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.



  1. It's interesting how so much changed for you as a result of such a short visit. It IS miraculous. I can't wait to share your experience of Paris on your next trip!

  2. Goosebumps for you, Reya, (As they say) ... literally.

  3. So mysterious, how things come to pass. Now I can't wait to read your thoughts on the upcoming trip.

  4. I got goosebumps too! Will you see your cousin? Does he still live there? It seems so glamorous to me to have family in Europe :)