Saturday, December 31, 2011

tick tock - if only it was that simple!

New Year's Eve at last! But now it seems too soon after a week that felt as if it would go on into perpetuity. How funny. It's almost 9:00 a.m. - what have I been up to since I woke at 6:00? The day is speeding past already, a clear sign that the spiral of the year changed direction and is now almost completely unwound.

When I was a kid I often thought about the year 2000. When I did the math, realizing I would be 47 was terribly disappointing. In my mind that was so old, I imagined I wouldn't even have the energy to celebrate. Ha!

I never thought beyond Y2K, never. 2012? Holy cow.

Even the people who ranted and raved about the Mayan calendar forecasting the end of the earth on December 21, 2012 have backed away from that theory, possibly because people who actually understand the complicated Mayan calendar have pointed out how that dire conclusion is just silly. I wonder if it's a relief to those who were so into the idea of doomsday. I guess I'll never know.

It's not just the Mayans who created a calendar with several layers to accommodate, more or less, the slippery nature of linear time. We, too, have multiple calendars including one that goes on forever. I'm talking about the seven day week that never stops, not for new years or new decades or new centuries, not for landmark events of any kind. Nope, it's SundayMondayTuesdayWednesdayThursdayFridaySaturday forever and ever. Except in Samoa where they jumped the international date line this year. They went from Thursday to Saturday, just like that. Snap!

It must have felt very weird. We adjust our 24 hour clocks occasionally and our 365 day solar year every four years in one fell swoop, by adding a day to February, but the seven day week is uninterruptable. Should say almost uninterruptable. That makes our time keeping as complex as that of the Mayans.

Funny, trying to get a grip on time, hey? The truth is, time has a grip on us, no matter what our atomic clocks and electronic calendars synched in the cloud tell us. Father Time, we are your children. Indeed.

Happiest new year to all including those who are already a part of year 2012. Cheers!

Friday, December 30, 2011

Good to be here

It's nice to be sane, well such as I am what with spirit guides, past lives and such. Yes I am friends with the noctilucent cloud people and also believe the planets (including Mama Gaia) are sentient beings. I could go on except the point of this post is to impress upon you how much closer to sane I am than I once was. Wish me good luck with that!

They called me Ruby and I was hell-bent for leather, whatever that means. Ruby was a par-Tay girl, oh my. I remember one particularly bad New Year's Day when I lived at Lake Tahoe in the early 1980s. I finally got out of bed around 4:00 p.m. Within 10 minutes I had spilled scalding hot tea all over my weary, hungover, dazed body. Ouch. It was not a great portent for the year to come. Probably it's not necessary to explain what kind of trouble I had gotten into the night before. That was then, before psychotherapy (10 years worth), before i learned to meditate, before encountering my great teachers. I had no skills, no tools with which to deal with my intrinsic mysticism, hence I was always overwhelmed. And then there were the hormones. Oh I do not miss raging hormones. Whoa.

A lot of people my age feel wistful when they reflect on their youth. I do not share that feeling. I look in the mirror these days, closing in on 59, and for the first time in my life recognize the face I see smiling back at me. I dig my aging face. I've been waiting to be this age all my life.

I look back on earlier eras of life in wonder and gratitude. I was crazy, sloppy and self-destructive, a chariot driver who didn't know how to get hold of the reins. I'm so glad I squeaked through that time and for all the blessings that followed, that continue to fall into my hands. Life is good and I am grateful.


Thursday, December 29, 2011

It was a good year

Imperial DC. Both pics are of the building in which the EPA is headquartered, 12th Street just south of Pennsylvania NW.

The last bit of twenty-eleven is swirling and spiraling, heading straight for the gutter. I think I hear a sucking sound like the one you hear when draining the bathwater out of the tub. It's the sound at the very end. Slurp!

I'm waiting for the spiral to reverse itself; that's my signal that the year is done. The shift in the flow of the year comes (to my mind) sometime on the 30th, usually late at night. Seems to take twenty-four hours plus for the last drops to drain away, swept out of the ocean of linear time by reversing spin at the last minute. Time speeds up at the end of the year.

Oh yeah. Have I mentioned that time/space is something I find palpable in my own slightly quirky way? I perceive it as an ocean in which we live and move, the place we park our bodies and beings during this life as a human. Perhaps it's arbitrary that at midnight on December 31, our secular year ends, but our minds make that moment real. Our thoughts have impact, especially when a bunch of us are thinking the same thing. It affects time/space. It does.

Navigating the ever shifting currents of the time/space ocean is a challenge every one of us faces while alive. By the way I'm not the first person to see it this way, though perhaps the language I use to describe what I sense is unique. Maybe not.

This last bit of twenty-eleven feels thick, rather slow. The non week between Christmas and New Year's Day, this year, seems to stretch out in both directions as it rolls inexoribly towards the finish.

At least it feels that way to me. Slog on, people. It'll all be over soon.

Wednesday, December 28, 2011

I believe it's Wednesday. Is that right?

Brother Wind is blustery and bossy this morning, blowing hard. However since this is my last completely unencumbered day of 2011, I am determined to get out there, walk around, enjoy the empty streets and shops, take in some beauty.

The Hope diamond has been placed in a new gallery at the Natural History Museum. Maybe I'll go for a tete-a-tete with that huge, beautiful stone. I love the museum but avoid it at all times except during August and the non-week between Christmas and New Year's. At every other moment of the year, the place is screaming with people, either families with their kids or school groups, or both - as it should be, I think.

Maybe I'll go to the movies, or maybe sit in a cafe somewhere, eavesdrop on conversations ongoing at tables around me while I pretend to read The New Yorker. The good cheer that attends the gathering of families for the holidays wears thin after a few days of intense feasting, drinking, too many cookies and close proximity and interaction, hence people in cafes are either power struggling with family or venting to friends about whatever it was that bugged them most while family was in town. Perhaps it's evil of me to enjoy listening to these conversations.


No matter, it's a day completely free and clear of commitments. There is spaciousness in the form of open, unstructured time all day today. I've got my camera and tech gloves, a warm coat and hat. So what am I waiting for? Ahhhhh. I am smiling.

Hope your day is lovely as we slog onwards through the non-week.

Tuesday, December 27, 2011


Between Christmas and New Year's Day, tell me, what happens? Does anything happen? I'm guessing some folks are busy - the people who work in hospitals, retail, and service industries, for instance. I'm working this week, of course, though not a lot.

Even with the structure of my half-assed schedule, the days in this non-week flow one into the next. Is it Tuesday? Wednesday? I should pay attention since I'm going to go receive a massage on Thursday. I would hate to miss that!

The office people sometimes work this week in order to save vacation time. But I seriously doubt anything worthwhile is accomplished. As I remember from my career as an admin, mostly what happens is a lot of sitting around, going out for coffee, feasting on cookies and leftovers in the xerox room, skipping out early for prolonged happy hours.

Do offices still have xerox rooms? Who needs paper these days? Memos once printed and copied on paper are now emails, reports once printed and copied are now either powerpoint presentations or spreadsheets, shared on the ipad or laptop. Maybe in 21st century offices, there is no longer a standard xerox room with stacks of boxed pens and pads of paper.

I'm all for it! Save a tree.

This post is as rambling and vague as the non-week between Christmas and the new year. Maybe I should stop. OK.

Have a wonderful day, whatever day it is, yes? I say yes. Shalom.

Monday, December 26, 2011

Apres the Day

Everything is closed on Christmas. Even the Smithsonian closes. It's the only day of the year the museums are closed. And people say the U.S. is not a Christian country. Is too!

I'm very happy for friends, family, neighbors and clients who enjoyed their Christmas, those who gathered with family, exchanged gifts, feasted, played board games or watched movies or got a little drunk together. Bless their hearts!

I'm equally happy this morning for those of us for whom Christmas is always a little bit weird, even when we try so hard to be OK with it. Those who celebrate always have a remedy for we who grew up outside the Christmas bubble. They invite us to join their families, which is very generous, or they suggest we create our own, parallel tradition (the reason Hanukkah has become kind of a big deal; it's a minor Jewish holiday, on steroids these days to compete with Christmas.)

They tell us Christmas isn't about religion, it's a holiday of love, generosity, and family. OK. From their point of view, they don't get - they really can't understand - why the day is awkward and uncomfortable for we of other traditions, or for those of us who chose not to marry, have children and such in this lifetime. I don't blame them! I salute their pure happiness about Christmas ...

and ...

I am dancing around my living room because it's December 26! Yay!!! Woot. Hurray! Yippeee. It's over. Ahhhhhhhhhhhhh. I had an OK day yesterday, I wasn't miserable, bitter or suffering, but because it was Christmas I was at loose ends as I always have been, trying to find a current in the flow of energy that works for me. As always I did not locate the current I was looking for. I expect I'm not the only person to feel relief when it's over.

I'll work for a little while today, get out at the end of the afternoon for a nice walk before the chilly rain arrives tomorrow. DC is very quiet between Christmas and New Year's, which is both spooky and wonderful.

Life is good and I am grateful. All is well. Onwards to 2012!

Spotted on Seventh Street yesterday afternoon. There's a baby in the stroller and the woman is pregnant. I wondered if she is the mother of all these kids. If so, well, wow!

Sunday, December 25, 2011

There's no hole in my bucket - not yet!

According to the urban dictionary, the term "Bucket List" comes from "kick the bucket," slang for dying. It's fun to think about what I might include on my bucket list. I especially love the idea that when I die, everything in my bucket will spill out, go back to the world, whether or not I attained, accomplished, or completed my list. Even wishes go back out into the world, once the bucket has been kicked, right?

I could get all abstract here, talk about the wishes that are part of my prayer routine every morning. I could describe the metta prayer of lovingkindness with which I wish for happiness, peace, good health and love for myself, my near and dears, people I have no connection with, and of course, all sentient beings. Those wishes are "spilled" into the world consciously and purposefully. I do it every day. They do not go in the bucket, though perhaps they should also be placed there. Who knows?

This morning is Christmas, a time when people who celebrate this festival exchange physical, material things: gifts. In order to dance in shamanic alignment with the energy of Christmas morning, I'm putting aside the purely abstract. Here's my bucket list. I admit it is abstract, but less so than metta prayer.

1. I want to see the northern lights from someplace very far north, like Iceland, or maybe while standing somewhere on the Canadian shield. That would be a dream come true.

2. You can't imagine how much I long to go to divinity school. I'd also like to go to cooking school. I am a lifelong student!

3. While I believe there is a book inside me waiting to be written, it's now clear that it is not a spy novel written within the span of one month! Ahem.

4. I would like to learn to ride a horse. They are such beautiful, powerful animals. I used to be afraid of them, but I think I could manage to be brave enough to learn how to at least go for a nice stroll on horseback. Wow.

5. I will turn 60 on 2/13 of 2013. My dream is to gather with women I love at a beautiful spa where we will receive all kinds of spa treatments. I imagine the group staying at a house where we can cook together, watch movies, play music and dance around inbetween spa treatments. Ideally this would take place somewhere on the Mendecino coast of California. What a way to turn 60, hey? Wow.

It isn't a long list, is it? Maybe more wishes will come to me; a bucket should be full, don't you think? Or ... maybe not, who knows?

What do you hope to do with the rest of your beautiful embodied life?

Saturday, December 24, 2011

X mas

Ok so the Christmas blues found me, but I'm not giving them a lot of energy. This is a good thing. They're there, I won't deny it. Neither will I feed them by focusing on them. Nope.

I'm going to work this morning. This afternoon I'll go out and about, walk around this beautiful city in the abundant, sparkling sunshine. Maybe I'll get a bottle of prosecco for tonight at a friend's house, perhaps I'll have a really substantial late lunch since neither this friend, her husband or her visiting daugher are interested in feasting, hence there will be nothing more than a few old crackers and cheese at her house this evening.

My plan for tomorrow includes Sir Alec Guiness in Tinker, Tailor, Soldier, Spy. I've watched the first two episodes - wow! What a fantastic production. If the Gary Oldman picture is half as good, it'll be great.

Merry Christmas to all who celebrate the holiday. To the folks like myself who, by not celebrating, feel as if we're swimming upstream without a paddle, may the force be with you! And with me! Oh yeah.

Friday, December 23, 2011


Yeah, they caught up with me. I'm talking about the Christmas blues. Dang, man. I thought I was going to get away free and clear this year.

It happened last night while I was standing around the Capitol Christmas tree with dear neighbors and friends. I was dressed up, ready and willing to launch into singing along with these people who gather every year at the tree, after which they meet at a neighbor's house to feast and drink toasts to the season. I'm a part of the village now, hence I'm warmly invited to participate. It's a wonderful thing.

When it came time to sing, my throat snapped shut. I was unable to vocalize a single syllable. Out of the nowhere the blues came up, like a roundhouse right punch to the gut. Ouch! A friend of mine who is also Jewish sensed my distress, walked over and said, "They should know better than to invite Jews to this shindig." Sweet of him - of course he was there, too!

As if in shamanic alignment with my sudden melancholy, the skies opened and the rain came falling down, catching everyone by surprise. I don't think there was a single umbrella in the crowd. I was wearing my beloved cashmere coat, my finest Vietnamese silk scarf, my lovingly hand-painted rock n roll boots, and since I felt on the verge of bursting into tears, I decided to make a hasty exit from the scene of good vibes.

The rain poured down. It was so wet, oh my goodness. My glasses fogged up halfway to the chateau. Finally I took them off, walked blind, sad and soaking wet, back home.

Awwww, poor little Reya.

I must laugh at myself in spite of the fact that I'm now feeling the Christmas blues. I'm not the first nor will I be the last person to get a little weepy right around now. At least I'm not letting that sadness turn brittle, I'm not allowing it to congeal into snarkiness or grinchiness (is that a word?)

I'm de-scrooged, yes, but I guess still vulnerable to the wave of emotions that are a part of the holiday season for many people. Yep, I am a human being, I surely am. OK. So be it.

Peace on earth, y'all, and good will to humans. Indeed!

Wednesday, December 21, 2011

GPS of the Soul

Thirteen years ago today my ex, the dog and I rolled into Washington DC after a drive across the U.S. from San Francisco. The moving van was also en route; all we had to do was find a place to live.

I remember how alien I felt, not of this landscape even though I lived here briefly in 1981 and had returned many times to teach witch camp in W. Virginia. Of course I'd left my heart in San Francisco (it took three years before I was able to retrieve it).

I felt either numb or ill - can't say which, as we set up a temporary household in "corporate housing" - apartment/condos in Reston, Virginia that were so generic, I rented and watched "The Stepford Wives" in order to dance in shamanic alignment with the situation.

Everything was wrong about this new life I was embarking upon. The terrible DC water upset my delicate San Francisco sensibilities, the food did not measure up (still doesn't, actually, though it seemed more important then than now). The only people I was acquainted with had been students at witch camp, all of whom carefully hid their spirituality in the broom closet in their "real" lives, something I couldn't fathom at the time. In virtually every conversation I stuck my foot in my mouth - inadvertently I assure you! I didn't understand that there existed a highly developed behavioral protocol here, one that was quite different than what I was used to.

I didn't get that there would be such tremendous cultural differences between the two cities. I thought, hey, DC and SF are both American cities - how different could they be? Holy cow, I did not get it.

Jake and I walked up and down the suburban streets by day, I clung to my ex at night. Oh man, was it a hard start!

Today I've lived in DC as long as I did in San Francisco. So - am I a Washingtonian now? While allegedly meditating this morning, the idea that I could turn out to be permanently bi-coastal arose vividly into my mind.

I've lived in every American time zone. Am I Coloradan (where I was born and spent my first five years)? Or perhaps I'm still a Kansas City girl (where I grew up). Maybe attempting to identify myself by time zone or city is not relevant. Maybe it never was! Indeed, life is short. I think today I'll stop trying to work this out, turn my mind to something more interesting, yes? I say yes.

Happy solstice, y'all. Cheers!

Tuesday, December 20, 2011


There's hardly anything I love more than when I change my mind about some belief I've held close to my heart over a long period of time. Especially as I grow older, I'm a lot less interested in identifying with my values and beliefs, hence if some window opens that brings in a fresh breeze of new thought, I tend to be delighted rather than appalled.

Devoting oneself to any set of beliefs is a form of mental stinginess, it's stuckness, inertia. When my mind opens to a new way of thinking, it's refreshing, slightly unsettling, but good, really good.

You know I'm not talking about the finest of human values like compassion, the desire to do good deeds and care about others. Those qualities are expansive and generous. What I'm referring to are societal standard thought forms, like "Republicans are bad," or "All corporations are evil," or "Every politician is corrupt."

Or ... "I hate the holiday season."

That's the thought form that has quite suddenly and miraculously shifted in my mind and heart. By suddenly I mean over the last few years. I used to be the ultimate holiday season grinch. I began complaining long before the season arrived, made myself absolutely miserable from Thanksgiving to New Year's Day. Yesterday between clients I looked back through old journals to see just how vociferous I used to be about what I believed was an unalterable fact: that I would always suffer during the holidays because I have no husband, family in town, children or a reason to celebrate any one of the festivals of light that take place at this time of year.

I felt sad for the younger Reya, suffering so much and for no reason whatsoever. Gracious! All that's different now, whether because I'm in the happy hour of life, or due to years of receiving the wholesome benefit of Chinese medicine or something I can't identify.

Tonight is the first night of Hanukkah, a minor holiday in Judaism that got plumped up because of having to compete with Christmas. Friends are coming for dinner, so I'm going to make potato latkes. Fun! On Thursday I'll join a group of neighbors at the Capitol Christmas tree to sing carols. On Christmas Eve I'll be at an open house here in the 'hood, and on New Year's Day I've been invited to a "big-ass buffet" at a friend's house in Dupont Circle.

I would never pass up a big-ass buffet, I mean really! Would you? It will be a lovely conclusion to the lovely holidays this year.

Devotion to a set of entrenched ideas, especially if they make you miserable, is sadly ridiculous, yes? I say yes. I used to think that sticking to my guns, as it were, meant I had integrity. If that doesn't reflect a bit of twisted thinking, I don't know what does.

Turning now from reflecting on old thought forms, it's on to solstice, Hanukkah, Christmas and New Year's.

Cheers! (clink)

The leaves are long gone now which makes visible almost the entire dome of the Capitol from the east side of Lincoln Park.

Monday, December 19, 2011


Vaclav Havel AND Kim Jong Il dead on the same day? A friend remarked on that, on how completely opposite those two leaders were. Somehow their passing feels apt here at the tail end of a year in which so many entrenched leaders set sail either from their thrones of power or from the world altogether.

The pics of Gaddafi dead in a freezer in a shopping center were iconic, spooky, and surreal, yes? I say yes.

From the Arab spring to riots in England to Occupy Wall Street, it has been a year of serious upheaval. I've said it before but it bears repeating: this is how it was during the 60s - out of whack, upside down, exciting and dangerous, as if the whole world could go up in flames in a hot second.

When I was in massage school, my great teacher Judy Topaz used to say, "REYA! Look at STRUCTURE, not energy!" She repeated that many times, until it finally sunk in that I was going to be contending with muscles and bones in addition to auras. It was quite a revelation.

Nevertheless it is my tendency to look at the energetics of any situation. What this year looks like to me is the tower card in the tarot.

Vaclav and Kim are gone now. May they heal and fly high.

As for the rest of us still inhabiting planet Earth, I wonder - what next? It's very exciting!

Sunday, December 18, 2011

What a Relief!

What is a perfect day? Of course there is no such thing, but a close to perfect day includes waking up after a good night's sleep, satisfying work, connection with people I love, excellent timing, princess parking at the Matchbox bar, delicious food and drink, warmth in the winter, cool in the summer, sunshine and/or dramatic weather, creative self-expression and a couple of excellent surprises.

Oh yeah, that was yesterday.

We humans yearn, we desire. We want, and want and want and want. We go after what we desire, grasping, grabbing, hanging on as tightly as we can to the fruits of our ambitions. Only later in life is it possible to understand that letting go is every bit as pleasing as achieving and attaining and procuring. Wow.

I believe I've finally let go of Vega. Oh man it feels so good to let her go. I feel clean, restored to myself again. NaNoWriMo is for people who need to blow out a big ole writer's block through a push of words. Creativity is not my problem, nope. It's the craft of writing that I struggle with, the careful shaping of words. There was none of that happening in November, my goodness. Just during the last few days I feel I am fully back to this blog, to Chateau Seven (my other blog). I'm reading blogs again, I am back to myself, in other words: free.

If I had written The Tell when I was forty, would I have been able to let go when I realized it wasn't good or good for me? I might have decided to hammer away at it endlessly.

The next time someone tells you getting older is an awful twist of fate, don't believe them! Getting older is awesome, fantastic. A beautiful client says she is "getting better at quitting." Indeed, it's a great skill to cultivate, though very difficult to appreciate until late middle age. My mother used to say the first half of life is about acquiring, the last half is about giving it all away. I didn't understand then, but I do now, oh yeah!

It's good to be back. Shalom.

Saturday, December 17, 2011

All is well

I just took a walk through Eastern Market. All was calm and bright. Calm? What I remember about the last Saturday before Christmas is that it used to be a feeding frenzy, but maybe what I'm remembering is the last Saturday at shopping malls. You won't catch me at a shopping mall very often in any event, but especially at this time of year.

As for the nightmares, they have vamoosed. Yesterday I smudged my bedroom, washed the sheets, hung the dream catcher out in the blustery wind to clear it, and set my intention to have a night of peaceful sleep. All my ministrations worked, hence I am well rested, smiling, and good to go for this afternoon's clients.

It's a gloomy, cold, cloudy day, seasonally appropriate and nice for me since I will spend most of this afternoon working. When it's sparkling and sunny, no matter how much I'm enjoying the sessions, a part of me wants to be outside, walking around, taking pictures. Today could be a perfect day.

I'm happy to get back into the happy-hour-of-life state of mind. To all the beings and forces that helped me send those nightmares packing: thank you!

Happy Saturday. Shalom.

Friday, December 16, 2011

How dare you?

Right now I am in the happy hour of life (if indeed morning = youth, afternoon = adulthood, and evening = old age). Hence I am absolutely determined to relax and have fun, roll with the punches, whatever they may be, not take things too literally or too seriously and do, as my friend Mary says, as I damn well please.

Which is why I'm a little annoyed to have had terrible nightmares about being homeless and stranded in San Francisco last night. Hey! It's too late in life for these nightmares. CAN YOU HEAR ME?? (Shouting at my unconscious.)

When I woke up, rather than hanging on to the spooky feeling, as I would have earlier in life, I felt angry. A super hot shower and an excellent bout of meditation and prayer seems to have broken the spell of these awful dreams. And now, onwards to a busy day of work here in the beautiful chateau with people I adore.

Life is good. I'm not letting a dream get in the way of enjoying it. So there!

This is not photoshopped. There are so many lights on the blue tree, the only way my camera can digitally express what's going on is to fuse them into a huge blue field of light.

Thursday, December 15, 2011


I live in a swanky neighborhood in a buttoned down, serious city which is why I find rather hilarious just how tacky, gaudy, and overworked the beautiful houses look during the holidays, encrusted with baubles, lights, reindeer, big ugly plastic santas and such. No offense Santa Claus, but my dear you are not pretty, c'mon.

There's no house on Capitol Hill as surreal in terms of over-decoration as some in suburban neighborhoods where the residents know nothing about restraint. There were suburban neighborhoods outside San Francisco we used to visit every year, just because they were so over the top. People, in their cars in a long queue, waited patiently to drive through those neighborhoods. What would aliens from another planet make of this behavior? I wonder.

The people who own the chateau decorate just one tree in the front yard. There are MANY blue lights on the tree. More than many, you could say. Do I dare to speak the truth? There are too many blue lights on that tree. I have yet to take a picture that isn't blurry; I'll keep trying. The tree, droopy under the weight of all those lights, is nevertheless pretty cheerful though I admit as soon as New Year's Day has passed, I'm instantly tired of all Christmas decor, in particular the blue tree.

Some people keep their Christmas lights switched on until March. It's so wrong! After January 1, our secular solstice, the landscape should be allowed some cold, quiet darkness - not that it's ever dark in the city, but still, we should try to dance in alignment with the long dark month of January, shouldn't we? I think so. Seems disrespectful, or at least cheeky, to rage against the dark after the solstice.

Here at the chateau the lights are unplugged on February 1st, the cross-quarter day between solstice and equinox. Conceptually it's quite elegant, but still too long for me.

I'm thinking about light and dark today because a Facebook friend posted this status: I celebrate the dark and breathe fire. Once upon a time, when I was fully wiccan, I celebrated the dark, too, kind of exclusively as is the practice in that tradition. These days I celebrate the light at least as much as the dark, probably a little more than the dark, or maybe a LOT more than the dark. That means I no longer have to breathe fire. What a relief!

Wednesday, December 14, 2011

Get out, Reya.

The dog is not imprisoned, just hanging out in the Clothes Encounters window at Eastern Market.

It's cloudy and cold today, but I'm about to gather my wits about me, get out there and walk around a little bit. Working at the chateau is excellent in every way except some days I don't get out of the house, other than maybe for a few minutes here and there between clients. It's kind of a problem.

My father was agoraphobic, hence I'm always on the lookout for symptoms. I believe in my case too much time inside the chateau has more to do with bad time management than an irrational fear of public spaces - thank goodness.

On days like today I wonder if it would behoove me to get a dog. During Jake's long life, I was outside two or three times a day every day. Or perhaps I should not place the onus on some poor canine. Maybe what I really need to do is try to become more organized. I could schedule outdoor time just as I schedule my clients.

God I hope it doesn't come to that. How sad would that be, to have to book a walk into my schedule? For heaven's sake. Kicking it into gear now. Shalom, y'all.

Monday, December 12, 2011

Spy vs. Spy

As a part of my recovery from the NaNoWriMo bender, I've been working my way through the genre of spy movies. (Every day it becomes clearer it was actually not a great thing for me to dive in head-first. But it's over now. Krikey!)

Netflix always makes James Bond films streamable (is that a word?) during the holidays. After January 1, to see the suave, debonair, womanizing Sean Connery, you have to put the film in the DVD queue. I of course love James Bond - I mean what's not to love about those movies? James Bond is an icon, an archetype. It's instinctual to love the clan chieftain/warrior superhero patriarch who will vanquish evil. The archetype has been interpreted by many different actors. Each guy gives the archetype a slightly different spin. My favorite is Roger Moore, such a classy British gent. In most of his films, the inevitable car chase is replaced with boat chases. Very fun alternative if you ask me. I always love the ski chases, too.

James Bond movies don't pose any kind of puzzle, so they can't accurately be called thrillers. You know he will prevail and in the meantime be strapped so some kind of device intended to kill him slowly, but of course he will escape, and save the girl, too. You know he's going to bed with at least two women, probably more, all with terrible names. The films are funny, but hardly intriguing. That's why I loved the Austin Powers movies (only saw the first two). When I watch Mike Meyers in those films, I think, Is that what it looks like to those who weren't of age in the 60s? Very interesting! We were extremely naive then.

I'm also watching a bunch of "classic" spy films. I watched "The Spy Who Came in from the Cold" with the splendid Richard Burton. I could stare at his face for days - what a face! I watched the movie twice, mostly because I couldn't figure out what the hell was going on. But I found it incredibly depressing. Equally depressing was "The Falcon and the Snowman." Such a cynical, hard-hearted movie.

Last night I watched "The Quiller Memorandum." There was no memorandum in the movie, but other than that, it's top notch. Harold Pinter wrote the excellent screenplay. Though I was unimpressed with George Segal's wisecracking character, the rest of the acting is superb. I love me some Sir Alec Guiness! And Berlin in the 1960s, still haunted by Nazis, living and dead - very spooky! Poor Max von Sydow. Has he ever played a good guy?

So it goes, my recovery from the free fall of NaNoWriMo. I was swallowed alive, but I emerged somehow or another. Probably it was a matter of angelic intervention, or so the Sufi acupuncturist would say. I'm still working to get myself all the way back from The Tell. For instance this morning I saw a story in the New York Times about conflict and fighting in a small town in Yemen. I thought, If only I can get Vega back there to help ...

Then I remembered, oh yeah, I just made her up!

Tonight: "From Russia with Love." C'mon Sean Connery, take me one step closer to a full recovery, yes? I say yes.

Sunday, December 11, 2011


I've been re-thinking the story of the Ant and the Grasshopper. It's an interesting tale of extremes, based on different values. The ant works hard all summer while the grasshopper sings. (I love the illustrations in which the grasshopper is playing the violin. Very cool!) When winter comes, the grasshopper is toast while the ants are cozy and warm in their den with the stored food of summer. In many versions at the end of the story, the ants are cruel to the lazy grasshopper.

Mostly in the past when I heard this story, my reaction was shame because clearly I am a grasshopper, not an ant! But since I've decided it's too late in life to feel ashamed of my basic nature, I'm free of the emotional baggage that kept me from examining this story closely.

According to wikipedia there's another version of the tale in which the point of the story is an exploration of one's nature. Are you a grasshopper or an ant? is the theme, rather than You'd better work hard, you lazy bastards -- or else!

What's missing from this story is the Tao of Goldilocks. Sitting around playing the violin all summer long without ever being productive sounds completely boring, while working all summer, never enjoying the long days and warm sunshine, is a very sad idea indeed. I wonder if all of Aesop's fables are polarized in this way.

I was at a party last night with people who have worked hard all their lives. Every one of them comes from families that already had plenty of money, country homes, etc. and every one of them was the recipient of wonderful opportunities, great schools, travel and privilege. Success, for these people, was never an option. They were raised for a life of privilege and they worked hard to create this luxury for themselves. They've amassed lots of property, fabulous clothes and jewelry, and the pride that comes with achievement. They're now looking forward to kicking back and enjoying all they've worked so hard to bring into being. I salute and admire these people! My life could not look less like theirs, however. I was impressed with their warmth towards me, in spite of how obviously I did not fit in.

The haphazard life path I've followed, working just enough to make possible a lot of singing, without the foundation of privilege, has provided many unusual opportunities. Certainly I've happened upon a different set of opportunities than the people at last night's party, no doubt about it.

Am I a grasshopper, then? Not exactly. I'm a grasshopper who does more than just sing, who stops to smell the roses a lot more often than any self respecting ant ever would. I don't regret it.

Saturday, December 10, 2011

Age appropriate dream

In my dream last night, The Skull was after us. It was kind of like a Terminator skull, kind of like a human skull and kind of like The Scream by Edward Munch. We ran from The Skull, ran like hell should say, barely escaping it time and again. "We" = the anonymous dream people and I.

But we gathered our resources, we smashed The Skull into a million pieces, afterwhich we headed straightaway for the bank where we deposited the shreds in a safety deposit box. Together we walked down to the Potomac, threw the key triumphantly into a faster moving current.

It was a scary dream. I was clenching my jaw, my fists - I woke up stiff, yet for some unknown reason, happy. In fact I awoke laughing. Oh yeah, The Skull WILL get me at some point, not today, at least so far. Sometimes my dream imagery is rather pedestrian. I could, perhaps, have portrayed Death somewhat more poetically, less literally.

While I was wondering about that, the chateau ghosts rushed towards me, swearing they had not sent the bad dream. I mean really - was I even worried about that? No I was not. Though annoying, the chateau ghosts are harmless. Dudes, it's OK. It was a dream of aging and mortality - exactly the right way for my psyche to begin to get ready for the inevitable. Don't worry! We're good.

Friday, December 9, 2011

the devil wears prada

What's your style? Everyone has a style, you know. Even "I don't give a rat's ass what I look like," is a style.

Those who know me will find it hard to believe I really love beautiful clothes. I love wearing well fitting, well styled, flattering clothes. I do! What I dislike, fear and avoid at all costs is shopping for clothes. Huge department stores completely bewilder me. It takes every ounce of willpower not to run screaming from the sensory overload of Macy's or Nordstrom. (I feel exactly the same way at Costco or Home Depot). Should I manage to contain myself, the next problem is selecting what I want to try on. A thousand hangers loaded with fabric shapes, colors and textures, hanging on row after row of racks, on floor after floor. Bloody hell, I'm overwhelmed; I can't tell what I like or don't, it's synapse bustin' TMI for a slow processor of information such as myself. Smaller stores, like boutiques, are a lot easier to go into but they're almost all outrageously expensive.

Then there's the humiliation of the dressing rooms. If the fluorescent lights and stark mirrors weren't bad enough, I have the additional problem of being built for clothes from another era. My legs aren't quite short enough for petite sizes, but are way too short for misses. I'm between number sizes, too. Everything I try on is either a little too big or too small. It's discouraging, believe me.

During the 70s and 80s I wore a lot of vintage clothing. Clothing design from the 40s and 50s provided many options for bodies shaped like mine. But now that I am vintage, I'm not clear this style is the best idea any longer.

I mention all this because I've been trying to buy some new clothes lately - shopping and trying things on - and failing to arrive home with anything new. Oh man do I miss my lifetimes as a man. How I would love to put on a suit every morning. Suits look good on everyone, provided they're tailored and well made. A cheap suit is never a great idea, but nice suits? Wow.

I was also a nun in many lives, as well as a monk. A whole series of lifetimes centered around nursing and house service (maid, butler, cook). In all those lives I was required to wear a uniform of some kind. Those were the good old days.

That was then and this is now. Do I want to go the route of internet shopping? Oy vey.

Life is good, my complaints are inconsequential. Oh yeah.

James Bond almost always wore suits or tuxedos, no matter what. Also I would probably look good in Moneypenny's outfit.

Thursday, December 8, 2011

All hail the matriarchs

I've been thinking about my mother a lot lately, in part because I attended a birth a couple of months ago. That experience reminds me that everyone arrives on earth in the same way, through the mother. Even a "good" labor and delivery is strenuous and a little freaky. I am in awe of parents everywhere for having the courage to go through with it.

My mother endured labor and delivery five times - FIVE, holy cow. That was during the age of heavily medicalized childbirth so she was drugged, strapped down and made to give birth as unnaturally as possible. I'm very grateful she was so valiant! But oh my, I wish she hadn't been forced to suffer so much.

For the first time in my life, I sat with an infant the other day, just for 2 hours. Afterwards I was wiped out, even though everything went well and she didn't even cry until the very end. I can't imagine what it must be like for parents. As for my babyhood, well, I was the 'bad' baby. I had terrible colic, never slept, got sick all the time with hideous ear infections. I was a hot mess. They told me the only way I would sleep is if they ran the vacuum cleaner while simultaneously playing Bach on the hi-fi. It's not my fault, but my god, can you imagine how many things they tried before they found the right combination? I can't imagine how exhausting and frustrating it must have been to try to make me comfortable. As an infant, I was inconsolable.

It's not mother's day, but I'm in a mood to salute the mothers of the world. Y'all are bad asses! I am in awe.

Wednesday, December 7, 2011

Spectacular Floppages

I used to be a very timid person, afraid of everything, basically. But the Sufi acupuncturist has been futzing with my terribly deficient kidney jing which is the source of my lifelong fear. (I love the way in which it's never your fault, in Chinese medicine, when something isn't working. It's just an imbalance! Yeah!)

On this gloomy, rainy, cold morning in Washington DC, I'm reflecting on how I've enthusiastically tackled a few life-long ambitions - and failed completely! - during the last couple of years. I tried to learn to play the bass: disaster. I tried to write a book - omg it is SO bad. Yesterday I set out to buy some new clothes. I had a budget I was determined to spend, and a great, very fashionable friend, who went with me.

After trying on pretty much everything in the store, at last I decided to buy one blouse - ONE - though I'm going to return it tomorrow since it was extremely expensive, also the blouse is very trendy which means it will go out of style in the next five minutes.


Another failure!

Gracious. Hey, don't think I'm sitting here feeling sorry for myself or anything. I've also succeeded a few times. I made Thanksgiving dinner, and it was good! I moved my practice into the chateau and that's going GREAT. It hasn't all been about failure.

I guess what's worth noting is the fact that I've TRIED new things, things I had previously decided I wasn't capable of doing. It's the attempt, rather than the result, that's interesting to me. I owe my courage to the Sufi acupuncturist, but also I think it has to do with this time of life. If I don't try it now, when will I try? At age 70? 80? It's now or never, hey?

No matter what age you are, whatever you've always wanted to try - give it a go. Carpe diem, y'all.

Tuesday, December 6, 2011

Too many ideas

Library of Congress

I continue to reflect on the NaNoWriMo experience. Wow, that was quite a ride!

One thing I have in spades as an artist is creativity. I am an idea person, sometimes to great excess. One of my teachers spoke often about the power of restraint. That was in a drawing class, should say. Even in drawing, once I start, it's hard to leave any corner of the page empty. I go on and on.

As the month of writing progressed, this particular characteristic was evident. I jammed too many ideas into each chapter, far more than needed, far more than made any kind of sense, too many to be interesting. I couldn't stop myself from inserting every spy situation I could think of.

The Tell wasn't all bad. Indeed there are pockets of "good" writing (whatever that means), an odd paragraph here or there in which I'm in a groove. The style and content convey the soul of the story. It's kind of fun to read these paragraphs. They appear in the text, inevitably, just before I stopped writing for the day. Every day I spent at least two hours writing, non stop. Apparently I had to churn out one hour and forty five minutes of crap before unearthing fifteen minutes of writing that actually worked, at which time I stopped writing. Hmmm.

One reason the month of writing was so fun is that The Tell was unplanned in every way conceivable. I let it come to me like an aimless wander. Though I was at it morning and evening, I didn't really care about the book itself. The rush of all those words coming out of me was what I was focused on. It was quite a rush! At some point I realized I had at last come into synch with Vega. It was at that moment I started to care. That coincided with my decision to stop writing until after Thanksgiving. Yeah. It's interesting to think about.

Real writers are tough, intense, powerful artists who can hang in there, even when they care about their characters, the story. People who can write - and finish - a novel are mighty. I am in awe!

Sunday, December 4, 2011

Intersections of Fate

Mercury is retrograde right now, something that allegedly is supposed to mess up communications, plans, and progress on many fronts. We are cyclic beings living in a cyclic universe. I believe the movement of the planets is, in its own way, exactly like the movement of my thoughts and actions. As above, so below. I'm not the first person to experience the worlds as interconnected, by the way.

Since Mercury turned retrograde on Thanksgiving, at the dark moon, during an eclipse, I decided to take the reverse motion seriously. That means I've been trying not to make plans all the time (my habit). Also I've been resisting the urge to expect life will unfurl as I think it should. For a control freak like me, this is challenging.

One fun thing I've been playing around with is the practice of improvisational walking. It's a perfect shamanic dance of alignment with Mercury retrograde. An improvisational walk involves wandering "aimlessly", allowing myself to be guided by whim, intuition, or situational curiosity. These walks have nothing to do with running errands or accomplishing anything. I allow my body to guide me, pausing often to ask myself, "should I turn left or right here?" then going with the first impulse. Sometimes I turn 180 degrees, retrace my steps. I'm sure the neighbors think I'm nuts. Perhaps I am.

Here we are, seconds after coinciding.

The practice has yielded many wonderful serendipities. For instance the other day I ran into an old friend in the middle of an improvisational walk, someone who moved to Austin, Texas many years ago. I haven't seen him in more than 10 years, but there he was, coming out of a chocolate store in Union Station at the perfect moment for the two of us to coincide.

This morning I took an unplanned walk during which I ran into far more than the usual quotient of client/neighbor/friends. I also arrived at Peregrine Espresso just as someone was leaving, so I had a table to myself (very rare). There are other examples of serendipity, but you get the idea.

I wonder sometimes how much the habit of fanatically planning of my days constricts rather than organizes the way life unfolds. Like with everything else, a balanced life involves some planning, some aimless wandering. Finding the right mix is an art, an alchemy, an effin miracle, isn't it? I think it is.

Happy Sunday, y'all.