Tuesday, February 10, 2015

A Cavalcade of Cakes

The woman on the right is on the verge of turning 36. That's the Colliseum behind her. The woman on the left will turn 62 on Friday. The years go by! Behind the woman on the left, the window of Montmartre restaurant on Capitol Hill.

Right around my birthday, I get in a mood for cake. It's odd on many levels, also makes sense - at least metaphorically.

I don't get along with cake. I'm very picky. Even when it's a great cake, I often have trouble digesting it. Bread, cake, cookies - I'm not allergic to the combination of wheat and leavening exactly, but it isn't good for me. Cake does not sit well with me.

Most of the year I don't even think about it, let alone decide to have a slice for desert in a restaurant. My many cake pans, for most of the year, collect dust at the back of a remote kitchen cabinet.

Come January, for reasons I can not explain, suddenly I find myself flipping through cookbooks, thinking about cake. And then it begins.

  1. a formal procession of people walking, on horseback, or riding in vehicles.
    "bystanders cheered as the cavalcade passed by"

I bake cakes, I buy cakes, I order cakes. And I eat cakes, never the whole thing, mind you. Even with the best cakes I will only eat a slice or two, because I know it won't make me feel good, and also because of my picky attitude; I get quickly bored by cake. I give most of my cakes away, to clients, neighbors and friends. The people who work in the dentist's office upstairs at some point asked me to stop bringing cake up there. They are all careful about what they eat. But most people are happy recipients, especially of home baked cake. It is rather special.

When the cake is really bad, I throw it out. I threw out a couple of cakes this time around, prompting a friend to call me the Cake Executioner. Oh man, I love that title.

Sour cream, pear, almond and cardamom coffee cake. Yum.

What is it about cake? It's kind of retro especially right now when gluten is seen as the devil incarnate. I like flying in the face of popular culture. I'm such a contrarian.

Cake is special, a luxurious confection. It's a celebration of richness, sweetness and texture, which is why it's traditional at birthdays, weddings, graduations, retirement parties and such. Every kind of cake goes with champagne.

Every kind of cake also goes well with tea and coffee, hence is an excellent breakfast. A celebration at breakfast. I like it.

This one was way too sweet. A gold cake with lemon buttercream.
I tossed this one in the trash without regret.

Grand Marnier chocolate chip buttermilk coffee cake. It was good.

A friend suggested that my annual affair with cake has something to do with yearning for the lushness of spring and summer during the gray, dreary, bitter dregs of winter. That's interesting.

It's also traditional to celebrate the Feast of Bridgid (Groundhog Day) by eating foods that include grains and eggs, i.e. cake! At this time of year in Northern Europe, the first sprouts of wheat appear, and the birds begin to build their nests. A wonderful idea, that I'm inadvertently celebrating the feast day of one of my very most dear goddesses, by eating cake in February. I am happy to oblige the goddess! Of course.

This was so good! Buttermilk layer cake, not too sweet. The filling was cream, whipped until stiff, with raspberries and whisper of cinnamon, a whisper of sugar. The ganache is bittersweet chocolate. For me this was the perfect metaphor cake as well as being the most delicious so far. The filling represents the promise of spring while the bittersweet topping represents the pall of the remaining weeks of winter. I'm proud of this one.

Friday is my birthday. I've ordered a cake for the day. Friends will stop by for a slice and a cup of coffee or tea during the afternoon. After that, I will put away the cake pans and recipes. After Friday, I will no longer be interested in cake. After my birthday I turn towards spring. Cake is my springboard into spring.

Let there be cake and then please, let spring begin to show itself. May it be so!

This is the triple chocolate cake that will arrive Thursday from Red Truck Bakery. 

Saturday, January 24, 2015

Astrological Overhaul

At the Smithsonian Natural History museum, a very large model of the moon.

If you're not interested in astrology, this will be boring.

When astronomy and astrology split, both were the worse for it. I've tried to find a reference to the history of the split, but in my cursory google searches, have not found anything definitive.

Astronomers are utterly dismissive of astrology. Oh the outrage, oh the condemnation. If they try to describe or define astrology, it's clear in seconds they know nothing about it. It's below them to study it. It's a very intense reaction.

Astrologers aren't interested in thinking about the split, as far as I can tell - a sad thing. Though the field as a whole continues to integrate newly discovered objects and locations, there has been no comprehensive revision, in spite of how much new, sometimes startling, information we have now about the physical nature of our family of planets.

Though astrologers embraced the discovery of Pluto, a planet much needed, and many astrologers work with large asteroids and dwarf planets, the blueprint of the astrological solar system remains same: the sun, 8 planets, plus the moon and the earth. If astronomy and astrology were still happily married, things might shift.

What is known now is that the solar system contains 4 rocky planets, four gas giants, and two belts of objects: the asteroid belt and the Kuiper belt. Beyond that is the Oort cloud and beyond that, the magnetic field of Brother Sun goes on and on. The Solar System is huge! Astrology should reflect this, but it doesn't - yet.

If astronomy and astrology were still entwined, it would be clear we should re-assign planetary rulership. For instance, Venus is called "Earth's evil twin" by astronomers. It is sulfurous, boiling hot, stormy and toxic. It should rule Scorpio, not Taurus and Libra!

Here's how I would reorder the rulership of the planets, if it were up to me which it is decidedly not!

Mercury should continue to rule Gemini. The way it whips forwards and backwards (not really but from here its apparent motion is wacky) is as crazy as the ever shifting Gemini mind. Also that whole hot side/cold side is very Geminish.

Venus - Scorpio
Mars - This stable, rocky planet would be a perfect ruler for Capricorn.
Ceres, a dwarf planet in the asteroid belt, should rule Virgo. Duh. Of course!

Jupiter, often called a failed star by astronomers, is well suited to rule Leo. The sun is waning in August, and the luster of summer is fading. A failed star would be the perfect ruler of Leo.

Saturn - Its beauty and grace is extraordinary. Even the six sided polar storms are beautiful, harmonious. Saturn should rule Libra.

Uranus - What a crazy planet! Its rotation is sideways, it's electric blue. Of course it must rule Aquarius.

Neptune - Ah, the deep oceans of gas make this planet a great ruler for Cancer. The planet is blue and dreamy, blue like crabs at the bottom of the sea, blue like the ocean in mid-July. It's suited to ancient animals like crustaceans. I understand associating the moon with Cancer, too, but in my system, it doesn't quite square up. I will explain.

Pluto is part of the Kuiper belt. I think all the objects in the belt should rule Sagittarius. Sag is associated with travel to distant places of mind and body. The Kuiper belt is the last, most remote place in the solar system where there are objects. It is way out there! Even thinking about the Kuiper belt requires a long stretch of the imagination. It is so Sagittarian. It also seems right that the belt contains lots of objects. Sag is the sign of the philosopher, the contemplative. That kind of thinking requires the ability to hold many different ideas at once. The entire belt of objects is relevant, but there is the problem of how to chart it. We saw Pluto first and it seems to work well as the signifier of that far-away region. We should associate Pluto - as an ambassador from the distant darkness of the Kuiper belt - with Sagittarius. Pluto would not rule Sag, only be associated with it as an emissary from that far distant place.

I believe Brother Sun should rule Aries. At that time of year the light is strong and ascending quickly. Brother Sun is mighty in April. Aries is the first sign of the zodiac, the Sun is our father, brother, and the central member of the solar system. They go together.

The moon should rule Pisces. It is a wise and watery sign, also the last sign in the zodiac. It feels right to have the sun and moon rule the last and the first signs of the wheel, and for the moon to hold the akashic records of wisdom, rather than far-flung Neptune.

Mother Earth should rule Taurus. I don't know how to make a chart to reflect this. Oh the potent fecundity of earth - it is so Taurusian. Look at pictures of the other planets - they are either dreary rocks or gaseous orbs. None of them is fit to rule sensuous Taurus, but Mama Gaia is.

I've spent years thinking about this, while simultaneously learning more and more about our neighborhood and the family of Brother Sun. Alas, the astrological community is not jumping into the astronomical fray of new information except to add new bodies to the mix.

I'm not holding my breath waiting for astronomers to become intrigued with what the night sky means to us at a soul level. We've been watching the stars and planets for countless millennia. The patterns they make against the backdrop of stars, the waxing and waning of the moon and the solar cycles, are hard wired into us. Human beings find patterns wherever we look. We create meaningful stories from those patterns. We've been gleaning wisdom and self awareness from our stories about the planets and stars since forever.

Meaning gives us depth, makes us fully human. Meaning is what we seek in every one of the arts. Sadly, astronomers couldn't care less about that kind of meaning. Just the facts, ma'am.

In the Reyaverse, astrology and astronomy should involve hard science as well as the quest for meaning. They should get back together. Oh well. It's not up to me.

Wednesday, January 7, 2015

Ghost Story

My family is haunted by a dybbuk. It surely is. Once upon a time I called it the Mellicker Wraith. The acupuncturist called it a family Jinn. Whatever you call it, when it's hanging around, it does not bring out the best in us. My father was possessed, so was my aunt. From stories I heard from her, my grandfather had the same problem, and his father before him and on and on. Dybbuks figure heavily in Yiddish legend and lore. Mine is not the first family to be haunted in this way.

When the dybbuk is hanging around, we squabble. We argue, almost always about nothing important. The tone of the argument is hardly talmudic. We blame and belittle each other, humiliate, insult each other, sometimes face to face, sometimes behind each other's backs. Character assassination is the point. Sometimes after the haunting passes, we can't even remember what we were arguing about. Afterwards, we laugh about it, as if it's funny to be so cruel. It is such an evil dybbuk.

I drew a cartoon of the haunting years ago. I've searched and searched, can not locate it. I would love to see it again. Two of we Mellickers are chatting away happily. A cloud passes in front of the Sun and then we start arguing. It's the dybbuk argument, meant to be wounding - like a snake bite - not informative or enlightening as some arguments can be. In the cartoon one of us begins to flog the other one with a big whip, while shouting insults and humiliations. Then the cloud moves on, the sun comes out, and suddenly the conversation returns to normal. I wish I could find that cartoon! Oh well.

First there was the dybbuk, and then came the Holocaust. That is just the kind of energy these beings love. I believe it came in closer after the Holocaust. If it's possible for ghosts to be haunted by dybbuks, I believe my Holocaust ancestors are perpetually haunted by this spirit. It keeps them in a loop in which they remain wounded, unable to heal and move on. They're stuck in a loop of agonizing about portion sizes in restaurants. They seem unable to escape the suffering and loss of the Holocaust. It seems they have no sense of their lives before the war, nor can they acknowledge that it ended. They are tortured souls, these hungry ghosts. By the way I'm not the first person to come across hungry ghosts. The link is to the Wiki entry on hungry ghosts. Really interesting.

For the last few years, I've been haunted by the hungry Holocaust ancestors. The dybbuk is never far from that crowd, hence I've been haunted by it, too.

It happens. This link is to an article about how memories are passed down through DNA. I believe it. I believe I've been haunted. Creepy!!

Hungry ghosts can not be satisfied, especially by the likes of me - or - anyone I've ever known. I can not heal them, I can not heal the wounding of the Holocaust. And yet I've been drawn in, as if by tractor beam, to that dark storm of unfathomable wounding, over and over again. I started using Yiddish and Hebrew terms, even though I know neither language. All of a sudden, I stopped eating pork or shellfish (though I love both!)

I wanted desperately to go to Poland even though the experience would be horrible for me. I walked through the Holocaust Museum - twice. I got a tattoo, and most recently found myself in a swirl of mystical experience and energy during the High Holy Days. I've believed, for years, that I was paying tribute to the hungry ghosts with all the reading, thinking, travel and research I've undertaken. I see now it was more than that. It was a possession, a haunting. My aim was true, but I got pulled under. I was haunted by a very wounded aspect of my ancestry. Omg.

A few weeks ago my acupuncturist released my seven dragons, or so the treatment is named. After the treatment he said I was "in the grip" of a family Jinn. Then he shrugged his shoulders, said, "But it's gone now."

I think it has vamoosed! I feel very different since that treatment. I'm suddenly uninterested in the Holocaust or WWII. I honor my ancestors but have completely lost my enthusiasm for getting the Yizkor book translated. Maybe I'll get back to it - it doesn't hold center stage anymore. The spell has been broken; I'm free to move in other directions now. It sounds dramatic, I know. It is dramatic!

I've been looking at my tattoo as if I just woke up from a dream. I look at it and I wonder, why did I do that? I feel unconnected to it for the first time. I don't regret getting it, but it seems so odd. Shalom? I don't know Hebrew - what was going on? You see why I think I was in some way possessed? I got a tattoo! That is completely uncharacteristic.

It seems like another lifetime since my Seven Dragons were released. I used to want to tell the story of my tattoo to one and all, the heart wrenching story of the people in Visgordek, how they were killed. It's a good story but I'm no longer swimming in it. I'm not drowning in it. Not everyone on earth needs to know their story! I feel free.

In fact when the guy behind the fish counter at Eastern Market asked me if my tattoo was Klingon, I thought about it for a second, then said yes. Why not? It's not powerful to me anymore, it's historical. I wonder if that makes any sense?

Now the fish guy thinks I'm really cool. It is hilarious, the old lady with the Klingon tattoo. Yeah, that's me.

All hail the seven dragons! I too am released. It's a clean slate ahead. I am smiling.

Sunday, January 4, 2015

2015: People need people

The holidays are over! I'm doing my little dance of happiness as usual. Though I've learned how how to enjoy the holiday season in the last few years, it's still a weird time for me. When it's over, I feel so relieved!

I was not wistful to say goodbye to any part of 2014. I fell ill right after the first, with what I believe was H1N1. I touched the grave in that illness, oh my. It was scary. A lot of acupuncture, an aromatic tea with cinnamon and cardamom and about a hundred Cary Grant movies finally returned me to health. I was sick for weeks. God.

After that, 2014 became my year of unrequited ambitions such as my fizzled attempts to get new glasses, buy the perfect birthday cake, join a spiritual community. 2014 was a year to back slowly away from major projects. As long as I didn't try to accomplish anything, I was fine. I had a nice summer of mundane activity during which I didn't try anything unusual. Ah but the human spirit longs for accomplishment. If I don't have a project in mind, I can spiral down.

Another way to think about 2014: it was humbling. The pinnacle (or abyss?) of that theme came during my week in Paris. Oh man, that week in the rain in that city, I was humbled! Ha ha! Funny to think of it now. Paradoxically, though, I received a soul retrieval at the Eiffel Tower, a chapter in my saga I will never forget. Likewise, I spent time with good friends while there. I even met a friend. The experience was enriching beyond my dreams. I guess I did accomplish something in Paris in spite of the humbling.

My point being: 2014 is over now. Yay. Onwards to 2015.

One of my mantras for the new year is "People need people." I hear it from the Voice in the Shower every day. There is nothing wrong with that mantra. Right?

Happy new year. Welcome, 2015.

Monday, December 22, 2014


The picture is a mashup my sister put together, of a photo we took at a gathering a few months before my sister Karen died, and a few weeks ago in Oregon. She was interested in recreating a few photos from the 1980s gathering. I think this one is by far the most compelling.

The fact that we are facing each other is powerful. My brother asked, "If you could say something to your younger self, what would it be?" When I thought about it, I decided that the younger me was not able yet to listen, to take in advice. I was still finding my way into myself, or you could say it this way: at that age I was still needing to bang my head against the wall - repeatedly. The only thing I could imagine saying was Good Luck.

But if the younger me wanted to ask for specific advice, well my goodness she would get an earful.

Just for fun, I decided to ask for her advice. What do I need? How am I doing, from your perspective? I've been letting my imagination run with it. It has been kind of a hoot. The younger me is very impressed with my hair at this age, and approves of the glasses. Of course she is thrilled that I still wear lipstick all the time.

Of course.

It's fun to imagine seeing myself as an old lady. I think the younger me would be surprised and kind of impressed.

As I gaze at my young self, what I feel mostly is protective. I wish I could wave a wand to make all the anger and sadness vanish, to clear some of the confusion, pour a little self-worth into that lovely young woman. Of course that is never possible. Healing, even spontaneous healing, is hard work. When I look at the face of my younger self, I'm in awe of how much healing work I've done over the decades since then. My goodness. This young woman in the picture isn't even Reya yet. I was Rebecca at that time, I believe, or maybe people still called me Ruby. I think I was involved in psychotherapy, and also was seeing the great osteopath/homeopath, but had not yet begun to study witchcraft. I was decades away from becoming a healer of any stripe. I look so raw, ill prepared.

Maybe the right advice would be: You're Going to Make It.

The younger me and the current day me are having many conversations about what it means to be a healer, what it takes to become a healer. This meditation is yielding a lot of interesting ideas. I should write about them on the other blog, probably.

One thing the younger me believes strongly is that I need a boyfriend. I've explained that I don't care about that anymore - it's liberating. She says no, it's not about that. She says, you need someone to talk to every day, to share your life with. It's time. 

Interesting to think about!

Our jolly company.

Thursday, December 18, 2014

Round peg, square hole

I don't want to be a grinch, I really don't but I kind of am. Maybe not even kind of.

I don't like Christmas carols, only because I've heard them all too many times. They're pretty songs. I guess. I have never seen The Nutcracker, yet I'm tired of that music, too. I never get a tree and own not even one Christmas ornament. There are no boxes of tangled Christmas tree lights in my closet.

See what I mean?

Hanukkah is not inspiring, either. It celebrates a military victory and is not a major Jewish holiday. It was placed on steroids to compete with Christmas. Not really my kind of holiday.

I honor the solstice, though usually alone. Even when I was part of the Reclaiming community, I dreaded winter solstice when we were expected to stay up all night. I'm a diurnal creature who prefers to be tucked in bed especially on the longest night.

I believe I've made my point. This year I decided to save all the Christmas cards and the few little gifts I will receive until Christmas morning. I will open these things with my morning coffee. Maybe that will get me into the spirit, ya think?

Maybe. We shall see.

I'm not in a bad mood and I don't hate Christmas and I don't resent anyone who wishes to celebrate any ritual of the returning light. That I can't find a way to appreciate the holiday is yet another example of what an odd duck I am.

Hey. Rather than a grinch, maybe I could think of myself as an odd duck. It's not as self blaming. I kind of like it.


Friday, December 5, 2014

Tribal Summit

My sister Deborah above me, brother Josh next to her. Hannah is at the bottom right. Michelle is holding the center.

I used to hide from Thanksgiving. For years after I stopped working at Whole Foods, I hid in my room on T-day, cooked rice and veggies and watched Hugh Grant movies. It was true then and still true that the traditional feast is repugnant to me. I can't digest any of those foods. Also I saw so many dead, raw turkeys at Whole Foods, the idea of facing a cooked one was unbearable. I was a Thanksgiving grinch.

One year my housemate invited his extended Puerto Rican family for Thanksgiving dinner at the house on Tennessee Avenue. Well, that event was a game changer. It was so much fun. There was turkey, also a gigantic ham, rice and beans, and a lot of booze. A lot. I had no idea what was being said, since I do not speak Spanish. But I could feel the energy of blissful celebration. Those Puerto Ricans know how to blow off energy. They know how to party. Yeah.

It was an epiphany. All of a sudden I realized I could actually enjoy Thanksgiving. It was a healing experience. I've enjoyed the holiday ever since, for the last two years in the Cascades of Oregon, at a cabin on Crescent Lake. Last year it was my sister Hannah's family including her daughter, husband and grandkids, minus her son, wife and grandkids. And the dogs, of course.

This year the ante was upped. My sisters and brother flew in from hither and yon to join our jolly company. It had been years since all of us converged in one room. We are a Jewish family, hence we are much like the Puerto Ricans, everyone talking at once, lots of laughter, hooting, and such.

In fact the way it turned out should have been a perfect storm: eight adults, two children and three dogs, stuck for three days indoors in a space that comfortably accommodates six. We had planned to get out for walks, but the weather insisted we stay in. An icy rain fell almost non-stop during our time on the mountain. You can not argue with the weather.

I was rattled. There were so many conversations ongoing at any one time, plus the TV, games with sound effects on devices, dogs barking and maybe someone playing the guitar. All at once.

All at once.

My life is pretty quiet. I do speak to people, of course, though usually it's one at a time. When I work, no one talks. Spoken language is very difficult for me in the best of circumstances. Oh I was rattled. In spite of that, I managed to behave decently except when I broke down a couple of times and started lecturing. Fortunately I caught myself fairly quickly.

There were moments of similarly ungraceful behavior from others in the group, but mostly we were all on our best behavior, determined to relax and enjoy ourselves. The ancestors kept their distance except on the last night when everyone had gone home except me. My sister, brother-in-law and I watched Annie Hall. I felt, afterwards, this was our nod to those responsible for placing my siblings and I in the same family. That movie is so good. If you haven't seen it in awhile, I recommend it. So many iconic scenes in that film. Fabulous.

It snowed the last night we were at the cabin. It was gorgeous.

OK then. I have learned to enjoy Thanksgiving even in circumstances that are very difficult for me. It was wonderful to see my siblings, all of whom I love, and fantastic to spend time with Hannah's branch of the family.

... and ...

It is so good to be home! I even smiled at the Pentagon from the plane as we made our final approach. The big lunk. Awww. DC is home. There is no place like it.

I don't like traveling but it is good for me. It's very good to connect with my family. It's great to be home, it was great to be there. Onwards to solstice.


A blurry picture of my niece Emily and her husband Brayce. Magnificent humans!