Monday, December 30, 2013

A Fond Farewell



Hear ye, hear ye, the end is here.

I mean, the end of the Gold Puppy blog. I've been thinking about it for awhile now, wondering what in the hell I'm doing here these days. Most of my day to day thoughts, photos and my interactions with internet friends takes place on Facebook these days. When I post here I feel I am rewriting what I expressed more concisely on my page. I go on and on sometimes. Even so, whatever I'm trying to get across is not any clearer here than on FB.

I've got another blog where I can philosophize, shamanize, do my essay-esque writing thing. It's all supposed to be about healing on Chateau Seven. I assume even if what I feel like writing about has nothing to do with healing, I can figure out a way to make it seem like it is. So I will have blog space in which to express myself. I'm not cutting myself off cold turkey.

When Presley left yesterday, I cried for awhile. Then I went out, drank a martini and had a nice dinner. When I came home, I cried some more. And then I knew the time had come for the Gold Puppy. Everything has a life span!

Presley's visit he helped me let go of Jake to a much greater extent than I've been capable of on my own. I won't forget Jake, not to my dying day, but there has been something about my allegiance to his memory that is not exactly balanced. I feel a little raw, but grateful for the healing Presley brought. Releasing this blog is a part of the healing.

Those of you who wonder what I'm thinking about, please find me on Facebook. I am the only Reya Mellicker there … that's crazy, huh? All my posts are public, so you don't even have to friend me. You can go right to my page and look around. Feel free. Or check the Chateau Seven blog. I welcome the continuation of our connection through other doorways on the internet.

If I start a different blog, I'll post the URL here. I'm not going to delete the Gold Puppy, as I did with my first blog, the Gold Poppy. No, I'll leave it here to moulder along with other lost and forgotten blogs. It doesn't feel like I'll be in a mood to start anything new for awhile, but you never know. I can go on!

It has been a long run here! Impressive. But this river has run its course and it's time to say farewell, with lots of love.

Shalom!

Thursday, December 26, 2013

Dogs and spy novels

Presley


I would never try to pretend I don't have an addictive temperament, oh no. When I get into things, I always want to go all the way in. I have Pluto in my first house, opposing my Sun and Moon. If you know anything of astrology, this will explain my natural intensity.

I know this about myself, hence I'm pretty careful most of the time - these days. I wasn't always careful about how much I drank, for instance, or my caffeine intake. I was a total pot head for years. Over time, because I'm old, also due directly to Chinese medicine, it's not that hard to curb myself.

Except …

A few years ago, I decided to participate in NaNoWriMo, a month-long program in fiction writing. The idea is to write 50,000 words in one month. Lots of people give it a go, trying to bust through writer's block or grease the gears of writing. I don't even read fiction so I thought it would just be fun. I wrote a spy novel. My heroine was Vega, a super spy whose Achilles heel was the fact that she couldn't control her facial expressions, hence she could not lie. The novel was named The Tell.

Fun, hey? Ummm … Instead of being a lark, NaNoWriMo became, for me, a bender of writing. I stopped hanging out with friends so I could write, I stayed up late, I got up at 5:00 a.m. so I could write, write, write. It was bizarre! I was flying high on NaNoWriMo.

After the month was over, I re-read the novel - it SUCKED. So funny. Since then I have not participated and will not participate again, no way. NaNoWriMo was crack. Whoa.

The other addiction I can't curb is my obsession with dogs. This isn't with all dogs, just the dogs who come under my care. I think of course of the Gold Puppy for whom this blog is named, Jake. He became, over his long lifetime, my everything. He was my best friend, walking partner, roommate and spiritual community. When he died, a friend said he was the greatest love of my life. What a sobering thought, though she was right - he was. He really was.

Since he died I have entertained the idea of getting another dog. The idea never got beyond the entertainment stage, not only because of the obsessive attachment I had for Jake, but because the day he died was by far the worst day of my life, way worse than any horrible thing that has ever happened to me. I've had a lucky life, but I've gone through some shit, of course. But nothing has ever come close to being so awful. I will not experience that again.

The dog staying with me for a few days right now is, and is not, like Jake. He has short blond hair and Chinese fortune cookie ears, but he's much smaller. Also, he's not crazy, he doesn't chew things, he doesn't worry. And he's a snuggler. Jake liked a bit of physical contact but then we would go off on his own. This dog loves being petted. Presley is an excellent dog! Already I am entranced. I wish to spend every second with him. I can feel the obsession sprouting in my heart. I will see clients this afternoon and I need to get down to Eastern Market to buy something for dinner. I find myself wishing I didn't have to be separated from him even for a few hours. I'm telling you, I have a problem with dogs!

Spending the day with Presley yesterday I was reminded - of course - of my obsessive relationship with Jake. I grieved for my old dog, also for the era of Jake, much of which was extremely difficult. I was a wreck all day. Presley stayed close, snuggled up next to me and did not judge me for crying.

This morning I'm clearer, as if a storm passed through me. It was a storm of grief. It seems to have done what it needed to do, thank goodness, because it was not pleasant!

I'm grateful for the years I spent with Jake. He was one of the greatest teachers I have ever had. But do I wish for another dog? I do not. Jake was my dog of destiny. He was The Dog. Living with him was a canine bender that lasted nearly 14 years. I love and honor him, but just as I won't do NaNoWriMo again, I will not have another dog.

It's a relief to settle the open question of whether or not to look for another dog. Thank you, Presley!


Tuesday, December 24, 2013

A happy Christmas Eve

Gold Diggers of 1933


Happy Christmas Eve!

What a great holiday season I have had so far. I'm in awe! I had a fun Halloween, an epically great Thanksgiving, and now I'm even enjoying Christmas! My goodness. The days when I had to self medicate with Hugh Grant movies seem to be over. I did see one Hugh Grant movie at Thanksgiving, but it was just for fun. I am watching movies, though, and there is a theme.

What I've been watching are movies from the 1930s, trying to imagine that time in America. My parents were teenagers during the Depression. How awful! It's hard enough to be a teenager in happy times. They, as the rest of the Greatest Generation, were forever changed by that experience. Teenagers during the Depression, young adults during WWII. They had it tough, they did.

The idea of the Forgotten Man haunts me. It is mentioned in all the depression era movies, it was so prevalent. My Man Godfrey, with William Powell, is a total fantasy - as they all were - but the most compelling depiction of Depression era homeless I've seen so far. He was irresistible

The rich people in these movies are depicted as extremely weird, all of them. In some movies, they are despicable, in others, adorable, but they all seem crazy. They're dressed to the nines, enjoy every luxury, but in order to do that in the midst of the Depression, there has to be a heavy layer of denial at play. 

First there was the "Great" War, after which people lost their minds for awhile: the roaring 20s. The Depression was a hideous National hangover from all that. It's interesting to think about.

The movies are fabulous, though. Great historical sociology. I highly recommend Gold Diggers of 1933 in particular. Busby Berkeley designed the song/dance scenes. They are so trippy! My Man Godfrey is awesome. I watched King Kong, too. He is the only character in the movie I cared about. It'll show you how differently we think about animals, for sure. And Fay Wray, screaming her heart out over and over. I wonder what that film did to her larynx? The character only takes the job because she is fainting from hunger, out on the street. She is saved by the insane, cruel director. Bizarre!

I had planned to watch Dinner at Eight with Kansas City born and raised Jean Harlow tonight, but was invited at the last minute to dinner on Tennessee Avenue. I'll take a walk with Presley, the dog I'm going to dog sit starting tomorrow, receive massage at the Willard Hotel, one of the most happily haunted old hotels in DC, then have dinner with the husbands. 

A great Christmas Eve. It will bring me back to 2013, almost 2014, as it should, from the crimped platinum blond hair, speakeasies, pencil mustaches and cigarette smoke of the 1930s. Oh yeah.

Happy festivals of the returning light. Shalom.


This is Presley, wearing a yarmulke.





Sunday, December 22, 2013

Happy solstice



THE COMING OF LIGHT

Even this late it happens:
The coming of love, the coming of light.
You wake and the candles are lit as if by themselves,
stars gather, dreams pour into your pillows,
sending up warm bouquets of air.
Even this late the bones of the body shine
and tomorrow's dust flares into breath.

-Mark Strand.

Friday, December 20, 2013

The Dark Side



I know that the hours of daylight are consistent from year to year. I know. But there are years when it seems like it gets dark earlier than it's supposed to. This is one of those years. Part of that has to do with how cold it has been this fall in DC - I welcome the wintery weather, I do, but somehow the cold adds to my sense that it's getting dark too early.

Perception is reality, yes? It surely is. This weekend is supposed to be freakishly warm. I wonder if that will make the days seem longer?

Between now and January 1, 2014, I'll be working a lot, socializing hard, and dog sitting. The brief, end-of-the-year days will pass quickly, I'm guessing. I'm ok with that!

These are the days of your life, the Voice in the Shower says often. The days are short, but very full. My life is very full of wonders. I'm grateful beyond belief. And yet when the nights are long, right around solstice, I feel weary. I want to sleep until spring equinox. Also, I get worried - about nothing, mostly. I think it's instinctual because my worries certainly don't reflect anything real. Worrying is a bad habit, it surely is. During the day I'm usually able to talk myself out of it, remembering that worry, too, is a thought form. But my dreams these days are full of the anxiety I so carefully reject during the day.

It's not getting dark too early, and at the moment there is nothing to worry about. Yet, perception is reality.

Tonight is the longest night. Tomorrow Brother Sun will be born anew, and the days will begin to lengthen. Hurray!

The moon refused to come into focus, but the church spire did. Spooky cool.

Tuesday, December 17, 2013

La mère

The Old Post Office building, visible now from the National Mall, now that the leaves are down.


Today is the thirtieth anniversary of my mother's death. I've been thinking about her, feeling sad that she never got to experience old age. She did make it into her 60s, barely, but she was quite ill by that time. My guess is that she was too ill to enjoy the last few years of her life. It's a shame because I think she would have loved it. She would have loved being free of all hormonal imperatives that attend adulthood. I think she would have relished the let bygones be bygones vibe that's accessible at this age in a way that isn't possible earlier in life.

It's ironic because when we were kids, she swore she would live to age 100. The day before yesterday would have been her 93rd birthday. She would still have seven years to go, had she been able to fulfill her promise. It's mind boggling to consider.

The day she died was a horrible day for me. My boss raped me. After that I went to a bar and drank shots of Jack Daniels until I passed out - apparently - since I remember nothing after the first few shots until waking up the next day in my own bed, alone. Someone must have taken me home.

I'm sure you can imagine the state I was in when the phone call came the next morning from my sister, telling me my mother had died. I have tried, but been unsuccessful in my attempts to understand why those two horrible events were linked in time. How could both things have taken place on the same day? I will never know. It's one of the things I worked on for years in therapy, but all that work was more about accepting the timing rather than coming up with a theory as to why.

Last year when we unveiled her gravestone was the same day the children at Sandy Hook were murdered. Likewise, it is not possible for me to understand how those two experiences could have happened the same day, even though that's what the calendar said.

I had such a weird relationship with my mother. It boggles the mind.

I'm thinking of her tenderly today. She is long removed from this lifetime; her spirit has long since flown away. But I hold her in my heart, with lots of love, on this anniversary of her death.

Shalom.


Monday, December 16, 2013

Confluence

Rockefeller Center


I've been blogging for a long time. I think about quitting at least once each year. But I always decide to continue because I like the discipline, such as it is, of thinking about, writing, and posting a mini-essay. I used to post every day. Now I'm more sporadic.

Once upon a time this blog was the way in which I connected with many other bloggers. I do most of my meeting and greeting these days on Facebook where I'm very active. But I still like writing here, and there are people not on FB who come here to see what I'm thinking about. It's well worth the effort.

After last week I'm more convinced than ever that I will, for the time being at least, continue blogging. I went to New York City to meet, in person for the first time, blogger I met somewhere in the mid to late 2000s. We recognized each other almost immediately, as sometimes happens, but we didn't meet face to face prior to now because she lives in South Africa.

Usually when I meet blog friends, there is a warmth that accompanies the meeting. We already know each other, hence meeting in person is just the next phase of an ongoing conversation. It's so easy! I have many blog friends who became "real" friends in this way.

Every now and then, something more than that takes place at these encounters. Something Happens. Though by now I've met quite a few bloggers face to face, I can count on the fingers of one hand how many times the meeting itself was magical, more than a sum of its parts. This is what took place in New York last Thursday. I am still trying to find the language to describe it.

The blogosphere was the portal, a doorway that enabled me to become acquainted with people who are really important to me now, people I would never have known existed otherwise. Please don't ask me to explain why - or how - I have no idea. But I am in awe of the possibility that it could happen again. Hence I have no plans to stop blogging, no way.

Shalom.

Tamara and I, in Times Square

Wednesday, December 11, 2013

Lesson learned



I love learning and I honor my teachers. I always have.

I love the hierarchy of teacher/student - when it works, that is. Idolizing or developing a crush on a teacher is a wonderful way to soften the heart and open the mind of the student. When I fell in love with my teachers, I was able to take in what they were teaching at a very deep level. The knowledge penetrated me to the quick. Even after I was old enough to "know better" (whatever that means) I continued to hold my teachers up on a pedestal. It made going to their classes so much more fun!

I did not idolize all my teachers, should say. Just the good ones, only the ones with whom there was a singular rapport.

For this situation to work, the teacher must not take advantage of that trust and openness. The teacher must remember not to let his or her ego get wrapped up in the adoration. The greatest teachers I've had were aware of that responsibility. They saw me spin out and held the space for me with respect and affection. They guided me through the dizzy infatuation, knowing it would pass after the class ended. It always did. I honor them!

There was one teacher, way back when, who got lost in the energy. We had an affair, a total disaster on every level you can imagine. I was so young then; I don't blame myself. He was only 33. I don't blame him anymore either, but I used to. I blamed him for a long time. Clearly things can go very wrong. The hierarchy of teacher/student is tricky. When done well, it's wonderful.

Mostly in my life, my teachers have respected the sacred hierarchy. Not only did I learn whatever they were teaching, but I also developed a passion for learning when I could dive headfirst into the process, no holds barred. I'm not interested in the "auspicious friend" kind of teacher, no. I wish to study with the gods.

Recently, I've been back in touch with one of my very greatest teachers from my time in Reclaiming. Though I never had romantic feelings for her, my adoration of her teaching, approach and perspective was powerful. I took in every word, every idea. When she offered a class I often signed up more than once, to make sure I got it all. I use what I learned from her every day as a shaman and healer. She was one of my great benefactors.

Once I located her on Facebook, I was excited to work with her again. I signed up immediately for something she was offering over the internet, a collaboration that inspired her to produce a "circle of stones," a necklace of beads she chose to help me with an intention. The process was great, but when I received the necklace, I couldn't shake the nagging feeling that there was something not right about the beads she chose.

I tried to love that necklace, but could not. Finally a friend who creates beautiful malas from semi-precious stones explained that the biggest beads on my necklace were made of dyed bamboo coral. They were an ugly reddish orange, very large, and seemed to me to have nothing to do with my intention. They felt ill, damaged, to me. Yanked out of their natural terrain, coated with a thick, toxic dye, how could those beads have helped me with anything?

When I asked her about it, she told me she loves the dyed coral, says she finds it "powerful," whatever that means. OK, then. Wow.

With this great teacher I've moved through all the incarnations of student. Initially I idolized her and as a result I learned deeply from her, but now I see through her and recognize I can no longer learn from her. I've graduated from being her student. Now she is someone who was once a teacher but with whom I no longer share the wavelength. I'm slightly disappointed, but will get over it. It's interesting to think about.

I threw the ugly dyed coral in the trash, along with the chicken bones and the crumbs I swept up from the floor. Should I need a circle of stones, I'll make my own from real stones, maybe jade, I'm thinking. But maybe I don't need a circle of stones. That kind of work is magic, something I never do anymore. So there's that, too.

It was a shock to understand what has happened, but I'm good with it. You can not grasp the river so don't even try, the Voice in the Shower always says. A lot of water has passed under the bridge since I studied with her. Onwards and upwards.

Shalom.


Monday, December 9, 2013

Cheers



I had such a relaxing time in Oregon that I kind of forgot about the holiday season, the frenzy, the dashing around, all the social engagements, and so on and so on. I'm not complaining; I've already thrown myself headfirst into the holiday fray, with gusto.

Autumn was cold in DC, a reminder of how winter once was, I mean before electric light and central heat: long, cold and dark. I believe we gather to eat, drink and be merry so as to generate heat and light. Last year it wasn't cold - it was hard to remember the soul of the season. But this year is great - we even saw a little bit of snow yesterday, followed, sadly, by sleet and freezing rain. I didn't leave the house - it was that kind of day.

The giving of gifts is, in the Reyaverse, our way of making offerings to Brother Sun so he will turn around at solstice, bring back the light. We give them to each other, but if we still had home altars, I believe we would stack them up there. Maybe that's why we place them under the Christmas tree.

My kitchen table has become Santa's workshop. I'm cranking out giftoids that I will give away as long as my supplies hold out. I began the day I returned from Oregon. On Christmas Eve, the giving will stop. After New Year's, the partying will stop.

Am I the only one who feels relief at the end of the holidays? Surely I'm not. Once upon a time, that relief had to do with the solstice. We knew then that the nights would not continue growing longer. Our offerings were accepted, the wheel of the year was reborn. Whew!

In the meantime, I intend to dance in shamanic alignment with the ancestors. I will make offerings, I will go to the parties. I will smile and laugh and drink and eat. I will make merry. After the solstice comes January, the month of detox. This is as Brother Sun prefers it. I'm in.

At a par-tay, the inevitable lipstick selfie.

Saturday, December 7, 2013

Up to Scratch

Union Station


Jet lag kicks my ass. It's one of the things I most dislike about travel by air. The disorientation in body/mind/spirit is unnerving.

I've tried every kind of non-prescription remedy. Particularly cruel is the harsh idea of forcing oneself to stay up until the proper bedtime, rise when it's morning whether one feels like it or not. That never works for me. The insomnia doesn't care when I lie down, and if I rise too early, when I might have gotten a few hours of sleep, I am out of sorts, vaguely queasy, for the remainder of the day.

Sleep is everything!

I've used the homeopathic remedy, No Jet Lag. You take it every two hours from the time your flight leaves until two hours after arrival. That's intriguing to me and though I could sleep at the proper hours when I used this remedy, I was still completely disoriented. No Jet Lag made me think I didn't have jet lag when I really did. It was rather dangerous in that way. I remember coming home from England, cheerful and chipper because I didn't have jet lag, but on my first walk with Jake, I tripped and fell flat on my face, badly scraping a knee. I definitely had jet lag! Would have been better to know I was out of it.

Many jet lag remedies and tips are based on the idea that it's easier to adjust while traveling west than east. I have not found this to be true. For me it's a matter of natural habitat vs. unfamiliar terrain. I always recover faster and more fully when I'm coming home, no matter what direction I travel to get there.

The point of all this being - I'm home, completely recovered from jet lag, ready to launch into the holiday season in DC. My kitchen table has become Santa's workshop. Today between clients I'll walk down to buy a wreath for the front door. Tonight is a holiday party.

It's good to be home. I'm ready to celebrate the holidays with presence and gusto. Cheers!


Friday, December 6, 2013

Let there be light



I'm thinking about Nelson Mandela, of course. I honor him in this way.

He was clear as a bell, came into this lifetime with all his wisdom intact. He was a great master of light. He was pure.

Not everyone is capable of, or meant to be so pure and clean, utterly wise. In fact most of us are meant to struggle, behave badly at times, become completely confused about our soul's mission. If we didn't have to struggle, how would we ever learn anything?

In this form, we work through so many things. My sense is that the "brief, greedy, sugar high" that is a human life is a very productive experience. Oh yeah.

We need some bright lights to help us, though. I think of Mandela, the Dalai Lama, Martin Luther King. Pope Francis appears, in my mind's eye, not completely clear, but he's pretty shiny. Some of the clear light people have nothing to do with politics or religion. Mr. Rogers, for instance, was a great master of the clear light, he surely was!

Sometimes I wonder what it would be like to be so clear. In all honesty, I'm relieved to be among the great majority of those who strive and struggle, try their best, sometimes foolishly, sometimes with misguided intentions. The majority of us falter and fumble, make mistakes. Our machinations are interesting, a sacred drama continually unfolding. Sometimes we learn from our mistakes. When that happens, it's satisfying - and provocative. Every now and then, most of us experience a moment of clarity. It is pure bliss! But then something happens and we find ourselves back in the fray.

What good would the radiance of men like Nelson Mandela be if we could all be like him? The people who come to earth to shine need somewhere to put their light. They need us and we need them. It's a partnership.

A deep bow of respect and love for Mr. Mandela's commitment and purity, for my gratitude that his light was so bright. May his spirit fly high.

Shalom.

Waiting for taxis outside Union Station.

Thursday, December 5, 2013

A Tale of Two Cities

Grand nephews Eli on the left, Isaac on the right. 


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Never underestimate the power of compassionately recognizing what's going on. --Pema Chodron



There are two posts I want to write today. I want to write about the truly wonderful week I spent with my sister and her family. It was great! But I also want to write about how good it is to be back in my natural habitat, here at the base of the chateau, in the sweetest little apartment ever.

The week in Oregon was spectacular. The disappointments were minor and had nothing to do with any individual. For instance, there was no snow up in the mountains, except on the peaks we could see in the distance. We had hoped to snowshoe by the lake. But the weather was spectacular. It was bright, sunny and crisp. I was able to take another look at a very bright Milky Way up there. And Venus - my goodness, she was so bright it was unnerving.

My sister and I have similarly mellowed as we've gotten older. Both of us are more relaxed with ourselves, hence with each other. We have always loved each other beyond all reason, but we have lived very different lives. Sometimes it's hard to even imagine the life of each other. At times in the past, our differences got on each other's nerves, but not this time. When differences arose, we were more curious than anything. It was great!

My niece Emily, her husband Brayce, and Isaac. Yes, Bigfoot, too. We were in his territory.


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My niece is one of my favorite humans ever. I knew her husband only slightly until we spent several days together under one roof. He is grounded, kind, smart, funny and absolutely genuine. He's an excellent partner for my niece and superb father to their kids. The boys are awesome: wacky, shiny, smart, creative. I had a blast with them! At one point we had five or six paper airplanes aloft at the same time. There was a lot of running around, laughing - you know, mayhem. Finally someone yelled for us to stop. I got in trouble for having that kind of fun. Can you imagine anything better?

I could go on, but the bottom line is: we had a great Thanksgiving.

Crescent Lake


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That's one of my posts. Here's the other:

When I was younger, one of my fantasies centered around living in Paris for awhile. I imagined my tiny apartment in a grand old building, saw myself with my string bag, walking to the markets to buy food. I envisioned myself sitting in cafes, exchanging witty repartee with the locals, cooking elaborate dinners for bon vivants, drinking wine.

A few weeks after I moved into the chateau, it came to me that this is my Paris apartment, right here on East Capitol Street. I live here as if in Paris, I surely do! My wish to live in Paris has been granted - and I don't even have to speak French! It's the best of both worlds.

Coming home to the chateau is never, not ever, disappointing. It's cozy, clean, warm and inviting. I know where everything is and do not live out of a suitcase. Ahh … home sweet home.

One of the gifts of being 60 is that I've had time to practice mindfulness over a period of many years. I really am getting better at being here now, at appreciating what's right in front of me, whether that's my Parisian life here on Capitol Hill, or being surrounded by dear ones in an unfamiliar terrain.

Life is good from coast to coast. L'chaim! Shalom.


My sister Hannah and me.

Sunday, December 1, 2013

Irish Twins

Hannah on the left, me sitting down. We must be 6 and 7, or maybe 7 and 8.


I was born in February of 1953. My sister Hannah arrived in March of 1954. Still, she has always been my older sister. She was brave, fierce, funny and wise right from the get go while I was just the opposite - fearful, timid, wary, sickly, prone to tears. I have always, my entire life, been completely in awe of her.

Ever since I allowed myself to be the shaman I've always been, the story I tell about us is that we've known each other nearly forever - since the Ice Age, at least. I believe we have been siblings, friends, parents, children, spouses, over and over again. I can't of course say whether or not this story is true (whatever truth is) but it feels right. The story resonates.

This time around, as has happened in so many lifetimes, I believe we came into the world in partnership. One of my commitments in this life was to take on something from our ancestors that would not be passed on, hence I never had children. That thing is related to the Holocaust. Hannah, on the other hand, came into the world to pass along something very healing and beautiful, hence she had children, both of whom are truly excellent human begins. Her kids married truly excellent human beings. Now she is blessed with beautiful, shiny grandchildren as well. She is the matriarch of our generation.

She reminded me yesterday that as kids, when the crayons and paper came out, she always drew her future family: mom, dad, and two kids. She drew a nice house for them with smoke curling upwards from the chimney, trees in the yard and a nice garden. Indeed this is exactly what she created for herself and family: stability and a loving environment.

I, on the other hand, always drew things like the Angel of Death passing over Egypt, smiting the first born of Pharaoh. I remember I visualized the Angel as a sickly green streak across the sky.

She liked playing pretend games that included themes of family and caring, such as our pretend game of crossing the prairie in a covered wagon (the ping pong table in the basement, draped with sheets, was our covered wagon). I, on the other hand liked the game in which we hid from the Nazis.

Good lord I was such a morbid child!

These days she spends a lot of time with her grandkids, stays closely in touch with her kids. Recently retired, she helps kids learn how to read in Eugene, Oregon where she lives. She is also an artist, knitter, photographer, gardener and a hell of a stand-up comedienne.

Meanwhile I live all the way across the country where I'm on the verge of finding a good translator for the Yizkor memories of our Holocaust ancestors. I'm a healer and shaman, but also an artist. We have things in common, while holding the opposites. To say I love my sister beyond all reason is a pathetic attempt to describe my gratitude for, and devotion to, this amazing woman.

Travel across the continent is a pain in the ass and expensive, but oh my, so worth it. It surely is. I am replete with love for my sister and her family. What a blessing!

Shalom.

We are very young here; the picture was taken before we left Colorado, so we were maybe 3 and 4. Hannah loves the cowgirl in the background. 

Friday, November 29, 2013

Decidedly not black

Diamond Peak, from the window of the cabin where we're staying.

I wonder why they call it Black Friday? It sounds ominous. To me, the idea of lining up to charge, mob-like, into a Walmart is ominous. Maybe a shopper-phobic made up the term, I'm not sure.

Today I will be nowhere near a Walmart, or any kind of retail store. I'm with my sister and her family and grandkids in a cabin at Crescent Lake on the eastern slope of the Cascade mountains. Shopping is not a part of today's plan. We're going to take a walk by the lake in a little while, come back for a lunch of leftovers and probably a nice nap this afternoon.

Let's see - charging into Walmart vs. a walk by a beautiful mountain lake? It's hard to imagine anyone would have trouble deciding which activity is preferable.

One among my theories is that the urge to join the mob on Black Friday has more in common with the tradition of running with the bulls at Pamplona than about getting a deal on a new TV. It's about jumping into the fray, snorting and running with the herd.

Sounds like hell to me.

Thanksgiving was a total success, but it's over now. Onwards to solstice.

Shalom.

My grand nephews. That's Isaac looking at the camera. Eli is focused on the iPad.

Monday, November 25, 2013

Jet set

A fancy hubcap.


Tomorrow morning well before the crack of dawn I will walk out of the chateau, get on an airplane and fly to a place 3,000 miles away. I won't be back for a week. The weird part is: I'm looking forward to it.

It's weird because I dislike traveling for a number of reasons, especially by air. Earlier in life I had my fair share of hideous travel-at-the-holidays experiences. I might have vowed to never travel at the holidays again, I can't remember, though it's easy to remember how I was at that time in my life - obstreperous, prone to issuing proclamations, pointing and gesticulating. Good lord. I had so much energy then.

Here ye, here ye: the vow is broken. I'm assembling piles of stuff to take with me, thinking and rethinking what I'll need, smiling.

I'm leaving a day earlier than the worst of the holiday travel rush, returning a day after the chaos of the extended weekend - I hope. Last year when I went to Kansas City I timed my visit to fall between T-day and Christmas. My travel part of it was so uneventful, I can't even remember it. All my memories are of my wonderful visit with my sister. This is my hope and prayer for the trip to Oregon. May it be so.

Some people are at ease when they travel, some people love to travel. I am not among them, but I am among those who love to feast, relax, and celebrate in the company of nears and dears. I haven't seen my sister in years. One of my mottos since turning 60 is, What am I waiting for?

Indeed! I love my sister and her family, I love the mountains. Perhaps I won't love the plane ride but I will prevail. L'chaim, y'all. L'chaim.

I don't really have room inside for plants, but just before the Arctic cold front arrived in DC, my rose begonias bloomed. I couldn't leave them to their fate outdoors. They're lovely!

Saturday, November 23, 2013

dog gone

Night shade.

Jake has been visiting my dreams of late. Jake, the gold puppy for whom this blog was named. It's so good to see him in these dreams. He appears much more relaxed than he ever was in real life. Often in these dreams I'm trying to find the accoutrements needed to take him on a walk, the leash, poop bags and such. He's following me around, as he used to. When he was a puppy, he leapt into the air when I grabbed the leash. He was enthusiastic.

One reason he's on my mind is because I'm going to dog-sit for a few days over Christmas. Christmas is always such a weird day for me. I'm thinking that hanging out with a dog will make it a lot more fun. The dog's name is Presley. He's a very good dog, they tell me, so right from the get go he'll be easier than Jake ever was, a good thing.

I figure the dog-sit will provide hours of amusement on a holiday I have never connected to, remind me again of why I don't want a dog of my own, and make for some good stories, fun walks, and maybe even good photo opps.

Perhaps the experience will make me want a dog no matter how much of a hassle it would be, who knows? At the house on Tennessee Avenue, we three had dogs. We covered for each other. Dogs are pack animals; they need more than one person. Trying to fill every need for a dog would be too much for me. It wouldn't be fair.

Seeing Jake in my dreams has rendered me sentimental for the big lug. Here's a picture of him I took in 2008. He was so photogenic.



Thursday, November 21, 2013

Thankful

See the window? I was pointing the camera straight up.

Once upon a time I hated Thanksgiving. As a single person who never had kids and whose family is far-flung, it was always a weird day for me. I was often invited to "orphan" dinners. I hate that idea. I am not an orphan!

When I worked for Whole Foods, my loathing increased exponentially. Oh the customers, the throngs. Oh the fuss and carry on of said customers. And the turkeys. Oh god the turkeys. The store hired a gigantic refrigerated truck to hold all the pre-ordered turkeys. They were fresh turkeys so we received them all at once, on the Sunday before T-day. After they were unloaded, we had to sort them by size and then try to find the right size when customers came in to claim them. The truck was freezing cold, but sometimes I took a shift back there. It was worth it, just to get away from the customers, some of whom completely melted down, especially the day before the holiday. Such a kerfuffle! We tried many different organizing techniques for the turkeys, but somehow it always got out of hand by Wednesday. At that point, out in the truck, we were slinging turkeys as fast as we could. It was freezing - and disgusting!

Inside the store the customers ranted, shouted, carried on - about the stupidest crap like about a turkey 1/2 lb. bigger than ordered. We tried to be patient when we explained that there was no way to exactly regulate the weight of the birds. A half pound too much just means another sandwich or two the following day. We tried to smile, but it was always a grimace. I mean, really.

I worked with an international staff at WF, hence learned how to say, in 7 languages: Kill them all. That way, at a moment of high stress (which was every moment of Thanksgiving week), I could turn to any fellow employee and say, in a deadpan, in that employee's native language: Kill. them. all.

I only remember the Wolof and French expressions, have forgotten the rest. It has been awhile.

After I left that job, I railed against Thanksgiving for several years. I always stayed home, made brown rice and vegetables, and watched movies on TV - alone. Those were rather harsh years for me, come to think of it. That was during menopause. God, what a time.

Slowly, over the years, I began to warm to the holiday. In recent years I've attended many different feasts, all of them kind of the same, kind of different, all of them great fun. One year I celebrated with a huge family of Puerto Ricans. I had no idea what they were saying, but whatever it was, it was fun. We laughed and drank, then cranked up the salsa music and danced after dinner. The women wore lots of make up and stiletto heels. I loved it that rice and beans were of course a part of the feast.

I even hosted T-day here at the chateau a couple of years ago. A control freak in my own kitchen, I insisted on cooking the entire feast. I worked non-stop for two days! I'll never take on the whole feast again - though I would love to host again here at the chateau.

Last year, through no fault of my own, the feast I planned to attend got cancelled due to a death in the family. Sadly, everyone I might have foisted myself upon was traveling last year. Hence I spent the day alone. It was a lonely day. I felt sorry for myself and resolved I would not spend it alone again.

This year, I'm going to spend the day with family! Holy cow. I'm going to get an on airplane, travel 3,000 miles! I am the designated apple pie and gravy maker. Wow.

There are those who say people don't change, can't change. OK, at my core it's still the same Reya, but as an old lady I have a far greater capacity to enjoy and connect than I ever did when I was younger, during the holidays and at other times, too. I love being an old lady! Cheers!


Wednesday, November 20, 2013

Spiritual Forestry



Someone very wise said to me that, before age 60, we must be like the tree that grows tall, puts down deep roots, branches out, produces flowers, fruit and seeds. We must welcome the nests of squirrels and birds, weather the storms, ride out the harsh winters, hot summers, droughts and floods. We must abide over time. But after 60, he said, it's our job to become the forest.

I think about that a lot, what it takes to become the forest. We must join the chain of the generations after 60. We need to hold the circle of life for those who are younger, who are still growing and striving and thriving. We surely must.

Last year in December I went to Kansas City to put a gravestone on my mother's grave. This year in December, my father's family's yizkor memory book will be translated from Yiddish to English. I've exchanged emails with people who have done a lot of this work, who are part of the Yizkor Project. I'm still trying to figure out how to choose one. Something is always lost in translation. How do I determine which one of these competent translators is right for the job? I want the soul of those stories to come through the translation. How do I explain this? Still mulling it over.

When the pages of Viszygordek memories are translated, they will become part of the project and will be available online through the New York Public Library site for anyone who might be interested.

This is definitely one of the ways one becomes the forest, right?

Meanwhile I've been reading some of the translated stories from the Kremenets yizkor book. It was the large town close to my family's village. They are quirky, something I of course adore. The one I was reading yesterday was not so much a memory as a rant. It was all about how Jews who only study Torah and don't learn a trade do a disservice to all Jews. He goes on and on about how the ancient Jews worked the land and all Jews should learn a trade to support the community. Wow. I think they're having similar conversations about this in Israel today! So interesting.

The other thing I've been reading about is Crescent Lake, on the eastern slope of the Cascades in Oregon. That's where I'll be spending Thanksgiving. I love mountains and I love mountain lakes. The land will be just right for me.

Where does my love of mountains come from? I feel at home in the mountains. That terrain always feels good under my feet. I love the land at Tahoe. I love the Appalachians, too, also the Rockies, of course. (I was born in Denver, lived there until age 5. I never really adjusted to living in the muggy, harsh weather and seasons of the midwest.)

Is this love of mountains nothing more than a personal character quirk or is it embedded in my DNA somewhere? The reason I wonder is because Vszygordek in situated in the foothills of the Carpathian Mountains, in a valley of the Kremenets Range. Mountains are my favorite natural environment, which perhaps begs the question of why the hell I live in a swamp. Don't ask me!

I will likely never know why I so adore the mountains, but it sure is fun to think about.

What I do know is that life is good and I am grateful. I really am. Shalom.


Tuesday, November 19, 2013

Here they come

Yes, it is still beautiful in DC. But I'm over the Stendahl syndrome. Thank goodness!


It's windy and chilly this morning in Washington DC, though a glorious day out there, clear and sparkly. I'm sitting on my sofa drinking coffee, reading emails from possible Yizkor book translators. I am not a big fan of Brother Wind, especially when he's whipping around recklessly, hence I decided camping out this morning is the most prudent idea. I'll take a walk between clients later.

In a little while I'll have to get cleaned up because clients are coming, but for now I'm tousled, unkempt. While in Oregon I hope to spend many mornings just like this - except I'll be with my sister and a portion of her extended family. I look forward to the luxury of unstructured days.

Will it be weird not to work? It has been many years since I took this many days off work. I love my work - it's grounding and when I'm working I feel I am a force for healing in the world. I'm just one person but at least I'm doing my bit. On days when I don't work, unless I have projects lined up, I admit to feeling a bit out to sea.

This is why I will not retire, not ever, not that I could retire, even if I wanted to. But it's OK. I could see working less vigorously as I grow older, but to stop working altogether? That would not be a happy situation for me. I am a working animal, happiest while productive. When I sit around too long, I fall into a state of chronic rumination. My thoughts start spinning, pick up speed, and before you know it, I'm mired in the ruminants. Yikes!

However, even the hardest working animals (and I am not among that group for sure) need a break. Taking a week away from my natural habitat and habits and work will be great for me.

As you can see, I'm prepping myself for this big holiday trip. I'm gearing up for the holidays. Ah the holidays! Bring 'em on.


Saturday, November 16, 2013

Mended



I think I may be recovering from Stendahl syndrome. I'm so relieved. I don't feel overwhelmed or unnecessarily tender. I slept hard last night and the night before, an indication that I'm more relaxed. Also, and this belongs in the category of you-can't-make-up-this-stuff, the leaves suddenly - overnight - became more dull. It was subtle, but I noticed. I wondered if it might just be me thinking they had turned the corner, but some friends and neighbors noticed the same thing. It was a sudden turn away from drop dead glorious to a bit muted.

That the leaves turned the same day I started feeling normal is righteous timing. The landscape here and me? We're like this (presses fingers together). I'm a part of the landscape.

Today dawned gloomy and rainy. They say we're in for a few days of gloom. That should help clear the last bits of the Stendahl left in my system. I am grateful.

I feel free, at last, to think about something other than beauty and love and the ancestors. It was great, but onwards and upwards.

Today I'm thinking about Thanksgiving in Oregon. I'm going to actually get on an airplane, during the holidays, in order to sit at table with my sister and some of her extended family. We're going up to the mountains to stay at a cabin so there will be snow! There will be good food, sitting around the fireplace, board games. There will be laughing, and maybe some drama (a part of the feast of abundance). We will drink red wine and toast all the things we're grateful for.

Last year, I spent Thanksgiving on my own. I walked around and took pictures in the very quiet city, had a nice meal. It was ok but this year I want to celebrate the feast as the ritual is meant to be - with a critical mass of family and all the abundance that attends such a gathering. I am so looking forward to every part of it except for the airport/airplane segments.

I was thinking about how the Melikiers got around, on foot, horseback, by car, too - after they were invented - but my guess is that there weren't a lot of cars in Vzysgordek, even in 1941 when the town was destroyed and everyone was killed. Can't imagine a rush hour in Vzsgordek, or a traffic jam. Can you?

Given how convenient it is to step on a plane, then, a few hours later step off the plane 3,000 miles away, why do I complain about the discomfort? It's the marketing, probably - the way you're supposed to think it's luxurious when really they're packing most of the passengers into a pathetically tight space. They should be honest. United Airlines: Unless you fly business class, your journey will be a bitch, but we'll get you there in one piece. That should be the tag line.

It's so worth the horrible airport/airplane experience to get out of town, to spend a good chunk of time with my sister and her family. I can't wait!


Wednesday, November 13, 2013

An abundance of beauty, made more manageable with Chinese medicine



The Sufi acupuncturist thought about it for awhile this morning when I told him I was suffering from Stendahl syndrome. He listened to all my pulses a second and third time, his brows knitted, eyes closed. He really listens. When he opened his eyes he told me there is a clarity in my pulses he has never felt. Then he nodded. He agrees - I'm overwhelmed by beauty. It is kind of hilarious, really.

He reassured me. He told me awe is exactly what we're supposed to feel at this time of year. That it's making me slightly queasy is the funny part. A few needles and some time on his table relieved the symptoms. I'm feeling much more balanced.

I told him about holding the Yizkor book and my surprising, profound bout of grieving afterwards.

I told him how I romanticized the lives of my ancestors, imagining scenes from Fiddler on the Roof. He laughed when I told him about the borscht. I didn't set out to, but ended up with the ingredients to make borscht after a grocery buying bender last week. Moved by my ardor for the ancestors, I devoted an entire day to making the stock, then a serious chunk of the following afternoon making the soup. And? … Drum roll please ... It is so horrible! Even sour cream can't fix borscht. It was while I was pouring it down the garbage disposal that I realized borscht is something you make when that's all you have to eat.

Yeah.

The point being, I am trying to understand these ancestors. I'm trying to imagine their lives in that tiny hamlet, I'm trying to make contact. I want to honor and remember them - their lives, I mean. I have grieved their horrible deaths in the Holocaust for ten years. Now what I yearn to connect with is some sense of their lives. The process has been strenuous. My heart is open in a way I've rarely experienced.




I've been listening to a lot of Chopin recently. Usually I'm a Bach/Mozart kind of gal. I like the precision of that music. Everything about it is perfect, in its place. Chopin's music is passionate. It's exotic, usually too exotic for me, but not recently.

Listening to Chopin's music is one of the ways I'm trying to connect, because he was Polish. Vzshgorodek was once a part of Poland, also officially a part of Russia during the years when there was no Poland. Now it's farmland in modern Ukraine.

Poland is a really interesting place for so many reasons. For instance, Chopin's heart is encased in a pillar somewhere in Warsaw. We of western European/U.S. culture would never think to take the heart of someone we admired to enshrine it, but the Poles would. It's like the ancient Egyptians - so cool.

The Melikiers were not Mozart/Bach people. No. They were Chopin people. They were Eastern Europeans, part of that culture. Were there Klezmer musicians? Did townsfolk periodically burst into song as in Fiddler? I'm trying to imagine. One thing I can't imagine is a lot of enthusiasm for Baroque music. Who knows?

Last year I put a stone on my mother's grave. This year, I will have the few pages of yizkor memories translated into English. It will help me, yes indeed, but the translation will also be my contribution to a project that means a lot to many others as well.

I honor my ancestors, I surely do!

Shalom.


Tuesday, November 12, 2013

Dangerous beauty



Stendahl syndrome, also called Florence syndrome, is a physiological response to too much beauty. Here's a link to the wiki page about it. 

Because I'm sensitive - too sensitive, some might say - beauty gets to me, every bit as much as sadness and trauma. I don't suffer from the classical symptoms of the syndrome, but I can feel overwhelmed, even exhausted, around too much beauty. Is that sad? It just is.

Once upon a time, encountering great beauty literally knocked me down. I used to fall on my knees when confronted with a perfect sunset, a beautiful painting, or while listening to a beautiful piece of music. It was hard on the knees! I was younger then, though, so I dealt with it. In fact I decided then that the reason some people bow or kneel to pray is because the beauty of the divine light knocks them down in slow motion. I've always had my theories about everything, just everything!

At some point, the Voice in the Shower suggested that I allow beauty to strengthen and enliven me instead of knock me down. What an insight! Love that Voice in the Shower. I began practicing this art with things that were pretty but not quite beautiful, letting the energy come through me, root me to the earth, then flow upwards, expanding and extending my spine and limbs. What an incredible feeling.

I've gotten much better at this technique over the years. These days I think of great beauty as part of good nutrition. I seek it out, breathe it in, and grow taller - or so it seems.

A rare sight - one of her stars reflecting direct sunlight. From the street it looks like a headlight, turned up to its brightest setting. Incredible, knee knocking beauty.


However, lately as this wave of grief for my ancestors passes through me, my heart is more open than it has been in awhile, rendering me more vulnerable to everything, including beauty.

There has been so much beauty this fall. The abundant rains of summer and a holy combination of perfect temperatures brewed up a more colorful and brilliant autumn than we've seen in years. There have been many times this season, out there taking pictures, when I actually became queasy from the overload of color and beauty.

I am NOT complaining! May the world be as beautiful as possible. The fact that I sometimes have a hard time managing beauty is a wonderful problem, isn't it? I say it is.

Shalom.


Saturday, November 9, 2013

Sense and sensitivity



Yesterday I was better, but still felt tender. This morning, I feel whole again, wrapped in my bubble of energy, insulated again from what I find to be a bizarrely intimate connection with the Vzygorodek Melikiers.

I've been so tender I couldn't even handle the autumnal beauty for a few days. It was too much for me. I have often been overwhelmed by spring in this landscape, but never before have I felt too moved by the fall colors. This year it's different. Is that to do with the discovery of the Yizkor book or is it because fall this year is the most spectacular we've had in several years? It's always pretty, but we had plentiful rain over the summer, and apparently just the right temperatures. The trees are out of this world, even the great oaks, whose leaves usually just turn brown then drop by the zillions onto Eighth Street. This year they're red and gold and bright. It is rather overwhelming, but it shouldn't be, should it?

I continue to ask myself what purpose it serves to grieve intimately for people I never met, who lived in a place and at a moment in history I can not imagine. Does it serve or is it just weird? Who knows?

I will perhaps find out more on Monday when I go back to the Library of Congress. I'm going because Monday is one of the two days a year that they open the main reading room to regular people. The ordinary citizen is not allowed in the room except as part of a tour. I loathe tours, hence if I want to get inside that room, I have to wait for the open houses. And I do want to get inside that room. The main reading room of the Jefferson building is perhaps as beautiful as the rotunda at the Capitol - maybe even more beautiful. I will take pictures. After that, I may return to the African and Middle Eastern reading room to hold the book again. Or maybe not.

The main reading room at the Library of Congress

However you slice it, this ancestor work is strenuous. I need to take it little by little.

Elsewhere in life everything is splendid. Fall? Gorgeous. My practice? Busy. I'm healthy, sleeping pretty well, getting out for my walks, taking pictures, spending time with friends. I have great clients, friends, neighbors. I love my home and neighborhood. I'm even back in love with DC (during the government shutdown my ardor flagged a little bit - understandably).

In a little more than two weeks I'm going to get on an airplane, go to Oregon to spend Thanksgiving with my family, something I haven't done in decades. I love my family. Right now, in the midst of this exquisite fall, I love everybody.

OK, maybe I'm not as insulated as I hoped from the connection with my ancestors. Oh well. An open heart is a good thing, right? That's what they say.

The Buddhists are correct - that this life, a "brief, greedy sugar high," is a precious existence. It surely is. Even while grieving, I appreciate that truth, especially now that I'm sixty.

L'chaim, y'all.




Thursday, November 7, 2013

May we never hunger



Today is the first normal day I've experienced since Halloween. I am grateful. The Voice in the Shower said straightaway this morning, No ancestor work today. I was down with that idea, oh yeah. Grieving is heinous work! Does it serve a purpose? I keep asking myself. Do you have an opinion? How is grieving useful? Help me out.

While we're at it, why do I suffer so much personal grief for people I didn't know? Obviously, I have a lot of questions. However, today I put them aside and instead went grocery shopping. It's my favorite thing, buying food. I love wandering the aisles, noticing what seems enticing. I look for lively energy fields, bright colors, nice smells. Unless I'm specifically planning to cook for a dinner party or something, I shop by whim rather than from a list. I buy what's good, then figure out what to do with it once I get home.

Given my open-hearted fragility of late, I decided to go ahead and buy whatever I wanted today. If I need to invite people over to share dinner so the food doesn't go bad, then so be it. And anyway I love entertaining. Today I needed comfort. I decided to be generous with myself and just go for it.

OK, I did cringe at the cash register and I walked out of the store with twice as many bags of groceries as usual. My fridge is now cheerfully full of lively food. This is a good thing. I'm going to make an apple/pear spice cake to mostly give away. One dinner this week will be centered around oven sautéed chicken dredged in cornmeal, salt, pepper, and thyme. I will roast winter vegetables and squashes, then spritz them with lemon juice, sprinkle parmesan cheese over them. I have olives and grapes. I have stuff to make salad. I bought kosher pickles made in the Bronx. No matter the grief, I will be well fed.

Here's the funny thing. Inadvertently I bought everything I need to make beef borscht with sour cream, one of my father's favorite meals and probably one of the Melikiers' favorites, too. It's blustery and late fall-like outdoors, hence perfect for a hearty soupy stew. It wasn't until the groceries were out of the bags that I noticed I'd bought beets, leeks, tomatoes, cabbage and big piece of beef. I also bought sour cream, something I never buy. Hmm, I thought. That's borscht.

Me and the Melikiers of Vzsygorodek? Like peas in a pod I tell you. Like peas in a pod.

Shalom.