Thursday, January 31, 2008


What do you do when something scares you? Some people get big and mean. Their hackles stand up and they start growling. Others run away, like in the Monty Python movie.

My instinctual response is to freeze up, the proverbial deer in the headlights syndrome. I try to be invisible, a difficult task since in person I tend to be kind of ... what's the right word? Vivid. Yes I'm vivid energetically and visually, too, which means my attempts to become invisible are clumsy and ineffective.

Sometimes I get so scared that I freeze solid, like the earth during the 'dead' of winter, like the tin woodsman in The Wizard of Oz. I don't move a muscle for years at a time after a big scare.

One of my great teachers/benefactors told me that at this time of year, the Feast of St. Bridgid, also Groundhog Day, Candlemas (probably there are other names for this moment inbetween seasons), the sun cracks the ice in the heart of the earth to remind her that spring is on its way. I'm pretty sure that's why the tradition of watching for the groundhog's shadow is so enduring. Who doesn't want to sense the coming of spring during the darkest and coldest days of the year?

I feel a little like the groundhog this year, awakening from an extended period in the deep freeze. I'm like Rip Van Winkle, waking up from a long sleep. God is squirting oil into my frozen joints. It hurts to move my arms and legs, but it's important to do so.

My move to Capitol Hill - now almost seven years ago - involved a scorching betrayal and a big scare around survival. I hunkered down and though I've been restless at various points during these past few years, I've stayed put, because being frozen made me feel safe.

All that is going to change right after my birthday. My work situation is shifting dramatically, a Very Good Thing. Who knows what will follow that? Once an energy flow shifts, it tends to have an impact on all aspects of my life.

Though still frightened (it's part of my nature) things are moving, and I'm moving with them. It's about time!

Wednesday, January 30, 2008

Flying Dreams

One of the things I find most charming about Hindu mythology is the fact that the deities all have animal allies.

Durga, the Queen Mother of Hindu gods, rides on the back of a flying tiger (or a lion sometimes). She is a superbadass goddess who can defeat the most heinous of demons. In many depictions she's holding a bloody sword in one of her many hands, while the lion/tiger she's riding is gouging out the heart of the demon under its feet. The Hindu gods don't mess around with demons, let me tell you!

In Norse mythology, some of the deities have animal allies as well. Freya has her beloved gold bristled boar. Odin has at least one raven on his shoulder at all times. Another goddess flies around on a swan, I believe. (I've read so many collections of myth that I sometimes get confused about who it is who rides the swan, the boar, the lion. I think it's the Hindu Sarasvati who rides the swan.)

Most of these divine animal allies can fly, a handy talent. This has been on my mind of late due to a series of dreams in which I'm riding on the back of some animal that can fly. In some of the dreams I'm terrified, hanging on for dear life. In others, I'm having a blast, flying high with joy and abandon. I've had so many of these dreams, surely I'm trying to send myself a Very Important Message. No consistent theory about what this means has yet arisen in my conscious mind but it seems like a good thing, don't you think?

Tuesday, January 29, 2008


What's your agenda? Everyone's got one, most folks have several agendas, intertwined into one another, creating the most fabulous patterns. It's hard to separate from these patterns, to see that they're just patterns, mine that is, and that the next door neighbor's patterns are every bit as legitimate.

I saw in the Washington Post this morning that the Kennedys are endorsing Obama, subsequent to his big win in S. Carolina. Okay. Obama is really a good guy. But I keep asking myself, do the Kennedys (and others) really believe Mr. Obama can pull this country out of its tailspin? Wow. Does Mr. Obama?

I should never say never, but ... well ... one of my agendas is based on my desire to learn how to live gracefully in an empire once powerful that's now on its last legs, staggering around like a dry drunk. The United States of America? Pathetic! That's why I like Hillary for president. She's so much more realistic about what can and can't be done.

Can't bear to watch Mr. Bush anymore, or listen to his voice, but I heard this morning that his State of the Union address was all about how everything is going well, we're winning in Iraq and the economy will bounce back. Talk about agendas! Yikes ... or in his case is it just denial?

It's a dark, gray and rainy day in Washington DC. In spite of the flagging empire, contradictory agendas, and an emperor with no clothes, the birds are chirping, people are going to work, you know, the usual. Jake is snoring peacefully while I drink tea and think about agendas. Life goes on. Why not?

Sunday, January 27, 2008

Blog Poetry Slam

From Deborah Oak's blog

Let poetry bless the blogosphere once again!

WHAT: A Bloggers (Silent) Poetry Reading

WHEN: Anytime February 2, 2008

WHERE: Your blog

WHY: To celebrate the Feast of Brigid, aka Groundhog Day

HOW: Select a poem you like - by a favorite poet or one of your own - to post February 2nd.

RSVP: If you plan to publish, feel free to leave a comment and link on my blog. Last year when the call went out there was more poetry in cyberspace than I could keep track of. So, link to whoever you hear about this from and a mighty web of poetry will be spun.

Feel free to pass this invitation on to any and all bloggers.

Thank you, Reya, for beginning what is now an annual event.

You're welcome, Oak. I'm thrilled this event has been so popular. Special thanks go the knitters. They're the people who made this event work so well the first year. Poetry on Feb. 2? YES. Count on it.

Saturday, January 26, 2008

Healing is Believing

I'm preparing to teach Reiki levels I and II in a couple of months, thinking about how I want to describe it. Since Reiki is energy-based work, there really is no lingo in American English that can do it justice, but I have to say more than "Try it, you'll like it."

One of the major components of the work is prayer, that is, asking for divine wisdom and divine guidance during the sessions. Even the word "prayer" is scary to many folks, maybe because they associate it with something awful they were forced to do when they were children, or because it conjures up evangelical Christianity in their minds. For many folks, the word is offensive because they don't believe in it.

But all healing is faith based, always has been since healing was "invented" by our ancient ancestors who are now called "shamans" no matter where they lived or how they practiced or what they believed would work. It was about faith then, and it's about faith now. Oh yes it is!

Those who subscribe to western medicine believe in blood tests and MRIs, etc., procedures that are - for the most part - just another form of divination. Western medicine is an analytical belief system based on statistics, mostly. There can be love in western medicine, but it's not the basis of the work. If you believe in statistics, western medicine is probably your healing faith.

The Sufi acupuncturist tells me how funny it is when he meets someone who doesn't believe in Chinese medicine. The conversation goes like this:

Disbeliever: What do you do for a living?
Sufi Acupuncturist: I'm an acupuncturist and herbalist.
Disbeliever: Oh really? I don't believe in that. (or alternately, "Does that work?")

It is funny to realize that the disbeliever is so entrenched in his/her own system of faith, that she/he can't keep from being completely RUDE. Oh well.

Of course there are also people like me who "don't believe" in western medicine. Let me qualify that - for emergency procedures, western medicine is great. If I broke my arm, for instance, I would not make an appointment to see the Sufi acupuncturist. But for most of what ails me, low-level chronic conditions, I don't BELIEVE western medicine has much to offer except a lifetime of expensive prescription drugs and their "side" effects, along with a battery of expensive, not to mention very uncomfortable, tests of every kind imaginable. In my heart of hearts, I don't believe this form of medicine is, in any way, healing.

The editors of the Washington Post Sunday magazine this week are dancing in shamanic alignment with my train of thought. The cover story is about a quadriplegic who cured himself. I haven't read the article yet so I don't know how he did it, but the title of the article is "Walking Miracle." See? The language of faith is always a part of the story of medicine. The cover pic is of the guy hiking in the mountains above the Gobi Desert. Clearly this is a case of someone with faith in his ability to heal himself, in spite of what he was supposed to believe, that his condition was not curable.

The mind is so powerful, especially accompanied by faith in something, anything. Illness and injury challenge us to contemplate what we believe. Pain scares us into dealing with faith on some level or another. I guess in that way, the ills of the body are a blessing, but God, wouldn't it be nice if we could learn these lessons without all the pain and fear? Wouldn't it?

Thursday, January 24, 2008

Thinking about My Mother and Father


At night the dead come down to the river to drink.
They unburden themselves of their fears,
their worries for us. They take out the old photographs.
They pat the lines in our hands and tell our futures.
Some dead find their way to our houses.
They go up to the attics.
They read the letters they sent us, insatiable
for signs of their love.
They tell each other stories.
They make so much noise
they wake us
as they did when we were children and they stayed up
drinking all night in the kitchen.

--Susan Mitchell

Wednesday, January 23, 2008

The King of Naps

I'm not very good at taking naps, even when I'm tired or sick, even when I "should." But Jake is a napping genius, brilliant at the art. Sometimes he curls up and doesn't move for hours, except to rise periodically, turn several times in a clockwise direction, sigh audibly, glance around, then curl up for another bout.

Jake is an incredible dreamer, too. His eyelids flutter, his feet kick and he even tries to bark. His dream bark sounds like a car that can't quite start when you turn the key in the ignition. It's so funny. Sometimes he wakes up suddenly, startled. I wonder what he's dreaming about? I wonder if he can fly in dreams, as I did in my dream last night (on the back of a swan, I kid you not). Maybe he dreams of hunting, frolicking with other dogs, chasing cats. Who knows? Sometimes I imagine that he's taking shamanic journeys in order to do some canine soul retrieval or some such.

If Jake could teach stressed out, insomniac humans how to just let go and sleep, he could be a zillionare. When I ask him how he does it, he looks at me so intensely, but of course he's limited in terms of language. He has never yet found a way to articulate his skill. How sad. Oh well.

Tuesday, January 22, 2008

Urban Terrain

Washington DC is a surprisingly green city, bursting with trees, lawns, gardens, parks, and two beautiful rivers. Ordinarly I tend to focus on the living green world when I think about the terrain in which I live.

But truth is, much of the terrain here is made from concrete, brick and asphalt. No denying it - cities are paved landscapes, which is, in many ways a nice thing. I know I should be against all the pavement, but it does serve a practical purpose. Riding a bike is far easier on a street than cross country, walking on sidewalks is so great on rainy days (walking through mud isn't as much fun).

During the summer, all that concrete and asphalt contributes to the feeling of being scalded, roasted and steamed, but in winter, the streets soak up sunlight and provide a tiny bit of warmth. Winter tree shadows are splendid on nice black asphalt. I can't resist staring at them and photographing them, over and over again.

With our shoes, bikes, strollers, shopping carts, and cars, we city dwellers have adapted to the paved landscape. Many of us urban folks would be completely undone trying to move around over a "natural" landscape.

Of course, it's all natural. The asphalt, concrete and brick does not come from outer space. Sidewalks and streets are manipulated natural materials, not that different than squirrel nests, ant hills or beaver dams, except we're larger animals, and have opposable thumbs. And of course we get carried away sometimes and just can't stop our manipulation of the landscape, so we end up with completely paved cities like San Francisco and New York where the green earth only has tiny islands in which to express itself.

DC is the perfect balance of paved and unpaved which is yet one more reason I am so in love with this crazy, beautiful city. Why not appreciate the asphalt? Why not?

Sunday, January 20, 2008

Oh Baby It's Cold Outside!

On days like today, I'm able to vividly remember the harsh winters in the midwest where I grew up. Yikes it's cold. And the wind - gusty, sharp, freezing! The wind today is just plain old mean.

In Chinese medicine, wind is a form that demons take. Wind can get inside your body and cause all kinds of problems, like coughing and congestion, muscle aches, in other words, all the symptoms we Americans call 'the flu.' In the throes of a high fever, coughing, nose blowing, barfing, diarrea, and the stupidity that comes along with the symptoms, the flu can feel like a demonic possession, can't it? I think so. Remember poor Linda Blair in The Exorcist? That was one bad case of the flu!

Those of us who believe in western medicine think of the flu in terms of bacteria and viruses. How boring. I'm not saying that viruses have nothing to do with the flu. They do. But that's not all there is to it. The flu brings with it a mood, a feeling comes into the room with the virus. This is one of the reasons I am so enjoying my study of Chinese medicine, because I know what they mean when they say wind can be demonic. I know that feeling of wind creeping underneath the collar of my warmest coat, sneaking up the sleeves of my most snuggly sweater. On days like today I make sure my ears are completely tucked under my hat, not only because ears get so cold, but because I can feel the wind trying to find its way into my brain, down my throat. The ancient Chinese believed demonic winds lived in caves most of the time, only coming out when 'hungry.' Maybe that's why we sometimes say the wind is "biting." Satanic wind, get thee behind me!

There are many different kinds of wind. Some winds are much kinder, some winds blow away stagnant air, bring relief during the summer. Gentle breezes are part of the beauty of spring and fall, too. I'm very friendly with beneficent winds, in fact I feel a familial relationship with nice winds. Why not? But the wind today is no friend of mine. It is NOT my brother.

Thank God for warm hats, scarves, gloves, and for the full length black wool coat I'll be wrapping tight around me when I take Jake for his walk. Jake, too, will be wearing his fleece sweater.

A hard freeze accompanied by a mean wind is part of January here in the midatlantic. I'm grateful to live indoors in a well warmed house, safe and sound, protected from the evil wind. Stay warm, stay out of the wind and be well, ya'all.

Saturday, January 19, 2008

Chop Wood, Carry Water

And walk the dogs, too. These aren't my dogs, but aren't they cute? Even cuter are dogs in the snow. The Drowsy Fabulist published lovely pics of her dogs in the snow today. Here on Capitol Hill, where this week's snow lasted only a half day, we have to be content with dogs on bare sidewalks, which is really OK.

Today I'm planning to clean my room, have lunch with a British friend who's in town this week, mat and frame photos, receive a massage and buy a blender. (I didn't mean to drop the blender this week, in a cooking frenzy, but that's what happened. Oh well.)

What a fine day I have planned. I'll accomplish some things, but have some fun, too. What's not to love about today?

Chop wood, carry water, have lunch and a massage ... and ... buy a blender! At least, that's my plan. Yes.

Thursday, January 17, 2008

Let There Be White

During my years in DC I've seen activists dressed up in many different kinds of costumes. Political activism, at least for lefties, involves a tremendous amount of street theater.

But I'm sure I've never seen people dressed as polar bears before today. Ran into them on my way to work, before the snow began. They were headed to the Capitol, of course.

Am I suddenly scanning for polar bears, since my dream the other day? Or is there a polar bear spirit hanging around? Is it a coincidence? Because you can't plan to have a dream like that then subsequently cross paths with people from Texas, dressed as polar bears. The line between dreamscape and "real" life sometimes gets a little unglued.

I like the purse hanging around the shoulder of the bear on the right. She's got it all together.

About 10 minutes after I took this picture, it began to snow, heavily at times, though we also had rain and sleet. Still, it was winter precipitation, nice and cold. It seemed like a hopeful portent for the polar bears. I hope so.

Wednesday, January 16, 2008

Dance of the Seven Veils

The veil of summer in this midatlantic swamp is impenetrable, at least to what they call the "naked" eye. When fall arrives, the landscape transforms completely.

Hedges turn from solid green cubes to layers of brown lace. The trees, so full and round in summer, shake off their green petticoats. What's underneath all those leaves is an intricate network of trunks and branches, beautiful in a completely different way. Also revealed on Capitol Hill, of course, are lots of charming architectural details hidden during summer by the trees. At mid-winter I can see the Capitol from all over the Hill, something that never happens in summer. I can even see the Washington Monument. It's very cool.

Streets that are dark with shade in summer are filled with sunshine during the winter months. Tenth Street NE between Constitution and Mass Avenue is a block that feels like a convertible. During summer, there's a lid over the whole block, a roof of leaves. In winter, the top is down - the difference is dramatic. I love that.

The sky gets clearer, too, when the humidity drops. Though we never get a dark sky in the middle of DC, in mid-winter, it's possible, on certain nights, to see a few stars. Last night I saw Orion around 8:00 p.m. Also visible were Mars, Venus and the moon, as well as about 20 other stars. That's a lot of stars for DC.

All four seasons are beautiful and entrancing. I love the quiet month of January, so often called the "dead" of winter. Cold, dark ... monochromatic? Yes. Winter is anything but dead, though. I love winter.

Monday, January 14, 2008


Once upon a time, I was fixated on my dream life. It isn't the dumbest of fixations, is it? Dreams are incredible in so many different ways. Almost always I am fascinated by the tremendous amount of cleverness and creativity in my dreams. From which part of my psyche did I come up with the one last week in which a polar bear is chasing me down an icy WWI trench? The polar bear needed my help, but I was afraid. The anonymous dream people encouraged me to hoist myself out of the trench but initially all I saw were a bunch of ragged, dangerous fences. In the end, I found a staircase and got out. Poor polar bears! Sorry I couldn't help.

Though I consider myself to be creative in "real" life, I never completely surrender to it the way I do in my dreams. I'm always at least slightly rational while awake. Really I am. More annoying is the fact that I'm not nearly as clever when conscious as when I'm under the blankets, my eyelids fluttering, deep in REM sleep. Doesn't seem fair.

These days I allow my dreams to do whatever they need to. I still like to write them down, as much as I can remember of them anyway, but in general I don't focus on them too much, don't try to figure out what they mean. The exception is any dream that sticks with me for more than a day or two, like the polar bear dream. Dreams with longlasting resonance merit more serious attention, but most of them slip in and out of my head without my interference.

I've wondered why my dream life has become less interesting over time. Maybe I know myself better than I used to, or maybe I've learned, once and for all, that the mystery of me (like every human) can never be fully understood, no matter how hard I try. Maybe it's a matter of trust. Even if I don't understand my dreams, everything will be fine!

Whatever the reasons, I've decided that my renewed interest in "real" life, something that has supplanted the allure of the magical (including dreams) is a sign of health and well being. Why not?

Saturday, January 12, 2008

Why I Like Hillary for President

Anyone who has known me since the last election understands, in gruesome detail, what I think about the U.S. Presidency. But I live in Washington DC and the campaign is well underway. I can't get away from it, so ... I'm compelled to say it all again. Apologies to those who have heard this rant before.

I believe the office of the U.S. presidency is flawed. The job itself is impossible, as has been shown to us again and again. A few rise up to brilliance, but after all our years as a country, still, the number of "great" presidents can be counted on one hand. The ones who ascended to excellence did so because of circumstances at hand - big wars and such. And, too, once a person has been brilliant in the office of the presidency, they're bound to get killed or drop dead soon afterwards. The U.S. presidency "ain't right" as my friend Sharon Austin would say.

With all due respect to one of my heroes, George Washington, I see what you founding fathers wanted - fairness, equality (among white men at least). You wanted to see the CEO hat passed around from one to the other - you were sick of monarchies. I get it. When George refused the crown, it was a profoundly revolutionary moment. The idea behind the presidency is great - fair, democratic. But the reality is that we put a "renter" into the most powerful position in our country every four or eight years. It's a big problem.

Any job takes awhile to learn. "Big" jobs take a year or two, minimum, before the person doing the work gets good at it. When I think about the level of responsibility involved in being president, I imagine that to really get good at it must take longer - maybe four years, maybe six. Every four or eight years,we toss the president into the rubbish bin, place another rookie in the Oval Office. And we wonder why presidents always look dazed and confused, why they age so tragically and why many of them begin to shine only after the end of the presidency. Think of Carter, Bill Clinton.

The job itself sucks, but in addition, our presidents have to live in the White House. I am not exaggerating when I say that the White House is the most haunted building I've ever set foot in. A few years ago I was treated to a nighttime tour with a small group. I'm telling you, the White House is CREEPY. Yikes! Ugly, too - butt ugly! Even the way the house is managed is creepy. They use a system that's been in place since 1800, as much as they can. They even still have house slaves, old black men who work their entire lives in the White House as butlers, I guess is the closest polite word I can think of to describe it. Everyone on staff at the House has some bizarre title. And think about it - the White House is a southern plantation house. Lafayette Park, in front of the house (used to be the back yard until the 1940's) was one of DC's largest slave markets. Is that the right idea for the residency of our most powerful citizen? Believe me - that house is WEIRD!! The president has to work from home, too, so there's no escape (except Camp David) from the scary feng shui.

I like Hillary for president for very practical reasons. She's married to one - she knows the drill. She lived in the White House for eight years, so she certainly knows its secrets. They say the Clintons loved being at "home" - they hosted bowling and movie parties and lots of events. Who knows? Maybe the White House ghosts are fond of the Clintons, maybe the spirits didn't give them such a rough time. What I hear is that the Bushes are hardly ever in the house. Figures.

She has lived in the White House, she's married to a two term president, she has worked in Congress. Hillary's got chops. And though I don't agree with everything she says or does, I think there's absolutely no way anyone can accurately promise what they'll accomplish once they're hammered into the stiff, heavy suit of the U.S. Presidency. Campaign promises are, by their very nature, empty.

That said, I would be happy to vote for any of the Democratic candidates. Obama is really such a good guy. The Republican candidates are ... well ... just weird! I think any of them could turn out to be worse than Dubya, hard to imagine. Yikes.

OKay. Enough about the presidency, Reya! Enough!

Friday, January 11, 2008

Urban Terrain, Mid-Winter

It's supposed to stay unseasonably warm for the weekend. I'll be out and about ... yeah!

Happy weekend ya'all.

Thursday, January 10, 2008


I don't want to complain - because Blogger is free - but ... well ... what happened to my overphotoshopped avatar? It suddenly disappeared sometime last week. Even more mysterious is that all my efforts to replace it have not worked. Navigating through layer after layer of unhelpful "help" pages in Blogspot didn't provide me with any information I didn't already know. When I logged into the "help group" I saw that lots of people have lost their avatars since November 2007.

Is there a dragon or gnome or troll hiding somewhere inside Blogger, some strange virtual monster that feeds on avatars? Who knows? (This is the way I think.)

Until something shifts, I believe I'll publish pics of myself every now and then, so I can maintain a visual presence on The Gold Puppy. Hope the Blogger troll doesn't like reflected images of bloggers, too. Could half a pic disappear? Will there be bite marks left behind? Yikes!

Wednesday, January 9, 2008

Relentless Expectations

"Hillary Clinton Shows Raw Emotion" was one of yesterday's headlines. Is this really news? Or how about the story about the newscaster who was rude to Obama and was subsequently restrained by the CIA. Is rudeness, in the heat of the moment, actually dangerous enough to require restraint? Is this kind of behavior so unusual that it should be reported?

Raw emotion, rudeness ... uhmmmm .... so what? Why such a fuss over normal human behavior? I don't get it.

If you're old enough you might remember I'm OK, You're OK, a book written in 1969. It was a gentler time back then, when the transactional analysts decided it was alright to be human, to show raw emotion or do something rude every now and then. It was a silly book, as most self-help books are, but the concept of acceptance was sound advice - practical, too.

After awhile, I forgot all about I'm OK, You're OK. In fact I spent much of the 1990's all worked up with righteous indignation and/or grandiose self-loathing and fear. Looking back on it that madness, I'm embarrassed, though more than that, I'm relieved to have moved past the era in my life that was characterized, as my partner called it, by a "Cry of Outrage of the Day." We're talking EVERY day. Just how much spleen venting does a woman really need? Apparently - a lot! Gosh.

The idea of perfection is such a siren song - calling me to try for the impossible. When I "fail" (whatever that means!) I've historically been quick to berate myself and everyone else around me for "making mistakes," another phrase I no longer understand. What is a mistake? Please tell me.

Hey Hillary, you go girl. Show "raw" emotion anytime you want to. It's OK. Really!! And all the rest of you out there ... have you noticed you're not perfect? BRAVO and carry on! A toast to human imperfection and to the possibility of accepting that sweet truth. Cheers!

Tuesday, January 8, 2008

Heat Wave

I love the moody, unpredictable, chaotic, unruly weather here in the beloved swamp I call home. OK, I don't love it so much when there is an icy rain accompanied by a fierce wind, or alternatively when it's a million degrees with a million percent humidity. But I do love the odd day or two when the weather refuses to conform to seasonal expectations.

It was warm yesterday and will be warmer today. Sometime tomorrow, winter will return, which is completely fitting and proper.

In the meantime, though, how fun to dip into a day or two or premature spring fever. There will be no reading about the history of Chinese medicine today, oh no, nor will there be a lot of time spent in front of the television. I don't even think I'll cook, something I usually do on Tuesdays.

I'm off my ass today, out the door. I'm going to breathe the soft air, soak up the sunshine, listen to the birds, who sound as pleased as I am by the change in the weather. Since I don't have to tuck my head down into layer upon layer of warm scarves, I'll be able to actually look around at the world. Jake will not have to endure the humiliation of wearing his Fido Fleece coat. It's all good.

With a kiss and a wink to the weather gods - thank you!!

Monday, January 7, 2008

Clean Slate

Happy Three Astrologers Day!

The holidays are now officially over and done with. Put away the rolls of Christmas wrap, take down the tree, remove the brown and shrivelled wreaths from your front doors, puh-lease! Though I'm proud of the effort I made to enjoy the holidays this year, still, I'm relieved that they're over.

Now it's January, so ... now what? It's too early for spring cleaning, mostly too cold for long walks (though today and tomorrow in DC are supposed to be warm and lovely). What are you supposed to do in January? What does Martha Stewart do?

I've got a well-stocked netflix queue, and of course I always have a mountain of books to read, but I can't sit on my ass all month long, can I? I guess we'll see!

Saturday, January 5, 2008

Geriatric Jake

It'll happen to all of us if we're lucky enough to survive. I'm talking about old age. This year, Jake turned 12. In dog years, for an animal as large as he is, that's OLD. He's getting saggy and sleepy, no longer chasing squirrels, though he'll still go after cats any day of the week. The dogs he once tried to pick fights with have become part of the landscape as far as he's concerned. There are even days when he doesn't bother to get up and bark at the mailman.

In a way, Jake's old age is a relief. He was uber-energized in his prime, never got enough exercise even though I got him out and ran him until his tongue hung out the side of his mouth. Even last year he was still eager to walk to the Capitol and explore the grounds there, but this year he stops at 6th street and shows me he's ready to head back to the house.

He's the first dog I've ever had. It's likely I won't try to replace him...but...why am I already planning on my life after his demise? He isn't dead yet! And in fact right now he's giving me the evil eye which means it's time to take a walk down to 6th Street, pausing here and there so he can sniff and piss, and so I can take some pics.

Life is precious - and fleeting! Carpe canine diem!

Friday, January 4, 2008

Half Empty or Half Full?

What do you say when someone asks, "How are you?" "Fine" is the usual answer, or at least the polite one. "Fine" is what I almost always say. When the Sufi acupuncturist asks me, though, I'm pretty sure he's looking for a more comprehensive response.

Usually my condition requires more than a one word answer. Being human, after all, is complicated. I'm almost always kind of fine, kind of not fine. Often I can't articulate my condition - it's like when you're getting your eyes checked for new glasses and they ask, "Which lens works better for you, number one or number two?" I can never tell which one is "better." Do I want the world to be clearly defined but very small, or larger, but slightly fuzzier? Should things look tall and skinny or flatter and shorter? I guess what the eye doctor is really asking is for my preference, rather than what's "better." What is my preferred vision? Who knows!

I read somewhere recently that optimists are more successful in life. Duh! The power of the mind is so fantastic (in the true sense of that word). Cultivating a half-full attitude is an interesting project. I'm developing this capacity later in life than I might have, but later is better than never, right? See, I'm better at it already, yes? Yes.

My glass is half full these days. Isn't that great?

Thursday, January 3, 2008

Creation Myths

I've been reading creation myths from around the world and across time (found a wonderful myth compendium at the National Gallery bookshop). So many of these stories strike me as "true" (whatever that means). I'm especially interested in the myths about how humans arrived on the planet. I like the Shinto myth in which a goddess decides the earth is so beautiful that it will be lonely unless she makes some humans out of clay to keep the Earth company. Sweet.

An all-time favorite is the Haida myth that starts with all humans living inside a huge clam shell because it's safe (of course). Raven, the trickster of Haida culture, comes along and teases the humans into climbing out of the shell by telling them how beautiful the earth is. Once out of the clam shell, the humans can not return.

I'm less fond of western classical myths. Humans as action figures for the Greek gods to play with, for instance, doesn't much capture my imagination, nor does the idea that we were put here on Earth to "rule over" nature. Maybe I don't like the ones I learned growing up because they're too familiar.

Almost all of 2008 is still out there, waiting to unfold. Maybe new year's resolutions and intentions (that's how Not Plain Jane frames it) are our own personal creation myths. More exercise, less drinking, focusing on money issues, finding true love, learning to knit tea cozies, getting a promotion at work ... these are just a few of the resolutions I've heard about from those nearest and dearest to me. It's fun to imagine a fulfilling year, and though I try not to shape my thought process so much these days, preferring to allow the world to show me what's what, I admire people who are willing to put their foot down and say out loud what they'd like for the new year.

A salute to those who resolve and intend! And a salute to myself for letting go of that habit. Salutes all around. Cheers!

Tuesday, January 1, 2008

What's Important?

Is it important to be powerful?

I've been asking around, because I know I used to think being powerful was supremely important. Maybe it's a baby boomer phenomena.

During the early days of the feminist movement in the 1970's, when women felt completely powerless, the concept of empowerment got planted in our heads. Without sufficient umphh, we felt we would fail to overthrow the oppression of our post 1950's American culture. Down with Doris Day! Up with Angela Davis! The idea was to get power first, then focus on healing injustices. We had consciousness-raising circles in which we expressed anger, clenched our fists and raised them to the sky. It was intoxicating. After a lifetime of being told we had to stuff our desires and be polite, we allowed ourselves to feel blood in our mouths - all in service to the urgent need for justice and fairness and peace, mind you. What a delicious sensation.

Everything in early feminism had to be extreme, in order to explode through the old paradigm. As the movement matured, feminist tactics became much more refined. After awhile, most of us went back to shaving our legs, wearing bras and make-up. I changed behaviors, but held on to the old, extreme thought forms. Why did I believe that kindness and receptivity, lady-like behavior, was a sign of weakness? It's a leftover fragment from the 70's. But, maybe I'm finally letting go.

These days I think it's important to be kind, to practice compassion, aim towards balance, actively avoid the drama that always accompanies the pursuit of power. Human beings are so powerful already. It's like cultivating weeds while ignoring the roses.

Unfortunately we have a long road to travel if we want to become a more gentle, thoughtful species. Trying to cultivate personal power without refining our instinctual behavior will not bring us closer to thoughtfulness and compassion. At least it certainly didn't bring me closer to being a decent person.

Maybe Doris Day wasn't so bad. She almost always played a career "gal" in her movies. She was boy crazy, of course, but she also had her pride. She had strong boundaries around her sexual behavior, was clearly in control of her own destiny, and in the end, she always triumphed Wow.. Doris was powerful after all. As powerful as Angela Davis? I'm starting to think so.

Any thoughts? Is it important to be powerful?