Wednesday, November 30, 2011


I've been kind of sentimental lately, listening to music that brings back my formative years, missing Jake, getting teary over cute animal videos on Facebook and such. For awhile I thought it must be some bizarre hormonal spike - bizarre because, after menopause, almost all the emotional drama of the reproductive years evaporates into thin air. Poof.

But then I remembered, oh yeah, this is the holiday season. In order to dance in shamanic alignment with this time, one must get a little misty eyed here and there, one must think of the good old days, whatever that means. I am definitely not one to wax rhapsodic about how things used to be better than they are now. Some things are better now, some things were better then - same as it ever was. And as far as my personal history is concerned, right now is the best time of my entire life. Never - not ever - do I wish I were young again.

The human capacity to be sentimental is a function of the way we decide to store memory. It's wonderful to remember all the best things, though - a bit out of character for me. However since I plunged in face first when Thanksgiving came around, I'm in the energetic current of the holidays. To dance in shamanic alignment requires some sentimental moments.

So be it! Shalom and Cheers!

Close-up of my ancestor altar. In the pic is my sister Karen, the oldest (may she fly high), and my beloved sister Deborah, looking adorable. I am the baby.

Tuesday, November 29, 2011

I get by with a little help from my friends

Steven of the beautiful blog The Golden Fish has planted the seed of a notion in my head/heart, that there actually IS a book inside me, one that has been buried beneath chase scenes and espionage, disguises, double crossing boyfriends, Yemeni jail cells and all other manner of intrigue.

This notion brings to mind the dream I had the night before my first initiation in the shamanic arts. I dreamed I couldn't hear very well. In the dream I figure out I've got earplugs on/in. I take them out, but find there is a second pair of plugs underneath. I keep pulling out pair after pair of earplugs, long since compressed into almost solid cubes of dense foam. At the end of the dream I'm pulling out the final layer: stories from the New York Times that have been folded into tiny squares and inserted in lieu of earplugs.

It was the next day I "heard" my spirit guides for the first time.

What an incredible dream, hey? That was decades ago, but I remember it vividly, oh yeah.

Maybe blogging has helped me uncork the well of words I know exists within me, kind of like removing the layers of earplugs in the dream. Maybe 'The Tell' could be seen as analogous to the stories from the New York Times, folded neatly into tiny squares, tucked deep into my ears, into my brain!

Steven's insight, that 'The Tell' was a cleansing, resonates powerfully for me. I'm intrigued. While I wait to see what happens with that, I'm writing a word portrait of Vega that goes deeper than anything in 'The Tell.' I'm filling in some of the empty spaces, about her family; the father, a Cold War era spy, her alcoholic mother who is uptight, shut down, even after a few scotches. I'm writing about Vega's disability.

It's hard to say goodbye to Vega!

Happy Tuesday, y'all. Peace.

Monday, November 28, 2011

Vega's Legacy

Have you seen the film "Something's Gotta Give" with Diane Keaton and Jack Nicholson? What a hoot, very sweet mid-life romance movie. In my mind's eye, I'm watching the scene in which she writes her musical play. She is working through a heartbreak, sobbing as she writes, clearly staying up all night writing, crying, writing, kleenexes everywhere, she in her robe. She experiences a transformation as she writes - she begins to laugh instead of cry, you can see her excitement as the words flow through her. At the end she tosses the empty box of kleenex. Writing the play has healed her!

Writing 'The Tell' was ecstatic, yes, but healing? Not really. The book isn't deep or thoughtful; it's not philosophy, just C-grade spy dreck. It's so shallow, it could have been generated by a computer algorhythm. I find that interesting. I always figured I had a book in me, but I thought it would be a provocative, insightful, soulful exploration of human nature. How wrong I was!

I'm not disappointed. It's always a relief when I put down the habit of being so high fallutin'.

One thing I am endlessly grateful about is the fact that what did NOT come out of me was a sensitive coming of age story, or a rehash of my life's adventures. I do get out of my own naval every now and then, up to the shallows. Thank God!

The little blue squares are sticky notes that say FREE!

Sunday, November 27, 2011

A Song for Sunday

Not again in this flesh will I see the old trees stand here as they did, weighty creatures made of light, delight of their making straight in them and well, whatever blight our blindness was or made, however thought or act might fail.

The burden of absence grows, and I pay daily the grief I owe to love for women and men, days and trees I will not know again. Pray for the world’s light thus borne away. Pray for the little songs that wake and move.

For comfort as these lights depart, recall again the angels of the thicket, columbine aerial in the whelming tangle, song drifting down, light rain, day returning in song, the lordly Art piecing out its humble way.

Though blindness may yet detonate in light, ruining all, after all the years, great right subsumed finally in paltry wrong, what do we know? Still the Presence that we come into with song is here, shaping the seasons of His wild will.

~~Wendell Berry (from the OnBeing blog, by Krista Tippett)

Happy Sunday to all. Shalom!

Saturday, November 26, 2011

Depth of Field

One of my great teachers used to say that the elements of nature are "one-eyed," in other words, great forces that carry on large and small, no matter the impact on creatures of our size. The element of air, for instance, exists as the tiniest breeze but also as a category five hurricane. Since we are "two-eyed," we must be discerning. When invoking the element of air, she always said, be specific - ask for a gentle breeze, never ask for the full force of the power of air. That's crazy.

Likewise, it's great to go for a bike ride when the air is still, or moving slightly, but ridiculous to get out there in a 50 mph gusty wind. One of my spirit guides likes to tell me it's ok to take shelter when needed. Safety first!

It's in this spirit that I'm mindfully, consciously, and purposefully saying goodbye to Vega, fiction writing, and NaNoWriMo. It has been one of the most powerful experiences I can remember, the way I was swallowed up in the vortex of the story, how much I wanted to do nothing but write. It was a full blown word bender, an addiction spun out of control. I bet I'm not the only fiction writer who believed I could stop whenever I wanted. Holy cow.

I looked over a few chapters yesterday - the text is more of a plot avalanche than a piece of prose. There is no common voice, some parts are excessively descriptive, others pure action. Some chapters contain dialog only; you have to guess what's actually going on. There are huge chunks of missing information, explanations of how Vega got from a dangerous situation back to the hotel, for instance. There are too many spy devices; there's not nearly enough soul. In other words, The Tell sucks!!

Ha ha!!

Creativity, too, is a force of nature. When I'm in the flow I am completely blissed out, whether or not what I'm creating is worth the time and effort. It's the process I love, not the product. This was the case with The Tell. I'm not sad or disappointed it's so bad. Honestly, I think it's hilarious. NaNoWriMo vs. Reya? Ka-pow! Knockout in Round One.

As a two-eyed, discerning being, I'm letting go. Well, I might write a final chapter but that's it, to kill her off or let her live happily ever after. Is that the same thing as saying "one more cigarette, then I quit!" ?? Could be. It was a great lesson, very revealing and extremely fun. I'm very happy I gave it a go, and very happy I'm not deluded about the experience. Also grateful to acknowledge that I'm eager to move on.

All is well. Shalom.

Friday, November 25, 2011

Deconstructing the Feast

Yesterday was a big ritual, a personal taboo breaker, a healing. The day was a complete and total success. The food was good, the guests were lovely, the music was just right. You can plan forever but when the time comes, you never know if a dinner party is going to plotz or soar. Don't ask me to explain why - I have no idea. Believe me, I've thought about it a lot.

I planned and co-priestessed many a ritual during my years with Reclaiming. Some worked, others were total disasters, even with the same basic structure. Some of the rituals were huge, like the Spiral Dance with its 1500 participants. Some were smaller, around 300 or so, and others were very small - 20-30 people. What I'm saying is, I have ritual planning creds.

Yesterday we feasted, toasted, laughed, listened to music, traded stories. Afterwards everyone pitched in with good humor. We cleaned the kitchen in seconds flat, or so it seemed. Later I sent everyone home with a plate of leftovers, including enough for my own dinner tonight. The ritual went very well indeed. I keep saying "ritual" because it is - it really is. Google "feast days." Humans have been gathering for harvest feasts forever!

Thanksgiving, even in spite of its wild expansive energy, arises from a rather elegant ritual structure. The structure is practical as well as superstitious. In assembling the meal, I had to re-stock my larder with flours, oils, spices, sugars and other staples. What a great thing to do just before winter sets in! The fact that the feast must always yield leftovers is a sacred drama of abundance, a way of sending out to the universe a wish to remain well fed during the dark quarter of the year.

In all prayer we ask but also say thank you. I realized this morning that Black Friday is the second part of the prosperity ritual. We've taken it out to extremes, as we Americans do, but the idea - to go forth and make offerings - is exactly perfect in terms of ritual form. Gifts, i.e. love and generosity in physical form, are offerings to the divine, always. Gift shopping the day after a big feast is so right!

One of my guests cut her finger (small cut) while carving the turkey, hence she inadvertently made an offering to the spirit of the animal (in many cultures blood is shed as a sacrifice after a successful hunt). My goodness we are all shamans. You can't make this stuff up!

One of my great teachers used to say that we set a particular energy into motion whenever we gather with a shared intention. Once that energy is in motion, it's our job to dance in alignment with it, go with the flow.

In a few minutes I'm going to head out to walk off yesterday's feast, take pictures, and enjoy this sparkling clear, crisp day. My goal is to buy at least one Christmas gift, probably from one of the Smithsonian stores. In that way I will have completed the elegant, oversized ritual of prosperity we call Thanksgiving. So may it be!


Thursday, November 24, 2011

Unimaginative Expectations

It was a lot harder than I thought, quitting Vega, I mean. Every day I've fought the urge to get back to the story. In fact I've had to utilize a bunch of techniques that help cure addictions, such as OMing, breathing mindfully, taking it one day at a time. My fingers ITCH to get back to the keyboard. When people say a novel can swallow you whole, believe them! Bloody hell.

It was a lot easier than I thought, getting Thanksgiving together here at the chateau. Of course I still have stuff to do, including coming face to face with the turkey, and there was a point yesterday when I was spinning out a little bit with the enormity of breaking my personal Thanksgiving taboo. Still, by the end of the day not only had I accomplished all I set out to do, but I had the dishes washed and put away. Hmmm.

I had a great teacher who used to say that unimaginative expectations lead to unpleasant surprises. In the case of The Tell, my addiction to the story is unpleasant and unexpected, but in the case of T-day, my unimaginative expectations yielded to a nice surprise: I, too, can partake of the American national prosperity ritual. I always love it when I enjoy anything that makes me feel normal. Should say: "normal."

That said, I assume I will experience a few interesting moments today. Breaking personal taboos, while a healing, wonderful, liberating experience, can be nerve-wracking. I'm up for it, though. I really am. Am I?

We shall see! Love, gratitude and happiness to all. Shalom!

Monday, November 21, 2011

Happiness is a warm keyboard

I'm twitching, y'all. I'm shaky, kind of in an altered state. Wait, kind of? No, I am definitely in an altered state. I decided, wisely I think, to step away from The Tell until after Thanksgiving which means I made myself go back to sleep this morning instead of writing for two hours. It was great to go back to sleep but but but but but ... my fingers are twitching, the story is foremost in my mind. Vega is giving me a look that says, "You'll be sorry to switch this off," but so far I am remembering that Vega is the product of my imagination.


We humans are definitely storytelling maniacs! It's one of our best things. People have described how addictive it is to write fiction, how easy it is to get swallowed up by the world of The Book. Of course I didn't really understand what they were talking about since I had never given it a go. But I get it now! Bloody hell.

I'm like a drug addict without a fix this morning. Ridiculous! A big day of work should help, yes? I say yes.

Sunday, November 20, 2011

No such thing as control

Thanksgiving week has arrived, T minus four days and counting. I am now creating a schedule to help me understand what to cook, and when. When it comes to dinner parties, I enjoy being a control freak. Not only is the food ready (or nearly ready) to serve when the guests arrive, but the kitchen is clean, the appetizers are attractively laid out on a platter, and I'm mixing drinks or pouring wine the second the guests arrive. The mood in the chateau at those moments is serene and welcoming. Ahhhhh....

At the last minute on Thanksgiving, someone will have to be making gravy - that will be me - while someone else will be jockeying for position to pull something or another out of the oven, while someone else will be heroically carving the turkey. Everyone will be standing in the kitchen of course. I foresee mayhem!!

I will battle the forces of chaos as long as I can, but I expect that at some point on Thursday morning, I will surrender to the inevitable. Why not?

In other news I have officially stepped away from The Tell until after Thanksgiving. I miss posting here and on the Chateau Seven blog. I miss reading and hanging out with friends and all those things I used to do long ago (or so it seems long ago) before NaNoWriMo. If I were a serious writer, I would be even weirder than I already am. Holy cow, what a scary thought.

Have a wonderful Sunday, y'all. Shalom.

Friday, November 18, 2011

Say what?

I like to behave as if I understand everything; it's part of the philosophical mindset. If I keep thinking about it, eventually I will figure it out, or so goes an old assumption that lies deep beneath my mind chatter.

Of course it's a total delusion. If I lived to be a million and did nothing but ponder from now till then, I still wouldn't "get" even the tiniest percentage of all the great mysteries. One benefit of growing older is that I remember (more often than I used to) that I'll never understand it all, never, not ever, hence I take great care deciding exactly what merits my philosophical attention.

Lately I've been thinking about marriage - not any particular marriage, I'm talking about the institution itself. You know what? I don't understand marriage, I really don't. I understand falling in love, of course. And the structure makes sense especially for people who want to have children. Likewise I believe that in marriage people are given an opportunity to work through the most complicated personal issues. In terms of spiritual evolution, marriage as an institution is a strenuous lesson, right up there with the lessons people learn from living with blood family.

The compromises people make in marriage - wow. The things they tolerate from each other, the aspects of each other they rail against, well, I find it fascinating and utterly incomprehensible. Marriage is loving, compassionate, also rife with politics and power struggling. Marriage is complicated!

One of my teachers says marriage is a "crucible" in which two families come together for a purpose. Sometimes that purpose is to produce children, in other situations, the two families are working through a family soul issue, which accounts for all the stereotypes around in-laws. After the purpose (whatever it may be) is consummated, the couple is free to split up or carry on together till death do they part. It's an interesting perspective.

I know many people who have been married for decades. Decades! Continuity and length have not historically been my forte when it comes to romantic connections. Maybe that's why I don't get it. Ya think?

Happy Friday. Say a prayer for the Spirit of Turkey tonight, please? Tomorrow and Sunday 46 million turkeys will be slaughtered. It's a prosperity ritual that requires an animal sacrifice. So be it, but oh! Poor Spirit of Turkey!


Thursday, November 17, 2011

More about the damn book

This is something you don't see in other parts of the U.S., leaves changing while roses bloom. This is a crazy landscape.

The Tell's plot has become so complicated, I've totally lost track. Vega and her old friend (now lover) Jack are on their way back to Yemen when she realizes Jack is double crossing her. He had her convinced it was her boss who made sure she got arrested at the border. But she intercepts a text when Jack goes for a Shi'atsu massage, instantly recognizes the phone number of her agency office. The text: "good work."

So is her boyfriend the bad guy or her boss? Or both? The only thing I can say for certain is that her fantasy of professionally teaming up with Jack, her dream of playing Mr. and Mrs. Smith in Yemen is definitely not happening. What a shame.

Because I'm too confused to write at the moment, I've been watching spy films - always a fun idea, hey? I saw Billion Dollar Brain starring Michael Caine, directed by the surreal Ken Russell. Two woolly socks up. It's worth it just to see the "technology" of that era (1967) - an old computer system that runs on punched cards. Wow! Ed Begley as the cowboy Texas general is truly psychedelic. I thought somehow I had dropped acid by mistake as I watched the lengthy scene in which his space age soldiers sink into the icy sea.

Tonight I'm going to watch The Falcon and the Snowman. I've got a bunch of old spy films in the Netflix queue. Apparently this year my holiday season will revolve around intrigue and plot turns and twists, glamorous, jet-setting lifestyles, lots of cigarettes and booze, fabulous hairdos, too. Cool!

There was only one car chase in Billion Dollar Brain. I'm hoping I don't have to write a chase scene into The Tell. Please tell me it isn't absolutely necessary, ok?

Wednesday, November 16, 2011


The leaves are falling, the gardens are shrivelled, and even though it has been exceptionally warm and gorgeous in DC (highs in the 60s, even 70s) I haven't seen anyone in flip flops for a couple of weeks. Fall has established itself at last. I love fall.

My morning routine these days includes writing, then meditation after which I pray. This week I'm also sending Reiki to the Spirit of Turkey every morning. I believe it's on the Saturday and Sunday before Thanksgiving that most of the turkeys will be sacrificed. Yeah, sacrificed. Thanksgiving is one of the last rituals of animal sacrifice we Americans embrace, oh yeah.

Animal populations come and go of course, just like everything. But every year we engage in the slaughter of forty six million turkeys, all at once, (number according to the source I saw when I googled). That number might not be exact, but it's a lot of turkeys. The oversoul of the animal takes a big hit on the slaughter days. It is to that oversoul I send Reiki.

We at least eat the animals after the slaughter, in a prosperity feast of overindulgence. I'm going to engage in the ritual this year, but oh you'd better believe I will honor the poor, humble "heirloom breed" turkey I'm going to roast here at the chateau. I think it's better to honor the bird than try to ignore what's really happening. I will honor the turkey with ritual ablutions of butter and fresh herbs, and bow my head in prayers of thanksgiving when it goes in the oven. I will sing heroic songs to honor the dinosaurs of old, the bird's genetic ancestors.

Will my behavior be any weirder than the president's when he "pardons" a turkey? He reads some kind of proclamation, everyone chuckles, the turkey goes back to the farm. Completely bizarre, hey? It does confirm, however, that we are engaged in a mass ritual of animal genocide, otherwise, why a pardon?

This post sounds so serious - it doesn't match my mood at all. I'm really looking forward to T-day, but I want to do it right, you know, my version of "right." All hail the Spirit of Turkey!!

Monday, November 14, 2011


Hayden's Liquor at Eastern Market


1. Sign up for NaNoWriMo.
2. Sit at your computer early in the morning. For best results, drink strong coffee and cultivate a devil-may-care attitude.
3. Write. Write anything you want.
4. Do not re-read, just let 'er rip.
5. Enjoy!


1. Over-plan everything. Convince yourself this means the day will be orderly and serene. Remember you are a control freak. Oh yeah! Laugh.
2. Overwhelm yourself entertaining ideas about what to cook. Imagine you can cook every dish you're interested in. Laugh maniacally. Drink more coffee.
3. Imagine yourself frying onions in a flour made by hand, including arborio rice ground in a spice mill until it is a fine powder. Imagine how much rice you must grind to make flour to coat onions for a big green bean casserole, enough to feed six, with leftovers. How delicious would that be? Wow! Imagine using a thermometer to make sure the oil is the right temperature. Imagine every batch of fried onions turning out perfectly, even though frying is not your gift. Laugh. Buy canned fried onions to use on the green bean casserole.
4. Refrain from feeling horrible about the turkey who is just now living out its life, oblivious to what is about to come down. Send Reiki to the turkey every day. Is that hypocritical?
5. Repeat all of the above endlessly, substituting various complicated recipes for the onion rings, then realize there's a simpler way to do it.

Yeah. I could go on with the recipes, but you get the idea, yes?

Right now my life is focused specifically on The Tell, Thanksgiving, and my clients. That is all. I've never experienced a November like this before - I am enjoying it.


Sunday, November 13, 2011

Too Much is Almost Enough

I'm enjoying the intricate planning and preparation that accompanies hosting the Thanksgiving feast. I love working on projects of all kinds, the more labor intensive, the better. Thanksgiving is all about adundance, about too much of everything; in other words, the mother of all labor intensive feast days.

I'm going with the flow, making too many lists. Very fun.

My plan is strategic. For instance, I'm buying the groceries in stages. A "perfect" Thanksgiving involves lots of leftovers - there are whole categories of menus on the Food Network app devoted to leftovers which are, in a certain way, as important as the feast itself. To feed a tableful of hungry people AND have many leftovers means there are going to be a lot of groceries! My fridge will be overflowing, a chilly, white cornocopia of sorts. Hence, two big trips to Whole Foods.

For a perfectly overabundant T-day feast, there should be one or two too many guests jammed into the available space, the kids' table in another room. Here at the chateau the table will be full but not overflowing, a quorum if not critical mass. Though I'm going to take Wednesday off from work so I have two days to cook the feast, there's no doubt the kitchen here at the chateau will be utter chaos before the meal is done and ready to be served.

It dawned on me yesterday that Thanksgiving is a prosperity ritual. For the first time ever I am fully participating, enjoying every minute, feeling a whole lot of gratitude, too. It's about time! Oh yeah!

Saturday, November 12, 2011

Contemplating T-day

As a part of planning the Thanksgiving feast I will host at the chateau, I've been thinking about the first thanksgiving. When I was growing up, it was portrayed as a friendly meeting between the Europeans and Indians, a feast in which the two cultures made common cause. The Europeans were always described as being gracious and civilized, politely hosting the "savages."

All that changed during the 1960s after which the popular historical narrative was more about how the superior, greedy, ruthlessly sophisticated Europeans invaded and decimated the naive, gentle, trusting indigenous people, killed them with their muskets and such. We were the bad guys, the Indians were the good guys.

These days a much different picture of that time has captured the imagination of historians. Now we're told that the Europeans were spindly, sickly and rather brutal, yes, but incapable on their own of vanquishing the Indians who, as it turns out, were healthy, stealthy, whip smart and quite capable of taking care of themselves. It was smallpox that got them. What historians believe is that the American continent was well populated prior to the arrival of the Pilgrims. Smallpox killed tens of thousands. All hail the potent virus - it was here before humankind and will carry on long after we're gone.

So much for the sophisticated weapons of the white people. Hell, those muskets were so crude, the person firing one was just as likely to blow his own head off as hit a target more than a couple of feet away. The Europeans had all kinds of diseases that are the result of malnutrition. They suffered miserably in Europe, on the boat journey to this continent, and forever after that. They were almost always hungry and cold, riddled with fevers during the humid summers, suffering from cholera, malaria, and food poisoning. The Pilgrims feared for their lives. Even though the mini Ice Age was just winding down in Europe, these people had never seen anything like a Noreaster. Yes they were brutal. Also sickly, weak, and afraid. How nice of the Indians to sit down and feast with them. The Iroquois were tall, slender and fit. They knew what to eat and what to avoid. They lived well off the land. My goodness, the Pilgrims must have appeared disgusting to them, hardly the sort to eat dinner with!

We human beings like to travel. We came out of Africa a couple million years ago, never stopped. Too bad the Pilgrims brought the pox with them to the new land. I wonder how things might have developed without that virus?

Have a wonderful Saturday, y'all. Shalom.

Friday, November 11, 2011


Today has been proclaimed Nigel Tufnel day - that is so funny, I think. Women on the verge of giving birth are hoping today is it. Of course very pregnant women hope every day is it.

We homo sapiens love numbers. Math is a universal language, yes? Because really today could be represented by any number. I'm sure the Mayans didn't think of this as 11.11.11. Or maybe they did - they were savvy with numbers as were the tribes of Arabia, China, and the knot typing tribes of the Andes mountains in South America. Math is so neat and tidy, at the beginning levels that is. 2 + 2 = 4. End of story. If only the rest of life were so simple.

I'm partaking of the One Day on Earth project in which video from every country, taken today, is gathered, after which, in a session of nearly never ending hell for the editors, they put the clips together. They made the same kind of documentary on 10.10.10. Asking everyone to participate is very Age of Aquarius, I love it!

The Tell continues to evolve. I'm thinking of it as a TV series now, staring Tamara Taylor as Vega. That would be perfect casting. I'm also trying hard to read Tinker, Tailor, Soldier, Spy by John LeCarre as this book is supposed to be a classic spy novel. I'm struggling to enjoy it - maybe I'll get into it. I'm far more interested in historical accounts of the Cold War which I remember vividly from my childhood. We used to practice ducking and covering in our grade school classrooms. Really? Crouch down when the atomic bombs explode and all will be well? We were so naive then!

Happy 11.11.11. May your day be as lucky as the numerical sequence on the calendar. So may it be! Cheers.

Wednesday, November 9, 2011

The Tell

I'm a little worried about the protagonist of my alleged novel. She has just been thrown into a Yemeni jail, busted by the border guard as she attempted to enter the country from across the water in Djibouti. Though a top-notch spy: master of disguise, IQ of 160, speaks many languages, holds a Ph.D. in cultural anthropology, her problem is that her face gives her away every time. She can not control her facial expressions. It's a big problem. After a series of ho-hum assignments she finally talks her boss into allowing her to use her formidable talents and intelligence for something more exciting.

She's in trouble now, bloody hell. Since I'm allegedly making this up as I go along, I could write angels into the story, or Harry Potter could show up out of the nowhere to spirit my protagonist out of jail with a wave of his wand. A meteor could crash into desert, set up a supernatural dust storm in which she could escape. The choices are endless and yet even as I think about the many ways I could get her out of there, in jail she remains. Go figure. It's interesting how this form of writing, whatever you want to call it, takes on a life of its own. No wonder it's so addictive.

I spent yesterday afternoon with a friend who is REALLY is a writer. His short stories are published and he's deep into his novel. When he talks about his writing, it's clear he knows what he's doing. There is such a craft involved in writing - wow. What I'm doing is more like contact improv, while what he does at the keyboard can authentically be called writing.

However daunting this revelation might be, I say damn the torpedos! Full speed ahead! I can't abandon poor Vega as she sits in that awful Yemeni jail. Somehow I have to get her out of there. Hence, onwards and upwards to day ten of NaNoWriMo! (Thanks, Mr. Farragut, for the words.)

May the rest of you enjoy a much nicer day than poor Vega!

Tuesday, November 8, 2011

Into the Blood

"All My Relations: an expression that asserts the basic philosophy of many Native Americans, according to which plants, stones, two-leggeds, animals, sky, earth, moon, spirit helpers, ancestors and most significantly, the Great Spirit are related; good health results from harmony between all beings."

One of my best things is teaching one-on-one. I've taught groups, too, though I would say in that setting I am just OK. As a personal teacher, tutor, mentor, initiator, I'm completely at ease. Like making bouilliabaise, taking pictures, and doing bodywork, being a teacher fits, it works, it is one of my best things.

Last night, I brought a shaman into the blood of our lineage. She is a very powerful shaman who has studied with me for several years. I taught her everything I know; she in turn has shown me a great many things. It has been a fruitful collaboration.

"Bringing into the blood" is a phrase that comes from my teacher of Mongolian shamanism. Though it is a rite of initiation, it sounds more dramatic than it actually is. The first part of the ritual involves talking about our ancestors. Once we began that conversation, we never stopped, not during the shamanic walk at sunset, nor in front of the ceremonial fire, or even as we feasted afterwards.

We greatly expanded the usual definition to include ancestors of spirit and karma as well as ancestors of blood. We named tribes living and long departed from every part of this beautiful planet, we named rivers, mountain ranges, animals and weather, proudly claimed them as ancestors. We are children of earth and sky, and everything between. That isn't a royal "we" - you're a child of earth and sky, too, you know.

It's an essentially human act, naming the ancestors. We name them in the Torah and other holy books, in the great Icelandic sagas, in Russian novels and American TV soap operas. Lineage is very important to we homo sapiens, always has been. Shamans all over the world have brought others into the blood with this simple act of naming the truth: we are, all of us, inextricably interwoven with each other.

It was a gorgeous early sunset on a perfect late fall day in DC, a beautiful environment in which to remember all our relations. And so we remembered last night. We are part of the family of humans, animals, plants, stars, clouds and rock. By remembering this, we adopt one another, become family. Only when we remember all our relations can we gracefully undertake the work of mediating between the worlds. Memory is powerful, you'd better believe it.

You and I? We're related, too. Oh yeah. Shalom.

Saturday, November 5, 2011

An Ocean of Words

Not only am I writing a book, allegedly anyway, but I also seem compelled to write about the book here. It's only day 6; perhaps I'll get tired of doing both. There's a way in which I hope I will tire of the process. It's addictive; I see how writers' lives can veer way out of balance, as they turn inwards to the exclusion of the rest of life.

I think about Isaac Newton, squirreling himself away in a small cottage out in the country while a bout of the plague ran rampant through the city. For a year he was mostly alone. He was miraculously in possession of a 600 page book of plain paper which was very rare in the 17th century. He noticed sunlight breaking into rainbows as it passed through a crystal on the windowsill. He watched the natural order outside his cabin. He saw things, figured it out, then wrote. The people who know a whole lot more about his life than I do say that during this time he made his greatest discoveries about physics. Thank goodness he had the book, and that he wrote it all down!

Writing and reading are very recent developments in the history of our species; the art is still unfolding. It always blows me away to remember that the classics of western literature were written by hand, with a pen. It's almost unthinkable now, that War and Peace, for instance, was written by hand. Typewriters are a very recent invention that changed everything about the art of writing. Writing used to be the domain of a privileged few - now everyone writes, and almost everyone publishes their writing. It's interesting to think about.

Similar to my attempt to learn the bass, doing this "fiction" writing is more about process than result. The same is true in my painting and drawing. The end result is not nearly as interesting as the process. I love the dance of art, the act of creating. At heart I am a performance artist. The paintings, drawings, this blog, and now, the book, are more like residue after the fact, disposable, in my opinion. I wonder if that makes any sense.

I've plateaued in some way or another with the writing. I'm still writing, but what's coming through me is Deuteronomy. I'm immersed in describing, including the smallest details, all the rules my protagonist lives by. She has a rule for everything, whew! I made the commitment to go with the flow of the writing, and so I carry on, but oy, the flow is kind of boring at the moment. I'm far ahead of the benchmark in terms of words; maybe I'll lay off from writing for awhile, see if a brief rest stokes my imagination a bit.

Enough writing on writing! While I sit here contemplating, the world is ongoing outside the front door. I'm going to get out there this morning, engage with this beautiful fall day. For today, no NaNoWriMo. Yeah. L'chaim, y'all!!

Friday, November 4, 2011


I added the emphasis on self development.

"When we seek happiness through accumulation, either outside of ourselves - from other people, relationships, or material goods - or from our own self-development, we are missing the essential point. In either case we are trying to find completion. But according to Buddhism, such a strategy is doomed. Completion comes not from adding another piece to ourselves but from surrendering our ideas of perfection." --Mark Epstein

I am a hoarder of internal development! Who knew? I did not, I really didn't! This quote, off the Buddha page on Facebook, has rocked my world. Holy cow, who knew? One of my FB friends (she writes the Pollinatrix blog) said it perfectly, "Good point. The last thing I need to do is add ANOTHER piece to myself!"

Nor I.

When I read the above, a vision appeared in my head, of the inside of my head/heart, stacked high with ancient Rolling Stone and New Yorker magazines, a thousand crumbling books, millions of tiny and not so tiny ritual objects, also records and CDs, art supplies, piled to the ceiling in a dark, dusty space through which I twist and turn on narrow labrynthine paths. The vision is rather hilarious as I love nothing better than getting rid of old stuff - externally! Internally ... hmmm ... Dr. Epstein has certainly got me thinking.

All the better then that I spent two hours writing nonstop this morning, a process that clears my head, at least so far. It's only day 4. The writing has developed a life force all its own. The words pour out while I stare at the computer screen in amazement and amusement. The things I am learning about myself - well, wow. It is a very cleansing process, the results of which are total crap, not that I've reread a single word. I am cleaning out the closets of my mind this month. Maybe it could be an interesting story if I knew the craft even a little bit. As it is, it is simply raw feed from the satellite transmitter inside my brain. Really bad!

It's also crazy fun and perhaps by doing this month of writing I will bring my mind/heart into more of a balance with my external environment in which there is plenty, but not too much. Ya think?

Glenn I need to pop in to the site and make sure you and I are buddies. I do I do I DO want to read what you're writing. Oh yeah!

Thursday, November 3, 2011


Day three of NaNoWriMo: I am getting into a rhythm of writing early in the morning and last thing at night. It's so much fun! My protagonist is a criminal, I think - or maybe a spy - not sure yet. Writing in this way is as fun as lucid dreaming, as fun as a feel-good trance. No wonder writer's block is such a miserable experience. Fiction writing is very intoxicating; of course people become addicted. When they can't write, well, whoa! It can't be fun.

The holiday season is upon us. Hence, yesterday I ordered an "heirloom" turkey. Marketing people are truly nefarious - I mean really, "heirloom?" Like a tomato or a rose? What it means is that the turkey is a regular bird, not bred like most commercial turkeys. My holiday turkey will not be built like Jane Mansfield, will not topple over onto its face because it is so grotesquely breast-heavy. This makes me happy. There are those who claim that "heirloom" turkeys are tough and not as delicious as commercial turkeys. I don't care. There are 25 restaurants within a few blocks of the chateau. If dinner doesn't turn out, we can abandon it, go out.

Slinging hundreds of raw turkeys at surly customers, a part of my job as catering coordinator when I worked at Whole Foods, turned me into a T-day Scrooge. For years afterwards on Thanksgiving I stayed home, ate rice and vegetables - alone - and watched Hugh Grant movies. Fortunately, I've let go of my grudge against the holiday, slowly, over time. Last year and the year before I attended the feasts of others, surprised myself by having fun. This year I will plunge deeper into the feng shui of the holiday by cooking and entertaining here at the chateau. I very much look forward to it.

Yesterday the Sufi acupuncturist said he sees me happy, productive, and healthy during the decade of my 60s. He said he sees me really coming into myself in the decade to come. Indeed I am happier and healthier in many ways than I've ever been, and I'm not even 59 yet. What a great blessing he gave me, promising me a wonderful decade ahead.

Life is good and I am grateful! Hence, the "heirloom" turkey, a feast at the chateau. Onwards to T-day. Oh yeah.

This pic is for Annie, home from the hospital, thank God.

Wednesday, November 2, 2011

Why not?

I can not, in all honesty, say I'm writing a novel. Novels have structure, novels have a plot. Though of course they allow for spontaneity, good novelists hold the big picture in mind when they sit down to write.

It would just be pretentious to say I'm writing a novel. More true is to say I'm sitting down every morning to write 1,666 words. So far, what I'm doing is stream of consciousness, more like automatic writing than anything else. As with automatic writing, I'm learning things about myself. Today I figured out I like dialogue, and I love describing the outfits of the characters, which is so weird as I am completely NON fashionable in every sense of the word. Weird yet fun.

Though I have, up till this moment, believed that blog posts were an act of spontaneity, I'm realizing I actually think about what I want to write here and on Chateau Seven, my other blog. By the time I put my fingers on the keyboard, I'm fairly clear what's going to come out. Sometimes I surprise myself, sometimes.

I don't spend a lot of time writing or editing here, even less with the "novel" I'm writing. If I look back on what I've written, I'm afraid I'll get stuck, self censor, or worse, become embarrassed by how bad it is. So I write, then turn to other things.

I'm going to carry on with NaNoWriMo, not in the hope that I'm suddenly going to become a novelist, holy cow no way, but as a process of self discovery. It isn't the worst way to approach this, right?

It's pretty fun, actually, knowing that even as long as I've been around (closing in on age 59), there are still so many things I can try. Why not?

Tuesday, November 1, 2011

This shit actually DOES write itself.

East Capitol Street on Halloween is mayhem. Not fun.

The good news is, so far (first day), I am having no problem writing fiction because, well, I'm just making it up! So I would not become self-conscious or yield to the urge to self-censor, I decided before committing a single word to "paper" that I would NOT reread the text, for the time being at least.

It's clear I'm still working through leftover trauma around my terrible marriage. It's kind of embarrassing. Only now, sixteen years after my divorce, I'm getting at a deep level how BAD that relationship was. Bloody hello. It takes writing a novel to figure it out? Wow.

The bad news is that I'm back to struggling with meditation. Sigh. My mind is no longer pure and clear when I think about the novel. Indeed the characters are rattling around inside my head, clamoring for my attention. In addition to my relationships with spirit guides, animal totems and the dead - and of course friends, clients, neighbors and family, I must now contend with a bunch of unruly characters, waiting to be written about. For heaven's sake!

I'm kidding of course. I'll go back to the Vipassana techniques during meditation, that's fine with me.

Writing a novel is fun! I highly recommend it! Happy November! Cheers.

However, rest and refuge can always be found at the house on Tennessee Avenue.