Sunday, March 30, 2014


The scarf pins I'm taking with me. I will wear a scarf every day, I surely will.

The first time I was in Paris was just a few weeks before the first anniversary of the collision between the car I was driving and the Southern Pacific freight train that called me to shamanism. Being hit by a freight train - well - could the metaphor be any more apt? I was completely insane during that period of my life, drinking a lot, doing every kind of drug I could get my hands on. God knows what all I snorted up my nose during those days. Allegedly I was better than before I had the Easter experience, but oh, I had some distance to go before I would begin to put myself together again.

I don't remember that time fondly, oh no.

Being in Paris was a huge exception. I remember being there very clearly. I remember how in awe I was of the beauty and how obvious it was that Paris is very very old. It changes, but stays the same, someone said. It surely does.

The moment I arrived, I decided not to return to the U.S., maybe ever. I was instantly in love. Initially I stayed in a flat on Rue Buffon in the Latin Quarter with my then boyfriend and a couple of other friends. The three of them were musicians determined to busk at St. Germain. I came along in a last ditch effort to revive my horrible relationship with the boyfriend, or so I thought. Once I arrived in Paris, I didn't even try. In fact, one of the most - if not the most - cinematic break ups of my life took place during that first visit to Paris. It came to me as we sat at a cafe just off the Champs-Élysées. I said, "You're not the right man for me to be in love with." He agreed.

Shortly after that, he and the other friends left Paris. I stayed on. The man who owned the flat invited me to stay as long as I liked which wasn't long since I had no money and of course had not thought to apply for a student work card before coming. During the rest of my stay in Paris, my Aunt Edie and cousin Bar John looked after me. Every day from then on until the day I left Paris felt like being in a movie.

My cousin was wonderful. He phoned every morning to make sure I was set for dinner, invited me join him every night. EVERY night. This isn't because he was so eager to hang out with me in particular, only because I am family and it was the polite thing to do. My aunt helped me in a hundred ways. She took me to get a haircut, made me stop wearing my Stanford hoody sweatshirt, showed me how to wrap a scarf around the neck, anchor it with a pin. She showed me where the English language bookstore was, she bought me meals. When I was completely out of money she put me on a freighter out of Dover. 

I feel sad when I think of that period of time in my life. I was an unholy mess, chaotic, angry, self destructive. I was years away from going into psychotherapy. I flopped around, I tell you. Most of it is foggy in my memory. Surely I must have blocked a lot of it out. But I remember being in Paris, I surely do. Even as messed up as I was, the power and beauty of that magnificent city found its way into my heart. Paris is the Cary Grant of cities. The soul is like a majestic queen, unthinkably beautiful, exalted yet also earthy. Paris is medicinal for me.

It's just a few weeks until my feet connect with the cobblestones of that city again. Chin-chin!

I'm not taking lots of clothes, but I will take three pairs of shoes. I can't wear the same pair day after day. The shoes in the middle are Hartjes, a German walking shoe. You would not believe how good they feel, and they are actually dainty compared to my other shoes.

Friday, March 28, 2014

Priestess of Place


When Jake died, I worried I would stop going for walks. I thought I might retreat to the cozy interior world of regulated temperature and no wind. Agoraphobia runs in my family. But no - I have continued to walk every day and in fact I often go much further afield than I used to with Jake, because I can. I'll walk wherever I want, following favorite paths or striking out in a new direction. I walk, take pictures. I converse with the sky, trees, land, river. When I get weary, I seek refreshment, then set out again, or just get on the metro and come home.

My daily walks are the center of my spiritual practice, in fact. As a Priestess of Place (I didn't make that up), I act as a diplomat between the seen, like the clouds moving over the landscape, and the unseen, the energy the clouds bring with them and how that is received by the land. I mediate with the intention of bringing the worlds together harmoniously. I should say it's a tricky dance and very hard to see if what I do makes a difference. What's important is that I do my work. Whether it has any noticeable impact is not the focus.

In order to priestess, I have to spend time outdoors, I just have to. Hence I walk. That habit is one of the greatest gifts my dog gave me. Jake showed me the way. He was a great teacher.

One of the reasons this past winter was so rough is that I was unable to take my usual wanders. I tried, but a stiff, gusty, sharp wind when temps are in the 20s F. is a hostile environment. I was a diplomat stepping into a war zone, or so it seemed.

I bundled. I dressed for the weather as best I could. The wind was like a knife this past winter. It sliced through my many layers, tried its best to cut me to ribbons. I wrapped myself up like a mummy, including my face. Then my glasses would fog up. It was too cold to stop and take pictures. The landscape was gray or white, the sky too. It really was not fun, hunched over, rushing down the streets.

There are situations in which shamanic diplomacy does not work. It was a horrible winter!

There were days over winter when I never left the chateau, not even out to the terrace where I usually hang out between clients. I stayed in. I watched a million movies. I cooked a million warm, nutritious soups and stews. I drank a considerable amount of red wine. I read books and the New Yorker. I listened to music. I lived the Rapunzel lifestyle, minus the prince, also minus the witch.

I know people who live like that year-round, going outside only to get in a car even when it's gorgeous. They entertain, go out to dinner, even travel, but spend no time outdoors. Well, wow. Or should I say whoa? If I had to live like that all the time, I would have to take antidepressants. I would need fistfuls. Seriously.

The Voice in the Shower announced yesterday that winter is over. I hope he's right. My spiritual path is extremely important to me. I want to get back to work. C'mon Spring - c'mon.

Sunday, March 23, 2014

Twenty four hours in Paris

The last time I was in Paris was about ten years ago. I don't remember exactly which year was my first year at British witch camp. 2003? 2004? I used to have a wicked memory for dates. Oh well.

I was fairly long gone from the witch camp teaching in-crowd. I was only asked to teach because one of the other teachers, a Very Famous Witch, was on her way back from protesting on the West Bank in Israel. Organizers and teachers wondered what kind of energy this teacher would bring into the magical circle of camp. They were concerned. As it was explained to me, I was asked to come teach because they thought I would be a great wrangler for Starhawk, in case some kind of non-helpful energy came back with her.

Starhawk, may I say (now that I've named her) has an energy field coated with the highest quality teflon. She can deflect every kind of energy. She is really something, a great warrior and crusader for fairness. I love and admire her.

She didn't seem to bring any of the protest energy with her, but she was bone tired. It was a good thing I was flattered by the invitation and decided to come do one more camp. She needed sisterly support. I was the right choice, I think. After camp, I was asked to officiate an an initiation inside the circle of stones at Avebury. I said YES of course I'll come teach camp! They made me an offer I couldn't refuse.

Out of the nowhere I decided to come a day early so I could visit my aunt in Paris. She was old, and I love Paris, and I was going to be so close, why not?

It was a powerful convo with my Aunt Edie, who I rarely saw growing up since she moved to Paris shortly after WWII. She spent most of her life in a tiny apartment on the Rue de Remussat, working in banks and the stock market. She married, had a son, lived out her life. My Aunt Edie - well - what a character. The truth is, mostly we did not get along, but she put up with me whenever I made contact, because I am family. She was so much like my father.

As it turned out, the timing of seeing Aunt Edie was freakishly perfect. She died three or four months after that visit. If she knew how sick she was, she didn't tell me. I can't say that I knew it consciously, but something got me over there. Blood is thicker than water.

For 24 hours we did nothing except sit together in her tiny apartment, talking. She showed me pictures, told me stories. I can't remember many of the stories now. What I remember is taking it all in as deeply as I could. She kept saying, "Don't you want to see the Arc du Triomphe?" No. I was certain I didn't want to sightsee. I wanted to hang out with my aunt.

We went to the cafe on the corner for lunch, ate leftovers for dinner. I ran a few errands for her. Mostly we sat in her living room, talking and talking. She did most of the talking. I asked question after question. It was a precious experience, those 24 hours, and miraculous since who knew I would be asked to come to camp in England? Who knew she was about to die?

One of the things my Aunt Edie gave me to take home was a scrap of paper with the word Visgordek written on it. This was, as best she could remember, the name of the shtetl my family came from. She knew approximately where it was, not much else. My grandfather came to the states around 1920, maybe earlier, because they felt he would not do well serving in the Russian army.

That scrap of paper is what I took into the Holocaust Museum library when I returned. The librarians found the shtetl, showed me a business directly, showed me photos of similar shtetls from before the war. Since then I've located the Yizkor book of memories which I hope to have translated from Yiddish sometime this year. This piece of ancestor work has been front and center in my spiritual path since the last time I was in Paris. No wonder this upcoming trip looms so large in my heart and mind! Good lord.

My aunt and I mostly bumped heads, but that 24 hours was miraculous. If not for that visit, I wouldn't have my shalom tattoo, I would never have walked through the main exhibit at the Holocaust Museum, I would know nothing of the Melikiers of Vischgordec. It's inconceivable, really.

When I'm there, I will of course find myself standing in front of her building, looking around, feeling the echoes of that powerful day. This trip coming up is of course more than a vacation. I think it's some kind of soul retrieval, I really do. All I can say is, wow.


Sunday, March 16, 2014

Silly Reya

Some days I look forward to my trip to Paris with every ounce of my being. The city, the river, the parks and that big tower, you know - the food, wine, history - and especially the camaraderie of friends from DC who will also be there, and the company of a friend who lives in London, who is coming over for a day. What is not to love about it? It's a dream trip. I've been strongly called by Paris for more than two years.

Except, I fret about it, too. Because fretting comes naturally.

Also I wonder why I'm going, other than the have fun part of course. It's going to be a difficult week astrologically. Maybe it will be a great time to get the hell outta Dodge during the precise grand cross of April/May 2014. The week might turn out to be as much about leaving DC as it will be about going to Paris. Who knows?

I'm guessing the spiritual aspect of the trip will involve communing with my ancestors, in particular my Aunt Edie who lived in Paris from right after WWII until her death about ten years ago. Also, Paris is the City of Light. What do I always say? Let there be light. Hence I will take in the magical light. Is that a soul retrieval? I wonder.

There's something, too, about testing self confidence, a quality that my spirit and animal guides, particularly Grandfather Eagle, have encouraged me to develop for many years. Paris can be an intimidating city.

I want to be respectful even knowing that I will make many a cultural mistake. It's inevitable that I will laugh too loudly, or miss the cues of body language that would usually help me understand appropriate behavior. I will murder the French language, of course. My clothes, my manner - everything about me - could, conceivably, offend the delicate sensibilities of the Parisians.  I understand! I have to contend with tourists all the time. I don't blame them for wanting to visit Washington DC, but dealing with them can be so annoying. It's very hard to share the nation's capital with the rest of the nation - the rest of the world, in fact.

I'm sure that sharing Paris with the world can't be a whole lot of fun either. Hence I'm trying to figure out what to wear, I'm practicing my French phrases and so forth.

I hope not to slink around in shame because I'm an American. I hope to stand up straight, walk tall, remember to be polite. This is the best I can do, and if I can do this, that would be nice.

This is the kind of thing I worry about at night. Silly Reya. Silly, silly Reya.

Wednesday, March 12, 2014


It's a weird day at the tail end of a very weird winter. (Weird? This winter sucked.)

Right now it's 70 F. They say there will be thunderstorms and wind. The temperature will plummet to the teens or lower 20s in the wake of the front headed our way. By tomorrow morning, we Washingtonians will be wearing long underwear - again!

A dramatic change in the weather brings along with it some sturm und drang. It just does.

I woke up moody, of course. I wasn't the only one. On my way downtown to pick up my new glasses, people were shouting, mumbling - to themselves, into their phones, at each other. People were glowering. They were stumbling, too, lurching almost. It was intense and a little scary, but I kept my head down and my eyes on the prize: my new glasses. But, as it turned out, I couldn't see through my new glasses. I was seeing double, couldn't read - it was unnerving how bad they were.

It was kind of a shock since I went this time to a real eye doctor as opposed to the places I usually go: shops that sell groovy frames and, oh yeah, they'll check your vision, too. I was so excited during the exam because this doc told me things about my vision I had never heard before. He talked to me extensively about the ways I use my eyes. I was so jazzed. He wanted to help me see more easily, with less strain, he said. But the result of his strategy was a disaster! How bizarre.

I have to go back so they can take measurements and reassess what went wrong, then reorder the glasses. They're so nice, and I've been nice, too. I would love to be the easiest patient. I would love to be a no problem patient. Unfortunately I'm turning out to be one of those pain-in-the-ass patients they hope will go away, never to return. I could see it in their faces. Oh dear.

I tried to run a number of other errands on my way home. One store I hoped to visit was closed and shuttered. Another didn't have what I needed, that sort of thing. I ended up stopping at a liquor store where I bought vodka and vermouth. After work tonight, I'm thinking a rather large martini is in order.

My calling as a shaman is to dance in alignment with the energies afoot. On an unsettled weather day like today, what do I expect? Of course everything I attempted to do came to a dead end, of course the crazies were out, cursing and shouting.

Back in the day, a series of frustrating dead ends would have me beside myself with frustration. This is really the greatest blessing of being in my sixties. In the grand scheme of things, today was nothing. An annoying day. Who cares?

After work, I'll watch a Bette Davis movie, drink a martini. The weather will come through. I will turn up the heat and say a prayer of gratitude for living in a warm, cozy, beautiful apartment, for being old enough to remember that days like this end just like wonderful days.

Life is good and I am grateful. Shalom.

Sunday, March 9, 2014

The things you'll never know.

I'm a big fan of mystery. I like living in a universe in which I will never understand even a fraction of what goes on. If I could wrap my mind around everything, how boring would life be? It would be seriously flat and uninteresting.

Science - real science - as well as every spiritual path I know about, engages with mystery, dances with the questions large and small for which there are no set answers. Even in science, it is said that 99% of the known universe is composed of dark energy. In other words, even the most brilliant thinkers who have ever lived had/have no clue about most of what goes on. Even Neil de Grasse-Tyson doesn't know.

I like the questions. They invite me to wonder, one of my very favorite things.

All that said, I wonder what happened to the crow I saw before my last client today, standing around looked dazed in the next door neighbor's yard. He looked like he was limping and his head was ruffled. I watched him for awhile, wasn't sure if I should call someone or what I should do. Just then my client arrived. I rushed out as soon as the session was over, to see if he or she was ok, but saw no trace of the bird.

The fate of the crow was, is, and always will be a mystery. I hope it recovered sufficiently to fly off and live out the rest of its mysterious life doing whatever it is crows do.

Friday, March 7, 2014

Surf the wave of change, Reya.

The witch hazel doesn't care that it's still cold, that there's still snow on the ground. 

I used to conjure. By that I mean I used to do magic - cast spells, make charms, invoke various Beings and the elements, hoping to get them to do my bidding, whatever that bidding was at the moment. Of course I wasn't the first and certainly not the last person to practice the Art. One of my pet theories is that it's the opposable thumb that gives rise to the fantasy of human control. It's a great fantasy! We can control certain things, of course, but the big picture? No one has ever been able to shape it predictably or consistently.

When I conjured, I became bound to the magic or maybe by the magic, to my expectations and wishes for the work. Conjuring made me blind to alternative outcomes, to alternative truths. I became less and less able to feel surprised by anything. The moment I set the magic, So mote it be!, I was in a cage of my own making. It was sad. I'm pretty sure I'm not the only conjurer to get tied and bound in magical knots.

When I did magic, I felt like this.

Anyway, I stopped conjuring many years ago. These days my intention is to pay attention to what's ongoing, to choose the most healing, nurturing, beautiful, compassionate flows of energy, then dance in alignment with those currents, so as to enhance them in some way. Going with the flow is not my best thing, but I try. I seek the light and come in peace.

This period of time is not only about cultural reinvention and social upheaval (just like the sixties!). It's also about personal reinvention. I have not escaped the energies of upheaval and change, of course.The internal tectonic shifts I'm experiencing are rather thrilling, and unexpected, something I would not likely have paid attention to were I still conjuring. I have a feeling I would have dismissed any thoughts that didn't fit in with my magic.

Fortunately I'm surprised and curious, paying attention as best I can. It's kind of crazy. Going with the flow of reinvention requires some loss, some discomfort and heightened vulnerability as I shape change. Instead of conjuring, trying to shape the change, or slow it down, I'm choosing to let a greater wisdom guide me. It's liberating and scary, much smaller in scale but not that different in flavor from the changes taking place in society.

I've had a series of revelations - or you could call them reality checks - about who I am, personal values, what matters, that sort of thing. For instance: I thought I was a dog person, but I'm not. Jake died four and a half years ago. If I were a dog person, I would have a dog, or would at least want a dog. But I don't want one. I am not a dog person! Jake was the exception that proved the rule.

Up until recently, I always said cake was my favorite thing, but it isn't! I'm really picky about cake. I'm a pie person. Who knew?

These are examples of many personal revelations I've experienced recently. They are rocking my world! As is my practice, I'm dancing with the internal paradigm shifts. I'm going with it as best I can. Why not?

It's marvelous to know that there's no need to get rigid just because I'm old. Wow.

It's an honor to live through two periods of history during which the energy of transformation and reinvention prevails. It's exciting. Life is good and I am grateful.


Thursday, March 6, 2014


Every astrologer I trust has referred to this period in history as a time of social and personal reinvention, just like the sixties, energetically. Yeah, it surely is. The cultural shifts are dramatic - such as marriage equality. All of a sudden, a tipping point was reached and boom. Done and done. I know there are still states fighting it, but for heaven's sake, there is no point in it. The paradigm has shifted for sure.

We are an opportunistic species. We are social predators. Hence where we sense weakness, we attempt to dominate. In times of extreme change such as now, also in the sixties, social evolution is accompanied by violence and fear. During the sixties, it was the Vietnam War, something we watched on television. The Vietnam War was a hideous injury to the American soul. It was ghastly. Simultaneously, women's rights and civil rights advanced by leaps and strides, though both movements were accompanied by violence and fear. It seems that social change on the level that occurred in the sixties can't take place without crises.

I'm thinking, among other situations, about Russia and Putin and how he wrote that editorial, published in the New York Times, words that seemed noble, but were obviously a total crock of shit. Pardon my French!

There is some way in which the Cold War furthered social evolution during the sixties. Please don't ask me to explain why - or how. I'm not clear there's a cause and effect situation here. It's a correlation; big change gets us riled up, crises arise. My spirit guides say that every collision opens a portal in time/space, making possible the departure of the old. Nature abhors a vacuum. When the old way disappears through the portal, we scramble to fill the empty space. Some of the scrambling brings into being a new, more compassionate paradigm. Some of it brings chaos and violence. Same as it ever was.

A friend of mine said, during the Olympics, Everything is better when we hate Russia. It rings true. The Cold War kept us from completely fracturing during the social upheavals of the 1960s and 1970s because our hatred of Communism brought us together. Maybe it's OK to hate Russia for the next little while, to get us through this crazy moment in history. Who knows?

One thing that's great about early old age is that I can remember the last time this happened. As I have said for a few years, this period of time feels just like the sixties. Except: I miss the sex, I miss the drugs, I miss the rock and roll.


Sunday, March 2, 2014

I await spring

Winter is a lonely season this year. It has been so cold, windy and stormy that my enthusiasm for getting out and about is subdued. I'm not the only one, I should say. The communal table of good vibes at the coffee shop is often empty when I walk past, a sad sight indeed. I'm not the only person staying in, under a blanket on the sofa, watching movies.

Another winter storm is scheduled to roll in later tonight. In preparation for it I made a big batch of hearty beef stew. I have red wine and chocolate, and a bunch of movies queued up - just in case we get snowed in. It's funny because Eastern Market, which is 3 blocks away from the chateau, is always open. It was even open during Snowmaggeddon four years ago. It's instinctual, though, to prepare for these events, hence the stew, wine and chocolate.

I wish there was someone I could invite to share the stew and red wine. I could invite my old housemates, but we've not been on a wavelength lately. We keep saying Let's get together, but then we never do. Likewise I'm not connecting with another couple whom I love dearly because I decided recently I no longer wish to tolerate their vicious brand of atheism. I don't care what they believe or don't believe. I'm tired of hearing them call me idiotic for believing in God. Life is short. Do I need to spend time with people who insult me? C'mon.

I'm not depressed, not in the least. Life is good. I'm healthy, happy, looking forward to Paris. But it has been, for me, a pretty lonely winter. I so look forward to spring!