Sunday, September 30, 2012


I know it is mythologically wrong,
but, in my eyes, the sun always rises
over the water and sets behind

the hills. Sometimes the hills are buildings,
but the water is always water, even
when it is land. Something wavers at the opening

but closes with an almost audible thud.
Night happens in the black
part of a fire—the little spot that has offered up

all its light but not its heat, and morning
is the cold, rigid face of a coin, shining
in spite of all those dirty thumbs.

--John A. Nieves--

Crazy pink grass at the National Botanical Gardens.

Saturday, September 29, 2012

Then and now

Did I ever really look like this? Good lord. As far as I can tell, I was about 22, working at Annie's Santa Fe in Kansas City, a Tex-Mex theme restaurant on the Country Club Plaza. It was around 1974 or 1975, my first restaurant job and the first time that people called me "Ruby," a name so enduring that I still have friends who refer to me that way.

I have no memory of the picture, or (surprisingly) of the dress. I can see that I was wearing one of my hand made pins but I don't remember what it said. I produced lots of hand made pins back in the day. My favorites were my "It's not my fault" buttons and (as my brother reminded me today) the "Learning to love cheap things" pin. I was a cartoonist, too, in my early 20s. The one thing I recognize in this picture is the bra - the inspiration for a series I called "Strapless Bra Comics." It was a strip about a mousy girl who, when she placed her strapless bra beneath her pillow, had crazy psychedelic dreams about exotic adventures, spy intrigues and passionate love affairs.

The last panel of every strip featured me, waking up in the morning, remembering the dreams. The bra strap was always visible from under the pillow.

My favorite part was drawing my hair which was much as it is now except hennaed a deep shade of purplish red.

Certainly I was stoned when the pic was taken. Smoking weed figured heavily into my day to day routines at that age. Probably I had been drinking, too. When I worked at Annie's, if we wanted to get high, we would stick our heads through the dishwasher window where the dishwasher was inevitably always smoking a joint. We would take a hit, then keep working. The bartenders presented us with shots of tequila on demand. Oh my god, what an era!

I look at this picture in awe. I was so juicy. Bloody hell, look at those lips! Though I'm no longer beautiful like that, the thing is, I'm so much happier now. The woman in the picture above was incredibly anxious, angry, bitter, full of roiling, unresolved issues, fear - and unfortunately - raging with hormones. I had no idea, yet, that my life's path was to be a healer. I didn't know which way was up or down. In other words, I was a hot mess.

I was exactly like a character in a Woody Allen movie: really smart, cynical, funny, sharp, wounded, neurotic. And I loved sex. Boy did I NOT enjoy my life at that time.

How funny to see this snap. I've never laid eyes on it before. Someone who worked with me at Annie's posted it to the FB page of a friend of my brother, who immediately recognized me. This is what I love about FB - the impossible connections we make there. When I first saw the pic, I thought, "Oh, that woman looks a lot like I did as a young woman." It actually took me a few minutes to realize it is me. Wow. Or should I say: whoa!

59 suits me so much better than 22 - on the inside. On the outside, well ... wow.


The real me.

Friday, September 28, 2012

Portents of a good year ahead

A column of light in Lincoln Park.

Hanging out with the ragged edges of my life was hard work! I hardly had time or energy for anything else,perhaps because most of my loose ends exist at the furthermost edges of the tapestry of my life. It's lonely out there in the hinterlands of my experience, like going to the North Pole. Every ragged edge represented something unresolvable, like friendships that dropped off for no apparent reason, like the Holocaust, my disastrous marriage, hence long ago I put these issues aside. Taking them up again to examine and wonder about them was like being exiled to Siberia. Yikes.

Did that make any sense?

Since Yom Kippur I am returned to a place closer to the center of this flying carpet of my life. I'm calmer, not dreaming about my ex and Hitler, returned to more normal life rhythms. My cooking mojo has reappeared, which is always a good sign. I've been hard put to make myself a salad in the last few weeks, but yesterday I made an apple pie which is - may I say - absolutely delicious. Tonight I'm making cod based fish cakes with cilantro and fresh ginger and garlicky greens for Shabbat. I even invited my Tennessee Avenue brothers to come for dinner.

My energy is returning!

Other promising signs include the lovely thunderstorm last night that cleared the last of the ugly Aryan Nation march energy off East Capitol street and out of the park. Whew! The energy was so rotten, it almost literally smelled bad. But it's gone now and the street feels clear and refreshed. Lovely!

Life is good and I am grateful. Onwards and upwards. Shalom.

Thursday, September 27, 2012

The fish shake

I love the image, the idea, that the Day of Atonement is so powerful, so harrowing, that even the fish in the sea shake in fear and awe. Oh yeah. I feel that level of awe on Yom Kippur, I do. If I were a fish, my fins would quiver, definitely.

Yom Kippur, for me, is a day that's almost too bright, too well illuminated. The Day of Atonement feels like taking a walk on Brother Sun. Naturally I always think of poor Icarus, even as I dare to draw closer and closer to the indescribable dissolving brilliance and mystery of God.

That's what's going on inside me. In the "real" world what happens looks like any other day. I see clients sometimes, go see the Sufi acupuncturist (as I did yesterday), that sort of thing. My inner life is vivid and very entertaining. I'm not saying it never spills out into the "real" world, but most of the time I appear to be a cheerful, quirky old lady, just living out my life, nothing more.

Last night I joined a group of Capitol Hill people who gather to break the fast at the end of Yom Kippur. They are all members of Temple Micah where I studied Judaism a few years ago. Some of them I see only once a year.

I love listening to them describe the sermon and the mood of the congregation. They complain about the parking situation which is always awful because Yom Kippur is the Easter of Judaism, the day when everyone comes to services. They arrive for the break fast dinner cranky and diminished, shriveled. They are hungry and dehydrated (as one would be after walking on Brother Sun, hey?) First they drink juice. As they hydrate, the way they plump out is almost visible.

After that, we sit down to a dinner of breakfast food - bagels and lox, deviled eggs, pastries and such. As they eat, they come back to themselves, they begin to laugh, their voices get louder. After a glass of wine or two, they are again fully clothed in their usual energy. It's as if they've been brought back from the land of the Dead. I love watching that process. It's miraculous, it really is.

I haven't fasted in many years. What I finally realized about myself is that my relationship with God is so intimate, I don't actually have to fast to get closer. God and I are like this (fingers pressed together). In my day to day life I have to work not to get too close. The years I fasted, I came out of the experience with the spiritual equivalent of a third degree sunburn. It wasn't good for me.

Divine energy is miraculous and it's wonderful to touch it every now and then, but too much of it makes people crazy, and I am crazy enough already. Indeed. Still I admire the devotion of my friends and neighbors who keep the fast. Wow.

The new year has arrived. I have put aside my life's ragged edges and loose ends and am ready to start anew. Hallelujah! And shalom.

Tuesday, September 25, 2012

It'll all be over soon **

Am I nervously tapping my foot? Drumming my fingers? Am I exhibiting every symptom of impatience? Am I? Well, yes I am. This is the last day of the HHD and I'm really tired of contemplating the uneven, frazzled, ragged edges of my life story. Yes, of course I will stick with this work until sundown tonight because this is the task set before me this year, to make space for grief and frustration about all the things for which there is no resolution, no completion - not even understanding. But when the sun sets today, I will be almost giddy to welcome Kol Nidre.

That's an oxymoron if ever I heard one - happiness at the onset of the day of atonement? What? Truth is, at its core (in my opinion), always paradoxical. This year's work has been a rather spectacular experience, but I'm over it. Bring on the atonement! C'mon God, jump in the ring with me - let's duke it out. Better to face God than to sit patiently and compassionately with the ragged edges, I think.

Of course I could be wrong.

Not that God ever dukes it out with me, as God (the one I worship) has no personality, no need to fight, and no fists with which to fight.

As you can see, I have had it with this year's experience. I'm working today. It will be a good thing to focus on other people. Tonight's forecast includes a sundowner manhattan and a simple dinner as I remember my beloved dead in accordance with tradition for Yom Kippur.

Onwards and upwards. Shalom.

**My favorite line from the film Titanic.

Monday, September 24, 2012

Some days I wake up early

I am a morning person. I love the brand newness of morning, I love knowing that the whole day is stretched out ahead, full of potential. After a cup of coffee, I'm ready for anything and in my heart of hearts I believe anything is possible. Oh man, I love mornings.

Some days, like today for instance, I wake up very early - probably too early in terms of getting enough sleep. When I do, though, there's no point in trying to go back to sleep.

Today I got up while it was still dark, meditated and prayed, stretched, ohmmed, then put on my clothes and went for a walk. It was almost chilly, gorgeous, crisp. The sun was just coming up over the horizon as I set out. It was a wonderful way to greet this day.

I love seeing people emerge from their houses first thing in the morning, before they've had the chance to harden against the day. Later on they'll be wearing the masks of professional demeanor, looking fierce - or bored - in compliance with urban public behavioral customs. Once people get into their commute, they are fully armored energetically. But in the midst of their first few steps out into the world, especially on a beautiful day, they look so sweet, unguarded, fully revealed. There's an authentic, honest openness about them (most of them) that disappears after a half block and/or as soon as they get into their cars.

A walk in the morning through my village of Capitol Hill guarantees at least a few chance meetings with friends, clients and neighbors. A quick exchange of great to see you and how are you? and let's get together does my heart a world of good.

It was a great morning to get out there. This beautiful morning reminds me that the HHD will come to a conclusion soon. The slate will be clean, the new year will begin. I will leave behind the tattered loose ends of my life (the work of this year's HHD) so as to move into the fresh, and as yet unwoven, warp and woof of 5773.

Bring it on, I say. Shalom.

Sunday, September 23, 2012

Loose Ends

The High Holy Days, in addition to being cinematic in intensity, always has a theme running through it - at least for me. Some years, the theme has been about making amends. There have been years when I spent every day between Rosh Hashona and Yom Kippur saying I'm sorry! - at the conclusion of years when for some reason or another I've dropped deeply into Bad Behaviors. Yikes.

Some years the theme has been the opposite; I mean I've spent the HHD praying for forgiveness. One year I sat down and made a list of all the things I was angry about. I made a list of grudges I'd been holding, some of them for years. One by one I let go of the resentments. That was a really fabulous year, I should add. What a relief!

This year has had a double theme of highs and lows, along with a lot of grieving for the loose ends that can never, for whatever reasons, be tied up. It's a controlling behavior, of course, to think that every loose end in life can be neatly trimmed, knotted or knitted into a lovely design. Life by its very nature always has a few ragged edges.

This year I have been sitting with the ragged edges, feeling a lot of grief and loneliness, too, for the sad state of these uneven patches that (apparently) will remain frazzled and frayed into perpetuity.

I continue to dream about Hitler and my ex husband. My relationship with the Holocaust is one of those loose ends that refuses to be neatly tied up, even though I went to the Holocaust Museum, got the tattoo, went out and gave myself asthma staring at the neo-Nazis yesterday. I've been trying to complete or heal my relationship with the Holocaust. I've tried so hard, but it stays with me, in me, no matter what.

My marriage, too, seems unresolvable somehow. My ex and I divorced 17 years ago, but still I dream, as I did the night before last, for instance, that I'm telling him we must divorce. He is so sad in the dream, realizing it has to happen.

Good lord.

The extremes of this year's HHD have been striking. The Gold Medal ceremony AND neo-Nazis? My goodness. It has been like a Cecil B. DeMille movie.

Maybe that's why I'm so tired already (though I'm only halfway through the HHD). I await Wednesday (Yom Kippur) when I'll see the Sufi acupuncturist and a couple of clients, gather with friends in the evening to break the fast that I will not keep. I am so ready for 5773. Bring it on.

I wonder if other Jews experience the HHD the way I do, with so much intensity. Who knows?

Happy Sunday. Shalom.

Saturday, September 22, 2012

The Real Me: Little Missy

If you want to see pictures of modern day Nazis, check my Facebook page. It's public so you can see them even if you haven't friended me.

I feel exhausted, discouraged and as if I'm having a little bit of an asthma attack after the march of the neo Nazis down East Capitol Street today. The protestors were likewise full of evil hateful energy. Only the police were nice.

Oh and the horses. They were nice, too.

The pics above are of the words I chalked onto the street early this morning. I think they look so cool. I might make a practice of this.

I am truly and honestly a pacifist, through and through. When the protestors blocked the Nazis, I felt they were trapping all the evil energy. Why not just let them walk past? Allegedly we are supposed to have freedom of speech in the U.S. I guess that includes everyone, yes?

Since I'm going to do a ghost clearing later today, I'm thinking of lying on the sofa for the rest of the afternoon, to gather my wits about me.

Oy vey. And shalom.

Four of the DC police horses on duty today. They wear badges, just like their human riders. Sweet.
Their names, from right to left: Thunder, Willow, Seamus and Sampson. Gorgeous, unflappable and really big!

Friday, September 21, 2012

The last day of summer

Depressed by a Book of Bad Poetry, I Walk Toward an Unused Pasture and Invite the Insects to Join Me

Relieved, I let the book fall behind a stone.
I climb a slight rise of grass
I do not want to disturb the ants
Who are walking single file up the fence post,
Carrying small white petals,
Casting shadows so frail that I can see through them.
I close my eyes for a moment and listen.
The old grasshoppers
Are tired, they leap heavily now,
Their thighs are burdened.
I want to hear them, they have clear sounds to make.
Then lovely, far off, a dark cricket begins
In the maple trees. 

--James Wright

Thursday, September 20, 2012


The Apotheosis of Washington. Looks like he's waving at us, doesn't it?

Anyone who ever looks at this blog understands perfectly how much I adore the U.S. Capitol dome. It is the head of the United States (capitol means head, you know). That big ole iconic head anchors my village of Capitol Hill, orients us, watches over us. It is graceful and intricate and always looks good which is one reason it is featured in my pictures so often.

I love the outside of the dome, but I especially love the inside, the rotunda. It is a magnificent room, a huge room. In the very center of that room, the four quarters of the District come together. Once upon a time there was a hole at the center because they kept an eternal flame burning in the crypt below the rotunda floor. It is covered now with some white stuff that doesn't match the marble floor in any way. On that spot, Lincoln lay in state after he was assassinated, JFK, too.

You would think that with all the powerful, swirling energy, the rotunda would feel crazy, but it doesn't. Maybe because it's big enough to hold all that swirling and coming together, there is a great sense of calm in that room. It's big enough to hold the history. It is so cool!

Gazing up into the dome is always an experience of awe and wonder for me. The painting, the Apotheosis of Washington, is truly fabulous in every way you can image. I stare until I get a crick in my neck, stare some more. I can't take my eyes off dear George gazing down from his perch in Heaven. 

Prior to 9/11, I used to go into the rotunda at least a couple of times a week, to sit and meditate, gaze into the paintings around the perimeter and the Apotheosis and enjoy the serenity in the room.

On August 17, 2001, a group of my cohorts and I cast a triangle of stillness around the center of the rotunda. That triangle crystalized in some way we hadn't expected. All of us involved in that ceremony could "see" the crystal shape filling the dome. It was really interesting. 

On September 8, 2011, the last time I was allowed to enter the rotunda, the crystal inexplicably vanished. Three days later, everything changed. After that, the rotunda was closed to the public except for special tours. My heart was broken - for so many reasons, of course - but including the fact that I no longer had access to my very favorite room.

Since 9/11 I've only been in the rotunda three times. Once with a friend who works for Congress, once on the official tour, and yesterday to witness the Congressional Gold Medal presentation to Aung San Suu Kyi.

I'm in awe of her, her fortitude and conviction. It was an honor to be invited to the ceremony.

But can I be honest here? Far better than witnessing the ceremony was the fact that I was inside my favorite space in Washington, in the galactic center of our city, sending Reiki into the center and up into the Apotheosis, gazing at the paintings, luxuriating in the serenity, feeling the layers of history gently swirling around and around.

God I love that room.

I sat five feet away from the center of the vortex yesterday. It looks like it's glowing, doesn't it?

Wednesday, September 19, 2012

Merrily down the stream

Do you believe in coincidence? I would like to, but I'm not sure I do. Timing is something I pay close attention to, since synchronicity is a significant part of the shamanic lifestyle.

Here's my trippy sequence of recent events. I dreamed recently of finding Hitler and my ex husband, dead, in my bathtub. It wasn't an upsetting dream. There was no evidence of foul play as they say on TV detective shows. My ex and Hitler were arm in arm, eyes closed, heads together. It was a peaceful scene (as can only happen in dreams). In the dream I was waiting patiently, with Jake by my side, for the police to arrive and take care of the bodies.

Considering that earlier this summer I at last walked through the exhibit at the Holocaust Museum, the dream felt just right. I faced something frightening and subsequently discovered it wasn't nearly as scary as I had imagined.

A few days after that first dream, I dreamed I found two very exquisitely crafted porcelain figures in my toilet tank - Hitler, and my ex husband. I was in awe of the figurines. They were beautiful. I remember thinking in the dream that they must be quite valuable. Of course I was astonished to find them in my toilet tank. Even in the dream I wondered what it meant.

The two dreams suggest that I am shedding internal symbols of tyranny - powerful, iconic symbols - that no longer have power over me but are in some weird way very precious to me. It is a gentle letting go, thank God.

Yesterday a neighbor told me that this coming Saturday morning, the Aryan Nation will gather in Lincoln Park, 3 blocks away, then march down East Capitol street past the chateau. Well. The timing of their march is incredible in terms of my personal story, relevant not only to my recent dreams but also significant because the march will take place in the midst of the High Holy Days.

Will I step out into the front yard here to read the energy, or remain indoors, drinking coffee and hanging out on Facebook? I'll let my intuition guide me.

Life is so crazy. You can not make this stuff up.

Happy Wednesday. Shalom.

Monday, September 17, 2012

The beauty of decline

Autumn is making its way, bit by bit, into the midatlantic landscape. Summer has worn itself out at last. I for one am thrilled.

In Chinese medicine, this is the season of metal, the season of the great letting go. The canopy will turn colors, after which the leaves will fall. Gardens will shrivel, the grass will turn brown. The light will noticeably wane and the nights will grow crisp and cold.

Oh man do I ever love the great letting go! It's such a relief.

One quality associated with the metal element in Chinese medicine is awe. Oh yeah. In Judaism, too, the high holy days are often called the days of awe.

I'm feeling it: awe, reverence and that sweet melancholy that's always a part of this season. I am deep into the days of awe this year. This is excellent.


I listened to a lot of horn playing yesterday. Not exactly a shofar, but it was definitely loud. L'shanah tova!

Sunday, September 16, 2012

Onwards and upwards to 5773

Tonight at sundown, the Jewish high holy days begin. If I finish working soon enough, I'll go down to the west steps of the Capitol to watch the sun set. I like to listen to John Coltrane on Rosh Hashona, too, usually after I get back to the chateau. He blows a very fine shofar, oh yeah.

When I used to have a car, I would drive around honking my horn which was not nearly as sonorous as listening to 'Trane, and annoyed other drivers as well as pedestrians. When I was married, I always asked my husband to play one of his saxophones, loud. I love the baritone saxophone, which is what he usually blew on Rosh Hashona.

The one tradition I strictly follow on this holy day is the eating of apples dipped in honey. I'm not completely out there, after all. In fact, I bet there are Jews who observe the holiday in much crazier ways than I do.

After tonight I will submerge myself in a contemplation of this past year, figure out if I need to offer apologies or clear up interpersonal tangles. This is very traditional. I'll be praying about my work for the coming year, looking clearly at all the mistakes I made in the past year so that when Yom Kippur arrives, I can let go of all of it, hence be open and clear as I move into 5773.

I love the high holy days. They are so Reya-esque! Thanks, God.

One thing I don't get about the Jewish new year is the timing. Why is early fall the beginning of a new year? The green world will soon die away, after which it will get dark and very cold. That feels like the end of the year, not the beginning. I like the Persian new year which begins at spring equinox. That makes sense to me, though winter solstice as a new year makes sense, too. I'm sure there must be some good reason for the timing, but I have not even the foggiest idea of what that is.

Of course, the timing of the Jewish new year is only one of many many many mysteries I will never understand. I'm good with that. I like mystery. I like knowing there are many things I'll never get no matter how hard I try. I find it liberating to know in my heart of hearts that this world, and the universe itself, is impossibly complex. I must try to understand, because that struggle makes me kinder, wiser and more compassionate, not to mention more humble! But to achieve understanding of the world? To even imagine such a thing is crazy, hey?

We humans think well of our minds, but really, all our high toned thinking can only take us a tiny fraction of the way into the beauty and terror of all there is. This, I think, is a blessing.

Happy Sunday and Shalom.

Saturday, September 15, 2012

The Layers

The Layers

I have walked through many lives,
some of them my own,
and I am not who I was,
though some principle of being
abides, from which I struggle
not to stray.
When I look behind,
as I am compelled to look
before I can gather strength
to proceed on my journey,
I see the milestones dwindling
toward the horizon
and the slow fires trailing
from the abandoned camp-sites,
over which scavenger angels
wheel on heavy wings.
Oh, I have made myself a tribe
out of my true affections,
and my tribe is scattered!
How shall the heart be reconciled
to its feast of losses?
In a rising wind
the manic dust of my friends,
those who fell along the way,
bitterly stings my face,
Yet I turn, I turn,
exulting somewhat,
with my will intact to go
wherever I need to go,
and every stone on the road
precious to me.
In my darkest night,
when the moon was covered
and I roamed through wreckage,
a nimbus-clouded voice
directed me:
“Live in the layers,
not on the litter.”
Though I lack the art
to decipher it,
no doubt the next chapter
in my book of transformations
is already written.
I am not done with my changes.

Friday, September 14, 2012

What is God?

The light right now, just before autumn equinox, is pure gold - even orange by the time the sun sets each evening. Everything looks great in that light.

I don't remember how I first came across the book "What is God" by Etan Boritzer. It was a long time ago. What I remember, and am still struck by, is its eloquence, thoroughness, and precise articulation of the God I worship. That book still blows me away.

I used to always have on hand a dozen copies of the book in case I came across anyone who might be willing to forego their sophisticated standards of mature intellect long enough to read a "children's" book seriously. Over the years I'm sure I've paid a significant portion of Mr. Boritzer's royalties. It is a powerful book. Profound, clear, beautiful. Is it for children? It works for me and I'm 59. 

I've read many books on theology - really good ones, I should say. I love nuanced thinking and elaborately written texts. However nothing I've read before or since, even by the people recognized as the greatest of theologians, nails the idea of God like this book. It is spot on, no frills, just the facts, ma'am.

This morning, right on the brink of Rosh Hashana, I'm remembering one of the first community High Holy Days services I attended, back in the late 80s in San Francisco. Some friends invited me to join them at their Berkeley hills super hipster hippie style havurah celebration of Yom Kippur. Prior to that my only knowledge of the Jewish High Holy Days came directly from my father's interpretation which was (do I even need to say?) deeply skewed. By the time I reached my mid-30s, it was high time to do some research into the way other Jews observed the holiday.

The first thing I did on the morning of Yom Kippur was attend the children's service. One of my ongoing mantras is Start where you are. There is no point in rushing to the completion of anything, as it is the journey, not the destination where satisfaction can be found. I learned that the hard way, of course.

At that time, I was at square one with Judaism, hence I sat in the back of a room full of squirming children while the excellent teachers lead the kids through the Yom Kippur order of service, stopping whenever necessary to answer questions. The kids asked important questions that I would never have thought to ask my friends, let alone the hipster rabbi who conducted the services. By attending the kids' class, I was able to lay a clear foundation for the evolution of my personal theology around this holiday and my version of Judaism.

Out of the mouths of babes, as they say. In the case of the book, it is out of the mouth of someone who is purposely writing simply, for children.

And - well - for the likes of me.

Why do we adults always have to be so fancy, so sophisticated? What purpose does it serve? Good lord.

Happy Friday and Shalom.

At the fountain in the National Gallery sculpture garden yesterday.

Thursday, September 13, 2012

All is well

What a wonderful week in Washington DC. The conventions are over, hence there are fewer toxic postings on FB, fewer news stories about the campaign. Thank you Jesus!

The lush landscape of DC is still quite green, yet we're enjoying a week of Colorado weather. During the day it's just warm enough that we don't need jackets, but it cools down at night so it's actually fun to pull the covers up to our chins. Brother Sun is sparkling and splendid, like a great raconteur at a dinner party, radiating good vibes.

I walked a labyrinth yesterday, one of my favorite pastimes (though it was backwards ... weird), and took a walk. This morning I'm going to walk down to the Willard Hotel for a massage, then meet a dear one for lunch at the Old Ebbitts Grill. Tonight I'll be sipping wine on a rooftop dear Dupont Circle with yet another beloved.

What, I ask you, is NOT to love about fall? I mean really. Life is good and I am grateful. Shalom.

Wednesday, September 12, 2012

Meandering path through the looking glass

Back in the day, in San Francisco, when visiting Grace Cathedral was part of my regular routine, conversations often began this way: While I was walking the labyrinth ...

It wasn't just me, of course. Almost immediately after they installed the carpet labyrinth inside the church, I and my whole community seized every opportunity to walk the ancient pattern. I went two or three times every week, with colleagues and cohorts, alone, with friends visiting from elsewhere. I remember the truly spectacular parking karma I somehow achieved around the cathedral which is really crazy since it sits on top of Nob Hill. If you know San Francisco, you understand there is no parking there. None. Zero. Zed. But I always found a spot. A miracle!

With visitors it was fun to go take that meditative walk at the end of a day, since afterwards we could retire to the Tonga Room in the Fairmont Hotel for rum based drinks and fake thunderstorms every half hour. But I went at all times of the day when the church was open.

When they constructed the outdoor labyrinth at Grace Cathedral, one of my teachers and I snuck into the construction site, put our fingernail clippings and small crystals into the ground so we would forever be part of that structure. That's a day I won't forget, Rose and I slipping under the construction ribbons while a Chinese couple stood staring at us, looking puzzled. Rose said, They think we're ghosts. She often said things like that, with an aura of authority. I bet she was correct.

We took a weekend workshop with Lauren Artress, the woman who brought the walking labyrinth into the mainstream of American spiritual practice. Basically we spent the entire weekend walking the labyrinth, then writing in our journals.

Here in DC I've walked countless versions of the Chartres style labyrinth, of course. One year we taught a whole witchcamp based on the labyrinth.

Needless to say, I've clocked some miles on the labyrinth. Oh yeah. So today when I went to check out the beautifully painted labyrinth in the Church of the Epiphany in downtown DC, imagine my surprise to see that whoever painted it, flipped the pattern. It's backwards!

The walk was completely disorienting. In fact I feel I'm still struggling to get my equilibrium back, hours later. It was like trying to drive around Britain. Whoa. Or should I say wow?

But that's me, a creature of habit. For most people who walk the backwards pattern, it will likely have the same kind of gentle, subtle, powerful impact that calms and brings insight. I wonder why they flipped the image. Such an interesting decision.

Even backwards, it is still exquisite to gaze upon. I enjoyed the stained glass windows as well. To learn more about the Grace Cathedral labyrinths, Lauren Artress, or to check out the Tonga Room, click the links. Those were the good old days!

I love life's surprises, I truly do. Shalom.

Tuesday, September 11, 2012


I was talking to a friend who lives in NYC. We were talking about the Civil War, about what it takes to be a soldier, about what kind of courage, valour or insanity it takes to actually walk into a battlefield, ready to kill or be killed. At some point in the conversation, my friend said, "Oh dear. It looks like a plane crashed into the WTC." His TV was on; the breaking news caught his eye.

We talked for a few more minutes. A little while later there was a huge boom-crash. All the car alarms in the neighborhood went off, Jake wedged himself under my bed in fear. I had no TV and didn't really try to figure it out. I extracted Jake from under the bed and went to work, annoyed at the heavy traffic, wondering what was going on. That's when I found out what was happening.

I don't know what it was like in other parts of the U.S. Living in one of the cities that was directly affected was surreal. Nothing has ever been the same since that day.

I've been watching Foyle's War on netflix. It is a superb series, well written and beautifully acted, about a police detective living on the south coast of England during WWII. The show portrays WWII from a completely new perspective. It was such a huge war in so many ways. Of course I've read extensively about the Third Reich and the Holocaust (oh that - again!), also Hiroshima and Nagasaki. I've read about what life was like in the U.S. - the rations, victory gardens, women getting into the workforce in huge numbers. It was bad here but good lord it was much worse in England.

In one episode set in 1941, there is a raffle held in the town in which the series is set. The prize is an onion. Yeah. It's incredible to think about the regular people in that war, dashing into cellars during the bombing raids, receiving telegrams informing them their loved ones had been killed. They lived with the threat of invasion for years, they sacrificed everything. The female lead in the series stains her lips with beet root because there is no lipstick. And yet they carry on, not that every citizen was as upstanding as they could have been, of course.

I've been thinking about how, when the war was finally over, people married and had kids - lots of kids - in a celebration of life. Those kids grew up to listen to the Beatles, the Rolling Stones, the Who. They came of age and flipped off the older generation. Yeah, I'm talking about my generation, The Boomers.

A classic line in A Hard Day's Night, in the opening train sequence, has to do with the Beatles making fun of a middle aged man. He is disgusted with their antics. He says, "We fought the war for you!" He appears to be a fuddy duddy, but watching Foyle's War gives me insight into what that meant. People suffered terribly, even those who didn't pick up guns or drop bombs.

The Beatles are listening to the radio
Man on Train: And we'll have that thing off as well, thank you.
Ringo: But...
Man on Train: An elementary knowledge of the Railway Acts would tell you that I'm perfectly within my rights.
Paul: Yeah, but we want to hear it, and there's more of us than you. We're a community, like, a majority vote. Up the workers and all that stuff!
Man on Train: Then I suggest you take that damned thing to the corridor or some other part of the train where you obviously belong.
John: [Leaning over to the man] Give us a kiss.
Man on train: Don't take that tone with me, young man. I fought the war for your sort.
Ringo: I bet you're sorry you won.

Wars aren't like that now, at least here in the U.S. We've been fighting in Afghanistan for how long? Yes, the wars suck the lifeblood out of the U.S. economy, but we're insulated from that reality now. We're numb to what's happening. No one in the U.S. ever worries about the availability of onions no matter how many wars we are fighting.

I'm thinking about all the souls who left their bodies on that day eleven years ago in NYC, and here, too, at the Pentagon, about the total shock those of us who weren't killed experienced. No one would have believed, on September 10, 2001, that anything like it could ever happen on American soil. But it could, and it did.

I find the memory harrowing - still. May all those souls who burned or fell from the towers, or were killed in the Pentagon, rest in peace. May the souls of the greatest generation rest in peace. May we remember and become more peaceful. May it be so!


Monday, September 10, 2012

Brotherly Love

When Isaac Newton discovered that light could be broken into its component colors, that was a heretical notion. Sunlight was God's light back in Europe in the 17th century. Of course people saw rainbows but it was believed that the rainbows were not connected to sunlight. Prisms were thought to be the source of the rainbow colors rather than something that refracted light. It was believed that sunlight, because it was the light of God, was absolutely pure and could not be broken. Oh that Isaac Newton was such a radical thinker! Bless his heart.

Of course it wasn't only in western Europe that people worshipped Brother Sun. I just googled "Sun+god+worship." Good lord, it's almost impossible to find a culture that didn't worship the Sun! In fact, if we humans dismissed Brother Sun as just some mediocre star out there, unworthy of our attention and love, that would point to a serious flaw in our thinking. Yes? I say yes.

Sunset after the huge storm Saturday, a dragon of a storm that blew out the humidity and heat.

I worship Brother Sun, definitely. On a sparkling clear day like yesterday in Washington DC, Brother Sun inspires me to be at my best. He leads by example, showing me that being as shiny, noble, and generous as I can be is a worthy benchmark to strive towards. What's not to love about the gold light of an early autumnal sun? I mean really.

Can you tell how happy I am that the weather has shifted? I am one with the weather. Right now, the weather is spectacular, hence I'm feeling mighty fine.

C'mon in and make yourself at home, Autumn. You are so very very welcome! Amen.

The gate at the Summerhouse on the Capitol grounds. The puddle is a leftover from the storm.

Saturday, September 8, 2012

The last hot day

Of course today is definitely not the last hot day. Here in the midatlantic, it will be many weeks before we see the last hot day. But today is the last hot day for awhile.

There's a gusty wind blowing around, the cloud people are gathering. The wind has a hint of coolness, a hint of dryness within it. When the wind stops, it's hot and humid again. I find this kind of crazy disparity very exciting. It's a signal that the stagnation of late summer is being stirred, rattled and rolled and can not last forever.

The air has been a solid brick of dampness. But all that stuckness and heaviness is about to change! Oh yeah. Change of any kind brings chaos, something that puts some people on their last nerve. At Eastern Market, babies are crying, kids are pitching fits, parents snarling. I also heard shouting from car windows and lots of horn honking, something that is actually kind of unusual on Capitol Hill.

Everyone feels the incoming weather and the change that follows. Some are unnerved, I am giddy.

Tonight the low temperature will be in the 60s. We haven't seen that in a long time. For three glorious days, Brother Sun will shine - not too passionately - and at night the air will be cool and dry. Ahhh! I will throw open the windows, air out the hermetically sealed chateau and enjoy the fresh air.

I just realized that because I threw away all my old summer clothes, I no longer have the oversized baggy teeshirts I used to sleep in during the winter. Time to shop for some serious flannel jammies! How exciting.

I was taking pics of people on the street last night, zooming in to capture as many people as possible. I love what happened when this car drove by just as I pressed the shutter. Very cool.

Thursday, September 6, 2012

Late summer stagnation

According to Chinese medicine, there are five seasons: fall, winter, spring, summer and late summer. Late summer begins in mid-August and continues until autumn equinox. It is a time of thick humidity and stagnation and I do not like it.

Hence I complain. I bitch. I carry on.

Someone who reads my blog came by for a massage the other day. She said, "How are you?" I responded, perhaps a bit more sharply than I intended, "I can't wait for fall." She said, "Uh. I KNOW."

Oops. Busted. Oh well.

Because I dance in shamanic alignment with the weather, right now I'm as stagnant as this swamp in which I live. There is no point in trying to post anything fresh or interesting here until the weather shifts, which might be awhile. It's supposed to be close to 100 F. tomorrow. Bloody hell.

This too shall pass? I hope so.

Monday, September 3, 2012

Timing is everything

Go Forward With Courage

When you are in doubt, be still, and wait;
when doubt no longer exists for you, then go forward with courage.
So long as mists envelop you, be still;
be still until the sunlight pours through and dispels the mists
-- as it surely will.

Then act with courage.

--Ponca Chief White Eagle