Monday, November 30, 2009

Operators are Standing By

I pray every day, and though my prayers don't conform to any recognizable religious format, they are nevertheless sincere. Once upon a time I avoided the word "prayer" like the plague. Indeed, based on what came up when I googled that word, prayer is a heavy, awful thing that made me feel oppressed and frightened. Yikes! Reading some of that stuff made me feel like I couldn't breathe. My goodness! No wonder people shrink away from any mention of the process.

As far as I'm concerned, prayer is not particularly religious. Instead, for me at least, prayer is a dialogue between me and Mystery. Here I am, creature of earth, of definite shape, corporeal, manifest, following the arrow of time through my life, and yet, through prayer, I can relate to the unformed potential of the brilliant light of the unknown. Cool, eh?

I like praying. It's a part of my relationship with God, God being (to me) not the sociopath of the Torah, nor is God well represented by the deities of any of the great dramatic pantheons of myth, but rather is best described as the mystery of the way in which, as Aristotle said, the whole is greater than the sum of its parts. You know what I'm talking about? When I listen to a string quartet playing Mozart, for instance, that sound can become way more than notes on a page, stringed instruments and human beings. It's not always more than that, or at least sometimes I can't sense the divine in music, but sometimes, listening to music or gazing at art, or a sunset or feeling my love for someone, or cooking or experiencing the drama of weather (or any other thing) becomes way more than meteorology, pigment, music, or kinship. To me, that Way More Thing is God. And yeah it is a mystery, utterly unknowable, unshaped, not manifested, completely transcendent yet utterly immanent, too. It is miraculous to me that I can be in relationship to the Way More Thing.

A lot of the sites that came up when I googled "prayer" have sections devoted to making prayer "more effective." So that's an interesting concept, eh? I wonder what they mean by that. Any ideas?

I'm thinking about this today because someone I know has asked me to share thoughts about prayer. Also, a long time ago a blog brother asked me if I could think of another word for prayer. I tried, but I can't think of a better word. These days I love the word 'prayer' - it's soft and graceful, like a light breeze, like a whisper.

I find the topic endlessly fascinating and could continue writing at length, but I will spare you. After all it's Monday morning following (in the U.S.) a long holiday weekend.

Happy Monday to all. Onwards and upwards to December.

Sunday, November 29, 2009

The graceful art of letting go

I love living in a landscape that experiences four very distinct and dramatic seasons. Though I loved living in San Francisco, and the natives there swear they can easily see the differences in the seasons, the turning of the year was never obvious to me. In San Francisco you might be cold enough in August to wear a winter coat, or build a roaring fire. In January on a nice day you might decide go to the beach. I found that disparity of weather with season so disorienting. I know, I know - I should have been content with the temperate climate, should have taken my seasonal cues from the decrease and increase of daylight, the position of the sun in the sky, etc. I tried, but was unsuccessful at becoming a real Californian, mostly because I was so confounded by the weather.

I'll be the first to admit I do not enjoy the hottest days of summer or the most bitter cold of winter (there are only a few of those here in the midatlantic). That said, most of the year I love the seasons and weather, especially during our lengthy fall and spring.

Watching the leaves turn color and drop to the ground reminds me that nothing lasts forever, that life is all about transformations, comings and goings. I've been keeping an eye on the beautiful ginko tree by Maury School as it changed from green to gold to empty during November. The drama of that big change reminds me that a life well lived includes the art of letting go. Clinging - to anything - goes against the natural order of things in this amazing, beautiful, frightening, spectacular world. And yet we humans continue to try to cling, no matter what. At least, I have that tendency. What is up with that?

Thinking these thoughts is what inspired me to take the above pic of Tonka, the vigorous household dog, seated as he was on a bed of fallen ginko leaves from the tree in the slide show below. Tonka is not my dog but he's lovely, photogenic, and doesn't mind having his image digitally recorded. Jake is gone, but the truth is, I like photographing dogs. Onwards and upwards, indeed.

Saturday, November 28, 2009

Mystic Fire

Within, without the cosmos wide am I;
In joyful sweep I loose forth and draw back all.
A birthless deathless Spirit that moves and is still
Ever abides within to hear my call.

I who create on earth my joys and doles
To fulfil my matchless quest in all my play,
I veil my face of truth with golden hues
And see the serpent night and python day.

A Consciousness Bliss I feel in each breath;
I am the self amorous child of the Sun.
At will I break and build my symbol sheath
And freely enjoy the world's unshadowed fun.

- Sri Chinmoy

Friday, November 27, 2009

By the Book

In the morning we drank coffee and read the papers while watching the Macy's parade on TV. Around 10:00 we rolled up our sleeves, washed our hands carefully, and started cooking. As opposed to the usual sturm und drang somehow we remained cheerful and mellow, even at the peak of kitchen activity. I remained mindful of my need to control everything when cooking, and Manuel kept his cool even when I forgot and nitpicked.

The family arrived mid-afternoon, boisterous and cheerful. There were no squabbles among the kids, no family drama amongst the adults. The food was delicious and after dinner, those who didn't cook cleaned up. Later on, some neighbors stopped by for a glass of wine and a second dessert. And then I watched Notting Hill, the Hugh Grant film du jour.

So really it could not have been more perfect, a Thanksgiving just like that Norman Rockwell painting.

The source of all celebration comes from within, from a welcoming frame of mind that miraculously every one of us shared yesterday. The perfection of the festivities helped me see it's not about the food, not even so much about who you spend the holiday with, but rather has everything to do with the way in which each individual encounters the energy of the day, how each person synchs that energy with his or her personal expectations. I believe I would have been just as content to eat brown rice and veggies while watching movies on my own. My holiday frame of mind has shifted from hostile to welcoming; I have experienced a true change of heart. The way I celebrate, even the company with whom I share my celebration, is not the key to a happily observed holiday.

My grudge against Thanksgiving is over, I am healed. Thanks, God. Thank you so much!

Wednesday, November 25, 2009

Calm before Chaos

In years past, the way I celebrated Thanksgiving was quietly, at home alone. It was an anti-celebration, actually. My tradition was to make brown rice and veggies, and watch Hugh Grant movies all day long.

This year I have been liberated from my solitary T-day festivities because my roommate's family will all be here. They are a lively group, oh yeah! I could have hunkered down in my room or worked or volunteered for the day at National Geographic, but instead, surprisingly, I decided to join in and take part. I'm even doing a minimal amount of cooking (a simple and very very very buttery "stuffing" and an apple/pear crisp).

The jury is still out on whether or not I'll be able to eat turkey. It has never agreed with my digestive system, even when I was a kid. Magnifying my turkey phobia were the years I worked for Whole Foods, when I spent the last three days before Thanksgiving either in a refrigerated truck, slinging turkeys to runners who delivered them to the people who had ordered them, or dealing face-to-face with exhausted, cranky and occasionally abusive customers. Last minute grocery shopping does not bring out the best in people, believe me. In fact, during my years at Whole Foods, I learned how to say Kill them all in seven languages so that I could, at any moment, turn to the person working next to me and say "Kill. Them. All." in their native language. Delivering these words never failed to improve the mood, not of the customers but certainly for those of us working.

The sharp, distinct memory of all those raw turkeys has faded over time, thank God. This year what I'm afraid I'll be thinking about, when the turkey comes out of the oven, is that video of Sarah Palin with the guy behind her beheading the turkey in the "processing" machine, its legs wiggling as it is murdered. Yikes. If that comes into my mind I might steer around the turkey, have a second serving of green bean casserole instead. Wouldn't you?

Don't know how much time I'll have tomorrow, so in case I don't get around to the blog world, may I wish all those who celebrate it a great Thanksgiving? And to all the rest of you, have a wonderful Thursday!

Tuesday, November 24, 2009

Go to the Light

Big ole pot is part of the garden at Dumbarton Oaks. Tut calls it a "grudge pot." Love that!

When I all of a sudden left the community and practice of witchcraft, at first I was in shock. Similar to the experience of many people who leave cult-like groups, my departure was like a cold drink tossed in the face. It was like waking up. After many years I could suddenly see clearly what I'd been involved with. I was ashamed and frankly horrified to think about my behavior, stunned to realize what I had been practicing. Yikes!

My colleagues and teachers called me "Little Missy" when I first became involved with Reclaiming because I was so mild mannered, and wore such lovely rose-colored glasses. In fact one of my initiators challenged me to read the (great) book, Getting in Touch with Your Inner Bitch with cartoons by Nicole Hollander. The book is hilarious, especially if not taken literally.

I took on that challenge with a passion. My inner bitch became empowered and then ran rampant over the Little Missy part of me. Actually my inner bitch ran rampant over every part of me. I was not nice.

After I got out, gradually I came to realize how badly I had behaved. It was then that I started apologizing to pretty much everyone I could think of. I made phone calls, wrote cards, sent emails. Lots of calls, cards and emails, LOTS. The process was healing as well as grounding. Just the fact that I could sincerely and honestly say I was sorry helped bring me back to myself.

Some of the recipients forgave me, others never responded, which was fine. Apologies that arise from sincere regret are liberating, no matter how they are received. Apologies that arise from a sense of guilt or from a sense of "should" or because they are expected, tend to bind the two people involved and are not healing, at least that's my experience.

I'm thinking about this today because I'm about to write another card of apology to someone whose feelings I hurt very deeply. I would have done it sooner, but I didn't have her address. I'm looking forward to sitting down with pen and card. I've had a lot of practice apologizing so maybe that's why I enjoy the process so much.

Good deeds strengthen the soul. I can still be bitchy (like when I snapped at one of THEM a few weeks ago) but mostly these days I aim for kindness, sometimes hitting and sometimes missing. It's a much nicer way to live, it really is. Have a wonderful Tuesday!

Monday, November 23, 2009

From my house to your house

I've been listening to the man in the moon the last few nights, listening very carefully, trying my best to translate what he wants to convey. I've paid so much attention to full moons, but never thought to open my psychic center to the crescent moon - until now, anyway.

One suggestion that came through loud and clear is that it's about time to do a blogger gift sweepstakes. I have been the recipient of several blogger give-a-ways. It is SO MUCH FUN to get a package in the mail with a surprise inside from an esteemed blogfellow.

So, if you would like to be included in the Man in the Moon sweepstakes, let me know. I'll put all the names in a hat on Thanksgiving and pick one at random. What am I giving away? Not sure yet. Maybe one of my pics, lovingly hand-matted of course. Maybe a book from my library, maybe something else. Are you in? Let me know.

The man in the moon is so different than Luna, the character I associate with the full moon. Last night he seemed to be whispering something specifically to Venus, who was radiant and beautiful, close by in the evening sky. It was almost as if they were cracking jokes back and forth. I don't think of Luna as playful, but the man in moon seems to be. Wow. Sadly I was unable to capture a pic of this lively conversation. I tried, but was unable to get anything except blurry streaks. Oh well. Happy Monday, y'all!!

Sunday, November 22, 2009


A friend and I went to Georgetown yesterday, walked around the gardens at Dumbarton Oaks. Wow. What a beautiful place!

During times of transformation, personal truths I hadn't understood previously come into consciousness. For instance, one thing I've realized lately is that I like reading thrillers. Thrillers? Yes, indeed. I read Dan Brown's books, for instance, but I used to tell myself I did that because his work speaks to the group mind of my culture. I think it's also true that I like fast paced plotlines. Wow. Just finished Timeline by Michael Crichton (may that amazing writer rest in peace). LOVED that book.

A month ago I would have told you that I never read fiction, but in fact ... I do! And when I do, I really enjoy it. The personal myth called "I Only Read Non-Fiction" has now been officially and completely unraveled. Go figure.

Perhaps not completely unraveled, but different than I thought, is the personal myth I call "I Am 100% Introverted." In fact, if I'm working on a project, I love being a part of a group. I am energized when working with a group on something - anything. That's why I enjoyed the Reclaiming Collective so much. We were always planning witch camp or a class or a public ritual together. This discovery, that I am fed by collaborative work, explains why I loved the film collective way back when, and why I really miss office culture even though I'm not exactly suited to working inside a taupe colored cubicle. Office culture is collaborative. I do miss that, I really do.

If I'm collaborating on a project, I am not so introverted as I claim to be. Hmmm.

In spite of transitional grumpiness, I am also curious to see what other personal myths will unwind themselves. What next?

Sunset on the Potomac River, on our way home.

Saturday, November 21, 2009

Now what?

Isn't this great? A light mist around the crescent moon, and a not too steady hand on the shutter created a perfect man in the moon portrait. Very cool.

I don't know about you, but speaking only for myself, when I'm in the midst of a transformation, I get cranky. Grumpy. Grouchy. I turn into a few of the most ill-tempered of the 7 dwarves.

Part of that has to do with my love of routine, how safe it makes me feel when I know what's going to happen next, when the pattern of my days is laid out in a nice, neat, predictable sequence. The safety of familiarity is so nice! Fortunately or unfortunately my life's path has always spiraled around themes of potent transformation.

In my 20's, living still in Kansas City, waiting tables, if you had told me that in my 30's I would live in San Francisco and become a wiccan high priestess, I would have laughed in your face. If, in my 30's you had explained that in my late 40's I would move to Washington DC, give up the witchcraft, work as a massage therapist, and learn to love dogs, I would have thought you were nuts. For one thing, during my 30's, I could never have imagined leaving San Francisco.

Now I'm in my mid to late 50's, wondering what's around the next corner. It definitely does not feel like more of the same. I feel the transformation on a cellular level, like the breeze that comes out of the tunnel before you see or hear the subway train coming. What it feels like (always has felt this way, anyway) is a deep achey restlessness. Suddenly I feel restricted by my great and beautiful life even though I know in my heart of hearts that isn't true. Why do I suddenly like the early dusk of winter? Why am I at ease talking to a bunch of people (at NGS)? Why don't I want another dog? Why? WHY?? What does it all mean?

Maybe I'm wrong about this. Maybe I'm just in a jumpy mood, maybe I'll settle down and hang on to the stability I've created during the time I've been here on Tennessee Avenue. Maybe it's the upcoming holidays getting on my last nerve, as they have in the past, even though I was supposed to like the holidays this year. Who knows?

One thing I've learned over time is: my predictions are useless. Whatever will be, will be.

This pic, taken 2 seconds after that first shot, while still blurry is a completely different pic. Why? Don't ask me!!

Friday, November 20, 2009

I love it when I'm wrong.

Kneeling musician. What instrument was he playing? Any theories?

I watched a middle-school aged boy, dressed in a ridiculously oversized football jersey, while he sketched the standing archer. He was working hard for a considerable amount of time. Finally I went over to look at his work - it was exquisite, a true rendering of the warrior but in the style of Japanese anime. It was beautiful!

A mom acting as a chaperone for a group of younger students came up to me, after reading about the life of Qin Shihuongdi, and asked, "So what was up with that dude? Didn't his mother breast feed him?"

I sat on one of the benches next to a woman at least twenty years older than I. She looked misty-eyed and deeply moved. She told me (eventually) that she had a past lifetime during the Qin dynasty. Her friend snickered but I, of course, believed her. She was lovely.

A ceramics teacher lectured her class about the way the figures were created, her voice passionate. She told me she wanted to inspire her students, and indeed they seemed impressed.

The above vignettes took place yesterday, the opening day of the exhibit at National Geographic. Those holding tickets were the people who have very much been looking forward to it; folks who have been to China and seen the pits with their own eyes, scholars of Chinese history, and other enthusiasts of all stripes. It was so much fun!

I expected to be exhausted by all that social interaction, but I was wrong. I thought I might be overwhelmed or bored, but I was wrong about that, too. In fact the experience was refreshing in every way possible, just what the doctor ordered.

OK. I'm tired today, mostly I think because I'm processing all the unfamiliar sensory information that came in through my eyes and ears yesterday, but it's not the overwhelm of introversion I had expected. Interesting that still, at my age, I can misjudge my reactions so completely. Very cool.

Thursday, November 19, 2009

An Embarrassment

If there had been just one other blogger present at the photo preview of the Terra Cotta Warrior show last night, just one other person taking pics with a small point and shoot or from their phone, I could have made common cause, I could have relaxed and enjoyed doing what I do every day. Or so I'm telling myself this morning.

Sadly that was not the case. I was among a bunch of Professional Photographers, all of them with 2 or three cameras slung around their necks, carrying huge tripods and other equipment.

I doubt seriously I would ever find myself intimidated in the treatment room. I know there are better bodyworkers, lots of them, but I'm so comfortable with the way I practice my art. I am confident.

Not so with photography. Even my little camera seemed to have a freak out, reverting as if by magic to all its original settings, so I couldn' find the menu to switch the light meter and such. Instead of calmly modifying the settings, I was so frantic to get out of there I just snapped at random. All my pics are sadly orange-ish and blurry.

I was back out on 17th Street after 10 minutes, giggling in spite of how intimidated I was, while the real photographers were just getting settled in. Oh well. If you want to see good pics of the show I'm certain they will be available in many locations. I think National Geographic even has a flikr site. Here you will see only the fruits of my humiliation. Mea culpa!

Wednesday, November 18, 2009

Tomorrow is the first day of the rest of my life.

The Express got it wrong by one day. Tomorrow, Thursday is the opening of the Terra Cotta Warrior show at National Geographic. Opening day is sold out; I'll be there from 10:00 to 6:00. It's possible someone will have to buy me a drink after that.

I live such a quiet life, spending most of my time either alone or with one other person. My work is one-on-one, I tend to hang out with my friends one at a time, and I have, over the last year or so, stuck pretty close to home. Part of that had to do with the fact that I now work 1/2 block away from where I live. The other factor, of course, was because Jake was so old and feeble during his last year. I really needed to be close to him as much as possible.

I'm 100% introverted, always have been. Being around people, as much as I love my species in general, no matter how I adore friends, family and clients, is exhausting for me, just part of the territory of introversion. So, I asked myself in the mirror this morning, tell me why the hell did I sign up to do this show at National Geographic? What was I thinking? Please expain. My face gazed back at me, confused.

It's a mystery, it is. My intuition and all my spirit guides tell me this is right and proper, and that the experience will be transformative. The rational bit of my mind says it's not harmful, I can quit if overwhelmed and exhausted. And it's completely different than bodywork, also very different than the rhythms of life on Capitol Hill.

Jake is long gone now. It's time for me to get back into the world, stir things up. I'm diving into it headfirst, people. Geronimo!!

Tuesday, November 17, 2009

Is it that obvious?

Lafayette Park, in front of the White House.

Yesterday after the volunteer tour of the Terra Cotta Warrior show at National Geographic, I sat on one of the benches gazing at those beautiful figures made of clay and crushed quartz, constructed more than 2,200 years ago. I was just sitting there, really I was.

OK yeah there was more to it than just sitting. I was doing my shaman thing, inviting the figures to speak to me, specifically the infantry guy and the chariot driver. They seemed weary, careworn, not just from their age but maybe because they've been shipped all over the place for the last three years, from museum to museum. That can't be very much fun, I was thinking, like being an animal in a traveling circus or something. No wonder they were ignoring me.

But I persevered in my attempts to make contact. I "told" them that I'm going to be around every Thursday until the end of the show. I explained that I am genuinely interested in listening to anything they want to share, and that I can listen. Well, at least I have practiced listening to the oversouls of supposedly inanimate objects. (According to the cosmology of Reya, the world is utterly and completely animated. There is life, movement, and soul in everything. It's true of course that some things vibrate quite slowly, so it's harder for we impatient human beings to pay attention. But they do vibrate. They do!)

One of the other volunteers walked up to me and said, "What are you doing Reya? Are you gazing into their eyes, trying to connect with their souls?" I was so surprised that I answered honestly. I said, "Yes, actually that's exactly what I'm doing."

Busted! Wow.

Tomorrow I get to go to the blogger and photographer tour. Can't wait to snap some pics of these dudes. They are magnificent!

Monday, November 16, 2009

All hail the power of the relaxed brain

I can't believe I never tried taking pics at night until now. Both pics in this post were taken on Tennessee Avenue. Otherworldly, aren't they?

Thinking is good, but relaxing the brain and not thinking is just as good. Are you ever awakened in the middle of the night with the solution to a problem or some kind of revelation fresh in your mind? I am - often. I also receive excellent ideas while standing in the shower, hot water cascading down the back of my head.

It's not just me, of course. Neurologists have mapped the way in which insights arrive more readily when the brain relaxes.

Last night at approximately 3:30 a.m. I woke up from a peaceful sleep to this thought: Hammer's blog was a work of art. The Gold Puppy most certainly is not! My blog is an ongoing narrative of thoughts, illustrated with images of what I encounter while I'm walking around thinking. Since my internal narrative is relentless (even when I'm allegedly meditating), by its very nature it doesn't have an endpoint the way Throwing Hammers did. Eureka! The urge to quit suddenly has subsided. Ahhh ... I do have impulse control after all! Cool!

Sunday, November 15, 2009


The oak trees on 8th Street between Independence and C are about to begin their grand fall. I always feel for the people who live on that block at this time of year because they are about to be virtually buried in oak leaves.

I scored like a big dog yesterday. In the mail I received not only the commemorative CD set from Hammer (a part of how he ended his blog) but also two pounds of cracked pecans from Ellen of the blog Ellen's Head. Wow!

You can't plan to receive two gifts from fellow bloggers - not ever - but what are the chances of receiving two gifts from fellow bloggers with no connection to each other on the same day??

This bounty is a crystal clear sign that it is not time for me to quit the blog even though I am restless and uninspired. Maybe the protein from the pecans, in combination with the music of Throwing Hammers, along with the launch of the Terra Cotta Warrior show at National Geographic this week, will kick my creative ass in just the right way, help re-enthuse me. You think?

Friday, November 13, 2009

All Things Must Pass Away

I worked long and hard today but even so, I could have squeezed in the time to post here if I'd really wanted to. I felt stalled out, unable to put any interesting words together. Actually I've felt like that a lot lately, as if the blog has been kind of on the skids for awhile. I'm sure I'm not the only blogger who has felt this way. Am I right?

The frosting on the cake was when Hammer concluded his blog yesterday. Throwing Hammers was one of my favorite blogs in the world. It was wildly unpredictable in terms of content, though the soul of the writer was fully infused into every post. Every post was SO creative including (of course) even the posts that I didn't understand. It was a work of art from the time I found it until its demise.

Pat of the venerable DC says that when people write articles for magazines, or stories or books, they know when they're finished. But bloggers never know. We can go on and on if we like.

Hammer told me once upon a time that blogs have a three year lifespan. That's interesting since I quit my old blog after three years almost to the day. The Gold Puppy is just a little over three years old, so maybe I'm suffering from three year blogger itch, do you think? Throwing Hammers lasted more than five years. It was a mighty blog!

That he knew exactly when Throwing Hammers had completed itself, so he could sign off gracefully, is awesome, isn't it? Tut of the blog Inside the Shell said it perfectly: "The fluid blog can actually have an end point, not dependent on outside (or inside) issues of the blogger." YES, and - how astonishing to have the moxie, as well as the timing, to understand, to make the ending as artful the blog's heyday. Hammer? Well done, you!

Wouldn't it be great if we all had more skill when it came to endings? When the lifecycle of relationships, jobs, living situations, friendships is over, and that situation must end - it's always so painful for one reason or another. If we were able to notice when things were winding down, maybe we could be brave enough to end them artfully, before everything goes completely to hell. Is that a crazy idea?

In order to be more graceful I guess we would have to first be willing to admit that nothing lasts forever, also that duration is not a measure of value. But - that's a tough pill to swallow, eh?

Thursday, November 12, 2009

The Remnants of Ida

It was a slow hurricane season in the Atlantic this year. After the onslaught of storms a couple of years ago, many of us on the eastern seaboard of the U.S. hunkered down for the duration, assuming that global warming had fundamentally changed oceanic weather. As it turns out, we were wrong. Though there were many hurricanes in the Pacific, the Atlantic was oddly calm this year, almost like the sun which has also been very quiet for the past year. Everybody has an opinion about these grand patterns, but the truth is, no one really knows why some years are busier than others in terms of hurricanes and sunspots.

Yesterday and today we in Washington DC are receiving the steady rainfall from what was once a hurricane, then a tropical storm, then a tropical depression, and now no more than a humble low pressure circulation. Still, it has produced a lot of water.

The rain has pushed many leaves off the trees. Later today when it gets breezy or even windy, not only leaves but all the tiny little twigs and stems will be blown out, leaving only the broad strokes of the larger branches in place for the winter.

I'm studying my packet of information about the Terra Cotta warrior show today, and reading my book, making some chicken and rice soup, and hanging out. Today is my last free Thursday until the end of March when the show closes, so it's rather convenient that it's rainy and chilly outside. The weather is creating a situation of enforced relaxation, such a nice thing!

Thanks weather gods! Onwards & upwards, Ida.

*One of these days I will write about Reclaiming. I'm not feeling that post today. OK?

Wednesday, November 11, 2009

Lift and Separate

One of the best article titles I've seen in recent memory is from this week's New Yorker. Lift and Separate by Ariel Levy is a review of two books written about the history of feminism. The article is great and brought to mind the societal upheavals of that exciting, confusing time.

My own consciousness-raising wasn't focused on Gloria Steinem, Betty Friedan - or Gail Collins - though those women were and are seriously mighty, and thank God for their brilliance. Or, thank Goddess, as we would have said.

Actually we didn't start using the term Goddess until the 1980's when suddenly the feminine divine became a central pillar of the evolving Women's Movement. That's what hooked me, the idea of a feminine divine. I didn't care to crawl my way to the top of the corporate ladder or (Goddess forbid) run for political office or even worse, be allowed to be a soldier, fighting shoulder to shoulder with men. Oh no. But the concept of worshipping something other than an old sociopathic dude with the long white beard, sitting on His throne up in Heaven - that really hooked me.

During the 1970's, the Movement was constellated around throwing off oppression, in other words, we were pissed off, hence the bra burning and other similar protests. Later, after the first ten years or so, we began to unwind the conventionally accepted "wisdom" around the nature of women. "The weaker sex?" Anyone who has ever attended a birth, and has witnessed women in the final stages of labor would never, not ever think of women as weak ever again.

One of my favorite books - still - is Barbara Ehrenreich's For Her Own Good, 150 Years of Experts' Advice to Women, a history of the way in which men turned the medical profession into an heroic old boys club, pushed out the midwives and herbalists who were women and therefore deemed not suitable to be a part of the brotherhood. Whoa! What a book.

Suddenly during the mid-1980's, the idea of reclaiming the feminine divine went viral as we would say now. When God was a Woman by Merlin Stone, was one of the first books I remember about images of feminine divinity. After that, dozens, maybe hundreds of books appeared on bookstore shelves, all at once, it seemed. Of course my old colleague Starhawk's book, The Spiral Dance was among them, as were the works of Marija Gimbutas.

Some of the authors I mentioned in yesterday's post, Jack Zipes, Jane Yolen, Diane Wolkstein and Clarissa Pinkola-Estes (among many others) zoomed in on the old fairytales, revealing powerful heroines underneath the patriarchal veneer of helpless girls abused by their evil stepmothers. It was such a time of revelation, wow!

And so this is the long version of how it was that in Reclaiming we began using myths and fairytales as themes for our week-long summer intensives. I'll write about witch camp tomorrow, Rosaria, I promise!

Tuesday, November 10, 2009

Talking Myself Down

Though I love cleaning, I do not love it when I lapse into what I call a "cleaning frenzy." Yes indeed it's possible to overclean, I can attest to it from personal experience. Moderation is good in all things, even a humble activity like cleaning.

I'm just emerging, as I write, from a serious cleaning frenzy. I can feel the adrenaline still running in my veins, even though I've had a shower, and a nice tall glass of water, and have been sitting here looking at the computer for awhile. It was an intense frenzy, I tell you. Yikes!

Unhinging one of my personal folk tales, a.k.a. "I Hate the Holidays," got me all enthusiastic about working with other myths, ones that maybe aren't as good for me as they could be, plotlines that actually work against me. For instance, "Romance Isn't My Best Thing." Within that story there are tales of awful hook-ups as well as disastrous long term relationships, but somehow over the years, as I've told and retold this bedtime story in my mind, the parts of my romantic past that actually did work have disappeared, erased over time from negligence. The truth is, my romantic life has been hit AND miss - sometimes simulaneously! I have always been commitment averse, which might be why at certain times I headed straight for the relationship that would be the very worst thing for me. Those relationships were guaraneed not to work.

Commitment-phobic, non-monogamous, and lousy with hormones, coming of age in the late 1960's, I really wasn't built for solid, grounded, long-lasting partnerships. No wonder, once upon a time, I was so enamored with men I could never "have" - married men and such. Unwinding these core personal myths has been really potent, healing and illuminating. Wow.

As you can imagine, a lot of enthusiasm has attended these recent discoveries. I'm working hard on brand new interpretations, brand new translations, of my personal myths. The cleaning frenzy is a perfect symptom of my work recently, re-inventing my own history. I'm overcleaning because I'm thinking so hard.

One great piece of wisdom that comes from the heroines of fairytales is that when you've finished your chores, stop! Take a walk or rest or brush your hair, go get lost in a forest, meet a handsome prince. Enough is enough! Oh yeah!

Thanks Hans Christan Andersen, thanks Charles Perraultt and all those who wrote down the fairytales, even the Brothers Grimm! Thanks too, to Jack Zipes, Jane Yolen, Diane Volkstein, Clarissa Pinkola-Estes and other contemporary scholars who helped me see how complex these stories really are!

Monday, November 9, 2009

180 degree turn

East Capitol and 7th St. SE.

In a dark time, the eye begins to see. --T. Roethke

By the time I finish work these days, it's dark outside. So I'm taking pics at night, and enjoying them very much. The eerie orangeish streetlights reflected from the trees creates such interesting scenes. Some of the recent shots look like they were taken underwater, others appear otherworldly (both pics attached to this post are otherworldly, but I'll post an underwater shot sometime soon).

Only a couple of years ago at this time of year, my habit was to spiral downwards into the dark. I dreaded the early sunsets, tucked myself away in my inner sanctum and ... well ... felt sorry for myself. The holidays brought up in me a profound sadness and loneliness. Always a few chips short of a fish dinner in terms of being mainstream, the holidays, once upon a recent time, reminded me in no uncertain terms that I am a freak.

Something changed last year, though. I can't explain why, but I enjoyed the holidays last year, very much so. Externally the pattern was the same as in years past: the days were short and while everyone else gathered with family, children, partners and friends, I watched Hugh Grant movies while eating brown rice and steamed veggies (on Thanksgiving) and more Hugh Grant movies on Christmas. Unlike years past, I had fun, felt happy and got a kick out of the movies. Weird, eh?

The most profound transformations - for me at least - are always the result of a change of heart. Having an open mind helps a lot, but there's something about the human heart that can bring about miraculous healings, seemingly from out of the nowhere.

I find myself this year actually looking forward to the holidays. Whatever it was that happened last year was an enduring change of heart. Life is so amazing that way. You just never know what's going to happen. The early sunsets are providing me with new ways to look at the world, and some fun photos as well, and I'm looking forward to the holidays. All I can say is: wow.

N. Carolina, close to Eastern Market.

Sunday, November 8, 2009


Roses in bloom on November 7. Crazy.

I feel compelled to say, about yesterday's post, that I am not a neat freak. I don't try to keep my room neat as a pin, oh no! Cleaning an already clean room wouldn't be very satisfying, now would it? Living life is a messy project, so I live, and then I clean, and if it doesn't get done, I don't sweat it. Also I don't own much stuff and live most of my life in a small space which makes cleaning so much easier. If I had lots of furniture or doo-dads, or a huge living space, cleaning could be a nightmare, an impossible task.

OK. 'Nuff said about that one!

Have a wonderful Sunday!

Intersection of 8th, Independence and N. Carolina

Saturday, November 7, 2009

A Salute to Wicked Stepmothers

Looking across Lincoln Park, towards Surroundings and the P & C Market

I love housework. I really do - OK not when I have to rush around. Pushing through housework is hell just like anything hurried. But when I can take my time, I enjoy - and benefit from - the instant gratification. I love how you don't have to be a rocket scientist to clean house, but you do have to pay attention. It's simple work that doesn't take long and can help you feel really good about yourself in just an hour or two. I love the metaphor of cleaning house, too. Clean house, clean mind. It really works!

One of the ideas we explored in Reclaiming was that maybe the evil stepmothers and witches in the old fairytales were originally the teachers and mentors of the heroines in those stories. We suspected that patriarchal censorship was responsible for transforming the teacher/mentors into evil characters. That mindset was very much a part of the feminist spirituality of the 1980's and 1990's. Trying to perceive the story underneath the contemporary versions was a fascinating archeology, eye opening to say the least!

The girls in fairytales always have to clean house and cook for their "evil" stepmothers, which helps them develop strength, skillfullness, resourcefulness, and great character without having any adverse effect on their physical beauty. The pampered stepsisters are always ugly as well as being total losers in every way, but the Cinderellas make out like bandits in the end, marrying the handsome prince and living happily ever after. The take away wisdom is that it's better to work hard than to sit around. I mean really, even Mary Poppins made the kids clean up after themselves.

Lately I'm looking into all the dark corners of my storytelling function, wondering if I could tell myself a different version of my own "truths." I'm not looking for new plotlines in my foundational archetypal fairytales, but rather a different interpretation, the way we worked in Reclaiming with the common myths and fairytales of our culture. Who knows what I might come up with?

To that end I spent a couple of hours this morning sweeping up leaves - from our porch and stairs but also for a couple of the neighbors. The sweeping helped me think, was invigorating, and when I was finished, the pavements were so nice and clear. My mind likewise feels clearer than it has in awhile.

Yep, I believe in the power of simple domestic pursuits. Oh yeah! Thanks wicked stepmothers! Kiss kiss!

Yes dogs can be total squirrels, unable to focus on anything. But sometimes, they are completely present. These dogs were waiting for their humans to come out of Peregrine Espresso this morning. Aren't they sweet?

Friday, November 6, 2009

From the ridiculous to the sublime

On my way to Rodman's yesterday, I happened across a group of "THEM" at Union Station - the people from another reality, those who still miss George W. Bush's administration, folks who come to DC to protest all things Democratic. The crowd I saw yesterday was intent on protesting health care reform. These are people who somehow believe that enriching insurance companies while allowing millions of people to be left out in the cold when they're sick, is a good idea. I honestly try to be very tolerant of diverse opinion, really I do! But with these people I have nothing in common. Absolutely nothing. When I see them, I get so angry.

The pic above features one of the group of THEM. I was hoping to publish an image of another person who was carrying a sign that said, "I'm already sick of Obamacare." But I was so angry that the image came out all blurry. In a fit of intolerance, I snapped at her after taking the photo. I said, "You know, you really ARE sick!" Immediately afterwards I asked myself if that was necessary. I guess it was!

I've never understood why people like Trader Joe's so much. For my money, Rodman's is a lot more fun. When I go into Rodman's, like some burned out stoner I wander the aisles completely transfixed by all the cool, weird, unusual jars and boxes of food thingies from all over the world. They call it "gourmet" but I think it's more of a collection of oddities. It's such a fun place. A visit to Rodman's serves as an excellent tonic for the bitter taste THEY leave in my mouth.

Later in the afternoon, a rainbow appeared, along with some of the strangest, most ethereal light I've ever seen. It was so beautiful that it completely cleared the energy of THEM from my energy field.

It's a shame to be so hostile, isn't it? I try to be tolerant of all opinions, I really do. Sometimes, though, I can't find the high road, no matter how much I want to. Thank God for Rodman's and for the unexpected beauty of a late afternoon rainbow. I really mean it: Thanks God!

Thursday, November 5, 2009


I cried over beautiful things knowing no beautiful thing lasts. --Carl Sandburg

The exquisite slow-motion fall of the midatlantic has passed its peak. There's still lots of autumn color out there to be sure, but upon careful examination I can say with confidence that the point of greatest color is over. Tonight it's supposed to get down in the 30s, almost down to freezing, which means the last of the mosquitoes will finally be gone for the season.

We had a beautiful summer I could not in any way enjoy because of Jake's death, and a beautiful fall I have been almost afraid to appreciate (for fear it would bring back the sadness and grief of last summer). But the wheel of the year is turning, whether or not I take notice, so this week, I opened my eyes and ears, took my time, connected with the weather and the season.

Twice this week I walked like I used to with Jake, strolls that included frequent stops, a lot of sky gazing, tree gazing, street gazing. It was really great. All that looking around, listening, and sniffing the air helped me relocate myself in space/time. Does that make any sense? I even dared to look at the world of reflections a bit, reminding myself that Jake would not appear in any of the reflections.

It was OK. More than OK, actually. I am healing - at my own pace - but it is happening. Life is good and I am grateful. Onwards & upwards to winter.

Tennessee Avenue in late afternoon which, at this time of year is about 3:30 p.m.

Wednesday, November 4, 2009

Lust for Life

The season of the Dead is slowly winding down - thank God. In fact my experience this year was somewhat disappointing in terms of the Ancestors. Ordinarily I get great advice from my beloved Dead. I can always count on my father, for instance. Every year when I settle down, get very quiet and ask from my heart of hearts for some wisdom, I "hear" my father's voice telling me many extraordinary things. But not this year for some reason. His advice was more about his own experience of life than anything that had to do with me. What was that about?

Jake came to me, too, as I sat with candles burning and incense swirling, during my Samhain trance. He told me not to grieve for him because it holds him here. This is not helpful. I'll grieve at my own pace, if you don't mind, Jake! I can't cut it off just because you want me to. He then suggested that I get another dog, in other words he wants me to let him off the hook. Seemed a little bit cold blooded to me.

The best, and the only relevant advice I received on the Day of the Dead was from human beings firmly planted on this side of the veil: friends, family and colleagues, many of whom said the smartest things. Hmmm. Go figure.

Perhaps what I need as I shuffle forwards into old age is to seriously throw in my lot with the living (finally). Maybe I need to exclusively hang out with other beings of flesh and blood, until the day comes when I leave my body. Do you think? What a concept! Wow.