about philosophy, politics and theology, for instance. Sometimes when I think about her I wonder if she was connected, even internally, to her feelings. Most of the time I believe she just dismissed her emotions. When Martin Luther King was assassinated, I was shocked to see her cry. It was one of the only times I can remember her shedding tears.

She was passionate about many things. She believed in creative expression no matter what, was fierce about women's rights and civil rights. She believed in non-violence with every bone in her body, and yearned to live simply. She told us many times that Ghandi owned only three things - his robe, his sandals and his glasses. When she talked about Ghandi you could see a misty, far-away look in her eye. What a character she was!

Mothering was not my mother's best thing. Some parts of it she was really good at. She did love us all dearly, even me - and believe me, I was not easy to get along with as a baby or a child. And, too, my mother and I had such a hard time seeing eye to eye. We tried, but ... we just didn't "get" each other.

Some of my mother's radical beliefs got in the way of her capacity to be a guiding force for us. She used to say, "We don't raise children - they raise themselves!" She seemed indignant when she said this, as if mothering in some way interfered with a child's basic rights. She was such a funny one, my mother.

I talked to my mother the night before she died. We were never close so it was just one of those amazing synchronicities that we happened to speak. I was living at Lake Tahoe then; she was still in Kansas City. She said, "Sometimes I wonder why I keep living. Sometimes I think it's just a habit." I teased her about it during that phone call but I wish I had been able to take it in, what she was saying. I wish I had had the presence of mind to shout DON'T DIE! instead of making a joke.

She didn't think much of Mother's Day. To her this was a capitalist scheme invented by the Hallmark Corporation in order to guilt people into buying cards and gifts. Oh my mother - she was something else. May she rest in peace.

**After she read a book by Betty Friedan in the late 1960's she announced to us that she had been called "Mama" long enough and instructed us to refer to her by her given name, Elizabeth.

Saturday, May 8, 2010

Keep it simple

Today stretches out in front of me, mostly unscheduled. I'll have brunch with a friend, then later in the afternoon I'll sit in a beautiful house, one that's part of the annual Capitol Hill Renovators' House Tour. My job there is very simple: make sure everything in the house stays safe. I'll watch rivers of people walk through, eavesdrop on their conversations, perhaps shoot a few pics, if I can do it surreptitiously. It's only a couple of hours so it should be highly entertaining.

The advice I received while meditating and praying this morning is to keep the rest of the day spacious. I'm good with that. Time is my luxury. Spaciousness in my schedule helps calm my spirit, quiets my mind, soothes my heart.

The weather gods, as if dancing in shamanic alignment with my spirit guides, have just pulled a soft overcast across the sky. It might even rain, which would create a perfect backdrop for a simple day. Oh yeah.

Shabbat Shalom, y'all!

Friday, May 7, 2010

Music Medicine

I remember when I first heard Glenn Gould's Bach variations. It has been years, but it was a transcendent moment. Oh man, that was a revelation. I couldn't stop listening. Honestly it was almost obsessive.

Just the other day I read that at last music as medicine has been scientifically documented. Where did I see that? Somewhere in the Post or maybe the New York Times? I don't remember the source but it was valid. Certain sounds, rhythms, melodies and harmonies, when administered in the proper dose, bring measurable healing to the listener.

I knew it already, though certainly have never had the chops to prove it scientifically. Currently my medicine involves a lot of Eric Clapton music which is very odd for me. I've had his unplugged CD for years but barely ever gave it a listen. Now it's on a continual repeat loop on the ipod. Wow. That Townes Van Zandt song I quoted yesterday really opened up something in me that has been hungering for sweet guitars and gruff voices. I would never have guessed.

Though I can't explain exactly what it's doing, I can say for certain that Eric, Townes and others like Steve Winwood for instance, are exactly what the doctor would order for me at this moment in time, if I had a Doctor of Music, that is.

Thanks Eric, et al. Bravo!! And ... encore, please?

Thursday, May 6, 2010

Take it Upstairs

One happy reunion that was the result of leaving behind the Wiccan path is that I got God back. No, not the sociopathic guy with the white beard who judges us and smites whomever He wants. Not the guy who makes promises or tells people they are "chosen." I never believed in that god. I'm talking about the great divine realm, beyond the beyond. God, according to the cosmology of Reya (and many many great thinkers throughout history) is formless, unnameable, unknowable by the mind, impossible to describe or explain, except for brief moments in the heart.

In Reclaiming we had the Goddess. What that means depends on who you talk to. Reclaiming was an anarchistic tradition so there tended to be many different opinions, but I think it's safe to say that many of us believed the Goddess is literally the earth, a living being from whom we are born and to whom we shall return once this earthly dance of life is over and done with. True, dat. I began then and continue now to worship the incomparably beautiful, luscious Mama Gaia. Wow. I also resonate with the way my shamanic godfather, Ghenghis Khan saw the divine cosmos: he worshipped the Eternal Blue Sky as father, and Earth as mother. Nice, eh?

In Reclaiming we worshipped not only the Earth and the Moon (all wiccans worship the Moon), but also many different pantheons of deities. We were a wide-open, inclusive tradition so those of us following that path were free to pick and choose our favorite deities from all the mythological traditions we knew about. I loved (still do) Bridgid, goddess of poetry, smithcraft and healing. In fact I dedicated myself to this goddess and still abide by that heart-felt commitment.

And yes, there are gods who are a part of the pantheons, a number of whom are my dear brothers. But God, the name I place lightly on the idea of the great overarching formlessness and wisdom, was not generally included in the Reclaiming model of the cosmos. I'm sure there were some who included God, but divine formlessness was SO not our focus.

When I'm confused, stuck, sad, grasping at straws or caught in one of my many emotional vortices, like I was yesterday and the day before, if I can remember to open to that thing that makes everything else more than a sum of its parts, (another way I sometimes think of God) there is always richness and wisdom available. Indeed I wandered the streets doing my shamanic thing, and I dreamed hard, but eventually I remembered to take it upstairs, to open to the divine formlessness. As always, all I can say is: wow.

I know you are formless and have nothing like a personality, God. And either you have no name or every name ever spoken, but please allow me to address you intimately, as if you had form and personna, OK? I want to say thank you for your and wisdom and multiversal love. Seriously, thanks.

To live is to fly
Low and high,
So shake the dust off of your wings
And the sleep out of your eyes
So shake the dust off of your wings
And the tears out of your eyes

Townes Van Zandt

Capitol Hill landscape reflected in high contrast from the side of one of those ubiquitous white vans.