Thursday, September 30, 2010

Gotta Dance

At last the day has arrived. I'm dressed to the nines, just waiting for the doorbell to ring here at the chateau. I expect we'll arrive fashionably late, but not so late that we miss the late afternoon stroll through the willows that is the traditional beginning of the Willow Manor Ball.

I'll be at the Ball today. C'mon over and check it out.

On with the dance! let joy be unconfined;
No sleep till morn, when Youth and Pleasure meet
To chase the glowing hours with flying feet.

George Gordon, Lord Byron

Oh yeah!!

Wednesday, September 29, 2010

Willow Manor Ball Eve

I'm in a frenzy getting ready for the Willow Manor Ball tomorrow. Let's see ... manicure, pedicure: check, appointment for my hair and makeup: check, appointment with personal trainer: oops, too late.

Three hundred and sixty four days of the year I am a hippie in teeshirts and jeans. When I dress up, ordinarily I lean towards a gypsy look. But one day every year I strive my best to look classy. High heels, tasteful jewelry, perfume ... you name it, I do it. I even trade in my backpack for a stylish little clutch purse.

Especially this year, I want to look really good. My date is (according to wikipedia) only 33 years old. Yikes. Robbing the cradle? I'm trying to see tomorrow through the eyes of all those real live cougars out there. I'm unnerved, but after a sip or two of Dom Perignon, I'll calm down, I'm sure.

If you've never attended the Ball, click the image on the sidebar, get yourselves groomed and dressed up and come! It's my favorite blog event. You can come with any date you like, dead or alive, imaginary or "real." The rules that apply in regular life evaporate for 24 hours. Last year I woke up the following morning on a couch in the Willow Manor library. My mascara was all over my face and my hair? Good and rumpled. Apparently I had a great time last year!

Can't wait!

Tuesday, September 28, 2010

To thine own self, be true.

For such a long time, I tried to be cool. God, I tried SO hard. In high school (so I've been told) I walked around all aloof, acting like I knew secrets no one else was privvy to. For heaven's sake. On the inside during high school I was simply a miserable mess, but apparently good at bluffing. Hmmm.

During early adulthood, I taught myself to drink espresso (can you imagine how bad "espresso" was during the early 1970's in Kansas City? Ewww.) I ate raw oysters (hate them - but cool people eat them, so ...) I tried to stay up all night, smoke cigarettes, etc. I learned how to drink hard and act cynical even though in my heart of hearts I am always hopeful and optimistic. You could even call the real me sweet.

I tried NOT to be sweet. I practiced being non-chalant about sex and love (ha! so not me), I did all kinds of drugs, though in hindsight I see that in that particular endeavor, I was looking more for anesthesia than cool. I wore black clothing, extreme make-up, dyed my hair every color you can imagine, sometimes all at the same time.

Finally, during my 30's, when I married my ex-husband, I gave up the good fight. He actually IS cool - stays up all night, smokes cigs, eats raw oysters, watches the most esoteric films you can imagine, reads all the cool books, plays saxophone, and can even call people "cats" without sounding stupid.

My essence is fiery, passionate and impatient in most things (working on that last one). I'm an unashamed enthusiast about the things and people I love. I like to read nerdly books about geology, history, physics and such. I love to watch NCIS. I cry at dumb Hugh Grant movies. Might as well admit it: I am SO not cool.

This morning as I was practicing the bass, I realized I might be the only totally NOT cool bass player in the world. Ah well, such is life.

Monday, September 27, 2010

The Fix

Rain, at last!

On NPR's Morning Edition this morning, former Congressman Lee Hamilton told the story of a fellow congressman who said: "When I first came to Congress, I wanted to save the world. After a few years I decided to save the U.S. Later on, I just wanted to save Indiana." Finally, at the end of his career, the Congressman settled on the idea of saving the Indiana Dunes. It's a great interview btw, well worth a listen.

I used to want to fix things. Not just some things, I mean I wanted to fix everything. I wanted to heal everyone. I used to think I knew what was needed, what to do next, in any number of situations. I was absolutely certain I knew what was right. If only I were Queen of the World, I used to say.

As the years passed, my conviction in my infallibility softened, then melted, and has at last totally evaporated. Thank God. Letting go of the majority of my tendency towards being controlling has opened my mind and heart, made me a lot more humble than I once was. What a relief! Living in a mysterious world that unfolds according to rules I am not capable of understanding is a much more interesting experience than the world in which I knew what to do next, what everyone else needed to do or say. Oh yeah!

Sometimes I lapse into a controlling mindset, though not as often as in the past. Just recently I've begun to understand that the sturm und drang of it all - the struggling that people do in their marriages, raising kids, in work and retirement, even with their health - is all grist for the mill. Life has stuff, it always has and it always will.

Of course we try to avoid the stuff, try to resolve stuff - because encountering the marvels and perils of human experience is often very uncomfortable, sometimes downright painful. When trouble crops up, I don't know anyone who doesn't ask him/herself, "Why did this happen? Where did I go wrong? What was my mistake?"

I'm not saying it's a bad idea to try to figure out what leads us into uncomfortable situations, should say.

Wisdom is hard-won, hard-earned. Wisdom is available to every one of us, through the experience of divorce, loss, illness, injury, dangerous situations. Is it possible that things don't need fixing? I heard some sad stories at work yesterday, big changes in the lives of clients I've known for a long time. I don't know how to fix what's troubling them, but my heart is with them as they move through these defining moments. May they be well guided, may each of them discover how powerful, strong and loving they can be. And all of you, too! Shalom.

Saturday, September 25, 2010

String Theory

I was so entranced with this painting (in the National Gallery) that I didn't bother to see who painted it. Oops. But Washington Cube knows (of course). It is The Lute Player, c. 1610 Orazio Gentileschi

I have friends who think I'm brave to attempt to learn how to play the bass at my advanced middle age. Hmmm. I am brave, yes, but I don't think this adventure is about courage except in that word's most essential form. "Playing" the bass fills my heart and makes me whole. Playing actually bestows courage rather than the other way around. I wonder if that makes sense.

Learning new things is one of my favorite activites. Learning anything about anything always sets in motion a cascade of interesting new trains of thought. Lately, for instance, I've been thinking about how the human body has frets of a kind - bony landmarks that show me, as a bodyworker, where muscle attachments are, or the location of internal organs. The lungs and heart will be found inside the ribcage, heart right under the sternum, listing to the left side of the body. The human body has frets, and also "sweet spots" - places where, in shi'atsu, you push with a fingertip to release a flood of tension in just a few seconds. Fun to think about.

I've also been thinking about the venerable history of stringed instruments. Strings stretched tight across a box with a hole, plucked to make sound, was one of the first ways we humans made music, along with blowing into a hollow stick and rhythmically pounding something with something else. Every culture I know about from the north pole to the south pole has had, at some point in its history, musicians who played stringed instruments. Very cool.

Strings are so intrinsic to us that we describe various states of being - usually extreme, like strung out, tightly wound, with string imagery. Even physicists, our post-modern mystics, use strings as a way to describe the essence of consenual reality.

The fact that I am a rank beginner bass player does not stop me from thinking cool thoughts. I am not ambitious to become a virtuoso bass player. I'll just play and think cool thoughts, see where that takes me.

Life is good and I am grateful. Shalom.

Friday, September 24, 2010


One of the many intensely beautiful mosaics in the Basilica at Catholic University.

The first chateau houseguest has come and gone. The verdict is in: I am PRO houseguests ... and I vote.

In spite of the fact that I slept in my own bed and never left the District of Columbia, I feel like I've been on a two-day vacation. How fun to walk around my city with someone dear and near, to see parts of the city through her eyes. How fantastic to sit and talk and talk and talk. Oh yeah. We read tarot for each other, we danced shamanically with the chateau and with this crazy city in the midst of the final heat wave of our long swampy summer. We re-invigorated our heart connection. We had a blast.

This morning I'm trying to gather my wits about me - heading off to a full day of work, and such. It's kind of a shock! My guess is that I'm out of it as the result of putting aside all my usual routines and habits so as to simply have fun. So THIS is a staycation, eh? I like it. I do.

That said, I'm looking forward to catching up a bit here in the blogworld and on FB after work. Did anything important happen in the last two days?

Having a houseguest was great, getting back into the swing of things: also great. Life is good and I am grateful. Shalom.

That's my friend Salima having tea at my favorite cafe.

Wednesday, September 22, 2010


Here ye here ye here ye!
The Chateau 7 Guesthouse is officially open!

An old friend is arriving for a quick two-day visit this morning. I am very excited to host an out-of-town visitor, something I haven't done for a long time. I could have had guests at the house on Tennessee Avenue, but it would have been inconvenient for my ex housemates, so I erred on the side of good manners. Domestic harmony requires some sacrifices, you know?

The chateau is certainly not luxurious, nor will there be anything akin to actual privacy for visitors (who must sleep in the living room since this is a three room apartment). Luckily for me, Linda (my first visitor) and I met at witch camp, an experience that has nothing to do with formality. We've known each other a long time, through thick and thin. I initiated her as well so basically there are no secrets between us. She is the perfect first overnight visitor to the chateau.

The weather is supposed to be good - hot but not too humid - so I expect we'll spend a lot of time out in the city, walking around. More than that I look forward to cooking dinner, sitting around afterwards here in the living room on the comfortable upholstery, talking, sharing stories, drinking wine, hanging out. I also look forward to a couple of lazy mornings, drinking coffee, letting our hair stay rumpled for awhile.

I'm not likely to see a lot of the blog realm while she is here, though I'll pop in and out of the internets, no doubt. See y'all on the flip side.

Tuesday, September 21, 2010

Life inside the Vortex

The citizenry of Washington DC, I mean those of us who actually live here year-round, is overwhelmingly Democratic. I think it's like 91% or some crazy figure like that. There are Republicans, too, of course - but mostly they live in the 'burbs.

I've wondered about this preponderance of Democrats, so up close to the functioning government as we are. I've heard a theory that, because Republicans are not so big on big government, they do a lousy job of appointing heads to the big federal agencies. It's not a priority. Hence the agencies are not run well, so all the people who work there suffer during Republican administrations. Democrats believe in the big agencies. They appoint really good agency leaders, so I hear. My clients who work for the State Department (for instance) love the improvements at the Department since Mrs. Clinton took the oath of office. Ms. Rice never got around to appointing people for a large number of big jobs, for instance, loading down the rest of those departments with a lot of extra work and no direction.

It's an interesting theory. I like it.

Speaking of the experience of being a citizen of the District, you can't imagine how much we are looking forward to the Rally to Restore Sanity. Everyone I know is going. For me it's a matter of how great it's going to be for the mall to have a group of people gathering to laugh for a change. There are demonstrations on the mall All The Time. No matter what the cause, those who participate are Very Serious. Very.

One reason I loved the Inauguration so much was that it was so joyful. I expect a lot of laughing to take place at the Rally. It would be a hoot if a lot of people showed up. Who knows? I love the sign suggestions from Jon Stewart. "I disagree with you, but I'm pretty sure you're not Hitler," is one of my favorites. I also like, "I considered bringing my shotgun but deemed it inappropriate." I'm definitely going to make a sign. Don't know yet what it's going to say.

I love living in DC, but it's an overly serious city. Sometimes we need to have a big ole laugh. Thanks, Jon and Stephen. What would we do without you?

Monday, September 20, 2010

Breaking News?

One of my favorite Capitol Hill families: Andrew, Effie and their dog.

I heard a segment on NPR's Morning Edition today that was all about the healing power of human touch. The segment was reported as if this is news. For heaven's sake.

The first piece of the segment was about a medical professor at Stanford who insists that med school graduates should know how to do a physical exam - you know, listen with a stethascope, check reflexes, look into the ears, down the throats, into the eyes of their patients. Believe it or not, taking the time to learn these skills is a controversial idea in the medical community. Why learn how to do a physical when they can simply order tests?

Of course there's a place for MRI's and such, but hearing that many (most?) graduates of med school have no idea how to listen for a heart murmur, for instance ... whoa! That line from an Elvis Costello song comes to mind: Well I used to be disgusted, now I try to be amused... No wonder I avoid western medicine unless I really have to partake of it. Thank God for the Sufi acupuncturist!

The second piece of the segment was a scientific explanation (nervous system based, mostly) of the process that makes physical touch good for us. I found it quite hilarious, listening to the reporter talk about pressure receptors under the skin, etc. Though I love anatomy and physiology, I really do, mechanical explanations of the experience of being human are so inadequate as to be laughable, (which is probably why I laughed).

How is it that medicine has strayed so far away from the reality of our flesh and blood, our interconnectedness, and the ways in which relating to each other directly can be healing? What happened?

The pedal shadow at the top is green because this bike had clear green plastic pedals. Very cool.

Sunday, September 19, 2010

Autumnal DC

And so it begins. Fall, I mean. The signs are there, if you look for them. A few leaves here and there are turning yellow.

The gardens along East Capitol are looking slightly rasty, no matter how well cared for they are. Even the trees who have not yet started to pull the chlorophyll back into their trunks are looking exhausted and droopy. Trees get dull right before they turn colors. Only the ragweed is really going to town at this point. Summer has definitely worn itself out.

One thing that happens at the very beginning of the midatlantic autumn is that the bugs get really fierce. They clearly understand their time is limited. Honestly the mosquitoes actually stalk and chase me around the front yard, so desperate are they for blood. Ordinarily they mostly leave me alone, but not in September. Whew. Also there are autumnal bug invasions into our human homes. Ant attacks, creepy little brown bugs, crickets. Ewwww!

There are bugs that I actually enjoy, should say. Early fall is butterfly/moth season. What's not to love about a butterfly, c'mon? Best bugs ever! The monarch migration has been incredible this year. I've seen so many monarchs! Wow. Also I've noticed more than the usual number of big black butterflies, the loopy white and yellow ones, too.

Butterflies are so ephemeral. I read somewhere that after all the time spent as a pupae (what could be worse?) then crawling around as a lowly caterpillar, when they finally emerge from their cocoons, they live about a week. It hardly seems fair.

Summer is done, the HHD are done. Now we begin the season of harvest and feasting, my very favorite time of year. At last!

Saturday, September 18, 2010

The Power of Sunset

I'm a pre-Judaism Jew. The way I observe the holidays, and in fact the way I think about Judaism, is all about the natural rhythms of the tradition. I am not at all an intellectual Jew, nope. I resonate with the seasonal celebrations, the way we follow a lunar calendar (and such) far more than the ideas behind modern Judaism (which is, from what I can tell, more like medieval than ancient Judaism).

All the biblical stories about pillars of fire and pillars of smoke, even all the rhetoric about smiting, etc. - I think those came out of an earlier oral tradition in which weather and other natural phenomena were perceived as messengers of God. I get that, I do.

Since most of the Torah is at the very least perplexing and at its worst, horrifying to me (at least the translations I'm familiar with), I prefer to skip backwards through all the centuries during which rabbis interpreted the ancient texts, take myself back in time to the beginnings of Judaism. At least this is the story I tell myself. What do you think? Is it possible to connect to prehistoric traditions? Is this total crap or am I really a pre-Judaism Jew?

One thing I love about Judaism is that our holidays begin at sunset. I'm fascinated by that. Why sunset? Why not sunrise? Why do we head into our holidays at nightfall? We usually light candles straightaway as the first part of celebrating any holiday, creating our own light. There's something about that I really love.

Today is Yom Kippur. Jews everywhere are praying and fasting today, coming face to face with God. Maybe because I'm a pre-Judaism Jew I was able to conclude my High Holy Day celebration last night after work. I took a long walk around Capitol Hill. I sat (as I like to do) on the marble steps in front of the Supreme Court and watched the sun go down behind the Capitol.

God and I are good with each other. The book of life is closed and now it's onwards and upwards to the new year. Amen, Salaam and Shalom! Oh yeah.

Friday, September 17, 2010


Today is the last lap of the High Harrowing Holy Days. It has been a doozy of a holiday for me. Though I didn't have to make amends to anyone (or ... if there are those to whom I owe apologies, this isn't the year to do so). I've prayed my ass off, I've tried to "see" everything I needed to "see," I have opened my heart wider than I ever imagined I could. I have laughed, cried, flopped, felt at peace ... name the state of mind/heart: I've been there during the last nine days. Yikes. My third eye feels all stretched out of shape by the rigors of the holiday which is why I love the pic above (taken in Lafayette Park yesterday). Looks like that pidgeon is popping out of the third eye of the horse. Ouch!! Yeah, I feel kind of like that.

But wait! I'll need to stretch open my crown, heart and third eye even further in order to accommodate the energy flow of Yom Kippur which begins tonight at sundown. Did I say that the High Holy Days are not for sissies? Whoa. They really aren't.

What a year this has been! No wonder the holiday has been so intense. In spite of all my complaining, I am very grateful for all the changes, revelations, and heart-opening experiences of the past year. Change is rigorous, oh yeah. But - life is short and we aren't dead yet. Time's a wastin' people. Even at age 57, so many things can shift in a year. I am in awe. Wow.

Happy weekend to all. L'Shanah Tovah! Shalom.

Thursday, September 16, 2010

Amen, Salaam and Shalom!

One of many magical trees on the Capitol grounds.

(from the Navajo healing ceremony called Night Chant)

House made of dawn.
House made of evening light.
House made of the dark cloud.
House made of male rain.
House made of dark mist.
House made of female rain.
House made of pollen.
House made of grasshoppers.
Dark cloud is at the door.
The trail out of it is dark cloud.
The zigzag lightning stands high upon it.
Male deity!
Your offering I make.
I have prepared a smoke for you.
Restore my feet for me.
Restore my legs for me.
Restore my body for me.
Restore my mind for me.
This very day take out your spell for me.
Your spell remove for me.
You have taken it away for me.
Far off it has gone.
Happily I recover.
Happily my interior becomes cool.
Happily I go forth.
My interior feeling cool, may I walk.
No longer sore, may I walk.
Impervious to pain, may I walk.
With lively feeling may I walk.
As it used to be long ago, may I walk.
Happily may I walk.
Happily, with abundant dark clouds, may I walk.
Happily, with abundant showers, may I walk.
Happily, with abundant plants, may I walk.
Happily, on a trail of pollen, may I walk.
Happily may I walk.
Being as it used to be long ago, may I walk.
May it be beautiful before me
May it be beautiful behind me.
May it be beautiful below me.
May it be beautiful above me.
May it be beautiful all around me.
In beauty it is finished.

Inside the Summerhouse, one of my very favorite places in Washington.

Wednesday, September 15, 2010


I like the word 'shalom.' I use it in my correspondence, I use it in my sermons, and that's how I sign my e-mails - 'shalom.' To me it is a concrete reminder of what it is we're all supposed to be about. It means far more than peace. I think it's a vision of the human community. Those great visions of Isaiah - every person fed, no more strife, the ill are healed, prisoners are released. --Katherine Jefferts from an interview in the NY Times in 2006.

I don't speak Hebrew and I'm not in any traditional way a practicing Jew. Every time I use a common phrase, like "Shana Tovah" (happy new year) I feel like such a fraud. I like "L'chaim" quite a bit. Life is short after all - good to remember how precious it is. So I use the term even though I don't have the credentials to do so.

I've been using the word "Shalom" a lot this past year. Though I love the word (really loved Katherine Jefferts' thoughts about it, so much that I remember that interview even years later) I'd never felt at all comfortable using it until this past year.

It was sometime during the heinous summer of unrelenting heat and toxic air that the word shalom arrived from out of the nowhere, found a way into my cosmology. I wasn't thinking about using the word, it just happened, which means (to me) that something big happened over the summer. Something in me can now truly connect with peace, at long last, after a lifetime of drama and struggle. I didn't do it alone! I had lots of help making this breakthrough. (Many thanks to the gypsies, my spirit guides, angels, God, friends and family. Everyone pitched in. Thank you!)

Might as well be honest. Truth is, at one level I can now connect with peace. Deep down. At surface level I still do a whole lot of flopping spiritually, emotionally and mentally. One time the Sufi acupuncturist said, "Be empty like a valley." I said, "I've never been empty like a valley in my whole life!" He said, "Go deeper." Indeed.

This past summer I went deeper. I connected with the heartbeat of peace. Next thing I knew, the word Shalom felt more at home in my mouth, and out in the world once I'd said it aloud.

My heart's connection with peace at a very deep level is one of the many great blessings I received during the past year. I am so grateful.


Tuesday, September 14, 2010

Mindful Speech in 5771

On my to-do list during the High Holy Days is even more reflection and introspection, even more praying than usual. Somebody told me recently that the Dalai Lama prays for ten hours every day. Wow. Can you imagine?

When I pray, of course I am speaking to God, but prayer is also, for me, a way of processing the events of life, a way of understanding at the deepest level what is unfolding within and without. Prayer is cleansing, too, clears my heart in such a beautiful way. Prayer is SO intimate.

Initially I was thinking I would spend Yom Kippur in silence. Word fasts are quite humbling! Believe me, I always know the right thing to be saying. It's so hard to shut me up. I'm always amazed, at the conclusion of a word fast, that somehow the planet has continued to turn, life has gone on fine without my witty repartee. Hmmmm.

What I'm "hearing" of the divine wisdom, during prayer, is that the task of this year is all about saying MORE - not less - by choosing my words carefully. For 24 hours, I will stop and think before I speak, just to see what that's like. A nice challenge, eh? Have you ever tried? How embarrassing to admit I never have!

It's a formidable challenge, but as I've said, Yom Kippur is not for sissies. I can't wait!

Monday, September 13, 2010

It's a Big Deal

The car at the stoplight is in northeast Washington. Just across the double yellow line? Southeast.

It's like living on the Champs-Élysées, kind of. Sort of. I'm talking about East Capitol Street, where I now live. It's a grand boulevard, a public thoroughfare. It's a major boundary line in the District. I live in Southeast DC, but if I cross the street, I'm in northeast DC. Little details like that fascinate me. George Washington proclaimed that East Capitol would be a federal street. (L'Enfant's original plan for Washington included Lincoln Park as a national gathering place. He "saw" the city growing eastwards instead of westwards. That's why Lady Liberty at the top of the Capitol faces east.) Washington commanded the citizens of East Capitol to take pride in their homes and gardens since he envisioned parades and all kinds of official federal extravaganzas taking place up and down East Capitol.

Thank god he was wrong about that! Whew!!

Even though my beloved George made that proclamation about East Capitol Street in 1791, and as it turned out, the city grew westwards, we dwellers of the public thoroughfare still take his words very seriously. It's a grand street, a fancy street. The houses are very beautiful, the gardens exquisite. The people are friendly and rather formal (compared to my neighbors on Tennessee Avenue at least). On Tennessee Avenue we spent a lot of time out on the street with the neighbors, talking, watching the kids play, drinking coffee or a beer. I really loved that aspect of living there. Here we smile, wave, say hello, then move on. It's warmly cordial, but I miss hanging out.

Honestly, a shamanic, bass "playing" bodyworker has no business living on this street! Wow. But I'm here and I'm going to rise to the occasion. I have resisted the urge to go water the plants while wearing my slippers, for instance (something I would never have thought twice about on Tennessee Ave.) I comb my hair and pull myself together before I emerge in the mornings.

I am often tickled by the twists and turns of my life's journey. I would never have imagined myself living on a grand boulevard, not ever. Yet, here I am. I should remember how limited my imagination really is!

Summer's last rose.

Sunday, September 12, 2010


Homage to Ellen's beautiful sunset photos.

One thing I'm loving about this very first part of learning to play the bass is that I have to listen. I'm a good listener, but it's also true that much of the time, as I listen I am already forming my response. Through the long summer of big ole thunderstorms I listened so hard to the thunder, all the time asking, "What is my brother trying to say? What is he telling me?" I was so fixated on the translation, rather than just letting the sound roll over me. It was not at all a pure experience of listening.

I listen to the crickets, but I already know what they're saying: Sex sex sex sex sex sex sex. Listen to them sometimes - it's very clear, very matter of fact.

Just yesterday a hummingbird came out of the nowhere as I sat on the porch at work, waiting for my client to arrive. He checked me out carefully, flew close to my left ear. I believe he whispered something to me, then just as suddenly as he arrived, he flew off, heading due west. What he whispered sounded like Bbbzzzzzzzzz to me, but I have a feeling there was more there than that. Because I have a friend who has an affinity for hummingbirds, I thought of my friend while listening to the bzzzzing, so I wasn't really fully there for the sound.

But when I "play" the bass (definitely premature to say I'm playing it), I don't have preconceived ideas about what I should be hearing, I don't really even know what to listen for. Hence listening becomes a very pure experience without expectation and even without judgments. I just started learning - I'm supposed to suck! And I do, I really SUCK at "playing" the bass.

What the bass is showing me first and foremost is to listen openly, to listen as if empty (like the bowl with the box of cereal poised over it, not like a bowl put away in the cupboard). This is a really good thing!

I look so serious. I am really LISTENING.

Saturday, September 11, 2010

Earthly Delights

It was so hot last summer (in my mind, summer is done) that I didn't enjoy being outdoors. Indeed I tucked myself into the cool calm beauty of the chateau. I barely saw the light of day throughout August, a turgid month of unrelenting heat and toxic air. I like to tilt against the weather, but by August, I gave up. It just wasn't fun.

What I missed, though, by staying indoors so much, was the healing and rejuvinating experience of spending time in the company of the green world of gardens. East Capitol Street, where I live, is a public avenue on which people take great pride in their front gardens. It's manicured, yes, but still so gorgeous.

Also manicured, though it seems wilder, is the National Botanical Garden on the Capitol grounds. Oh man I love that garden.

During winter, I like to go inside the glass house, breathe soft air and look at exotic green things. When the weather is nice, I love love LOVE strolling through the outdoor space. I marvel at the stuff that can grow out of a pool of mud and yucky looking water, the things that grow out of what looks like sterilized sand, all the beautiful things that grow in dirt.

The other garden I really love is just across the street, surrounding the Museum of the American Indian. On the south side of the building, they grow food! Squash, corn and beans grow together, as they always have. I love that! There's always a stand of tobacco, about the only intoxicant in existence that I never got addicted to. Thanks Brother Tobac!! There are sunflowers and indigenous grasses, a pond with lotus and all the plants that make up a woodland forest.

The weather has been great this week; I've been outside a lot. It has been so GREAT to place my feet, one in front of the other, on the grounds of these beautiful gardens. It's like coming home again. Ahhh ....

I love dirt and its progeny. I really do. L'chaim, y'all!

Friday, September 10, 2010

Sore Fingertips but a Smile on My Face

After my intro to bass guitar yesterday, I had to get out for a big bike ride. There was so much energy moving through me, wow. Or should I say 'whoa'? Seeing the bass here in my living room was completely normal, familiar as my sister Deborah said when she saw a pic on FB. However the concept that it's ME who is supposed to pick it up and play is unnerving - in the best way possible.

I remember when I first started cooking I felt unsure and awkward, so stupid! Also when I started learning how to do bodywork, I was very self-conscious. I felt bizarre putting my hands on people. Both endeavors were really hard, but in both cases the fact that I stuck with it and got past the self consciousness, got past the awkwardness, has brought such beauty into my life. I love to cook! I love putting my hands on people! It was well worth the learning curve.

Similarly, picking up and holding the bass, putting my hands on it the way Cyndy showed me, strumming, trying to find the "sweet spot" where the notes don't buzz, is thrilling and strange - surreal, actually. But that said, please know: I LIKE IT.

I'm especially enthralled with the practice amp I'm renting. It's a crusty old veteran of many a gig, clearly. It is beat up and scratched, but still sounds great. It's very cool. The bass itself is pretty, not too heavy, and has attitude. It is not the bass I would choose for myself - but it's a character, a worthy adversary, daring me to pick it up and strum a few notes. In other words: perfect.

Perhaps I should have already figured this out (DUH) but the fact that it is an electric guitar means I am also learning to work with electricity in a brand new way. I didn't think about the fact that there would be pick ups and volume controls, knobs and plugs and cords and adjustment thingies to work with, too.

I am officially in awe of all musicians. All I can say is: wow.

In the shadow of the Washington monument

Thursday, September 9, 2010

En Route

About a year ago, in the midst of last year's high holy days, I published a list of what I want in old age.

1. A husband
2. Eat-in kitchen
3. Two dogs
4. A porch with rockers
5. Stars

I still like this list.

And I'm making headway towards these goals. I now have an eat-in kitchen. I have two rockers, though no porch yet. The other night, sitting out in the front yard here at the chateau, I distinctly saw the little dipper overhead. The stars were rather dim, of course - all the ambient light of a big city blocks out most starlight. So the dipper wasn't clear and sparkly, but the stars were there. How exciting!

Not only do I now have an eat-in kitchen, but I'm generating some serious kitchen mojo of late. I love cooking here at the chateau - it's a perfect space. But just because I love it is no guarantee of anything. Cooking is an art - and yeah it's science, too, but the unpredictable aspect of cooking is what interests me most these days. Whatever kind of magic it takes to produce really delicious food is with me right now. Very cool!

A little bit later this morning, I will meet my music teacher and begin playing bass guitar. I am so jazzed. Playing the bass will give me something to do when I'm old, after dinner in the eat-in kitchen with my husband. I'll sit in a rocker on the porch under the stars, my two dogs at my feet, playing the bass.

Can you see it? I really can, clear as a bell. Onwards and upwards, oh yeah!!

Wednesday, September 8, 2010

Happy New Year

A Peruvian shaman, when he first saw the Washington Monument said, "Oh. That's for the star people." I agree completely!

Happy Rosh HaShana, y'all. Today is the launch, the fanfare (literally) that takes Jews into the High Holy Days, our new year's observance. I love the HHD; it's my favorite Jewish holiday. During the HHD, we're supposed to be introspective; I am so at home at this time. We reflect on the year just past, make amends when possible, seek forgiveness, grant forgiveness, and - well - wash the slate clean, as much as we can. On Yom Kippur we set things straight with God by facing God directly. It's a formidable set of circumstances that surround Yom Kippur, the fasting, the singing followed by more singing and praying all day long, etc. Whew!

Yep, the HHD is not a holiday for sissies! Observing Yom Kippur builds character. I love it!

There have been years when I had to make so many apologies. Talk about building character! Sheesh. Other times I've used the holiday as a motivation to let go of old hurts, grudges and such, to release and forgive as much as possible. Who knows what it'll be like this year? I've had a really big year in terms of change. A LOT has happened, whoa. Time is my luxury, so a nice long holiday provides a spaciousness I'll need to process everything that has transpired.

The meeting with the shaman was great. Below is a photo of her arms. It was fantastic to chat with a kindred soul, a great way to kick off the Days of Awe.

I'm sorry, forgive me, I love you, thank you. Amen and Shalom!

Tuesday, September 7, 2010

My People

I took this pic from the street so as to not interrupt. Had no idea I was in it. It's kind of spooky, yes?

Even though human beings, throughout history, from the north pole to the south pole, in every culture I know about, have always practiced shamanism, the ironic truth is that right here in Washington DC U.S.A. at the dawn of the new millennia, those of us who admit to practicing are seen as way outside the mainstream. Or we're called pretentious. Sometimes we are accused of cultural appropriation. Or we're laughed at. You know. I always want to say, "Actually, those of you who think this is so strange - you're the aberration, not me!"

Of course I never say it; it's rude to call anyone an aberration, right? Though it's culturally OK to think of my shamanic practice as "out there." I guess that's not rude, it's just how people in my culture at this moment in history think. Right now, right here, I am the stranger in a strange land. Oh well.

Anyway I'm excited because I'm going to have lunch with another shaman today; a woman who has consciously studied and practiced for as many decades as I have. She's the mom of someone who works at a Capitol Hill shop. He noticed one time that I was carrying rattles in my backpack and casually asked, "Oh. Are you a shaman?" You can imagine the look on my face. Then he said, "My mom's a shaman, too."

She's in town this week so we're going to do a shamanic sit down this afternoon. Very cool!!

Sunday, September 5, 2010

2. zeal, ardor. See love.

This is my friend soothing her very alpha, very small dog Cooper who would have loved to go attack the much larger dog in the background.

1. profound dedication; consecration.
2. earnest attachment to a cause, person, etc.
3. an assignment or appropriation to any purpose, cause, etc.: the devotion of one's wealth and time to scientific advancement.
4. Often, devotions. Ecclesiastical. religious observance or worship; a form of prayer or worship for special use.

2. zeal, ardor. See love.

Everybody has his/her own way of worship. Some people are scholars; they read every book they can find, they are learned, they can quote chapter and verse, they know their stuff inside and out. There are those who serve as a form of worship. Mother Teresa was a famous example. I think also of my beloved Walt Whitman. Those who show their love of the divine (or whatever they believe in) through service are the people who work in soup kitchens, shelters and such. Or they visit the sick and wounded. Or they work to preserve the environment, they worship through their love of this beautiful planet.

I love the Chesapeake Bay.

Some of us are devotees. We worship through love, ardor. We are passionate, yes we are. I think of Rumi as an excellent example of a devotee who went off the deep end occasionally but always figured out ways to write the most gorgeous poetry about the inevitable craziness of devotion. We express our faith through the arts, sometimes beautifully, sometimes kind of tragically.

Of course it isn't so clear cut as all that. Most reverent folks are a mixture of all three forms, though one way of worship tends to rise above the rest. What's true is that every form of worship is risky. Too much divine energy all at once fries us, no matter how we access it. Moderation in all things, even the path of the spirit!

I'm thinking about my tendency towards devotion this morning since the High Holy Days are just around the corner. I love the inner work of this holiday, the call to reflect on what has happened during the last year, to make amends if necessary, to get clear with God on all that has come to pass since last fall. On Yom Kippur, we finish the work of reflection. The book of life is closed and then it's onwards & upwards to the new year. What a great holiday.

This has been a big year of transformation and revelation for me, oh yeah. Wow. What a year. I have a lot to think about, pray about.

It's a beautiful fall day in Washington DC. I'll be working all day, but with the windows open, accompanied by fresh air and the coarse songs of the bluejays and crows.

L'chaim y'all. Life is good and I am grateful.

What a way to live! This is the comfortable upholstery on my friend's back deck. Looks like heaven, doesn't it? It is!

Saturday, September 4, 2010

C'mon Reya, get off your bum and get going!

I decided to feature the backs of people today because my back side needs a little kick to get it in gear. I have a busy, enjoyable day ahead - meeting people this morning, briefly, then I'm off to visit my friend in Annapolis.

It's a GORGEOUS, BEAUTIFUL, PERFECT early fall day today in the American mid-atlantic. Maybe my friend and I will get out in the kayaks on the Chesapeake this afternoon, or take a long walk down by the water with her little dog Cooper. I know we'll eat (her husband loves to cook) and drink and probably do art projects, because that's how we like to spend our time together. Fun!!

But between now and the time I head out to the Bay, there are many things I'm supposed to accomplish. So why am I here, doing this, not saying much? Ah. Creature of habit, aren't I? I guess!

Shabbat Shalom. xxoo. OK. I'm off .....

Friday, September 3, 2010

Hi and Bye, Earl

I'm in awe of the power of bugs - that they can chew such big holes in leaves, you know? I mean ... their teeth are so tiny! Wow.

Washington DC is close enough to the coast that when a big ole hurricane goes by, we can partake of the energy but almost always without having to weather the terrible destructive aspects of these storms. This morning for instance, it is overcast. Looking at the weather maps, I see that this overcast is a far-flung band of the western side of Earl, the hurricane moving up the east coast today. Here in DC there's no wind, no rain, and indeed today will be another very hot day, a kind of non-day actually, since hurricanes suck all the energy out of the atmosphere for hundreds of miles all around them. It will be hot but won't have any kind of resonance; the day will feel like nothing, heat without weather to accompany it. I wonder if that makes sense? The good news is that Earl will take the heat and toxic air with him, out to sea, up to Atlantic Canada, or wherever he is heading. Thanks, Earl!

Every now and then a hurricane will come ashore, give us a taste of its power. Ordinarily those storms make landfall in the Carolinas, or come up from the Gulf. The ocean is their power source, so by the time they arrive over DC, they've almost always worn themselves out. They are referred to as "the remnants of .." followed by the name of the storm. Even hurricane remnants are very powerful and frightening to small, delicate species such as ourselves.

The Atlantic Ocean is really in a mood this year. Following Earle is Fiona, then Gaston, and another not-yet-named storm. This is a year when waves of energy coming off the west coast of Africa, riled up by the warm water and atmospheric conditions over the sea, spiral and gain power. Wow. Some years the sea is calmer. I wonder what Sister Atlantic is so upset about. You know that's the way I think about these things. Sister, why so cranky this year? Or are you simply expressing yourself somewhat vociferously? I'm listening carefully. Whazzup?

I pray for the safety of all beings in the paths of these powerful vortices.

Happy Friday, y'all. And to those of us in the U.S., happy Labor Day weekend. Shalom.

The Chinatown metro station, photoshopped.