Thursday, February 28, 2013

Easily Distracted

The Voice in the Shower has been following me around all day. Usually the voice stays in the shower. When I switch off the water and grab a towel, he falls into silence. But not today. I've been hearing two phrases over and over - odd, and interesting. The phrases are, "Where were you?" or "Now - where were you?" The other phrase I keep hearing is, "You have impact."

One very cool thing about having entered early old age is that people listen to me. I've been around the block - sixty times. Sixty. Considering how ageist my society is, I am pleasantly surprised. People seek my company because they think I have some wisdom to share. Kind of hilarious, but - maybe I do. Do I?

It's cool, but also a responsibility. I can't just run my mouth as I used to when I was younger. I have to think - or at least I try to think, before I speak, try being the significant idea. It's a work in progress, like all practices of restraint - at least for me. Age sixty requires restraint but also a letting loose. It's hard to explain.

I just ordered a book about the physiology of speech. It's a complicated affair for sure. The nerve enervation of the vocal chords is greater even than the hands or tongue. And the throat is an intense piece of real estate in the human body. There's a lot going on in and around there. Whew. If crows or dolphins or elephants had organs of speech, you'd better believe they would have plenty to say. It boggles the mind.

Now - where was I?

Where was I, before my freak out over my birthday, before deciding to put a stone on my mother's grave? I try to remember last fall but it feels like a different world, a different dimension. A lot has taken place within and without. I feel transformed.

If the Voice in the Shower is willing to leave the warmth and humidity of the shower, I guess I should pay attention, yes? I think so. Now, where was I?

Junipero Sera, in the Capitol Hall of Statues. Why do they have a statue of him? He was quite awful - I think. 

Wednesday, February 27, 2013

How Reya got her groove back

Today was the first day I've felt like myself in several weeks, maybe even since my trip to Kansas City last December. A lot has been going on. I might as well admit that I didn't plan for this transition to age 60 to be such a big deal. I thought it through carefully and had an appropriate plan for dealing with it, but alas I was in no better shape to face the music than anyone else. It's big, even for the most nonchalant.

But this morning when I woke up, I felt different, a bit more centered. I felt energetic even though I didn't sleep well last night. When I wake up happy, it sets a tone for the whole day. I feel like I'm back to myself at last. It's a new normal, but it's feeling more normal. Thank God.

It was warm enough today that I didn't have to swaddle myself with winter outerwear. The sky was full of really cool clouds. I had tea with a friend I haven't seen in awhile, a fellow shaman, and worked a little bit, too. A good day.

Another wonderful thing about today is that I was invited to be present at the unveiling of the Rosa Parks statue in the hall of statues at the U.S. Capitol.

Oh man, I love being inside that building. I consider the Capitol to be a good friend. We hang out a lot but it's a rare treat these days to get inside its head. I mean that literally, of course. I feel so at home in the rotunda, as if I belong there.

After the ceremony I wandered around for awhile, up and down stairways, up and down the hallways. I always try to see another nook or cranny of the building when I get a chance, which isn't often since 9/11. The floors and ceilings are elaborately tiled all over the building, not just in the official rooms like the rotunda and hall of statues. There are incredible paintings hanging everywhere. The sconces and light fixtures are gorgeous. I love it so much.

I was in a reverie, walking around. At some point I realized I was completely lost. Eventually I found my way out. It was very fun.

The dust is settling from the birthday. I'm tired of thinking about it and my energy is returning. Moving on!

Tuesday, February 26, 2013

My interesting life

At this moment in history, in this city, in my society, being a shaman is a daunting. There's no cultural context for what we do, hence it is seen at worst as mental illness  or at best, having a wildly active imagination. In my U.S. east coast capital city society, what we can't intellectually understand is pathologized.

A friend/neighbor and long-time client is currently incarcerated, I mean, hospitalized for a crushing headache that at first was thought to be a stroke. After almost a full week of tests, scans, MRIs, etc., the docs can't find any trace of either a T.I.A. or hemorrhagic stroke. No one knows what is happening on the purely physical level.

As a shaman, I look at this frightening event from a different angle. My friend is in the underworld, she is undergoing a transformation, an initiation. She is in descent. Joseph Campbell understood, also Carl Jung and a bunch of other people famous, infamous or anonymous, including me.

What's happening to her is different but in the same vein as what happened to me when the train hit me so many years ago. She's conscious and coherent, but it's easy to see that most of her is elsewhere. Some intense negotiation is ongoing at a very deep level within her. It hurts like hell; it must be a powerful mediation.

I went to the hospital the other day, gave her some Reiki, made an energetic connection between the two of us so I could continue to work with her on a shamanic level. I've been singing with her in mind, nice silly songs. I've been saying her name, too. By singing and saying her name, I'm letting her know I'm here and can give her a boost up and out of wherever she is, when she's ready. I honestly believe I will be able to help her return from the netherworld. I can't change what's happening and I can't make the pain go away, but I can give her a hand up, energetically, when she returns. May I say I'm not the first nor the last human to do this work.

In the past I kept this kind of stuff to myself, worried that others would judge me. But I'm sixty now. If it seems really weird to the reader here, well, ok. Be assured it still seems weird to me, even though I've been practicing the art for decades.

Also I'm emboldened to share a little bit of my inner life because I'm reading the first of three volumes about the Haida myths, myth tellers and their society, by Robert Bringhurst. In that culture, someone like me would have been boringly normal. Alas, I don't live then or there. I'm here for the time being, in Washington DC in the early 21st century.

Am I kooky? Only in my current setting. Context is everything!

Time to sing for awhile, then get ready for clients. Yes I am a shaman. I just am, that's all. Love it or leave it.


Monday, February 25, 2013

The fine print

I've been on a book buying spree lately which is really weird since I swore off this bad habit some time ago. right about the time when I realized there is a little less than no more room for books here at the chateau. I suppose I'll have to cull the herd to make room for the new books.

I'm thinking about the central idea in one of the books I'm reading - that oral history can not be transcribed. It can not be contained in text and is therefore not literature. That's interesting. Made me wonder about memoirs that are, in essence, the transcription of memory, something else that can not be contained in text.

What are blogs, anyway? Definitely not literature, that's for sure. The form is almost but not quite essay, almost but not quite memoir. It's interesting to think about.

The other book I'm reading with a passion is a history of the squelching of astrology in popular culture, also fascinating.

You see this is why I'm uninterested in novels, even the classics, even the most gorgeous stories told with the most gorgeous words. I try to read them, but never get far into them. Truth is: I don't care. And I always think, "I could be reading about the brain right now," or some such thing. It feels like a waste of my time.

I guess I'm not a lover of literature. Maybe I shouldn't admit that publicly!

Saturday, February 23, 2013

Stumbling towards March

The Old Post Office building in the copper light of sunset.

I remember when I turned forty, it was kind of anticlimactic. I was so looking forward to it since I've always yearned to be old, but when the day arrived I remember thinking, Really? This is what it feels like? What's the big deal?

When I turned fifty, I got into the groove instantly. I loved my fifties - best decade of my life by far. The jury is still out regarding my sixties, in spite of how I've always thought this would be my decade of decades. Of course I've only been sixty for ten days - perhaps I should give it more of a test drive before I make up my mind, hey? One thing for sure: sixty is an altogether different animal than than any big birthday in my long life.

One of my brilliant FB friends, someone I've never met of course, said today that February is all about longing. So true! For me there's a celebration and melancholy that surrounds my birthday no matter the year, but February is also the bitter end of winter, a time when even I yearn for spring.

I say "even I" because the life force in the American midatlantic is fierce and relentless. The snap, crackle and pop of spring can be unnerving to a character such as myself. I've grown more used to it over the years. And, too, it is the most photogenic season in DC. What's not to look forward to?

February is all about longing, is it? OK, then, I am dancing in shamanic alignment with the energy of this month. Lucky are we that it's only 28 days long, yes? I say yes.

Happy Saturday. Shalom.

Smithsonian castle from the open window in the Peacock Room at the Freer. They open the windows once a month.

Friday, February 22, 2013

the new normal

Life is beginning to get back to normal, whatever that is. I mean I'm working a lot, reading a slew of new books, also receiving the New Yorker again. When I don't have interesting things to read, the light bulb above my head can't burn brightly. Do you know what I mean?

The new normal is me in my 60s. I've been talking about being an old lady for decades. I have finally arrived. Yesterday I was asking myself if I had romanticized my 60s, earlier in life when I looked forward to this decade. Of course when I imagined what it would be like, I didn't understand the difference in energy, the internal and physical differences that come with age, not all of which are "bad" by the way. But somehow I knew I would feel at home in my 60s in a way I never have.

That sense of having arrived is calming, a great thing.

I continue to think about the question the Sufi acupuncturist asked me on my birthday - what do I want to do now that I've experienced all the animals in all the elements (of Chinese astrology). I've seen it all - once - now what do I want to do with the time I have left?


Life is good and I am grateful. Shalom.

The flags around the Washington Monument appeared to be on fire at sunset. That's Rosslyn across the river on the right side of the pic. 

Wednesday, February 20, 2013


The NPR program Marketplace had an ongoing series for awhile in which they asked people a simple question - what is wealth? It was interesting. The people they interviewed who made the most money felt they needed more income to attain wealth, while the people just barely making it were more philosophical, relating wealth to relationships of love and trust, solid community, good health, that sort of thing.

There are different kinds of wealth, definitely.

I'm thinking about it tonight at the very end of my birthday celebrations. I have been wined, dined, feted, toasted, celebrated. There has been delicious red wine. There has been witty repartee. It's exactly what I wanted for my birthday. I am grateful and overwhelmed to be so well loved.

Sixty is quite good, actually. Who knew?

Monday, February 18, 2013

A different perspective

When we were kids, my sister picked up some acorns while visiting the Lake of the Ozarks with friends. When she returned, with great care and love, she planted the acorns in our back yard. She tenderly nurtured the trees, even putting tiny fences around them when they were no more than twigs with a single leaf. She posted a sign on the tiny fence, "Please do not cut down the oak tree," so the neighbor who mowed our lawn would steer a course around the vulnerable, brand new oak shoot.

Fast forward fifty years to my visit to Kansas City last December. I hadn't seen the old house for a long time, maybe 20 years or more, I can't remember. I had a spare hour or so one day, hence I decided to check it out. It was a very foggy day in Kansas City, creating a cinematic atmosphere as I approached. In fact, the fog thickened and started blowing around in wisps as I turned onto the street where we once lived. That weekend in Kansas City was epic, I tell you. Epic.

Of course I noticed how small the house looked, how tiny the side yard where we used to play every kind of game during the summers. My old bedroom window, the one I used to crawl through to escape into the night (during high school with my best friend and our boyfriends) seemed hardly big enough even for a young person to climb through. Everything about the place seemed too small.

Except for the oak tree my sister planted, the one that took root and flourished over the years. The tree is monumental. I had to get out of the car to see the top, it has grown so tall. The trunk is enormous. The house looks even smaller beneath the tree's lofty branches.

This morning I was thinking that at age 60, I'm more interested in the tree than the house. Earlier in life when I drove past the old house what I noticed was how I had outgrown it. Last December what I noticed was the tree: well established, mature, with a beautiful presence. The smallness of the house is no longer interesting. But the tree. That tree is awe inspiring.

Long ago I grew out of that house, you'd better believe it. Years went by. Then decades. Only now am I becoming, like the tree, old enough to be monumental, to have presence. It's a beautiful tree, hale and hearty. May I stand so tall in my 60s! May it be so.

As I drove away the fog lifted. You can not make up this stuff.


See the moon above the chateau and to the left?

Saturday, February 16, 2013

Rip Van Winkle

Steve (the great painter/artist great love, the one who died last year) is much on my mind, not surprisingly. At some deep, dusty level, below consciousness for sure until now, I always hoped he and I could sit down as old people and laugh about what happened between us. I imagined us feeling the passing of the years, recognizing how much water had washed under the bridge, etc. This subterranean wish for healing was powerful, even though I had no idea that's what I wanted - until now when, sadly, it's too late.

I don't know what karma is, so please don't ask me to explain, though I believe it's not a tit-for-tat kind of phenomena. My guess is that karma is extremely complicated, beyond our understanding. 

Certain experiences in life, and certain relationships, smell distinctly contractual. For me, that feeling - that an agreement has been made, typed up, signed and notarized and must be observed - when that feeling arises in a situation or with a person, I believe we have karma.

Steve and I had karma. Oh man, we had karma. My guess is that we still have karma. I guess we'll try to figure it out next time around. I guess.

It's interesting to think about. 

I googled some of the other people I knew when I was involved with Steve. Some have died, others have grown old, as any rational person would suspect. But seeing photos of them after all this time was a shock. I know this isn't original, but it was startling to realize that the years have passed for them as well. To see a pic of me might come as a shock to them, who knows? I've watched my own face gradually age - with gratitude may I say, because I like my sixty year old face. But somehow I didn't get that life was ongoing for other people, too. This is common for we 60 year olds, they tell me. We really are too big for our life spans. The soul does not age.

Whatever else sixty is - it is powerful! I'm not saying I've made peace with it, but something definitely shifted on my birthday. Thank God. And now, remembering Steve, I'm sad but the process is cleansing. It's unnerving and good.

Onwards & upwards. Shalom.

Slightly off kilter. Me, not the Capitol.

Thursday, February 14, 2013

a love story

Love was never my best thing. I realize I'm not the only one to have blown it so seriously in the romance department, but it isn't pleasant to think about. It has been a long time since I fell in love; I've lost track of what that's like - for good and bad, I guess. 

Tomorrow is the birthday of one of the greatest loves of my life. His influence on me was tremendous and though it was never meant to be a relationship of lengthy duration, we nevertheless entered each other fully, as happens when people fall in love. Do you know what I'm talking about? That kind of heart merge has only happened to me 2 or 3 times, depending on how you measure it. 

For a few years after the tragic end of our relationship, we wrote letters or talked occasionally on the phone. We went through a lot together; it makes no sense that we would remain close, but love is, if nothing else, paradoxical. 

But eventually we lost track of each other - probably because I moved around so much. Since the rise of the internet, because it's possible, now and again when I think of him, I google his name. He was a painter so it was fun to track his work through the decades. When I knew him he painted cynical, over-busy cartoonish type depictions of the worst side of humanity. He was a great draftsman, but chose to create rather gruesome images. They were fabulously compelling but difficult, in an eyes-glued-to-the-car-wreck way. After he retired from teaching at the University of Missouri-Kansas City, he began painting beautiful landscapes. To me, that points to a profound healing transformation. He matured and became happy, or so that's how it seemed to me, gazing at his paintings.

Paintings reveal the internal life of the painter, after all. I learned that from him, and oh so many other things. He was one of the greatest teachers I've ever had. He mentored me at a time when I was freshly insane from my upbringing. He took a great interest in me. But then he fell in love with me and because I was too stupid to understand what was happening, I got involved with him. 

It was a fucking disaster - no need to mince words here. I could go into details, but that would take up more space than it's probably worth. I bet I spent at least three of my ten years in psychotherapy trying to work out what transpired between us. Good lord.

The point of this post is that I googled him today, because of his birthday. I guess it has been awhile since I looked him up because what I found was his obituary. He died, "peacefully in his sleep after a short illness," at the end of May 2012.

Given the intensity of the birthday just past and the intensity of my connection with him, the news hit me rather hard. I guess that's appropriate for Valentine's Day, yes? I say yes.

When I knew him he swore he wanted to be buried sitting in an overstuffed chair, encased in plexiglass. He wanted to be entombed with his guitar, a can of beer and a cigar, a smile plastered on his face into perpetuity, or at least for the million+ years it takes for plexiglass to degrade. He was quite a character, a hell of an artist and a hell of a man to fall in love with. 

Romance? Never my best thing. May he fly high, may he rest in peace. Shalom.

The wheel has turned and I am sixty

The very thing I said I didn't want for my sixtieth birthday, to lie on my sofa watching movies on the ipad, is exactly what happened. It was perfect, because by 3:00, I'd already had a full day of turning 60 and was unable to rouse myself for more restaurant noise and socializing. Funny how things turn out, isn't it?

How can one have a full day by 3:00 p.m? It started with a powerful acupuncture session. The treatment was a ritual. Before the Sufi acupuncturist inserted each needle, he told me the name of the point and why he was doing what he was doing. There was a ceremonial feeling in the room. The sensation was powerful. When he came back into the room to remove the needles, he said, "Wow," which - believe me - is very unusual. At the end of the session he hugged me, highly unusual, said he was honored to be my acupuncturist and hoped to work with me for another 60 years. Sweet!

He made sense of the monumental emotions around this birthday by explaining the sixty year structure of Chinese astrology. There are cycles of the twelve astrological animal years, of course. There's also a cycle of those animals in the five elements of Chinese medicine. The year I was born was not only a dragon year, but a water dragon year. Five elemental cycles of twelve years each = 60. What that means is that I (and everyone else lucky enough to make it to age 60) have lived with the energy of all the animals in all the elements. Age 60 completes the turning. No wonder the last few weeks have been so exhausting and unnerving. Good lord!

What he said made me think about how, earlier in life when I moved around a lot, I learned that it takes a full year in any landscape to become truly familiar with the terrain. You have to see all 4 seasons, the changes in light, weather and activity, to become more than a tourist. In terms of Chinese astrology, I have lived through a full cycle - once - and can now begin again, for whatever time I have left, in somewhat familiar territory. It's interesting to think about.

Next I met a friend for lunch. But it wasn't just lunch, it was an extravaganza - a six course tasting at Rasika - a truly great Indian restaurant. The food was beyond splendid, truly delicious. Wow. We drank wine and laughed and talked and ate. It was wonderful. After lunch we walked home. Not all of my friends would be willing to do so. It was spitting rain, but we walked on, undaunted. It was glorious.

My friend said that at age 60 (she's a year older than I) we come to realize we are way too big for our physical bodies. Earlier in life it seems as if our bodies will be able to contain the fullness of our spirits, but after 60, it becomes obvious that life in a body is finite. The soul is vast, but not so much a human life. What she said resonated deeply. Oh yeah. I'll be thinking about that for awhile.

Once home, I was done with celebrating for the day. I took a nap on the sofa, something I think of as luxurious, then baked a blueberry cake. I hope it's good. I was so full after lunch, it wasn't possible to eat anything else for the remainder of the day. I'm still not hungry. That was a birthday feast extraordinaire.

This morning I'm thinking about what the Sufi acupuncturist asked me: what do I want to do, now that I've completed the circuit. What will I do, now that I know I'm way too big for my physical body? Really good questions.

I've got some time today before clients. I'll get out for a walk under the bright blue Valentine's Day skies of Washington DC. I will walk, wander and wonder, my favorite things.

Life is good and I am grateful. Onwards & upwards. Shalom.

Monday, February 11, 2013

Time enough for rest in the grave.

I've begun to wonder how smart it was to lie down on my mother's grave. It was absolutely compelling, so I did, but it's dawning on me now why my sister was so uncomfortable with it. 

The peace I felt lying there was incredible. The look on my face was incredible. I experienced a calm so deep, even my face looked peaceful. This is highly unusual for me. But pretty much since the second I returned to DC, I have known no peace. 

I came home in a state of grace, enveloped by love as a friend aptly described it. I thought I could take that grace into the holiday season and beyond, but no. I was unable even to ape the calm face, let alone the feeling of calm I had experienced. Trying to shape my facial expression to match the way I looked in the picture was my attempt at reverse engineering. I failed completely and now I can't remember the feeling itself, only the memory of the feeling. 

Dang, man.

The thing is, while alive I'm not supposed to always be calm or peaceful. That's not what life is. Life is dynamic, shit happens, there are ups and downs. Life is full of the unexpected. At least, my life has been. There are moments of peace, of course, but until death itself, only moments. The gift I was given at my mother's grave was a visceral understanding that just as she did, I am definitely going to have to die at some point. That was a great gift. I kind of knew it anyway, and have not feared death at all as I've grown older - just the stuff that happens before death. But I never got it in my body as I did during that beautiful moment on her grave. It's a big thing to realize at a physical level.

Though I've always been shy and reticent to engage in life's dramas, the truth is, my life has been extremely dramatic. Mine is not the path of peace or at least it hasn't been till now. What's that saying? A ship is safe in the harbor, but that is not what ships were meant to do.  

I've not been moored at the harbor for a few days. I have been wined and dined, had dinners galore. I've made cake after cake. Every day there's a present in my mailbox from someone, literally every day. I even received a beautiful love letter. And it's not even my actual birthday yet. I expect the celebrations to be ongoing for awhile yet.

The holiday season, in the wake of putting the stone on my mother's grave, was exceedingly quiet. This birthday, however, is all about gatherings, celebrations, museum visits, good food, witty repartee and very nice red wine. It is everything a birthday could ever be. 

Life is good and I am grateful. Shalom (if possible), but in any case L'chaim!

Sunday, February 10, 2013

Out of the blender

Happy New Year of the Water Snake! The Black Water Dragon has gone back to sleep; his tail is no longer stirring the dark waters. Shhhhhh ... we don't want to wake him again for another sixty years, please. No way.

The Black Water Dragon year was momentous. I can't think of a life that wasn't shaken in some way or another, including my own. Good lord. But all that is done now.

The Voice in the Shower told me this morning that the work of the snake year will be to acknowledge and integrate what was stirred up last year. The energy will not be as exciting as the dragon year, probably a very good thing. It will feel a lot like going through closets, getting rid of old, moldering stuff, organizing what we decide to keep. I'm speaking metaphorically of course. The closet could be your body, mind or heart, job, relationship, home, or all of the above, depending. At least this is what the Voice in the Shower said, as best I could understand.  The Voice says pay attention, let the energy settle, learn something new.

Sounds like a great year for a hard thinker like me. I look forward to it.

Something has shifted within me, definitely for the better. Onwards and upwards. Shalom.

Saturday, February 9, 2013

The Pause that ... Refreshes?

One of my great teachers used to say, "The transformation has already taken place." I think what he meant is that the sincere yearning to improve, to be "better" (whatever that means), is more a reflection of our inability to see clearly than a testament to how unimproved we are. With a little bit of grace, we're able to see we're already good enough, just as we are. Grace and the ability to acknowledge the work we have already done helps us continue walking the path of becoming, minus the self excoriation. It's a revelation whenever I remember, for sure.

I realized yesterday, oh yeah, the transformation has already taken place. I'm already in early old age. It's not like I'm middle aged until this coming Wednesday. It has already happened. I'm still officially in my 50s, but I am so NOT middle aged anymore.

I was thinking about the layers of earth's atmosphere. There are "pause" layers between the named layers, indicating the gradual changes in density, temperature and quality in the atmosphere. Likewise at the edge of the solar system, there is a heliopause, a fuzzy zone that's neither in Brother Sun's domain nor outside it, either.

Maybe the consternation prior to the sixtieth birthday is a kind of cognitive dissonance that will end on the actual birthday. If I think of the last couple of years as middle age pause, my emotional state makes more sense.

One of the smartest people I know, a dear one, speaks of menopause in the same way. You don't know you've been through it until after it's over.

I am grappling.

In the meantime, grace is readily available, as my great teacher intimated. For instance, one of my brilliant Facebook friends, someone I've never met but who nevertheless has noticed I'm struggling, posted for me the final paragraph from Emerson's "Illusions" yesterday. I've read and re-read it. Wow.

There is no chance, and no anarchy, in the universe. All is system and gradation. Every god is there sitting in his sphere. The young mortal enters the hall of the firmament: there is he alone with them alone, they pouring on him benedictions and gifts, and beckoning him up to their thrones. On the instant, and incessantly, fall snow-storms of illusions. He fancies himself in a vast crowd which sways this way and that, and whose movement and doings he must obey: he fancies himself poor, orphaned, insignificant. The mad crowd drives hither and thither, now furiously commanding this thing to be done, now that. What is he that he should resist their will, and think or act for himself? Every moment, new changes, and new showers of deceptions, to baffle and distract him. And when, by and by, for an instant, the air clears, and the cloud lifts a little, there are the gods still sitting around him on their thrones, -- they alone with him alone.

Happy Saturday, y'all, from cold, windy yet absolutely dry Washington DC. Onwards & upwards to the end of the pause. Shalom.

Thursday, February 7, 2013

kind of a wreck

I've been feeling dumb, self indulgent and immature about the strong emotions I'm experiencing, emotions linked directly to my upcoming 60th birthday. When I admit how difficult this is for me, people laugh, or they try to reassure me by telling me I look great for my age, or that I'm the "youngest 60 year old" they have ever met. I wonder what that means?

I know these people are trying to help, or maybe the message they're conveying is, "Please stop talking about this." I can't blame them. It's boring - even to me! In an entirely rational world, I would be feeling nothing but gratitude to have made it this far in life. I would celebrate my skin which is not yet wrinkly, or my silvery hair, my physical strength and the tiny increments of wisdom I have accumulated over time. I would celebrate and appreciate the fact that as a Boomer, I grew up in an America that really was #1, came of age during the 60s, moved through early adulthood at a time when it wasn't that hard to get a job, when most people had health insurance. I followed the call of shamanism and became a healer in mid-life, in San Francisco when the Goddess was alive and magic was afoot. Now I live in a beautiful apartment on a beautiful street in a beautiful city, in a neighborhood I adore, surrounded by people I love and people I like.

It's not as if I'm unaware of all that. And believe me - I am grateful, I am. However, my world view is not entirely rational, and may I say, neither is yours. No matter what I do to talk myself out of having these emotions, it isn't working. I tell myself I'm fine, I'm good. I can almost convince myself. But my body is exhibiting every symptom of distress, from skin disruptions to allergy attacks to headaches to digestive problems. My jaw is so tightly clenched I'm surprised I can even speak. My dreams are disturbing or frightening. I'm having such a hard time settling down during meditation.

From now until next Wednesday, my birthday, I'm focusing on self soothing, 24/7. Included in that mode is listening to Krishna Das around the clock, and repeating endlessly my mantra, "I have a Saturn trine." Roughly translated, that means I have endurance, I can go the course.

Even if chanting isn't your thing, it's worth watching the first few seconds, just to see the tree they're sitting at the foot of. Wow. And I love his plaid shirt.

It's ironic, at moments like this, to remember that I spent many years learning to tune in to my sensitivity. I've paid attention to the subtle energies carefully and consistently for decades. I hoped I could avoid this crazy roller coaster of emotions. What in the world would make me think I could ignore this big rite of passage?

I'm very glad I'm not in Paris. It would be so lonely there. Good lord.

Monday, February 4, 2013

Hang ten

This box of chocolates was huge. Too huge. It would not be flattering or romantic to receive one of these.

I go through things, I do. I can be relatively steady and grounded for awhile, but shit happens and when it does, I respond whole heartedly. Sacred drama is a part of the shamanic lifestyle. We dance with the energy at hand, no matter how choppy that energy might be. Energetically, shamans ride the wild surf.

With that in mind, I'm wondering why I was caught so off guard by the imminent arrival of age 60? Everyone said it was a tight spot, but did I listen? I always think I'm the exception, definitely not the rule. I believe I can pre-think my way through experiences, that I can plan and order my responses. But emotion never works that way. In some ways I'm over sure of myself. I wonder why? Hence I get tripped up often.

My birthday is a little over a week away. I know I will see the Sufi acupuncturist, then have lunch with one of my very favorite people. The rest of the day remains unplanned. I know I won't be in Paris and also that I will not be on my couch watching Godard movies on my ipad, as I have been recently. How the evening will unfold is anybody's guess at this point.

I'm getting a grip. I've flopped and shuddered and worried and grieved - all of it completely normal for someone on the verge of early old age. The most intense wave of emotion has passed. My feet are on the ground. I can do this.

I trip on my intensity all the time, I always have. Getting up afterwards, dusting myself off and learning from whatever just happened accrues wisdom. Whatever increment of wisdom I now possess has, every bit of it, comes from powerful emotional response. Is there an easier way to learn? You tell me.

Onwards & upwards. Shalom.

Sunday, February 3, 2013

Will it be super?

I'm heading out in a little while to a Super Bowl party. Do I care about football? I do not. I couldn't care less, seriously. However the Super Bowl is part of the zeitgeist of my culture. I don't think dipping into the energy for a little while will hurt, and anyway I like the people who will be at the party. Why not?

Professional sports teams are part of the oversoul of the cities they are attached to. Last summer when the Nationals did so well, you could feel it. There was a strong, palpable optimism in the air, a cheerful vibe that is rare in Washington. The day after the Nats lost to the Cardinals, a pall fell over the land. OK that is an exaggeration, but honestly the optimism vanished and we went back to thinking only about the upcoming presidential election. There was even a name for the optimism: Natitude.

Today's game interests me because I know both teams' city souls intimately. I like the east coast/west coast geometry which reminds me of the oppositions in my natal astrology chart. Also, how cool that the coaches are brothers. It's a family feud.

May the best team prevail. In the meantime I'll drink beer and eat salty snacks, cheer when everyone else in the room does, that sort of thing. I will be completely out of my element, hence I will bluff.

The Super Bowl is an American ritual. When I used to teach people how to be active participants in our big Reclaiming rituals, I always said, "If you aren't sure what you should be doing, look around at the people nearby. Do what they're doing."

I will follow my advice tonight. Go Niners. Go Ravens. Hand me another beer, please? Thank you.


Saturday, February 2, 2013

When Worlds Collide

It was a cold day in Aloha, Oregon, February 1, 1979. I was on my way to do the laundry, even though I was tempted to blow off duty and responsibility because I wanted to photograph a construction site I had admired every time I drove past. But I chose to do the laundry.

My life at the time was a train wreck waiting to happen, it was. I was a roiling mess of anger and woundedness, with no skills to process any of it, no sense that I might be able to heal myself at any level. I was drinking, smoking pot, and doing as much cocaine as I could get my hands on, trying hard to put myself out of my misery the only way I knew how. I feel sad when I think about it now.

Because the road I was accustomed to using was being repaved, I took a detour down an old, neglected street full of potholes. It was such a mess I had to slow way down. I saw the sign that said, "Do not park on the tracks." I remember thinking, "Good advice." I was listening to "Running on Empty" by Jackson Browne, turned up loud. You can't make this stuff up.

That is the last thing I remember before waking up in the hospital. Nurses were all around me when I woke up, staring at me in amazement. After they asked the usual questions (what is your name, do you remember what happened to you, do you know what year this is, etc.) the only thing they were able to say, over and over, was "You're so lucky to be alive!"

I called my mother straightaway after waking up and said the following, "Hi, Elizabeth. A train hit me, but don't worry. I'm not dead!" She called me every day for two weeks after that - an amazing experience. My mother and I were never close, hence I was surprised at her concern. It was nice of her to call.

The day after I woke up, the EMTs who saved me came to visit. (I was in the hospital for a few days, as was the custom at the time.) They were the ones who explained that at 1:30 p.m. PST on February 1, a Southern Pacific freight train hit the passenger side of the Datsun B210 I was driving, knocked it 90 feet down the tracks, then smacked it again, knocking it off the tracks. The car burst into flames but an off duty police officer with a fire extinguisher in his car saw the whole thing, got to my car, put out the fire and kept me talking until the EMTs arrived. They had to extract me with the Jaws of Life. The metaphors embedded in this saga are never ending.

They also told me I was rather hilarious in the wake of the crash. Bleeding heavily (head wounds really gush blood), I nevertheless put on my come-hither face and flirted shamelessly. After a few minutes of that, I asked them what had happened to me. When they explained, I seized - grand mal seizure. Coming out of the seizure, I was all Let's git it on, again. I had 3 or 4 seizures, 3 or 4 bouts of flirtation, then I dropped into unconsciousness. I was out cold for a few days.

I always wondered what I promised I could do for those EMTs when I was flirting. Because why else would they come visit me in the hospital?

1979 was a long time ago in terms of western medicine. A big concussion followed by seizures and unconsciousness was seen as even worse then than it is now. There's never a great prognosis after such accidents. They thought I had lapsed into a coma. "We thought we had lost you," one of the nurses said. The nurses were very nice.

The doctor in charge was not nearly as nice as the nurses. In fact when he checked on me, I don't think he ever actually looked at me. I know he never asked me how I was feeling. He looked at my chart. He had me taking some fairly serious barbiturates because of the seizures. When I told him they made me feel like I had a hangover, this is what he said, "You know those drunks who hang out under the bridges (by the Willamette River)? If you tried to drink as much as they do, you'd feel horrible, but they got used to the liquor and you'll get used to the drugs." Maybe he thought he was presenting a good argument. Maybe.

As soon as he left the room, I deposited the barbiturates in the trash can. It was in that moment I understood for the first time that western medicine was not for me, except in emergency situations. They also told me the stuff they used to say in the aftermath of big injuries: your back will always hurt, you'll have trouble with your neck forever, etc. etc. Nowadays they would put me in physical therapy post haste, but in 1979 medicine was very different.

Within a few weeks I began seeing the luminous Paula Eschtruth, an osteopath who is still in practice in Salem, Oregon. I saw her every day for three weeks, after that, once a week for many months. She told me that seizures after a serious head injury are common. She worked on my head, neck and shoulders. In every session she tapped my solar plexus with one of those reflex testing hammers. I remember her tap, tap, tapping for extended periods of time. I wonder what she was doing. She brought me back to life and showed me clearly that I could and would heal completely.

In the aftermath I became aware of a presence in my mind's eye, an old lady who conveyed wisdom, kindness and guidance. Of course I assumed she was a figment of my imagination - I still do sometimes. She was the first spirit guide I connected with.

Also in the aftermath I went to Europe for the first time, I began reading about herbal medicine. I started studying astrology and the tarot. I was on my way to being the me I am today.

A train hit me 34 years ago. Something happened while I was unconscious. When I woke up, I was a shaman.

In honor of the Feast of Brigid, and in line with the theme of this post, and because I love this poet whose birthday is February 1, I offer the following.


Been scared and battered.
My hopes the wind done scattered.
Snow has friz me,
Sun has baked me,

Looks like between 'em they done
Tried to make me

Stop laughin', stop lovin', stop livin'--
But I don't care!
I'm still here!

Langston Hughes


May we hear the call, whatever we're called to do without having to be hit with a freight train! May it be so. Shalom.

Friday, February 1, 2013

My Date with Destiny

We got a little bit of snow last night. I love it!

Faith is flammable. It's a dangerous substance, like some kind of highly flammable rocket fuel. It's like the batteries on the Dreamliners. It must be handled delicately and with restraint. Otherwise: something's going to explode.

Here's what I'm thinking today - I'm friends with so many atheists of all stripes, from the vociferous to those who aren't worried about the big picture and see no need to try to figure it out. I'm drawn to atheists and I'm wondering whether their presence in my life provides some kind of ballast for my devotional heart.

Perhaps the number of atheist friends I have has nothing to do with belief systems - they are lovely people, kind, interesting, funny and like minded. That's good enough for me.

Enough about that! Whew.

Thirty four years ago today I was hit by a Southern Pacific freight train, after which I was unconscious for a long time. When I woke up, I had a spirit guide, just like that. I didn't know it yet, but she was there. Also, for the first time in my life, after the accident I suddenly had the where with all to seek the help of an "alternative" healer, the brilliant Paula Eschtruth, an osteopath who is still practicing in Salem, Oregon. She is 74. Wow. She brought me back to life, she did.

After the train hit me, my personality radically changed. I was more cheerful all of a sudden, more optimistic. It was a defining moment, that train wreck. Good lord!

If I were an atheist, I would try to understand this profound experience and the blessings it brought in terms of brain science. Because I am a believer, my way of understanding what happened goes like this: I was taken out of mundane reality to a very mysterious, deep space where a whole lot of negotiation took place. I have no memory of this nor did I think about it at the time, of course. When I woke up, in many ways I was a completely different person. When I woke up after the train hit me, I was a shaman. I've been a shaman ever since.

It was a divine knock upside the head, literally and spiritually too. It's traditional for shamans to be called by way of injury, illness or madness - or all three. I heard the call and decided to stick around. I was not conscious of it right away of course. It took years for the impact of that day to register in my mind, but nevertheless from the moment I woke up, my foot was set upon the path of shamanism.

Eventually I completely recovered physically, of course. Though when a front is coming through, my collar bone always aches. It was snapped in two that day, 34 years ago today. That was then and this is now. I am a shaman, and all is well. Shalom.

Ducks at National Capital Bank.