Sunday, July 31, 2011

What is the moral of this story?

Eastern Market. Taken with my camera.

Yesterday I made headway on several fronts.

Flymageddon is over; I found only a dozen dead flies this morning, saw one or two buzzing around, but they won't last long. I didn't even bother to kill them. Out in the grotto all is peaceful and clean. Once again I have successfully defended the chateau against unwanted invaders. My hope is that I will not have to do battle again for a long time.

With the flies dispatched at last, I decided to take on the installation of the wireless router. It has been sitting in a box in the closet since last year. Initially I didn't install it because I didn't need to, but since I've had the iphone, I've wanted the wi-fi so I can more easily goof around on the phone. It was not hard, not nearly the project I feared it would be. Who would have thought I could wrap my mind around this? I had no confidence I could manage, but indeed it wasn't even hard.

The success of these experiences propelled me forward; I tackled a couple of other household tasks that I would have, in the past, asked someone else to do for me. Again, I prevailed.

It was a satisfying day of accomplishment - and chagrin. I have a very hard time believing in myself in most situations, the exception being in the treatment room. Professionally I am comfortable with my skill, but elsewhere I often feel like a total ditz, incapable and rather helpless. For heaven's sake, this is not true! Yesterday was a great reminder to try, try again.

When will I ever learn? I am not weak or stupid. Neither am I all-powerful, but at least I should try, yes? I say yes.

Happy Sunday, y'all. Shalom.

Taken with the iphone. I'm getting it now - that I can't take the same pics with iphone that I take with my camera. Hence I'm starting to enjoy the iphone camera for what it has to offer. Fun!

Saturday, July 30, 2011

Fly Bye

Flymaggedan is winding down, I'm happy to report. The dead flies outnumber the living by a wide ratio this morning. The final step requires me to sweep and scrub the floor of the grotto outside my front door, something I'll do before I have the first shower today and will probably enjoy tremendously Then - sadly - I am told I must pour bleach down the drain. The poor Anacostia River will bear the brunt of this brutality. I wish there was some other way.

People say it's just a little bit of bleach. Some folks use bleach in their laundry regularly, hence the chemical is being poured into the river anyway. I didn't want to be one of those who poison the fish and befoul the water, but I'm going to do it. We do what we have to do, yes? I can't live with hundreds of flies. I won't. I have to put my foot down.

Later today I will visit the house of a client and friend who has just come home from having his hip replaced. An intense hour spent channeling Reiki should help soothe the pangs of guilt. I keep telling myself that I tread quite lightly on Mama Gaia, especially compared to many of my fellow Americans. But I hate having to pour bleach down the drain. Funny, I didn't mind spritzing my house with poison.

Also true: this is a summer of Great Discontent, a summer spent trudging through pudding, as Steven of the Golden Fish describes it. Hence I am discontented. OK. ok. Onwards and upwards, hail and farewell to the flies. Shalom.

Friday, July 29, 2011

Defense Against the Dark Arts

I'm not the only person who is experiencing a summer of Great Discontent. Just sayin'. I've heard from a handful of others who are doing their best to be cheerful, as my friend Elizabeth wisely advises, even while they (we) navigate our way through fields of spiritual quicksand. Bloody hell.

My determination to put one foot in front of the other, without sinking, is formidable. Not only personal revelations about my terrible, awful, horrid marriage threaten to trip me up, but I continue to experience situations here at the chateau that require me to defend my space. For instance, yesterday I killed (don't want to exaggerate) ... mmm ... something like 200 black flies. The influx of buzzy dudes was so intense I pulled everything away from every space where they might be entering (all around the windows, I discovered) and coated every crack with a virulent bug killer. I know, I know ... poison is bad. However, in a situation like yesterday's, when it's me against the fly hordes, I choose my weapons carefully, ruthlessly you might say.

At first, I was swatting, then carefully picking up each individual fly, after which I cleaned the surface upon which it fell with my trusty Mrs. Meyers all purpose cleaner. Later in the battle, there were so many, all I could do to keep up was swat furiously. This morning the battlefield of my apartment is strewn with black dots everywhere. I have to work today but tonight when I get home I'll hoover up the fallen, clean thoroughly so as to make sure I remove all fly carcasses, fly bits and bad energy.

Before Rat, this fly influx would have been quite horrifying to me, but at this point, I find it merely annoying. I saw a few living flies this morning, but they were sluggish and could easily be swatted. The poison is doing its job. I will prevail.

Sometimes I have a romantic fantasy about living out in the country, but based on my encounters with the Wild Kingdom this spring/summer, that dream has fallen by the wayside. What's good about the natural world is very good. What's bad is truly awful. Heavy sigh. 'Scuse me now while I swat two of three of them. Did I mention that flip flops are excellent fly swatters? They really are.

Thursday, July 28, 2011

Attitude Adjustments

I could get all funky about the Code Orange air today, but I'm not going down that road. Tuesday and Wednesday were beautiful summer days, hot but not too humid. I was out and about both days, walking, thinking, taking pics and smiling. Hence, staying indoors today is OK.

Once upon a time I believed good health was everything, but I've changed my mind. It's ATTITUDE that makes all the difference. I know people who are very ill, but their positive attitudes, hopefulness, good humor and generous spirits help them enjoy life no matter how much pain or discomfort they experience, or how limited they are in terms of what they can and can not do. I am in awe of these people. Likewise I know people who are perfectly healthy, but sour of mind/spirit. They suffer like crazy. My heart goes out to these people. Lord knows if they could improve their moods, they certainly would. We never blame those who suffer from physical ailments. Why do we shake our fingers at those who suffer from wounds of the spirit, mind and heart? (I do it, too, actually. I try not to.)

According to my cosmology, people work through things physically, mentally, spiritually - which means it's not possible to always be positive. I'm not one of those folks who thinks everyone SHOULD be happy all the time. It's such a mean-spirited idea, isn't it? It's like the dream of a diet that works for everyone. If such a thing existed, wouldn't everyone weigh exactly what they think they should?

Sometimes I wonder if perpetually happy people have the capacity to evolve in the same way as those willing to drop periodically into their own spiritual quicksand. Maybe I'm thinking about it because I've suffered lately in mind and spirit. I struggled for awhile, I sure did. I would like to believe the struggle served some purpose. What do you think?

Climbing out of it, the world looks even better than before my downwards spiral. The dips and flights of spirit are alchemical, intrinsically human, too. But it sure is nice to rise above the horizon again. Oh yeah.

Wednesday, July 27, 2011

Soul Retrieval

Yesterday was a good day, perhaps I am on my way back to my usual state of curiosity and inquiry. I really hope so. For a few days, I couldn't get myself interested in anything. It was uncharacteristic; would have been alarming if I'd cared, which I didn't.

I did a lot of breathing yesterday, a rational approach to a quest for inspiration, eh? I exhaled, too, breathing out the stuckness, or so I told myself. Also saw the Sufi acupuncturist. That always helps everything. And friends came to the chateau for dinner, something I haven't done for awhile since the idea of cooking when it's 100 degrees does not appeal.

The weather gods encouraged me every step of the way. It was a hot day but not nearly as humid as it has been. I was able to take a nice, long walk, capture a bunch of images. In so doing, I made myself at home again in Washington DC. Somehow I hadn't fully returned from New York until yesterday. I didn't leave my heart there, as I might in San Francisco. Rather, some part of my soul lingered on the island of Manhattan. But I got it back yesterday. I'm good to go.

We humans have these lapses sometimes, we falter for awhile. Once upon a time it took a lot longer to climb out disinpiration, out of a feeling of being half-alive. One thing I love about growing older is that I pop out sooner rather than later. Perhaps the urgency that surrounds understanding life really IS short helps speed the process, who knows?

The fully ensouled life is good and I am grateful. Shalom.

Monday, July 25, 2011

In process

Both pics today were taken in the Chelsea neighborhood of NYC.

What is inspiration anyway? I've been thinking about it. Literally the word means to breathe in. Yeah.

A couple of weeks ago I experienced the mother ship of inspirations, not the happy a-ha type, more like the holy fucking christ! variety, you know what I mean? At the time I referred to this experience as a revelation, as in: the curtain was pulled aside to reveal something I knew, but had never made conscious. It was a revelation so shocking that I gasped, which meant I inadvertently breathed it in. Hence an unhappy revelation became an unhappy inspiration. Bloody hell. Once it was inside me, there was no choice but to begin to work with it, which is what I've been up to ever since. I wonder if it's ever possible to experience a revelation, but then move on, without taking it in. Ya think?

I'm sorry to be so vague about this revelation - it was a stale, leftover, previously unexamined truth about my terrible marriage, not worth repeating here.

My point is, inspiration does not always arrive with a smile; it is not always an OH WOW moment. Hence, sometimes being uninspired is a GOOD THING, or a relief, something like that. Sometimes. Also I'm thinking that just as with divine light, inspiration is best taken in small tokes rather than in one big bong hit, as it were.

The good news is, I'm working my way through this insight, digesting and integrating. Meanwhile nothing new has occurred to me, which might be why I feel uninspired, yet content. Life is pleasant, if uninspired, at the moment. I'm good with that, I am!

Happy Monday. Shalom.

Sunday, July 24, 2011


The trip to NYC was kind of a wash, I am sad to admit. I did have pockets of great fun, especially the first day - having a beer with Prince Charming, walking around the village taking pictures and such. I also had a GREAT conversation with my friend Elizabeth in which we solved all the problems around the health care system.

Cyndy I went to the Cornelia Street Cafe Tuesday night! GREAT music. I wanted to bow down to the bass player and the drummer, they were so good. Wow. The music was a bit beyond my reach; I could only follow it so far, but then I got lost. Cerebral music like that demands a more agile brain than mine, but I still loved the experience.

But I was haunted that night, could not sleep. The next morning I was rattled, couldn't even maneuver my way around Macy's for heaven's sake. I got the hell out of town, thank to the Bolt bus. Sometimes the big apple takes a big ole bite out of me. Oh well.

I'm not a big fan of summer. I know I should like it. Whether I'm hiding from the heat and humidity, or tilting against it, code red air and temps over 100 (as we've had the last two or three days) make it rather impossible to enjoy being outdoors. I find this situation extremely discouraging.

Likewise I'm feeling disenchanted here on the blog. Maybe I need to redesign the page, or take a break, who knows? One of my NYC friends Mary said that my perspective will change once temperatures drop below 90. That might not take place for awhile. August looms: sticky, damp, hot, and stinky. Dang, man.

One encouraging sign of the turning wheel of the seasons is the fact that the days are definitely, palpably, shorter. Tess of the blog Willow Manor assures me fall will come again. She said I can bet my woolly socks on it. If she mentions woolly socks then you know she is sincere. I can not wait.

Monday, July 18, 2011

I'm outta blogville for a few days. I'll be Facebookin' and reading blogs, but not posting here. See you on the flip side. Kiss-kiss.

Sunday, July 17, 2011

Two more days

It's always good to have things to look forward to. During eras of serious transformation, it's almost crucial to know fabulous experiences lie ahead, which is exactly why I'm thinking non stop about Tuesday morning when I will board the Bolt bus, mess around with my iphone for a little while, then step off the Bolt bus in New York City. Oh yeah.

At least one temporary exodus from DC during the summer is absolutely necessary. I learned that the hard way last year when I waited till the very end of the season for my escape, by which time I was a blubbering mess. This year not only is there the get-out-of-town imperative at work, but in addition, I'm in a huge moment of personal evolution, the result of an entrenched story about an era of personal history colliding with a series of A-HA moments earlier this week. A fiery ball of divine light knocked me upside the head, shattering a story I've told myself over and over again. I'm telling you, it was big. Wow. Or should I say whoa?

Though I prefer to work my brain to death - as anyone who knows me can confirm - I believe sometimes it's kinder, and healthier, to allow major revelations to simmer slowly on the back burner as it were. Wisdom takes time to accumulate. Trying to push through all of it in a couple of days just doesn't work - not that this truth keeps me from trying.

In New York, I'm going to walk the dog Buster with my friend Elizabeth (her blog, World Examining Works, is a marvelous glimpse into her life in NYC, at the beach, sometimes in Morocco). She and I will no doubt share stories over many cups of tea, maybe some glasses of wine. As well as my time with Elizabeth, I'll have the pleasure of a sit-down with Prince Charming, try to catch up a bit with him. He is such a great friend. I'll see the Alexander McQueen show, walk around, take pictures. In the evenings I'll meet my friend Dave, a jazz composer and trumpet player, for dinner. After dinner both evenings we are going out to hear music. Live music!! OH MAN. I can not wait.

In the meantime I'm going to work, washing clothes, and trying as hard as I can not to overwork the explosion of ideas and theories that have come into my head/heart since this week's revelations. This mini-vacay is coming at precisely the perfect moment. What a blessing!

Happy Sunday, y'all.

Friday, July 15, 2011


People work through things, they do. They work their way through relationships, jobs, physical, emotional and mental states and illnesses. Sometimes they make it through the task at hand, sometimes not. I think the best possible outcome is the gaining of wisdom or insight in the wake of these challenging situations. The saddest outcome is to work through something without learning a damn thing. It happens, and maybe all is as it's supposed to be when it turns out that way.

The process of acquiring wisdom, or at least working towards that goal, is strenuous. Though I work diligently towards greater consciousness every day, when insights arrive, they still pack a wallop.

This morning I'm thinking about relationships of arduous karma I've taken on in my 58 years. I had fourteen years of arduous karma with Jake, my beloved dog. My marriage, too, must have been a hell of a payback for something or another, as was the five year partnership that followed my marriage. I could go on, but I'm sure you get the idea.

I used to joke with my colleagues in Reclaiming about how every depiction of the wise woman archetype was of an old, wrinkled hag with a lot of scars. I joked about Odin, the father god of the Norse myths, how he traded an eyeball for wisdom, hung on a tree for nine days in exchange for the wisdom of the runes, etc. It seems that in looking to gain wisdom, those of us devoted to that path believe any price is worth paying. Ha ha ha ha ha. Wait! Is it funny that gaining wisdom is exhausting, painful? That it ages the person aquiring it?

Recent revelations have hit me hard, like a bright ball of divine light upside the head. I'm staggering around at the moment, yeah. What has come to me, about my marriage, partnership, about Jake - is really potent, powerful and I'm SURE after some serious contemplation, I'll gain a drop or two of wisdom from these insights. But oh my, oh my.

I'm thinking carefully about how to perhaps by-pass any future opportunities to work through arduous karma. Is it possible? I'm going to try! Is it any wonder I love living alone and have not been in a rush to get another dog? Well? Bloody hell.

Happy Friday, y'all.

Thursday, July 14, 2011

A Tale of Two Cities

Last night after the storm. Yeah, that's the almost full moon to the right of the dome.

It was hot and miserable yesterday. Then a big storm blew through, or, the way we used to say it, the "broom of weather" swept away the thick, polluted air. The sky is sparkling blue, the air is sweet and light. It is like a different city here today. Beautiful.

If the weather explains everything (it almost always does) then maybe this shift means that the energy down around the Capitol will shake loose and a deal can be made about the debt ceiling. I read earlier this week that President Obama was holding meetings at the White House, always a bad idea as the White House has the most congealed, hardened glue-like energy of any building in DC. The energy at the White House is like a dry cough. I would hate to live there.

If the players could meet in the center of the rotunda in the Capitol; if they cleared the room of tourists and just set some chairs around the center where JFK lay in state, where Lincoln lay in state, beneath the Apotheosis of Washington, I'm absolutely CERTAIN they could figure it out.

But maybe this change in the weather is all that's needed. DC feels much more spacious, much more at ease today than yesterday. May the process move forward. May it be so!

This hibiscus is as big as your head.

Wednesday, July 13, 2011

Perchance to dream

I know that I need sleep because my body has to do a lot of minor repairs at night, also because every being needs to check out for awhile, rest and rejuvinate. But I think I need to sleep just as much because I need to dream.

Everyone in my family is a master dreamer. We have the weirdest, wildest, craziest dreams. Sometimes we share them with each other. I am always in awe of the creativity, uniqueness and sometimes quite bizarre nature of our dreams. Not everyone is a master dreamer, and that's OK. I'm so curious as to why all my sibs are such experts in that realm. It's significant, but I don't know what it means.

This morning I had to go back to sleep for an extra hour because I knew I wasn't finished dreaming. It's as if I had to really pack in a whole lot of dream action because that last hour of sleep was so full of dreams it would take me an hour to describe them all. Wow.

I have a friend who is a dream expert. I've used her services at times to get inside my crazy dreams, when I feel the dream is important enough to reflect upon. If I engaged deeply with every one of my dreams, there would be little time to do anything else. Usually I marvel at them, perhaps write down some of the details, and move on. I think the dreams do the work they're supposed to whether or not I analyze them.

Sometimes I think back on the days when I was smoking a lot of weed, drinking a lot. I often could not remember my dreams during those years. It makes me sad to think I was willing to switch off my incredible dream life in exchange for a buzz. What the heck was that all about?

Oh well, it's over now. Thank God!

Tuesday, July 12, 2011

I think, therefore I was, am and will be?

"The body is not a thing, it is a situation. It is our grasp on the world and a sketch of our projects." ~Simone de Beauvoir

I love these two pics, wish I had something interesting to say today to go with them. I'm still thinking about all the same things: emotional resiliency and whether it's truly possible to clean the slate of the mind and heart.

The body, at least, can never be totally wiped clean of the past. The flu is vanquished but the antibodies remain, the knee is repaired but there will always be a scar. Whatever it is we do or don't do is clearly reflected in our flesh, our bones. Even the way we think is reflected in the structure of our brains! That is so crazy. The way we walk, talk, move through the world reveals not only what is presently occurring, but everything we have ever done. People who have a habit of smiling look very different than the frowners, even when their facial expressions are neutral. Our bodies are deeply historical - we even see how our parents lived, moved, and behaved, in our bodies.

Maybe it's perfectly natural that my heart carries within it a "photo album" of a million different emotional states; snapshots of the angers and exhiliarations, sadnesses and happy moods, longings, griefs, and excitements I have experienced in my 58 years. Maybe it's OK that so many events are (it seems) forever etched into my memory. Maybe.

I know there's a bit about letting go that I haven't quite wrapped my head around yet, also something about trust, that is, the lack thereof, which sometimes prevents me from taking a big breath and simply releasing what was, in order to make room for what is to come.

Maybe there's plenty of room for everything - what was, what is, what will be. Maybe my being is spacious enough for trust and no trust, for "good" and "bad," for all the paradoxes inherent in being a human being. Ya think? Maybe. Still thinking about it.

Monday, July 11, 2011

To begin again

Getting a fresh start - is there such a thing? Some Buddhists think we have a brand new chance to begin again, moment to moment. I've read that some people believe there is no past, no future, just now. It's a romantic idea that seems only to be true for amnesiacs. Memory is history, after all.

I'm not arguing with the Buddhists, by the way. I really love the idea that we can make choices about what to do or not do, moment to moment. We can realize all our power to live, move and be when conscious of what is ongoing right now, and right now, and right now. That's why I meditate every morning, to practice being present. But the past DOES exist; we bring it with us. Our memories are part of the beautiful complexity of the world. Who was it who said that thing about how, if we don't remember, we are bound to repeat our mistakes?

OK. True, that - but still sometimes I wish for a fresh start, clean and clear of all historical baggage. Wouldn't that be something? I yearn, at times, to be able to re-start my mind in the same way I re-start the laptop after updating software, for instance. Ahhhh ... free at last! This, too, is a romantic idea.

I'm thinking about it today because I'm going to begin cleaning the kitchen this morning before I go to work. My goal is to clean away every hint that Rat was ever a part of that space. I will scour the surfaces on which he tread with environmentally destructive cleaners (usually I use Mrs. Meyers for everything, but a more heroic effort is required for this job). I will toss out the trap called "The Jaw" (the one he figured out was too dangerous.) I will cleanse, vacuum, mop. I will wipe down the shelves in the cabinets, empty the fridge of all the old condiments, etc. (though he was never in the fridge). I'm going to clean the hell out of the kitchen, I tell you!

When I'm finished, I'll burn white sage to cleanse the energy, then sweetgrass to bring a soft balance to the room. I'll ring my Tibetan bowl and few times, shake my rattle, then play some classical music to smooth and settle the energy.

After that, we'll see how long it takes me to feel good in the kitchen, how much time must pass before I actually want to cook again. I've been eating take-out, going to restaurants, doing the bare minimum in the kitchen because I was so aghast, so completely repulsed, by the presence of Rat.

I don't want to lose all my memories! Many are so wonderful; I treasure much of what I remember. There are also memories that help me learn, even some of the unpleasant ones are reminders of what NOT to do. But the memory of Rat? If I could selectively re-start my mind, that memory would be top on the list to go out with the trash. Oh yeah.

Sunday, July 10, 2011

Once upon a time

Truth is, everybody is going to hurt you; you just gotta find the ones worth suffering for. ~~Bob Marley

The quest for a resilient heart - you know, a heart that can take a lickin' but keep on tickin' - this isn't anything new. Poets, philosophers, artists, lovers, and just plain folks all over the world, throughout time, have thought about it, wondered how and if it's possible.

What would Goldilocks do? This ia my mantra. Yesterday I was thinking about Goldilocks - her character, I mean. Talk about a trusting, open-hearted girl, unafraid (though she really should be afraid of bears) seeking and finding exactly what makes her comfortable. Well, wow.

OK, I know - Goldilocks is a fictional character in a fairy tale, yes? There are a whole lot of heros and heroines in fairy tales and myths who are as pure, open hearted and resilient as she. Why? These characters are teachers; they encourage us to take one step, then maybe one more step, towards the ideal of their open hearts.

My favorite fairy tale character is Gerda in Hans Christian Andersen's The Snow Queen. I love that story so much, I could almost recite it by heart. The Erik Christian Haugaard translation is my all-time favorite. It's ironic, really funny.

Gerda is not brave or courageous, she is not heroic, but she goes through an icy hell and back to save her soulmate Kai from the clutches of the Snow Queen, who is only seductive to Kai because his heart is frozen. Hmm. Gerda does not kill dragons or wield weapons of any kind. She does not fight. She's so pure, no one can resist helping her, even some of the rather wicked characters in the story, like the wood witch who wants to keep her, or the little robber girl, for instance. She heals Kai with her tears. Now really. Wow, what a story.

Yeah it's a story, but I'm thinking about it today, thinking about Goldilocks and Rapunzel, Cinderella, Snow White, etc. My innate character is nothing like these pure maidens, but they are worth studying, wondering about because - oh man - they are portraits of open-hearted, trusting purity. And they prevail! They are very powerful. Oh yeah. So ... what would Goldilocks do? Eh??

Saturday, July 9, 2011

Emotional Immunity?

Because I'm empathic and sympathetic by nature, I never wondered whether or not my heart was open. I assumed it was, but as I found out this spring, there are degrees of openness and on that scale my heart was just open a crack towards homo sapiens. I had no idea! I've been passionately in love with the green world, the sky, storms, seasons, etc. for a long time. In fact I was rather feral for a number of years, connecting far more intimately with the non-human realms than with my fellow man and woman. Hmmm. The best story to describe that era would be something about how I held a very romantic idea about what it means to be a shaman, but in fact I turned my back on my kin. How sad.

It's been a long time coming, I mean coming in from the wild, coming back from my life as an edgewalker, outcast, hermit, to wholeheartedly re-join the rest of my species. Initially my heart softened to the idea of embracing humanity. That took awhile, now that I look back on it. Next, I went through a big ole reunion with old friends on FB last year, discovering my capacity for intimate, true, trusting friendships that continue over time. Simultaneously, my friendships here in DC deepened, as has my connection to my siblings.

This past spring, my heart softened quite a bit more. For instance, when I sit on the bench in my front yard with a friend, squinting at the sky, trying to see at least one star, talking, laughing, having a beer, my love for this person is physically palpable. Wow. When I sit and talk to my client who is having a terrible health crisis, tears come to my eyes, I love her so much. I could give more examples, but I'm sure you get the idea. Love is powerful, whoa. What a rush!

Being wide open is dangerous, though, of course. For instance, when my client died, I took a dive. That downwards spiral lasted only a few days, but it was kind of serious, I think because I was unprepared for the impact of sadness on my wide open heart.

The sweaty bike ride this week and subsequent revelations about my innate fierceness has taken me a step further in the process of heart opening. Can I love my capacity to snap at folks now and then, to be angry sometimes, frustrated, petty even? Can I truly and honestly figure out how to welcome these aggressive qualities into my heart of hearts? Sometimes I can express my aggressiveness in a healthy way, i.e. sweaty bike ride, but at times it gets a bit out of hand. I hurt feelings sometimes, oh yeah. Can I welcome that truth, make space for for my innate meanness? Well??

The jury is still out on that one, but I'm making progress. This morning I was thinking about the immune system, how fierce it is, how aggressive it must be to contend with the myriad bacteria, viruses, and such that try to bring us down. I thought about the emotional immune system. Is there such a thing? No scientific study I've ever heard of has described such a thing. I'm thinking about what it means to walk around with an open heart through a world in which shit happens. A closed heart will provide protection, but is that how I want to live? Uh - no thank you. I've done that and it's a meager, stingy existence, no fun at all. Life is short, I want to be loving, but I don't want to get knocked down repeatedly either. Hmm. What would Goldilocks do?

How do I strengthen my emotional immune system so as to make it possible to take a blow now and again without doing permanent damage, without sending me into a depressive tailspin or even worse: cynicism? Well? Any thoughts on this one?

Friday, July 8, 2011

Endorphins are a good thing

The sky was spectacular yesterday, full of thick, textured clouds streaming with crepuscular rays. I was sweating and cursing the heat (which actually was not that bad), riding my bike hard mid-afternoon. It was a beautiful summer afternoon.

A few weeks ago I decided I didn't need to prove to myself that I'm strong or tough or whatever; I decided I could instead ride my bike in the morning, before the heat of the day gathers itself together. I told myself that riding before it was heinous out there was a kindness I might offer myself.

But what I've discovered is: I actually LIKE the punishing heat, the sweating. I like cursing Brother Sun, pouring cold water over my head. Becoming a big ole sweaty mess, as I do on these rides, then cooling off a bit, drinking cool water, taking a cool shower, drinking an ice cold beer? This sequence of events makes me just plain happy. It doesn't work if I take that same ride at 10 a.m. Who wants to have a beer that early in the day? I don't.

I must remember that the Tao of Goldilocks truly is the life lesson I need most to learn, over and over again. I don't have to be mean to myself on these bike rides, i.e. I don't have to push myself until I feel literally sick (as I sometimes have in the past). That's too hard. Nor do I need to restrict myself to riding before the big heat of the day - that's too soft. What is just right is a rather fierce bike ride mid-day after which: cool, more cool, some more cool, then ice cold. Oh yeah.

There is an aggressive side to my nature, connected no doubt to my Venus/Mars in Aries. This is who I am, along with the parts of me that are gentle, philosophical, funny, artful. I had a teacher who used to say that unexpressed aspects of ourselves create a state of depression. Aggressiveness must be expressed mindfully. The big ole sweaty bike ride is one of the ways I express my nature. It harms no one. It is neither too hard nor too soft, too hot nor too cold, etc. This is the Tao of Goldilocks. So be it!

Happy weekend, y'all. Shalom.

Thursday, July 7, 2011

I Heart New York

This pic was taken with the iphone camera, manipulated in photoshop. Very much more surreal than the pics taken with the Nikon, I think. What do you think?

I booked the Bolt bus ticket, also bought a ticket to the Metropolitan Museum this morning, which means that for sure I'm going to NYC in a couple of weeks. I have a smile on my face, oh yeah.

It's always good to have something to look forward to, and also it's very important to get out of DC during the summer. NYC is not the idyllic cabin by a placid lake scenario I'm always imagining for myself as a summer getaway, but it beats being poked in the eye by a sharp stick, yes? I say yes.

My plans for the 2 nights and most of three glorious days include the usual: walking around and taking pictures, sitting in various cafes, eavesdropping on conversations, taking in the energy and architecture and buzz of the big apple. In addition I will be staying with my wonderful blog friend Elizabeth, also catching up with my friend Dave Scott, someone I've known since 6th grade. If I am able to catch up with my artist friend Mary Proenza, it will prove to be a stellar vacay.

It's rather stupid that I don't go more often. I have wonderful friends I can stay with, the Bolt bus round-trip is $40 ... for heaven's sake, why do I wait so long between visits? I love New York! Who doesn't?? I mean really.

The Nikon takes softer surreal pics. Do you agree?

Wednesday, July 6, 2011


c..1340, "deliverance from sin," from L. redemptionem (nom. redemptio) "a buying back, releasing, ransoming," from redemptus, pp. of redimere "to redeem, buy back," from re-"back" + emere "to take, buy, gain, procure" (see exempt).

I like the literal translation of the Hebrew word for "sin" which is roughly, "that which does not work." Yeah. Stealing (for instance) really never works, does it? Nor does lying or killing - you know what I mean.

It was a sin to have to share my kitchen with Rat who brought nothing but chaos, destruction and filth along with him. No offense to him, I know he was just doing his thing, but it did not work to share space.

Now maybe I'm jumping the gun here, thinking (hoping) he might be gone. I no longer feel the presence, but I could be fooling myself. This was no dumb rodent who came to visit the chateau, nope. He was a bionic, genius robo bot Rat who I assume escaped from some lab at NIH, based on how smart he was. He outwitted all three of the traps I set. He was able to get to the bait on two of them without tripping the mechanisms. The third trap, called "The Jaw" (yikes) is still baited, sitting right where I left it. He checked it out but surmised it was too dangerous, left it alone. I base this assumption on the location of his hair and poo, right in front of the trap as if he stood there, contemplating the possibilities, perhaps scratching his head (hence the hair). This is the kind of test lab rats are subjected to all the time. Ya know?

That was a few days ago. Since then, I haven't seen hide nor hair of Rat. I'm starting to relax. I will remain vigilant and leave the trap for a few more days, just to make sure. When the people who own the chateau return from vacation, one of them is going to look for the points of entry and seal them tight.

Once that takes place, if I still don't see evidence of his presence, I will redeem the kitchen by cooking a big ole dinner, invite someone(s) I adore to share in the feast with me.

I hope and pray this is the last Rat update, because what I actually thought I was going to write about this morning is the nature of the redemptions that follow battles with the dragons and demons; the beautiful, clear calm that follows those storms.

Can't wait to proclaim that the rat-dragon has been slain or at least defeated. Then I'll be able to think of other, more interesting things. Onwards and upwards! May it be so.

Tuesday, July 5, 2011

Kill the Dragon*

Into every life, they say, some rain must fall. Sometimes it's a sprinkle, sometimes a deluge. Occasionally a big ole tsunami sweeps through. We sink or swim, over and over again.

I love the archetypal narrative of dragon slaying as an alternative way to meet those moments when life could get the best of you, but doesn't. The sink or swim paradigm is in certain ways more realistic, since we have no control over mighty Mother Nature, since even sometimes when we choose to prevail, the tsunami might overwhelm us anyway.

Nevertheless I like the idea of battling the dragon. It's not so passive as sinking or swimming, it requires mythic levels of courage. It sure as hell seems more heroic. I guess. The "truth" is, dragons can not be slain any more than we can control a flood. A flood is, according to my cosmology, a water dragon anyway, so what's the difference?

Dragon slaying requires more than treading water. One must rise up out of the situation, sword in hand, eyes flashing with fierceness, muscles tense (at least in the stories it looks like that) and engage with whatever it is that's bringing us down.

I'm thinking this morning about people I know who went a lot farther than contemplating suicide; they planned it, they decided how to go about it and they almost completed the act. Some of these people didn't actually die, but something went wrong in the process. They half-died, I guess is the way to say it. They seem always to walk in shadow, they are drugged at all times, unwilling to return fully to life. Others snapped out of it somehow or another; they fought hard. A dragon can not be killed, but because they were brave enough or willing enough to fight, these people came back from the experience more vivid and whole hearted than before. I know at least two, maybe three people who lived through this experience.

I also know people who gave up and sank. I think of my marvelously talented friend Terri Wilson who, in early March of 1991, took too many drugs, lay on the beach with her dog at her side, and died.

Not sure why I'm thinking about these particular people this morning because personally I have never even contemplated suicide. But I drop into some serious tailspins sometimes, I get caught in a big wave, get sucked into a rip tide of one kind or another. That's what last week was for me, a crap week of hopelessness, fear, sadness. I had my reasons - the client who died, another client very ill, and the appearance of Rat. I also blame the eclipse, because I love blaming the planets for everything. (They are large beings and don't really care.)

Yesterday I could have hidden inside the chateau all day, thereby prolonging my emotional slog. A friend called to invite me out for the Barracks Row parade. I said yes. Then I went to the movies with another dear one, after which I wandered home through the throngs of people dressed in red, white and blue down on the mall. Yesterday evening I walked around the corner to a neighborhood barbecue. I engaged with people, the arts (the movie, Midnight in Paris, was adorable), the energy of the day. I laughed, feasted, walked, drank sangria. So as it turns out, the 4th of July was a really fun day, as it has been in the past - just different from the good old days on Tennessee Avenue.

Yep, I rose from the flood, lifted my sword. I "killed" the dragon. Today I'm feeling good, I'm back to myself. Many grateful thanks to the friends who encouraged me to get out and about. Thanks too to God, and the dragons too, bless their fiery hearts. L'chaim, y'all. Onwards and upwards.

*Not talking about Rat. He disappeared a couple of nights ago and has not returned. The trap is still loaded. I haven't had the nerve to check under the sink, his favorite hangout, to see if there are any new droppings. I needed a break from ratting. But maybe he's gone. Ya think?

Monday, July 4, 2011

Bombs bursting in air

"It’s easy to forget, especially around U.S. Independence Day, how much trial and error went into the creation of American democracy ... The warm and wise philosopher Jacob Needleman looked back at the American founders with this in mind for his book "The American Soul." He found that every iconic institution, every political value, had “inward work” of conscience behind it. Every hard-won right had a corresponding responsibility." ~~Krista Tippett, blogging about her 2003 interview with Mr. Needleman.

Her blog, and the interview itself, are truly worth spending a few minutes with today. Wow. Jacob Needleman is a great, humane thinker, which is one of the reasons I loved his book so much when I read it a few years ago. Jacob Needleman is NOT a cynic. It's so refreshing!

I try NOT to be cynical whenever possible. When I get cynical, sarcastic, I find that state of being so exhausting. I feel that my connection to the life force becomes thin and brittle, that my sense of gratitude and appreciation for the beauty of life shrivels up until I can't breathe. Oh god I really try to avoid getting into a state of cynicism. It does not help me in any way.

No matter about my resolve, there are times when I find myself choking and gasping for energy, for air. Sometimes it takes awhile to realize I've lapsed into the sharp, biting, stingy thought-form of cynicism.

This year, the Fourth of July is a tough day for me. Today it would be all too easy to tip over, face first, into cynicism, to characterize Americans as mindless buffoons because our traditions around this holiday include getting drunk, eating charred meat and setting off small bombs. In years past, that's exactly how I spent the day - grilling ribs, hanging out with the neighbors, drinking beer all day. This year, I'm out of that pattern, feeling at odds with everything at the moment. Dang, man.

Is it wrong to want to have some fun, blow off steam, in celebration? Nope, there's nothing wrong with that. Just because I had a bad week doesn't mean anyone else should be moping around today, yes? I say yes.

Jacob Needleman says that America has always been a mess, since the get-go, but that's no reason to hate America or Americans. OK. I agree completely. But being an American is complicated, it really is.

I'm going to the movies today. Tonight I'm not sure what I'm going to do. Later, when the rocket's red glare, the bombs bursting in air begins just a few blocks away on the National Mall, I'm going to try very hard to keep breathing, to exhale any tendency towards cynicism. Can I do it? YES I CAN. May it be so!

Sunday, July 3, 2011

Riding for the Feeling

I've got a big day of work today, a good thing since I'm taking the 4th off. Sometimes I work on holidays, but not this holiday. In the U.S., no one works on the 4th unless they absolutely have to - like people in hospitals, cops and such. Going to work is like swimming upstream, energetically, not worth the effort.

I loved Independence Day on Tennessee Avenue back in the day when the kids were small. We used to gather to read the Declaration of Independence out loud. Then the neighbors and their kids would parade around the block, just because. After that I spent hours grilling ribs after which we had a neighborhood picnic that was always my very favorite gathering of the year.

This year I'm on E. Capitol Street, hence no ribs, no picnic. The old neighbors gave up reading the Declaration out loud a few years ago, and the neighborhood parades are ancient history. Oh well. Everything has a lifespan. I love remembering the good old days!

Tomorrow I'll watch the Capitol Hill parade, then I'm going to the movies in the early afternoon. Maybe by tomorrow the damn rat will be dead. I hope so. It would be a perfect way to celebrate independence from large, smart, creepy rodents.

My friends are so kind, all of them extending invitations to sleep at their houses. I have declined all offers. I will not cede my territory to Herr Rat. No way. He's gotta go and that is that. Once he's gone I'll have someone fill all holes the size of a quarter or larger behind the fridge, under the sink, therefore ensuring that the chateau can not become a refuge for these beasts ever again.

What an awful week this has been. Onwards and upwards to a new week, a new moon and I hope a brighter outlook. Happy Sunday, y'all.

Saturday, July 2, 2011

Wild Kingdom at the Chateau

That's the top of the National Cathedral behind the treetops. I took this pic while walking across the Connecticut Street Bridge. Very cool!

I set the trap, baited it with some smoked cheddar I use in salads, placed it in a paper bag, and laid it on the floor. Then I went to bed and basically waited all night long to see if I might hear scampering followed by a loud SNAP. Inbetween periods of waiting and listening, I had a bunch of very strange dreams. In one dream I had somehow inadvertently, or perhaps in a quixotic moment, tossed my cowboy hat into a men's restroom. For the rest of the dream I was asking men to retrieve it for me. Some of the men didn't believe it was my hat, others refused to give it back because apparently the guys in the restroom were having quite a bit of fun with it. Finally someone brought it out, but it had been ripped apart. I was so disappointed.

Huh?? That is one WEIRD dream, eh? I could describe others, but you get the idea, right? I'm sure it had something to do with taking on the project of trapping the rat.

This morning I can't find any signs of a visit from Herr Rat: no droppings, nothing knocked over. The bag with the trap is exactly as I left it last night. OK. Maybe he beat a hasty retreat. I hope so. But I don't think this is over yet. I left the trap in the bag exactly where I found it. Herr Rat might be playing it cool, hoping I'll give up the hunt. I will not.

I'm very much hoping this episode is soon resolved. The kitchen is the high altar of the chateau, my favorite place. I will not share it with a large rodent, I will not. Give me back my cowboy hat, boys. Am I not a mighty hunter?? WELL??

Friday, July 1, 2011

The Control of Nature

The Control of Nature is John McPhee's bestselling account of places in the world where people have been engaged in all-out battles with nature. In Louisiana, the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers has declared war on the lower Mississippi River, which threatens to follow a new route to the sea and cut off New Orleans and Baton Rouge from the rest of the United States. Icelanders confront flowing red lava in an attempt to save a crucial harbor. In Los Angeles, basins are built to catch devastating debris flows from the San Gabriel Mountains.


When we humans decide to "control" nature, that urge does not arise from encounters with butterflies or sweet spring days, nope. It's always about some virulent bacteria, natural disasters or vermin.

Here at the chateau, I'm about to engage in some serious battle with vermin. Oh yeah. I'm not talking about the cute little mice that we dealt with at the house on Tennessee Avenue. Nope, based on the size of the poo I found under my sink yesterday and this morning, it's one of the big ones, the rodent whose name must not be mentioned.

The thing about rats is: they're smart. They're really smart. When we had one at the house where I work, it almost got stuck in a sticky trap. It got away, and never came back. Hmmm .... same thing upstairs at the chateau. They set traps, caught nothing but the critter got the hell outta Dodge. Today during a break at work I'm going to buy a sticky trap, put it under the sink. I'm absolutely, cold bloodedly determined to triumph over the beast, though I'm asking myself, if this dude gets stuck in the trap tonight, then what? Because I sure don't want to see it, let alone touch it or in any other way deal with it. If it gets stuck, I will leave the house and not return until I find someone brave enough to face the monster, take it out and dispatch it in some way or another. My hope is that it will see the trap and vamoose. Can you hold that thought for me?

Last night it chewed the sponge I use to wash dishes, but spit out the pieces. I guess it didn't taste good. Sponge in garbage can. Counter thoroughly cleaned. Me saying EWWWWWW over and over again.

Oh yeah, some aspects of nature beg for control, they really do. I will not share the chateau with one of these guys. I will prevail. I will. Do you believe me?