|At the Luxembourg Gardens. It was beautiful that day. I meant to walk in the opposite direction, but once here, I was glad I'd gotten turned around.|
One of my shamanic practices has to do with sensing the energy of landscapes, then dancing with the energy. I've practiced this for many years. I'm not great at it, but a lot better than I used to be, and devoted to the practice. I believe this is why I was so off balance when I lived in San Francisco. The Franciscan melange underfoot is a crazy-making jumble. John McPhee describes it this way: "The far out stuff was in the far west of the country--wild, weirdsma, a leather jacket geology in mirrored shades, with its welded tufts and Franciscan melange (internally deformed, complex beyond analysis), its strike-slip faults and falling buildings, its boiling springs and fresh volcanics, its extensional disassembling of the earth."
Seriously, is it any wonder that San Francisco is known as a center of weirdness? I wasn't the first, nor will I be the last person to dance that crazy dance on that crazy land, no way.
I remember when I first moved to the DC area, I got lost a lot. It was probably two years before I could reliably get from Point A to Point B without checking a map. During those first years here, I dived into a study of the human history of this place. I read extensively about the Civil War and the American Revolution, I read fabulous biographies of the founding fathers. I sat on the old tomb of George Washington at Mt. Vernon, at the top of the hill at Arlington. I walked through Civil War battlefields. I sat with the monuments, strolled along the river. I listened and watched as the seasons changed. It was at least five years before I became part of the landscape here. I wrote a flowery post when I at last felt rooted, about how my blood was more Potomac River than San Francisco Bay, my bones more Rock Creek than the Marin headlands. It was a very dramatic post as I remember it.
How in the world could I have expected to feel oriented in the sandy basin of Paris in only one week? Oh my.
This morning the Voice in the Shower said, The sandy basin is a vortex. Well, it certainly is, which helps explain why I got so turned around there, over and over. The city grew from its central core, Ile de la cite. But it didn't expand in all directions at once, no. It wound outwards. The energy of the city is a slowly turning spiral.
The energy of the turning, ironically, felt most potent at the center. The day I tried to go see Notre Dame it was not only raining, but the wind was blowing hard. I felt like I was in the center of a tornado. Millions of tourists, the wind, the rain and the dark energy around the cathedral spooked me. I staggered away, thinking I was heading for the Marais on the right bank. I crossed the bridge to find myself on Saint-Germaine, which is on the left bank. I stopped. I consulted the map. I set out again, determined to walk to the Marais, but about 20 minutes later, after the wind had turned my umbrella inside out and I was soaked from the knees down, I again found myself on the left bank. It was crazy.
In a way I was dancing in perfect shamanic alignment with the spinning spiral of the city. I guess!
I had hoped that over the span of a few days I would get at least slightly oriented. By the end of the week I was able to get to the Saint-Germaine de Pres Metro stop from my hotel a block and a half away. I could locate the river, though sometimes circuitously. Beyond that I was out of my element. I had a fantastic offline map app without which I would no doubt still be wandering around, trying to figure out where I was and how to get to the next location.