Wednesday, March 31, 2010

My Cherry Amour

It is not possible to take a bad picture on a spectacular spring morning at the peak of the Japanese cherry tree bloom which accounts for why there were so many of us out there in the chilly, windy early morning, walking around the Tidal Basin, smiling, capturing image after image on the fanciest as well as the cheapest cameras.

I'm not saying there were lots of people. It was early so only the folks who really really really wanted to be, were there. The cherry minions (as someone referred to the tourists) don't arrive until about 9:30 or 10:00. We locals tend to go just after the sun rises, to take pictures, stroll around the basin, or picnic, or all three. It's kind of hard sharing the nation's capital with the rest of the nation sometimes. Just sayin'.

One of the really great features of this morning's walk was a duck couple who swam along next to me almost all the way around the basin. Perhaps they were looking for a handout; those Tidal Basin ducks love junk food. I explained very specifically that I had nothing for them, not even a crumb, but they followed me nonetheless. I love little miracles like that so much.

On the subway I sat next to a man reading The Idiot's Guide to Paganism. I couldn't stop myself from saying, "Why don't you put the book away, go walk around the Tidal Basin and let the cherries tell you all about it?" He frowned slightly and gave me a strange look, but when I got off the train he said, "Have a nice day!" Maybe I gave him pause for thought. Who knows?

It's always a good thing for me to break my self-imposed rules, to just get up, for instance, brush my teeth, put on my clothes and walk out the door (instead of following my iron-bound routine of shower-meditate-coffee-newspaper-breakfast-blog, after which it's "OK" to begin my day). It was definitely well worth the breach of protocol today. I feel bathed in pure pink and white, washed clean by the sound of the water and sky, cheered by my duck companions. What a day. All I can say is: wow.

Tuesday, March 30, 2010

Cherry Madness

It's pouffy out there, people. Pink, white, light spreen green, lurid purple and bright lemon yellow. It's frilly and fouffy, foppish and silly, such a funny landscape for a city that is known for its buttoned-down, stern, hard-working atmosphere.

The trees and gardens don't seem to care about how it's supposed to be in DC. They're in a happy orgy of blossom, exploding with the delicate colors of early spring.

Tra-la-la. Tomorrow at the crack of dawn I will make my yearly pilgrimmage down to the Tidal Basin to see the cherries in bloom. I hear the trees are close to their peak. The usual throngs of cherry-bound tourists have arrived, which is why I like to head out before I'm actually all the way awake, coffee cup in one hand, camera in the other.

The biggest crowds don't descend on the basin until about 10:00 a.m. It's worth getting up early, it really is. I'll take pictures.

Monday, March 29, 2010

Three Hundred and Fifty Steps

Every now and then members of Congress conduct tours of the dome of the Capitol. It involves climbing hundreds of steps up through all the layers of the dome to the very top where those who have mustered the valour to climb that far can stare directly into the Apotheosis of Washington, a huge painting that, according to the Architect of the Capitol, is the "eye" of the Capitol. Who knew it had an eye? Though, that said, ... I always thought of the painting as a lens placed very specifically at the center of the four quarters of the city, focusing energy down through all the floors of the building into the ground below, and upwards, through the apotheosis, into the sky. Thinking of it as an eye gives it purpose, consciousness, even - qualities I would not associate with a lens.

Talk about the All-Seeing Eye. Wow!

One of these days between now and June, whenever it works out, I'm going to be a part of one of these hikes up and up and up to the eye of the Capitol. I am so jazzed!

Before September 11th I spent a considerable amount of time on the floor of the dome, usually alone, just sitting, watching all the swirling energy. It was quite thrilling. (There was public access to the Capitol then.) On August 17, 2001, a group of cohorts and I cast a triangle of stillness around the center of the dome, using three beautiful chunks of rose quartz. One of us recited "Let America Be America Again" by Langston Hughes. It was quite a dramatic ritual, but back then, you could do stuff like that in public places without any fear of being thrown out, or worse: sent to Gitmo.

Sure enough, not quite one month later, after the twin towers fell and the Pentagon burned, we were vamoosed from our casual visits there. Though never still at the center, the dome remained empty for some time afterwards. We certainly anticipated something with that work. Oh yeah.

I still miss having access to that incredible, magical space. But a walk up to the top? Up to the eye? Wow!! That will be SO cool! I hope they let me take pics. I can't wait.

I wish I could remember which building this is. Look at the size of that sculpture! Wow.

Sunday, March 28, 2010

The lengths we go to say thanks

Tomorrow night is the beginning of Passover, a week from today is Easter. I love both holidays so much. The drama, oh my God, the drama of those stories! Blood will be shed, by the firstborn of the Egyptians, by all those poor lambs who gave their lives so the Jews could mark their doors against the Angel of Death, by Jesus dying on the cross. But what follows the bloodshed is redemption, the rising of Jesus from his grave, the arrival - at long last - of the Jews to the promised land. In these stories we tell every year, the blood sacrifice serves a greater good.

Christians give up something for Lent, Jews give up all food that rises for Passover. I'm guessing this is our modern-day version of blood sacrifice. Is that right?

Every year I wonder about the source of these incredible holidays. One of my theories is that springtime blood sacrifice originated as a ritual way of celebrating the bloodshed that accompanies birth. Anyone who has ever attended or given birth will tell you that the epic of childbirth is extremely dramatic, and very bloody, but in the end well worth it. Birth is a miracle, an every day miracle, but a miracle just the same. Blood sacrifice must have originated because of the experience of childbirth, don't you think? No one knows for certain, of course, since this ancient form of devotion began long before written history caught up with it, many many thousands of years before we began telling the stories of Passover and Easter. I'll never solve the mystery, but I love thinking about it anyway.

Life is precious, as the Buddhists say. It's so precious, in fact, that we're willing to spill blood just to let God know how much it means to us. L'chaim, y'all, L'chaim!

Saturday, March 27, 2010


The visual spectrum in Washington DC yesterday was mostly about pink and silver, with a hint of early spring green tossed in.

Just as there are dog people and cat people, there are summer people and winter people. Is that right? I think it is. Are there spring and fall people? Bird people? Fish people? Probably. Because I'm a rule-bound personality, sometimes I get locked into the idea that the world is exclusively structured in polar opposites, that if I am a winter person, then I can't also be a summer person, for instance. (It's true that I am NOT a summer person, even though I feel I should be, living in Washington DC. Seasonally I am a fall/winter/spring person. So actually that's not a good example.)

In my heart of hearts I know that the world is not an either/or situation, that there are always more options, more realities, than either the black or white. I know, I KNOW, that I have free will and that there are always more options available than I can imagine at any one time. Because of my enthusiasm about most things, I can get out there to the extreme edges of every thought-form spectrum. Before I know it, I'm thinking in terms of us vs. them, or that one way of thinking is RIGHT, the other way is WRONG, that there are only two colors: ultraviolet and infrared. That is SO untrue!

I used to be a lot more entangled in the polarized world view than I am now, though in certain areas, I still get stuck. What I'm thinking about this morning is my optimism/pessimism and how hard it is for me to find a space between the attitudes of Everything is going to be great! and its opposite, I am DOOMED. Energetically the former requires of a lot of expansion, like breathing in so deeply it feels like my lungs will pop out of my rib cage. It's too much expansion. When I'm in my optimism mind-set, it feels quite forced. The opposite is what I call "The Voice of Collapse," i.e. I can't, it won't work, I'll never be able to ... etc. When I feel doomed, the center can not hold. I feel like a black hole, sucking everything inwards.

Does it sound like I'm bi-polar? Honestly, I'm not. Perhaps the above is expressed a bit more dramatically than necessary.

What I intend to continue cultivating is my curiosity and openness. Instead of deciding what the future holds, good or bad, I'd like to walk through my days wondering, staying open and alert, yet relaxed, asking myself at every decision crossroads, "Now what? What is possible here?" Wow. Wouldn't that be something?

I'm working on it! Have a wonderful weekend, y'all!

Friday, March 26, 2010

March Madness

My massage therapist tells me, about the months in the year, that the "old people" of Bulgaria say there are eleven brothers and one sister. March is the sister. She can be so moody because February, the smallest brother, drank all the wine. I love that! Those old Bulgarians know what they're talking about. Here in Washington DC, after a spectacularly lovely month, it is supposed to snow today. Not a lot, but still! My favorite meteorologist says we will experience a "conversational" snow, just a dusting, but oh my.

Whether it's just snow or a lot of rain, the drastic change in the weather will definitely be a serious bummer for the green world orgy of pink, white, and earliest spring green. I hope it doesn't get too windy, hope it doesn't blow away the cherries, now in bud around the Tidal Basin, in bloom in many parts of the city.

But you never know about March; anything could happen. If my little brother drank all the wine, I might be in a bad mood, too, who knows?

Thursday, March 25, 2010

Like Sister Sledge Says


Birds do it, bees do it. Also ants, elephants, dogs, ducks and homo sapiens. We are not solitary animals like jaguars or eagles, oh no. Most of our species live like other social predators: in community.

Families, clans, tribes, often connected by blood and a specific landscape, are the historical forms of community for humans. Over time the structure of communities has expanded far beyond shared DNA and/or location. Oh my, yes.

I've been a part of many fabulous communities in my life. At the end of the 1970's I became involved in an arts community in Kansas City. It was not formally organized, which made it even more delicious, since the usual hierarchy skirmishes that occur in community never came up. There was a small group of us who created a film collective, opened a small, funky moviehouse that showcased the weirdest films we could find. Other friends came together to produce concerts featuring small, obscure rock and punk bands that performed in the basement of the Kansas City Veterns of Foreign Wars. That community persisted for a few golden years. In the company of great friends, in (of all places) Kansas City, I saw some of the most offbeat, bizarre movies ever made, danced the nights away to bands like Jody Foster's Army, The Embarrassment and such. I drank a lot of Pabst Blue Ribbons during those years. Oh yeah.

In San Francisco I became centrally involved in the goddess worshipping, wiccan community of Reclaiming. That was an amazing time I will never forget. Wow. When I lived at Lake Tahoe, I was part of the community theater crowd - it was very fun! Today I am a part of the incredible neighborhood community of Capitol Hill.

Needless to say I am also centrally involved in this blog community, also with Facebook. Online communities are GREAT.

On April 6th I'm going to meet people who are part of another community, the film/TV community called The Difference. They are gathering 6,000 people from English-speaking countries to collaborate in many ways including the possibility of making a movie and TV show.

I didn't go looking for The Difference - they contacted me. How they found me and why they want me to join their community is a mystery, but I am intrigued. It's such an Age of Aquarius effort. And the people who are creating this community are really so lovely. I've spoken with a few of them, mostly to arrange a meeting when they come to DC. I am so struck by the fact that they aren't cynical. It's so refreshing!

I'm sure the experience of meeting these sweet Australians will yield, at the very least, a blog post, if not more.

Though mostly single throughout my life, I am a joiner. I like groups, communities and all the interesting interrelationships that are possible when people gather. And I'm so curious about The Difference. Did any of you nominate me for this project? I can't figure out how they found me. I'll find out soon enough, I guess.


Wednesday, March 24, 2010

Silk and Sand

In my dream last night I was sitting outside, on a sandy cliff, hanging out with President Obama's lovely young advisors. There was no one there I recognized, but I knew who they were. They were all smart, kind, rational, relational and good looking. In the dream I felt so grateful to be hanging out with them. They really took me in, acted like I was one of them. In the dream the wind was blowing, but I had a colorful silk scarf that I held up against my nose and mouth to protect me from the blowing sand. It was such a sweet dream.

I know, I KNOW, the health care bill is a quagmire that will take a lot of time to sift through and straighten out. The significant thing to remember, I think, is that the inertia of reform has been cranked into gear. As my beloved Isaac Newton said,

The vis insita, or innate force of matter is a power of resisting, by which every body, as much as in it lies, endeavors to preserve in its present state, whether it be of rest, or of moving uniformly forward in a straight line.

Though it's true that there's a lot of friction surrounding the new law, friction that will inevitably slow its forward motion, the important thing is to remember that it's in motion now. Indeed I am grateful, and I do feel "seen" and protected in a way I haven't since I had employer-provided health insurance. Let's see ... that was 1993 ... so it has been awhile.

What I'm most grateful for is the fact that I don't have to try to figure out how to make the new law work. Oh my god, can you imagine the complications? Yikes. My job is to be patient, supportive, and compassionate for the next little while. I am avoiding all the hideous hatefulness running rampant around the news media right now, all the reports of lawsuits and how so many Americans don't want this, etc. etc. It's a part of our angry national character that makes us so eager to predict doom. We would rather vent our spleens than succeed, I guess. My goodness.

As the immigration reform marchers said (on the signs they carried): CHANGE TAKES COURAGE.

It surely does!

In a window on Connecticut Ave. NW, just below Dupont Circle.

Tuesday, March 23, 2010

Find the Faith, Baby

The Capitol from 4th and E. Capitol, in the rain.

In the wake of the vote on health care, a soft rain fell most of the day yesterday. It was a soothing rain, punctuated by an occasional crack of thunder. It felt, to me, as if the weather gods wished to bring cooling to help settle the energy of the final debates and the impact of the vote.

I hoped that the rain would encourage we humans to spend the day sitting with this historical moment. But no. Americans from the far right to the far left and everywhere inbetween set out straightaway after the vote, bitching, complaining, worrying, nitpicking and projecting a trajectory of doom. We were unable, even for one single day, to be with the historic nature of the vote.

It makes me sad. I believe that the GW Bush years were awful for many reasons, including the fact that during those years, the once characteristic optimism of the American people was ground down to dust, completely and utterly destroyed. We became so bitter, hateful, so hopeless and cynical during those eight years. I'm talking about ALL of us - lefties, right-wing, Republicans, Democrats - every one of us was so demoralized by those terrible years.

People say the downturn began during the Reagan years. I do think policy changes at that time launched the process of bringing the U.S. to its knees. But we were a happy nation under Reagan, and happy under Clinton as well. It wasn't until the GW Bush years that our national psyche became so angry, so full of bilious indignation.

We can't seem to let it go, even now under our great president. At our worst, we Americans are in a fury about everything. At our best, we worry and feel pessimistic about our future. I wonder how long it's going to take our national soul to come back to our cheerful outlook. Will we ever regain our positivity? Our happiness? We Americans are in a world o' hurt. Oh yeah.

Monday, March 22, 2010

Divided We Stand

They did it. The American House of Representatives passed the health care bill.


I won't have a chance to go check out the Capitol until tomorrow as I'm working all day today, but I bet there will be an energetic resonance of some kind.

This is a BIG deal. One of my FB friends posted a video featuring presidents since FDR talking about revamping our health care system, so it has been in the works for awhile. One of the last clips is President Obama saying, "I don't understand what this means politically, but I know it's right."

And YES it is not a perfect bill in any way, and YES now the haggling and wrangling and sifting will begin. I expect it will be years before any of these changes find a foothold. It will take a long time to figure out how to put into practice what was passed yesterday. That's how our government has always been, from the beginning.

And YES there wasn't a single Republican who voted for the bill. Nevertheless, it passed. Wow.

YES we can. Oh yeah.

In addition to the House debate and vote, yesterday was also the day of the immigration rights march. Thousands of marchers streamed through Lincoln Park in the very late afternoon. A very cool crowd.

Sunday, March 21, 2010

Blind Spots

You've got one, so do I. All humans have an anatomical blind spot, a section of the visual field where there are no rods or cones, hence no sight. According to wikipedia, the anatomical blind spot is:

The optic disc or optic nerve head is the location where ganglion cell axons exit the eye to form the optic nerve. There are no light sensitive rods or cones to respond to a light stimulus at this point. This causes a break in the visual field called "the blind spot" or the "physiological blind spot."

So why isn't there a blank spot when I look up at the tulip magnolias or stare at the Capitol Dome?** The cool thing is, the brain adds very substantially to the data it receives from your eye. Your brain decides what you should be seeing, what you would be seeing if you could see with your blind spot. In fact, the brain goes far beyond the blind spot while creating the visual field. A lot of what you see is made up by the brain. A lot of what you don't see is "invisible" because your brain decides you don't have to see it or it doesn't matter or doesn't fit in with your world view. These facts beg the question, is there any such thing as an objective reality? I think not!

We are such creative beings, we humans. We make (and later sweep up) sand mandalas, we knit, spin, take photographs, write poems, paint paintings, draw, cook, garden, sing, play instruments. A part of every endeavor involves a blind spot of one kind or another that we compensate for in some way as part of the creative experience. It is our habit to fill in the blank spots, to make our lives seem continuous, to make our personal stories seem fully fleshed out. Perception, in fact, involves a whole lot of conjecture.

This talent of ours, and our tendency to believe the stories we tell ourselves, gets us through the day, so that's a good thing, right? I say yes. Maybe the important thing to remember is that no one else shares exactly the same perception of the complexities of this world. Do you think any member of Congress can remember that today? Hmmm....

**I'm staring at the Capitol dome because I really really really hope Congress passes the health care bill today. I believe if I stare hard enough, they'll HAVE to. I'm certain there's a blind spot in this concept you could drive a truck through. Oh well.

Two lovely pregnant women at Lincoln Park, with their partners.

Saturday, March 20, 2010


The Venerable Ngawang Chojor (see yesterday's post) is 100% committed to his spiritual path, clearly. But I was thinking last night that what he does, making his beautiful mandala over and over again, is quite like what Jane {Not Plain Jane) does when she knits or spins, or Ellen (Stuff from Ellen's Head) as she carefully etches or sandblasts glass. Or Linda Sue (All I Ever Wanted) when she felts flowers or puts together her amazing collages. Susan (Artspark Theater), Tom (Half-Moose with a Twist), John (Robert Frost's Banjo), Willow (Willow Manor), Meri (Meri's Musings), Steven (The Golden Fish), Dan (A Mindful Heart), Kim (Mouse Medicine), Liza (They Will Not Have Me) are also - it seems - absolutely devoted to the path of sharing their art. (There are more of course, - see the sidebar - but you get the idea.)

In fact the blogs I love best are written by artists who are, each in his/her own way, as devoted as Venerable Ngawang Chojor. He seems exotic, sifting his grains of sand on the pattern, dressed in his truly lovely Tibetan Buddhist outfit. He seems pure and exquisite beyond the beyond. But the truth is, he's one of us. He is. Oh yeah.

Friday, March 19, 2010

Groundhog Day

When he was 17, the not yet Venerable Ngawang Chojor began learning the process of making sand mandalas. Not every kind of sand mandala, I should say, only the peace mandala. He has been creating this mandala ever since. Now quite Venerable (at age 75) he continues his work, carefully sifting sand, almost grain by grain, through a little flute onto a pattern. It takes him about a week to complete one of the size he's making at the Sackler Gallery. When he's finished, he sweeps it up then in a very lovely ceremony pours the sand into a body of water so that peace can be spread through the water all over the world.

He was calm and focused the whole I time I watched. No doubt he's always calm and focused while working. I was in Such A Mood yesterday, struggling with new software. I wondered while I watched, does he get frustrated sometimes? Does he ever ask himself why the hell he is drawing the same design over and over? Does he flop around emotionally? He looked to me as if he had learned the lesson Bill Murray learns in the film Groundhog Day. Move through each day doing good deeds. Wow.

If you're in or around DC this weekend, do NOT miss the opportunity to watch him work. Sunday is the sweeping up ceremony. I'll be working, unfortunately. That is something I would love to see.

On the opposite end of the spectrum of active/calm is the Tibetan shrine downstairs at the Sackler. Wow. It is crackling with energy. The same group of kids who are watching the mandala master in the pic below were downstairs at the shrine while I was there. One kid said, "Are there ghosts or monsters in here?" His teacher laughed at him but I decided this kid should be taken seriously. I said, "I feel it, too. But it feels like kind angels to me, not monsters."

I looked up at the teacher and said, "He can feel the energy." The teacher's eyes glazed over. Oh well.

On the way home I realized I don't have to master Photoshop Elements 8 for the Mac all at once. I can learn it little by little, over time. I was able to take it in, the energy of the kind Tibetan Buddhist angels and the peace of the mandala. Fantastic!

Happy Friday!!

Thursday, March 18, 2010

I am no venerable mandala master, oh no.

Though I'm certain the utter bewilderment and frustration involved in figuring out Photoshop 8 for the Mac is great for my neural networks, I am defeated. Photoshop 8 vs. Reya? No contest. The program kicked my ass.

May I complain for a minute, please? What happened to instruction manuals? Even just a few years ago, new software came with user manuals, little books I could leaf through until I learned the program. But no more. There are teaching videos on the internet all of which I find completely unhelpful and condescending. There are help sites "written" by other users, also totally useless. I miss the books of instructions, I really do. And yes I know I'm supposed to intuitively figure it out. Grrrrrrrrrr....

Rather than crush my new computer with a brick (it's tempting, but I know I would regret it) instead I'm going to head down to the Sackler this morning, dip into The Realm of the Buddha. Today is my last chance to watch the mandala master Venerable Ngawang Chojor put the finishing touches on his sand mandala.

The monks who work with sand mandalas are serious bad asses. After all the care and attention, not to mention time, they put into their designs, and even in spite of how beautiful the finished work is, after they finish, they are able somehow to calmly and carefully sweep the sand into a pile, after which they pour it into the Tidal Basin. At least that's what they did last time. The mandala sweep up is meant to help us understand the ephemeral nature of all things. But to actually do it? I think it takes guts. Wow.

Maybe watching the monk lovingly work on something he knows won't exist after Sunday (the day of the sweeping up ceremony) will remind me that I, too, can be patient and careful as I learn about the new Photoshop.

Maybe. It's worth a try, anyway.

Wednesday, March 17, 2010

Shamrocks and Green Beer? Or not ...

My mother was a contrarian, she was. For instance, she always wore orange on St. Patrick's Day, something that I of course did not understand at the time, nor, come to think of it do I understand today. Protestants wear orange in Ireland, not here, but I'm pretty sure my mother had nothing against the Catholics, so why did she do it? Maybe it had to do with the myth about Patrick driving the snakes, a.k.a. pagans, out of Ireland. Or maybe it was something political. I have no idea and since my mother is long gone from this earth, I guess I'll never know.

Does anyone still drink green beer on St. Pat's day? I know there are parades in NY and other cities. Is it still a day when you're "supposed" to get drunk? I am so out of the mainstream; I don't have a clue.

Which is why I haven't decided yet whether I'll purposely wear green today. Can't imagine anyone is going to pinch me if I don't. But I won't wear orange, no matter what my mother's reasons were for doing it. That's just rude.

However you celebrate today or even if you don't, CHEERS, y'all! Cheers!

Tuesday, March 16, 2010

Bustin' Out

Everything in the green world here in DC is popping, snapping, opening, rising, jumping out of the ground, from the little casings that hold the tree blooms, from the tips of the branches. It is like a slo-mo explosion of color outside. This is the great crescendo of spring in the American midatlantic.

Oh my.

I find spring here, by turns, overwhelming, irritating, and unbelievably beautiful. Every year, including this year of course, spring blows me away. There are days when I dance in shamanic alignment with the colors and shapes, when I become more vivid, put on a deep shade of pink lipstick and extra mascara. Other days I just want to run away from it all, go north or head out west past the Rockies, to places less verdant and therefore more peaceful.

My respiratory system reacts as if it has been attacked which is the very reason I went forth this morning to buy bucketsfull of allergy meds. This year I'm trying Zyrtec, a more virile 24 hour concoction than the Claritin I usually take.

I'm diving into the big antihistamines this year because I have a feeling that after our cold, snowy winter, this spring is going to be extra powerful. Judging by the way everything seems to be blooming all at once, I'm thinking my prediction is spot on.

Gird your loins, people. Spring has sprung!

Monday, March 15, 2010

The Ghost of Copernicus

Across the bar at Founding Farmers.

Oh the rain, it does not stop. We've had three or four days of steady, soft, warm rain. I am not complaining. Those of us who suffer from springtime allergies welcome rain. It gathers the pollen and brings it down to the ground, a Very Good Thing.

The rain, along with the mild head cold I'm just recovering from, has provided an excuse to just sit around. I've been watching Carl Sagan videos (of which there are a zillion on the internet) almost obsessively. I am completely fascinated - not so much by the science he describes as by his point of view.

Only thirty years ago, we Americans were still dramatically Europe-centric, human-as-supreme-species-centric. To a fault, we believed our culture to be the center of the world. It kind of blows me away, realizing how much of an effect revisionist history has had not only on the humanities, but on the sciences as well.

Our Ptolemaic view of what western culture is/was, i.e. the center of the world, has completely changed during the last few decades. How did it happen? When did it happen? How was it that we were finally able to admit that there have been many great, complex and interesting cultures in the history of the world, that many species have great intelligence? When did we open our minds? Did the spirit of Copernicus whisper in our collective ears?

What happened to change the paradigm? I have no clue. Do you?

On the Metro train, a great common denominator of humanity.

Sunday, March 14, 2010

I love science

Only because I think Brian Cox is the coolest rock star physicist ever, and because he raves about it, I've been watching old episodes of Cosmos with Carl Sagan (on I am so enjoying it.

Cosmos is an icon of its time, (as is all art as well as all science). Though Sagan was the grooviest of groovies, seen through the lens of the decades that have passed since the series was made, his point of view is quaint to my modern sensibility. He speaks repeatedly of the "dominating intelligence" of human beings, and disparages the idiocy of nuclear weapons, for instance. I'm not clear that anyone I know actually sees nuclear war as a real possibility anymore. It was so of that time. Also, since the 1970's when Cosmos was made, we've stopped thinking of ourselves as a dominating intelligence, at least within the realm of popular science shows.

These days, in most science documentaries, we focus on global warming and the loss of so many species on earth. We endlessly blame ourselves for every damn thing. That's one reason I have come to dislike science museums. It's all about how bad we are these days, rather than about science. Such a gloomy way to look at the marvels of our reality, don't you think? (Not to excuse our wastefulness or mindlessness, should say.)

One thing we have now that we didn't have then are incredible special effects. In the 1970's there was no such thing as the Hubbel telescope either, so we didn't have all the stunning pictures of stars and planets, in HD, to work with.

I don't get BBC TV on the cable here in the house on Tennessee Avenue, so I'll have to wait until Brian Cox's The Seven Wonders of the Solar System finds its way onto the internet to see full episodes. I'm content in the meantime to walk down memory lane with Carl Sagan and his essentially psychedelic 1970's worldview of science.

I wonder how Brian Cox will look thirty years from now? Hmmm...

Saturday, March 13, 2010

Brother Virus, Small But Mighty

From wikipedia:
A virus (from the Latin virus meaning toxin or poison) is a small infectious agent that can replicate only inside the cells of other organisms. Viruses infect all types of organisms, from animals and plants to bacteria and archaea. There are millions of different types. Viruses are found in almost every ecosystem on Earth and these minute structures are the most abundant type of biological entity.

So there really is no contest, no point in even trying to fight it. When the nasty cold virus decides it's time to take a bite out of me, I might as well submit, right? Ahhhhh-choooo!

But even as I engage in typical down-with-a-cold behaviors: you know, drinking tea and leaving a trail of crumpled kleenexes in my wake, I always wonder WHY? Why did I catch this cold? Did the ghosts get to me in some way I was unaware of? Was it the extra-dynamic acupuncture I had this week? Did some early season allergy thing kick it into gear? The WHY ME thought form is no doubt left over from my years on the west coast where I believe it's a cultural imperative to believe that all illness happens for a reason. (Here on the east coast, we don't believe in minor illness. At the first sign of a cold, we swallow some toxic, over the counter medicine and go back to work. End of story.)

Maybe today, while it rains and the virus parties in my sinuses, I should get myself back into what I think of as the midwestern mindset, which is: when you get a cold, get in bed, watch movies, read magazines and sleep a lot.

I love the midwestern sensibility. Ahhh ... common sense! Now excuse me while I blow my nose - again!

Friday, March 12, 2010

The Haunting

No, this isn't the haunted house, just another beautiful Capitol Hill house.

I wanted to take a picture of the haunted house, but as soon as I aimed my camera towards the window where I saw the ghost's face, my trusty camera switched itself off and refused to come back on ... until later, on the Metro train, on my way home. Even though I believe in all kinds of mysteries, incidents like this still surprise me. A minute later the woman who called me about the haunting mentioned that after she and her husband moved in, every one of the kitchen appliances died, one by one, one each day until the whole kitchen was kaput. The night that the last appliance broke down, she heard kitchen cabinets opening and closing all night long. Even her husband heard it, and he is not given to thinking about or believing in psychic phenomena. Poor guy. He is in for one crazy ride.

Even after yesterday, I still maintain that the White House is the most haunted house I have ever encountered, but this house in Alexandria? A very close second. There is so much going on there, indoors and out, that it would take several blog posts to describe all the energy. Briefly, surrounding the house are the remains of a Civil War hospital, adjacent to a Civil War battlefield. On the other side of the house is a new housing development. Land spirits really hate housing developments. And now here she is, rebuilding the foundation of the house which is, itself, completely full of what appears to my inner eye to be a family of ghosts. There are several generations of ghosts there, some it seems, from the "old country" wherever that is, some who lived in the house.

The energy is so strong that at one point, wandering around, I mentioned that I was very dizzy. The woman said, "I stay away from that corner." I found many areas of dizzy energy in the house which is laid out like a maze. I wonder who designed it. It's like an Escher house with stairs going up and down, landings everywhere. To get from one end of the house to the other involves following a tremendously circuitous route. Crazy.

I can see why the movers were reluctant to go inside. Believe me, that house is haunted!

So I didn't do anything but ring the Tibetan singing bowl in the dizzy corner. It never hurts to ring the bowl, especially at times when I have no idea where to start.

For the time being, the residents of the house are content to sit with the energy. She said things had calmed down during the past week, so maybe the ghost family has welcomed her.

When I got back to the Hill I took a very long walk, let the breeze and the light of the setting sun clear away all that energy. There are hauntings and there are hauntings. The place I visited yesterday? All I can say is Wow.

Pennsylvania Avenue by the IMF, close to Founding Farmers, my very favorite restaurant in Washington.

Thursday, March 11, 2010

I see dead people

On my calendar for today is an appointment to go see about a haunting in Alexandria. I'm looking forward to the experience as I have a special affection for ghosts. They remind me of all the stoners I used to hang out with. What am I saying? They remind me of ME when I was a stoner, kind of fuzzy around the edges, unable to focus most of the time. Ghosts get disoriented, they lose track of time, can't quite remember, most of the time, that they're dead. Sometimes they remember their deaths and freak out for awhile - that's when they moan and shriek and groan. But five minutes later they've forgotten all about it again. I swear ghosts are so stoned!

They don't really get the living, either. I'm pretty sure they can't tell the difference between when we're awake and asleep, which is why they're always trying to talk to us while we're sleeping. We're quiet, not rushing around, when we're asleep. We switch off the lights, tv, computers, ipods, etc. when we sleep. I think they feel we are more approachable without all the noise and distraction.

The people who called me about the haunting just bought a house that's registered with the National Trust for Historic Preservation. It's close to a Civil War battlefield, but not right on top of it, which could be a factor in the haunting, though the woman who contacted me says she thinks it might be a female. Even the movers, burly dudes (as she described them) thought they saw someone looking out a window on the second floor.

It won't surprise anyone who has known me for awhile that I plan to bring a small hand mirror with me today. I like to walk around haunted houses looking at a reflection of the space. Sometimes I can "see" things in the mirror I wouldn't notice if I was looking directly at them. I'll bring my Tibetan singing bowl and the purbha that Butternut Squash (of the blog Goddess of the Confluence) gave me. Sometimes the clear tone of the bowl is all a spirit needs to snap out of her dreamstate and move along. Sometimes it takes more than that. I also always take a rattle. Ghosts don't really like rattles, which is one reason it's traditional to give rattles to babies - to keep the ghosts away. But it does get them all stirred up, makes them more visible. It's a small annoyance I always apologize for.

And my camera. Of course I'll take my camera. Though dubious that I'll capture the ghost digitally, it's always worth having the camera at the ready, just in case.

The next time I complain about my life, I hope someone will remind me that actually my life is SO interesting! Yes? I say yes.

Wednesday, March 10, 2010


While one of my housemates is in Spain, I'm in charge of walking his dog. I tend to walk the dogs anyway, whenever it suits me, but I'll admit that since Jake died, I've been a lot lazier than I used to be, sleeping in, reading blogs until 10 a.m. when I finally boost myself out the door.

Tonka is a boisterous, energetic beast, much the way Jake was at the same age (five), so I'm up and out the door early every day, back out midday and once again in the evening. I am becoming reaquainted with the routes I used to take but abandoned after Jake, routes on which there's plenty of grass to provide inspiration, good smells, and easy to scoop locations.

I keep seeing people I haven't seen since last summer, out with their dogs. Walking Tonka has provided access to dog society, synched my rhythms with those of many wonderful neighbors. When Jake died a whole culture disappeared before my very eyes. I'm a part of it again for the time being, which is so nice.

I'm no longer grieving for Jake so it's not hard to explain to these people that no, Tonka is not my new dog. For a long time after Jake died, I choked up anytime anyone mentioned him. I'm asked every morning, after I explain about Tonka, when I'll get a new dog. All I can do is shrug my shoulders and say I don't know. I have no desire to get a new dog. Is that normal? Jake was the only dog I've ever had, perhaps ever will have. Who knows?

One thing I'm re-learning is how much I love to walk around the neighborhood first thing in the morning when the day is fresh, the birds are singing and all seems peaceful and new. I'm grateful for this dog walking gig, I am.

Tuesday, March 9, 2010

Watch out for the Kryptonite

The weather has completely turned, and though I'm certain we will see more cold, raw, early spring days, winter is definitely done. Today Brother Sun will bring the thermometer up to 65 F. Ahhhh ... that's almost warm!

Naturally I am feeling overambitious, as befits a sparkling early spring day. My to do list goes on and on. And on.

According to the cosmology of Reya, springtime overambitiousness is a natural reaction to the upwards surging energy of spring. It is so strong today that I feel kind of superhero-ish. Where did I put my cape and funny mask? Where are my tights?? TODAY I WILL SAVE THE WORLD! Err ... or ... maybe not. But maybe I'll get the laundry done, the groceries purchased, and my room cleaned. Maybe the dogs will get a super-long walk, maybe I'll take some nice pictures, maybe I'll make a spinach salad after I meet my friend for a martini.

It's probably enough, isn't it? I mean, if I'm only able to "save" my little corner of the world today? It's OK not to be a superhero, right? Yes? I say yes.

Monday, March 8, 2010

In a matter of days, the trees are going to pop. When that happens, I will no longer be able to see the Capitol unless I'm standing right in front of it.

First Crocus

This morning, flowers cracked open
the earth’s brown shell. Spring
leaves spilled everywhere
though winter’s stern hand
could come down again at any moment
to break the delicate yolk
of a new bloom.

The crocus don’t see this as they chatter
beneath a cheerful petal of spring sky.
They ignore the air’s brisk arm
as they peer at their fresh stems, step
on the leftover fragments
of old leaves.

When the night wind twists them to pieces,
they will die like this: laughing,
tossing their brilliant heads
in the bitter air.

--Christine Klocek-Lim

Sunday, March 7, 2010


Even just a few days ago, it was still winter, but yesterday everything changed. Spring has sprung. The birds are going haywire in the morning, all of them trying to sing all at once (reminds me of big family dinners when everyone talks at the same time), the bulb flowers are rising, the tips of every twig on every tree (or so it seems) are swollen and ready to pop at any second.

Suddenly the small patches of snow seem completely incongruous. They look fake, like pieces of styrofoam. Why hasn't it all melted yet? Brother Sun is brilliant this morning, the sky is a shocking blue. The crusty leftovers of last winter's blizzards are vestigial remnants of an ancient past. Or so it seems in the light of this beautiful early spring day.

EVERYONE was out yesterday, dancing (as we humans do) in shamanic alignment with the season. Though I have to go to work in a minute, I, too, will get outside every chance I can today. The winter was beautiful and perfect, but I am done with all that. I am ready for the new season. Bring it!