Wednesday, August 26, 2009

See You on the Flip Side

I'll be back next Tuesday. Have a great week!

Tuesday, August 25, 2009

Praise what comes from the dirt.

This poem makes me hungry, reminds me that we homo sapiens are not that different from the plant world, makes me wonder about vegetarianism, and also helps me realize that it's not just salad that comes from the dirt. Everything comes from the dirt.

I know there is stardust in everything, too, but basically everything you have, everything you are, comes from the dirt and will, sooner or later, return to the dirt.

I always think about this when I get ready to jump on an airplane because for a brief time tomorrow, and again when I return next week, I will not be directly connected to the dirt. As an earth dweller, that's always so strange for me.

Praise what comes from the dirt, indeed, in other words, praise everything. Oh yeah!

Vegetable Love
by Barbara Crooker

Feel a tomato, heft its weight in your palm,
think of buttocks, breasts, this plump pulp.
And carrots, mud clinging to the root,
gold mined from the earth's tight purse.
And asparagus, that push their heads up,
rise to meet the returning sun,
and zucchini, green torpedoes
lurking in the Sargasso depths
of their raspy stalks and scratchy leaves.
And peppers, thick walls of cool jade, a green hush.
Secret caves. Sanctuary.
And beets, the dark blood of the earth.
And all the lettuces: bibb, flame, oak leaf, butter-
crunch, black-seeded Simpson, chicory, cos.
Elizabethan ruffs, crisp verbiage.
And spinach, the dark green
of northern forests, savoyed, ruffled,
hidden folds and clefts.
And basil, sweet basil, nuzzled
by fumbling bees drunk on the sun.
And cucumbers, crisp, cool white ice
in the heart of August, month of fire.
And peas in their delicate slippers,
little green boats, a string of beads,
repeating, repeating.
And sunflowers, nodding at night,
then rising to shout hallelujah! at noon.

All over the garden, the whisper of leaves
passing secrets and gossip, making assignations.
All of the vegetables bask in the sun,
languorous as lizards.
Quick, before the frost puts out
its green light, praise these vegetables,
earth's voluptuaries,
praise what comes from the dirt.

"Vegetable Love" by Barbara Crooker, from Radiance. © Word Press, 2005.

Monday, August 24, 2009


I'm a curious person, always wondering, wondering. Sometimes I ask "why?" Other times, "Why not?"

Lately, watching so many movies since Jake died (that's how I've wasted a lot of time this summer) I've been wondering why we love watching things explode. It seems we especially like big fiery explosions, in slow motion, that are also extremely loud. Do you know? Is it an American thing or univerally human?

Why do we love car chases? Or for that matter, boat chases, airplane chases, people on motorcycles chasing and racing? Any thoughts on why that is allegedly entertaining?

In fact, why am I saying "we" - because I personally find nothing interesting about big, loud fiery destructive explosions, in slow motion or otherwise. I don't even like fireworks. I don't like racing around in cars, or being chased in a car, squealing around corners, driving the wrong way down a one way street. I don't enjoy the spectacle of a car sailing off a cliff and crashing at the bottom.

Maybe the problem is me. Am I a freak?

Sunday, August 23, 2009

Up Up and Away ... Almost

The big, dramatic weather front has moved past DC. They say the skies will be clear and the weather will be calm on Wednesday, the day I jet out of Washington and head west for San Francisco and Lake Tahoe.

It's all I can think about. I am so excited!!

Saturday, August 22, 2009

Late Night Storm

There's nothing like a thunderstorm, nothing. The flashing and booming, the hard rain, gusty wind, wow. The weather gods are hardly ever as dramatic as during a big storm. I love them!

Usually these storms take place in the late afternoon, after the steamy heat has had a chance to build up, but last night right around 4:00 a.m. a huge thunderstorm rolled over the house on Tennessee Avenue.

I put on my glasses, laid my head at the bottom of the bed so I could gaze straight out the window. The purple jagged sizzling branches of lightning momentarily blinded me. Some of the booms of thunder were so loud, the windows rattled in their frames. It was SO cool.

Jake was terrified of thunderstorms. At the first flash of lightning, he would either climb into the bathtub (an odd instinct if you ask me) or wedge himself behind the toilet. He would shiver uncontrollably throughout every storm and for quite awhile afterwards. No amount of comforting ever convinced him that he was safe. Sometimes I drugged him with doggie downers which made him woozy and disoriented but he still hid behind the toilet. He really hated thunderstorms.

Last night for the first time since I've lived in Washington I was able to enjoy a visit from Brothers Thunder and Lightning without distraction or guilt. The sky ranted and raved and ranted some more. My attention to the storm was undivided. It was great. After the storm had passed, though, I found myself feeling lonely. Well, it was 4:30 a.m., a lonely time of the night to be sure. And I did enjoy the storm, I did.

I know I'm always writing about the Jake-shaped hole in my life. Apologies for that. I'm working on filling in that hole. Seems like it's taking forever, doesn't it?

Friday, August 21, 2009

Too Much of a Good Thing

I thought you were supposed to prune trees in the spring, but they just did a lot of pruning in Lincoln Park. I must be mistaken.

Spaciousness is a good thing in every way I can imagine. I'm talking about having enough personal space, of course, but that's not all. The spacious mind has room for inspiration, revelation. Spaciousness of heart makes possible an easeful flow of love in and out. Spacious breath means your body gets all the oxygen it needs, and can let go of all the carbon dioxide it has no use for.

Having a spacious schedule is also a great thing, a rare thing in DC, let me tell you. People pack their calendars so full they don't have time to blink. I really get the carpe diem, life is short, time enough for rest in the grave concept. And, too, the folks I know have big jobs, families, kids and partners who all need their attention.

Having time on my hands is a crucial aspect of my Plan to Stay Sane. I hate rushing around more than just about anything. Having to hurry up is the major cause of anxiety for me, so I've constructed a life that has lots of wiggle room in all areas (well except financially - it's a tight squeeze there, but worth it, at least to me).

Since Jake died, all the time I spent caring for him, feeding, walking, petting, bathing and worrying (especially during the last year of his life) has been freed up. Since I already had plenty of space built into my life, I'm feeling at loose ends. No way I'm ready to get another dog just yet; I want to explore what it means to not have a dog. To be honest, though, I'm finding that exploration extremely daunting. I had fantasies about being very productive during this time, but mostly I'm sitting around, fretting while twiddling my thumbs.

Too much spaciousness is not great. Too much space is emptiness, hollowness. Too much space, too much time, is a lonely condition, simultaneously sad and boring. As you can tell, I'm not enjoying it. Next week I go to California where I'll be hanging out with great old friends in San Francisco and up at Lake Tahoe (and new friends, too - Nancy of Life in the Second Half).

You can't imagine how much I look forward to a big ole get together with people I love. You can't imagine! No, really you can't. Wow.

The blue sky looks like it has been placed on top of the soft white cloud cover, doesn't it?

Thursday, August 20, 2009

Deep Listening

Late summer roses, tough and beautiful.

I've been following the debate over health care reform kind of at arm's length, because getting in too close to it makes me crazy. It's an angry, buzzy, stinging energy field, like hornets or yellow jackets, that swirls around all those town meetings, TV news station commentaries, newspaper editorials (pro and con). The energy around the debate feels so ominous to me. Feels like it could ignite into something really destructive at any second.

What's at the root of all the craziness? A friend suggests that what we're going through is a national identity crisis, a theory that makes more sense to me than blaming the Republicans, or assuming the problem stems from racism because our president is black (I've heard both theories repeatedly). We Americans think our country is/should be free-market, right? We also think of ourselves as a culture in which we take care of people. I think we believe in taking care of our citizens ... or do we? Maybe we don't anymore.

Facing the truth that we are not well cared for, realizing our free-market health care system is broken, opening our eyes to the truth about the insurance and pharmeceutical industries has shaken our national ego to the core. That idea feels right to me. My friend has been asking those against health care reform, "Just what part of our health care system do you think is worth preserving?" That's an EXCELLENT question, don't you think?

If it was up to me, I would call for a national moratorium on the debate and ask that everyone engage in a bout of deep listening. I would ask people to ask themselves, at the deepest level, what's going on and listen carefully, silently, until some wisdom comes up the surface. I would ask people to find someone they disagree with, and listen carefully to each other.

All too often we are already preparing a response when we hear something we disagree with. Our minds are made up and we're ready to fight for what we believe is right. But what could we accomplish if we stopped, if we listened, really listened? What hurdles could we get over/around/through if we opened our minds to all possibilities? Can you imagine?

Wednesday, August 19, 2009

Occular Transformation

When I was seven years old, I had my first eye exam. After I explained to the doctor that I was having trouble making out the big E at the top of the chart, he shook his head, turned to my mother and said, "She's blind as a bat." Oh yeah.

Glasses in those days were not dainty. The lenses were a half inch thick at the edges, the proverbial coke bottle bottoms, even in tiny, pearly little girl glasses such as the ones a seven year old would wear. They were heavy and awkward, and left dents in the sides of my nose. I hated wearing them because even though allegedly I could see through them, the whole world was rendered distant and tiny, and the frames cut out any possibility of peripheral vision. It was like watching the world through a very tiny TV. I preferred walking around blind, feeling my way through an impressionistic world, to the small, hard world of glasses. It was disorienting, alienating, and dangerous. Nevertheless I only put on my glasses when absolutely necessary. And I wonder why my childhood was so challenging!

The summer after my freshman year in high school, I stuffed envelopes all summer for the VFW in order to earn enough money to buy contact lenses.

After eye exams and what seemed like a terribly long wait for the lenses to come back from the lab, finally, at last, the eye doctor placed the tiny lenses on my eyes. After the blinking and tearing had subsided a little bit, I walked over to the window and gazed out at the world. I could see individual blades of grass, the texture in the concrete sidewalks. I could see the pattern of individual leaves on the trees, details in the clouds, birds sitting on branches. Nothing was remote and tiny or blurry. The world was huge, full spectrum, and sharply defined.

I passed out cold.

When I came to, the eye doctor and receptionist were peering down at me. I guess they had dragged me over to the reception room couch. They looked terribly concerned. It was the only time in my life I have ever fainted. It was definitely a transformational moment!

After that I threw away all my pairs of glasses and wore contact lenses for about thirty years. I used to dream that my lenses were as big as frisbies, that I couldn't remember how I fit them onto my eyes. One time I cleared out a medicine cabinet and made a contact lens museum. I glued old pairs of lenses, in their plastic cases, onto the back of the cabinet, affixed the stories of those lenses next to them. The contact lens museum always surprised house guests who were looking for a Q-tip or a bandaid. It was pretty fun.

These days I wear super extra-thin polarized non reflective tri-focal glasses. The lenses are complicated and high tech, and unbelievably expensive. And though I can't see at a distance as I could through my contacts, I can see pretty darn well.

That's my story of transformation. Fun to think about and fun to write. Thanks for the great meme, Steven!

A leaf suspended in a spider web. Cool, eh?

Tuesday, August 18, 2009

When in Doubt, Make Pesto

I used to love Tuesdays, my Saturday (because of my crazy work week). But since Jake died, on a Tuesday (7 weeks ago today), the allure of that day has lost some of its luster. It's OK, I'll get over it, but ... meh. Do people still say that?

It's really hot and really humid which means I'll probably opt to spend much of the day indoors, never a great thing for me. Spending time outdoors is a major component of my Plan to Stay Sane.

I'll get out there at some point to sweat and squint, take pictures, think about things until my brain begins to sizzle, and no doubt I'll enjoy the glass of cool water, cool shower, ice cold beer sequence that is my practice after a big bike ride or walk. After that I'm going to make pesto marinated chops and a nice crisp salad. A delicious dinner never hurts anything, does it? I'll be happy to shop at Whole Foods, a company I respect a great deal ever since I worked there, that has been unfairly maligned in all the recent furor over health care reform. And I'll clean my room, too, something I always enjoy.

All things considered, this is not going to be such a bad day, even though it's hot. But it's Tuesday and therefore I'm a little bit discouraged just because. Such is the way of grief, I guess. Oh well.

Monday, August 17, 2009

Not My Talent

If I were a poet I'd write something today about DC in late August, hot and humid and quiet. I would use the word "simmering" - maybe even "sultry" to make a word picture of this city right now.

I would put some great words together to describe the empty streets, the dry rustling sound of the grass underfoot. I would talk about the leaf canopy, dry and droopy but still hanging in there. I would include at least a line in my poem describing the smell of August, like paper slightly burnt.

I would talk about the declining light and the sense of fall, not quite palpable in the heat but there, nevertheless, just out of reach. I would talk about August as DC's annual meditation, make clever references to the Capitol as a head (that's what Capitol means, you know). Because Congress is in recess, and even though people are still hard at work, it is a little bit more quiet in the Capitol than usual, so indeed the head of our government is meditating - kind of.

Too bad I'm not a poet, isn't it? If I were John at Robert Frost's Banjo, or Willow at Willow Manor, or Poetikat, Meri, Sandra, Steven or any of a number of other poet-bloggers, this post would be so good! Oh well, such is life. At least the pics are evocative of peaceful meditation, aren't they?

In a treatment room where I receive massage.

Sunday, August 16, 2009

Keep on Truckin'

I was sixteen years old, living in Kansas City, Missouri in 1969. For many reasons I was not in any position to go to Woodstock, which was fine by me. Frankly, the idea of being among all those people, in the mud, with no privacy, everyone high on something or another, gives me the willies. It would have creeped me out even then, though at age sixteen I was a lot more interested in trying to appear cool than I am now.

As a shaman, though, I wonder what it felt like, I wonder about an energy field so powerful that it could bring all those people together under such trying circumstances, in perfect peace. Wow. I'm sure it's not possible to name a single factor that made Woodstock possible, no, it was a very elaborate confluence, no doubt, that included the position of the planets, the welcoming nature of the land spirits of Bethel, NY, and of course the mood of the folks who attended. Oh yeah, and the MUSIC. Yes, I'm sure the music had something to do with it, too!

There was a piercing energy that attended the late 60's, early 70's in America. It was almost possible to hear the cracking sound of old paradigms and thought forms as they shattered and were rendered obsolete overnight. If you listen to the music of Jimi Hendrix or Janis Joplin (just two examples in a field of many), the piercing, slicing quality of the energy of that moment in history is easily identifiable. The two of them were so central to that energy, they could not survive it - at least according to the cosmology of Reya. Jimi and Janis (and others) stood at the very heart of the vortex of that big societal shift. It was too much for them. In addition to being great shamans, they were flesh and blood. For heaven's sake.

Hallucinogens were a big part of the sudden change in the way we thought about the world, too. Are you experienced? If you've ever dropped, you never really see the world in the same way ever again. There are so many factors I can name - the beat poets, the social movements, etc. - and certainly many more I have no clue about, that changed America at that moment in history.

My personal experience of the sixties was one of bewilderment. I grew up with images of Doris Day on the big screen, Leave It to Beaver on the small screen. My idea of happiness, up until I was sixteen, revolved around the picket fence domesticity of the nuclear family. But then suddenly in 1969, everything changed. Suddenly I was supposed to embrace liberated, strident, independent images of womanhood and free love, as we called it. Forget marriage! I was supposed to trade in the iconic image of Doris Day for Betty Friedan, Mrs. Cleaver for Gloria Steinem. I was supposed to throw my bra on a bonfire and stop shaving my legs, I was supposed to tune in, turn on, and drop out. And I wonder why I spent so many years in therapy! Yikes!

If I could travel back in time, though, I would love to go stand on that field in Bethel just before the throngs arrived forty years ago this weekend, and just feel the energy for awhile. I wonder what it felt like. Don't you?

Saturday, August 15, 2009


Our national health care reform debate is a mess. Every day I read another alarming report about the town hall meetings, about the anger and raging for and against reform as well as blind acceptance by others of whatever their favorite pundits have to say on the subject. A political cartoon from the Boston Globe shows an announcer at a town hall meeting saying, "To be fair, we will split the questions between the terribly misinformed, the rigidly ideological and the actively hallucinating." Yeah. What the hell is going on?

A huge smear campaign against Whole Foods started spreading through Facebook yesterday, in response to a Wall Street Journal editorial written by WFM's CEO John Mackey. Maybe it's in response to the actual editorial, or maybe in response to angry reviews of the editorial, I'm not sure. I read the editorial and though I don't agree with everything he wrote, think he made some very good points about health care in general. He says for instance that every adult American is responsible for his/her health. He makes a great point about eating well (of course). He also says that he understands there are a variety of opinions within WFM. He was responding to President Obama's call for debate on the topic.

The venom that we Americans are ready to spew at a moment's notice is truly distressing to me. This morning I was thinking that the Bush administration was so traumatic for our country, we became so enraged as our empire began to melt down, that we became accustomed to tilting hard against it. Now that Bush is no longer president, we're still looking to vent our spleens.

Raging against the machine is a hard habit to break, apparently. But is it helping us move through this crisis? Doesn't look like it to me. Maybe I'm mistaken. I'm very curious to understand what it looks like from outside the U.S. Help me out here. What do you think?


(Lots of great thoughts and comments on California Girl's blog Women of a Certain Age.)

Friday, August 14, 2009

The Wheel of Multiple Histories

Peregrine Cafe at Eastern Market. The best. Really, the best. Tastes as good as it looks

Like many lovers of modern physics, I am a fan of Richard Feynman, who showed, by way of some mighty fancy equations during the 1960's, that particles travel from one location to another along every path through spacetime. Yes, every path. There really is never a single story or a single truth. All stories are true. From this set of ideas came a cascade of other theories about alternate realities, alternate universes. Ultimately "M theory" came into being. I love M theory so much because that description resonates perfectly and exactly with my experience of the world.

I was thinking about M theory last night in conjunction with the idea of luck. Maybe a lucky streak is a time when in some way or another we make the leap to a more fortunate reality, a reality in which things swing our way with slightly more ease. Do you think I could be on to something? I do. And I think there's something about the physics of turning, spinning, whirling, circling, that might be a part of how that happens.

"S Curve" - the mirrored sculpture by Anish Kapoor in the lobby of the Sackler

In my dream last night: Hammer and I have stayed up way too late, sitting around on what we have decided is a round skylight. It is slightly elevated from ground level, maybe 3 feet or so, and about 15 feet in diamter. Beneath the skylight (we think) is one of the Smithsonian museums. The round thing has many panes of glass but we can't see through them. It's night. We're hanging out on the round thing, drinking coffee and smoking cigarettes.

(We're smoking Marlboros - which is truly a different reality since I have never smoked cigs and I don't think Hammer has either, not to mention the fact that at night I never drink coffee. With Hammer, it's almost always beer, not coffee. But of course this is a dream.)

At some point, we have fallen asleep because the next thing I know in the dream, we're being awakened by the anonymous yet eager dream people who have come to take their quantum ride. "What?" we're saying, blinking in the bright light of morning. It turns out the round thing is some kind of supersonic merry-go-round that takes the riders to a similar, but alternate reality. The panes of glass slide back to reveal nice cushioned seats beneath them. The people climb in, excited and chatting to each other.

Instead of being entranced with what we learn about the round thing, both Hammer and I are quite annoyed. We decide to drink more coffee but the anonymous dream people have finished every drop. Boy are we mad about that!

In the dream I was cranky, but I woke up laughing. Though I'm guessing I'll never really understand what luck is, I am tickled by my mind's capacity to wonder, to imagine, and to keep me entertained at night. A salute to my mind and while I'm at it, to my friend Hammer, too. Why not? Nice!

Thursday, August 13, 2009

Heads or Tails

I made a lot of wishes last night, even though I didn't see a single shooting star. It was kind of cloudy, and too, Tennessee Avenue is lined with trees. The heavy leaf canopy obscures most of the sky during the summer. But I made the wishes anyway. Why not?

Blog friend Barbara Martin tells me that she doesn't do well with shooting stars, an interesting point of view, isn't it? Her comment made me think about this irony - classically, comets are "bad" luck, while meteor showers (caused by the earth moving through tail debris from comets) are "good" luck. How does that work?

I'm not sure how to tell the difference between "good" and "bad" under any circumstances, including luck. In fact, sometimes what looks like good luck turns out to be very bad luck, and vice versa, of course. I think of those stories about lottery winners whose lives go down the drain because all that money is not good for them. There are lots of stories about people who lose everything. Subsequently those losses turn out to be the best thing that ever happened to them. Does that make any sense? It's beyond me.

Yesterday, blog brother Merle Sneed told a great story about luck, good and bad, oh yeah. No one sees the world more clearly than he does; it's a story well worth reading and contemplating.

Luck is luck, good and bad, yes? Maybe luck is nothing more than a surprise, a circumstance in which something changes suddenly, as if from out of the nowhere. When we're "feeling lucky," we welcome the spinning wheel of Lady Fortuna. When we're not feeling so lucky, we close the curtains and hunker down, as Barbara Martin did last night. But what makes us feel lucky or unlucky? Do you know?

I think I heard this story from the fabulous Rabbi Manewith:

A father and his son owned a farm. They did not have many animals, but they did own a horse. One day the horse ran away. “How terrible, what bad luck,” said the neighbours. “Maybe,” replied the farmer.

Several weeks later the horse returned, bringing with him four wild mares. “What marvelous luck!” said the neighbours. “Maybe,” replied the farmer.

The son began to learn to ride the wild horses, but one day he was thrown and broke his leg. “What bad luck,” said the neighbours. “Maybe,” replied the farmer.

The next week the army came to the village to take all the young men to war. The farmer’s son was still disabled with his broken leg, so he was spared. “What good luck!” said the neighbours.


You tell me, what's good luck? What's bad luck? And more important, does anyone know if my wishes are going to come true? Well?

Wednesday, August 12, 2009

Make a Wish!

Cool shooting star-like daisies in the herb garden at the Smithsonian.

If you live in the northern hemisphere, tonight is the night to look for shooting stars. Tonight is the peak of the Perseid meteror shower, an all organic, 100% natural fireworks display. In the northern hemisphere there will be between fifty and eighty shooting stars per hour - wow - that's a lot of wishes! Even in the southern hemisphere, you should be able to see between 10-15 per hour.

Brothers Thunder and Lightning are scheduled to visit DC tonight, so I'm not counting on a chance to see this amazing sight with my own eyes. It's OK, I've seen them many times. I remember one beautiful August evening in Somerset County, England, in the middle of a ritual at witch camp. I had been focused on the campers who were dancing and singing in a circle when suddenly, out of the nowhere, I was tapped on the shoulder, or so it seemed. When I turned around and looked up, I saw a brilliant bluish acqua fireball streaking across the sky. I yelled LOOK! as loudly as I could, completely disrupting the ritual, but for good cause. What a vision! We could even hear it making a sssssssssssssssssssshhh sound as it descended. That was definitely the coolest meteor I've ever seen. I've also seen the Perseids from within the stone circle of Avebury in Wiltshire County, England. It's easy to understand why I won't be disappointed tonight if it rains, though watching them fall around the Washington Monument could be pretty cool, too.

Perseus, for whom the meteor showers are named, was quite a dude. He killed the gorgon, sliced off her head without being cursed by the experience, freed and married Andromeda, and became King of Mycenae. Wow.

So make a a wish tonight, or a dozen wishes, or fifty. I'm making a wish list and checking it twice. Oh yeah!

Cool alternate neighborhoods in the puddles leftover from recent rainstorms.

Tuesday, August 11, 2009

No Holds Barred

Summer has kicked into full gear, catching me by surprise. Damn. It's HOT out there. Yesterday the sky looked like a sheet of tinfoil, the air felt like a thick blanket. It was so hot that I found it hard to breathe - in or out.

As much as I do not enjoy sweltering, I'm always secretly in awe of extreme weather, provided I have a way to escape it, of course. It never gets that cold in DC, though on days when it's 17 F. and the wind is blowing, I'm impressed by how impossible it is to get warm no matter what.

Days like yesterday remind me that, not that long ago, when it got this hot, people would sit in rocking chairs on the porch, in the shade, fanning themselves, drinking sweet tea or lemonade and gossiping about the neighbors. In weather like this, no one fooled themselves into thinking that they could - or should - try to accomplish anything. We've lost our ability to access this kind of common sense. Sad, isn't it?

My plan today is to stay inside the National Gallery biosphere during the hottest part of the day. I will be outdoors on the way there and home again, though, so I'll have an opportunity to sweat and marvel at the drama of summer here in the midatlantic.

Nice work, weather gods! I salute your hutzpah!

Monday, August 10, 2009


Fig tree directly in front of the door of the house on Tennessee Ave. It's inevitable that sometime soon we will be pelted with figs every time we come or go from the house.

If there's an apple tree, the people in the garden will eat. Blame it on the serpent or Eve, whatever you like. What is it they say about a gun in the first scene of a play? Someone is going to shoot that gun in the third act, right? It's inevitable.

Summer in DC has to get hot and heinous at some point, it just does. And even though we have had the most beautiful, not-too-humid, 85 degree, blue sky, Colorado-ish summer so far, I am not surprised that finally the other shoe has dropped. It is miserable outside. From inside, I am expressing many prayers of gratitude for air conditioning.

If you agree to do a trade with a life coach, at some point you're going to get skunked. Hope I don't offend anyone here because it really is a great idea on paper. The way it has always and inevitably worked out for me, though, is that I trade a lot of massage or shell out a lot of money for stuff that's in every self-help book. I can't blame the coaches who happily pay tons of money to other coaches presumably for the same lackluster ideas. It's like a pyramid scheme conducted by energetic, enthusiastic and very earnest people on each other as well as their clients. Am I way off base? I don't get life coaching, perhaps. Correct me if I'm wrong, OK?

Stay cool, y'all.

Sunday, August 9, 2009


A happy life (whatever that means), according to the cosmology of Reya, has little to do with accomplishments, how much money you have, where you live, the status of your love life, how much you weigh or with your talent, wit or beauty.

We homo sapiens love our narratives. We are a storytelling species through and through. A happy life depends entirely on what kinds of stories we tell ourselves. I've known people who have had serious bouts of cancer who are just as happy as the perfectly healthy, plain looking folks who are as happy as the gorgeous, unachievers who are as happy as Barack Obama (who I think of as a happy super-achiever.) Clearly the key to happiness has nothing to do with externals.

It's all about the story, how we frame our perceptions and experiences, rather than the experiences in and of themselves. And now please don't tell me that you have the ability to be objective. I don't believe it. We're every one of us spin doctors, working ceaselessly to make sense of the sounds, sights, smells and sensations that we take in every day. We are interpreters of experience; we try as hard as we can to find meaning in the unfoldings of our lives. Every one of us is a storyteller. No exceptions!

Please understand: I'm not suggesting that in order to live a happy life every story we tell ourselves needs to have a positive spin to it - that's denial, delusion and illusion. Life is full of every kind of experience from the sublime to the ridiculous, oh yeah. A happy life comes from believing that even during dark nights of the soul, you're going to be OK, from believing you'll come out of whatever it is you're going through, and that you're a good person, worthwhile. Easier said than done for some folks. Easier said that done even for the most confident of people sometimes.

One thing I love about meditation is that it's my opportunity to take a vacation away from the incessant story-telling machinery of my mind. It's a nice break from the plot line. During meditation I can see right through my stories. It's quite a revelation every day.

Of course as soon as I finish my sit, I dive right back into my story, with enthusiasm and intensity. I am a human, after all. Though my tendency is to create a very dramatic version of my journey through this lifetime, one thing I'm remembering as I move through this time of grieving is that somewhere along the way I built a strong foundation of confidence in myself. Don't ask me how I did it, I can't explain it. It's true, though, that even when I'm flopping around, I believe in my heart of hearts that somehow I will prevail. That foundational confidence is worth a pile of gold, a perfect figure, a genius-level I.Q., a fabulous love life and flawless health (none of which I have).

But it's all OK anyway. Life is good and I am grateful. Seriously!

Saturday, August 8, 2009


My waking life is settling down, taking on an apres-Jake form suited to the rhythms and habits of a person who does not have a dog. In so many ways, life without a pet is so much easier. And it has been long enough now that living without Jake feels "normal" to me (whatever that means.) Life without a dog is fine, though not a whole lot of fun. Interesting to me is the realization that I have become a dog person. I like canine energy close by, even if it means I need to vacuum twice a week, refill the water bowl constantly, and invest heavily in dog snacks. Who knew? My waking life, minus the canine, is a bland topography.

My dream topography, however, is a scary landscape these days. When I go to sleep, I find myself in an ugly, muddy swamp overflowing with nightmares about Jake. There hasn't been a single night in the last week when I haven't dreamed of Jake suffering or lost, paralyzed, frightened, and looking to me for help that I am not able to give. The dreams are truly heartbreaking.

I mean, really! Do I need these dreams? I've prayed, asked my spirit guides, visualized nights of peaceful sleep, all to no avail. Maybe the Sufi acupuncturist can address this hideous dream sequence. Enough is enough!

Friday, August 7, 2009

Simmer Down, Reya

Though it is not my favorite month,** I like the spaciousness of August here in Washington DC. Congress goes into recess (which doesn't mean they stop working - oh no, they NEVER stop working). Even so, the energetic buzz and mad swirling around the Capitol softens a bit, which is such a relief. It's a palpable change.

On the Hill and elsewhere, the citizens of DC get out of town in August. People go to upstate New York or Maine or the beach, or in the other direction, into the Appalachians, to rest, recoup. The folks who stick around dress more casually, go in to the office a bit later or knock off earlier. Even the most devoted professionals tend to sneak away from work to have a massage or a long lunch, or take long weekends. The mobs of tourists thin out as well. The city becomes almost sleepy. Almost. It's remarkable.

I'm thinking I should take a cue from the mood of the city, and try to settle down in the wake of the eclipses and this summer of sudden and unexpected deaths (including the death of my dog).

In August, the energy body of Washington DC takes a deep breath, puts its feet up, has a tall glass of iced sweet tea. Isn't that nice? Maybe I should try to dance in shamanic alignment with that energy for a couple of weeks before I, too, get out of town at the end of the month. Yes? I say Yes! Oh yeah.

**August: Hot, humid, toxic air, metallic skies (usually - this year the weather has been great, at least so far). August is when the gardens begin to fade, the trees begin to droop, and the grass starts turning brown. It's also when the mosquitoes start getting really vicious. In August, the daylight declines noticeably. It's not my favorite month.

Look at the size of that leaf! That's a rosemary bush on the left side of the pic. Wow.

Thursday, August 6, 2009


Corcoran Street between 15th and 16th NW.

My head is swirling with last night's dreams, nightmares, and from the ghostly comings and goings from my room. Whew! What a night. When I woke up this morning, the clock indicated that I'd slept eight hours, but the night was much much longer. I traveled, too, far and wide, within and outside of my dreams, with and without the ghosts. The blanket and sheets were completely untucked this morning, the pillows were everywhere, and my hair was more than dishevelled. I looked like I'd stuck my finger in the electrical socket. Felt like it, too. I crawled into the shower, exhausted.

It's true that the final eclipse occurred last night at 20:55 EDT. It was still August 5th here on the east coast of the U.S. though it occured on the 6th in other places on the planet.

Time zones and especially the International Date Line completely confuse me. I get jet lag just thinking about the fact that when I read blogs written in Australia, I'm reading tomorrow's blogs while meanwhile when they read mine, even if they tune in five minutes after I post, they are looking back in time at yesterday's post. Freaky.

Whenever I get on an airplane, I think about how, once in the air, there is no time; in flight I am neither in the time zone of departure nor the time zone of arrival. I never know if I should leave my watch set to the old time or switch it right away to the new time. Perhaps I should leave my watch at home.

Astronauts, while in orbit, live in a place even farther removed from the 24 hour clock. In fact they also live outside of seasonal time, beyond the solar calendar. Even if they look at the earth and notice whether the north or south pole is leaning in towards the sun, they are not a part of either summer or winter. They can observe both, at the same time. January? August? March? Just words to astronauts in orbit, nothing more. Wow. Out in space, the only conceivable time is stellar time, which is so huge compared to you and me that it can not be perceived, only imagined, and even that is a stretch.

Being "on time" is always important to me. Some days, though, I realize just how subjective that idea is, how silly, actually. Especially after a long night of craziness like last night. Oh yeah.

Franklin Square.

Wednesday, August 5, 2009

Happy Hour

From the wonderful Astrology Zone

Aquarius: The eclipse, August 5, will bring your desires to fullness. It will also package all the good energy in the air and make it accessible to you. You should find that this month you can finally harness and direct it toward the areas you'd most like to improve.

OK. At last the day has arrived!! ... oh ... except the eclipse isn't really until tomorrow. What an unfortunate typo. OK, so ... more waiting.

Kicking back, receiving massage, taking a walk, reading blogs, listening to the blues - that's how I plan to spend today. Maybe I'll find someone to go have a drink with this afternoon. If I were a monarch butterfuly, I would belly up to a lovely purple flower, guzzle some nectar, but because I'm human, I guess it'll have to be a bar and a beer. Whatever.

Tuesday, August 4, 2009

The U.S.: Rich Yet Stingy

Rosaria of the blog Sixty Five Now What? has published a series of great posts on the health care bill now being debated in Congress. Since I'm just sitting around, waiting for the eclipse tomorrow, I thought I might as well weigh in on the topic. For anyone who does not follow the U.S. political scene, this is the big bill that allegedly would make sure everyone in the U.S. has insurance coverage for health care.

One quick disclaimer: I am neither an idealist nor cynic. I live in Washington DC, just ten blocks from the Capitol. In my job I work with many Congressional staffers from both sides of the aisle, so I have a particularly hands-on sense of what it's like to legislate for our top heavy, sprawling, crazy nation. I am a health care professional so I hear stories every day about doctors, hospitals and insurance companies. You would not believe the stories I hear, really you would not believe how faulty our health care system is, how poorly treated everyone is, from overworked, sleep deprived doctors to nurses to patients of all stripes. Our situation is really bad.

Here's what I know for sure:

1. The health care bill is more than 1,000 pages long. Though there are people on the committee who know a lot about certain chunks of the bill, no one really understands everything that's in there, whether or not it can be put into practice, how much it will cost and how it could actually work. I'm not hoping it will pass ASAP. I'd rather have them spend time thinking about it, coming to know what's in there, first. The Civil Rights Act was passed in 1964 and though things have improved, there are still many people who are officially and non officially denied their civil rights every day. Civil rights lawsuits are filed every day. It didn't really work, you see. It's a problem.

2. Being covered by insurance is not at all the same thing as having access to effective health care. Plenty of people who are covered by insurance, on paper at least, are routinely denied health care. Their claims are rejected, they're dropped from a plan for "pre-existing conditions," they are denied the right to see doctors they choose, or procedures that make sense to them. The insurance industry is in serious need of an overhaul. Their practices are truly obscene - greedy bastards!

3. The way medicine is practiced currently is not sustainable. This great article published in the New Yorker a few weeks ago explains that unless the medical "industry" is radically restructured, it won't matter who signs the check because no one except the rich will be able to afford health care. The article compares two American towns' medicare/medicaid cost per person, then explores the reasons for the difference in cost. GREAT article.

4. Sharon Jackson, a Canadian friend says (on Facebook): I am Canadian. 6 years ago, I had major surgery. Cost to me? Free. My daughter just had a baby in the hospital. Cost to her? Free. Our friend is getting over a compound fracture of his leg, has a plate, a pin, and needs months of physiotherapy. Cost to him? Free. Our system is definitely not perfect,and yes there are wait times, but no one goes bankrupt here because their child is sick. You have to be crazy not to want some form of this for at least some of your people. I believe Americans are famous for generosity of spirit???

Is she talking about socialized medicine? What's wrong with that?

The last thing I can say for sure is that my heart goes out to everyone involved with health care reform. It is a quagmire. Even trying to think about it makes my eyes roll back in my head. I thank God every day for my excellent health, I really do. And wish good luck to all the rest of us while we try to deal with this.

I could go on here and talk about medical ethics, overtreating people who are mortally ill, "spa" wards for rich people in hospitals, and the complete ignorance and arrogance of the medical industry about very effective alternative practices. But ... 'nuff said, oh yeah!

Monday, August 3, 2009

Triple eclipse between the old and new

From Op Ed News

Normally, eclipses come in pairs - a solar eclipse and a lunar eclipse. But this year, amidst all the other strong planetary influences, we have an unusual three eclipses in a row.

This second lunar eclipse within a month opens the door to release any left-over illusions we still harbor that life will go on as usual. Lunar eclipses energize us to shed old habits and let go of the past so that the doorways to the future can open.

But if we let go of something, we need something to replace it. We need a new story.

Well said. This is what I was talking about yesterday. Who knew that Brother Sun and Sister Moon were in on the energy I've been experiencing? Very cool. Reading these thoughts about the third eclipse of this busy eclipse season, my head kept nodding Yes, yes. I don't know anyone who hasn't let go of something this summer. Pets, jobs, people (deaths), relationships, homes, but especially illusions/delusions. It has been a sober-up summer. That's not a bad thing, but it hasn't been blissful either. C'mon, you know what I'm talking about.

Who I was and how I lived during the Jake era is over, but the next era has not yet launched. Just hanging out this week, twiddling my thumbs. Breathing. Wondering, feeling bored and antsy. And sober, with eyes wide open. Whew!!

Sunday, August 2, 2009

The Emperor's New Clothes

Ignorance is bliss. Is that true? I think denial is a kind of bliss, too, or maybe it's more accurate to say that denial is a form of shock, a type of emotional cushioning to keep the "truth" at bay.

Dr. Granville Moore's used to be my favorite restaurant, and even though the last few times I've been there, it hasn't been as good, I wanted it to still be my favorite. Friday night the denial broke: my dinner was just mediocre and so was my friend's, the service was less than perfect. Dang, man ... Dr. Granville Moore's is no longer a great restaurant. It's no longer my favorite. How sad. Now what's my favorite restaurant?

I remember the day I realized I was actually aging. This might sound weird, but I didn't see it in the mirror, even as my hair turned gray and my body changed right in front of my eyes. I still believed I looked the same as when I was 35, I really did ... well ... until I saw an old video of myself made when I was 35. The truth rushed in all at once. Whoa ... what a bummer.

Apparently Jake was very ill for at least three or four months prior to his final demise. I thought he was just old, but people are all of a sudden telling me that they could see how sick he was. When I described his final symptoms (from his last week) to a friend who is a vet (on the west coast), she said he might have had brain cancer which is why he stopped caring about everything, and that the final symptoms may have been the beginning of a hemorrage that could have been quite terrible if I hadn't decided to take him out. So his death was well timed after all. That's a relief, if a sad relief.

It might be true that ignorance is bliss, because truth is really somber sometimes. Is is always somber? You tell me.

Saturday, August 1, 2009


House of Representatives side of the Capitol, reflected from the skylight of the underground visitors center.

I wanted to go to the newish visitor center at the Capitol, but they wouldn't let me in because my backpack was too big. I tried repeatedly to finish a drawing, but the lead in the pencil kept breaking, no matter how carefully I sharpened it. I couldn't sleep last night even though I was tired. Couldn't sleep late this morning because of all the barking dogs in the house (bless their hearts).

My favorite coffee place no longer sells my favorite coffee beans, all the blueberries I wanted to sprinkle into my breakfast cereal had shrivelled, a couple of clients cancelled at the last second yesterday. Oy vey.

Might as swell switch it into neutral. Like my spirit guides said, there's nothing to do but kick back and wait. It is August, after all, the most sluggish month of the year in Washington DC. You can't push the river. I know, I've tried. It is strangely encouraging to read that many members of my blog family have had the same sort of week. Let's blame it on the stars, shall we? Oh yeah!

Walking tour of the last block of East Capitol, from 2nd Street to the Capitol grounds. That building - the Capitol - is really BIG.