Saturday, May 31, 2014

Just Say No to the Oy Vey Lifestyle

I've been reading a little about the history of the Ashkenazi. I'd like to delve more deeply into the early history, learn more about how they came to settle by the Rhine and in what is now France. Wikipedia  said they were encouraged to move to Europe in the very early middle ages because it was thought the Ashkenazi were smart and good with money. Then they were restricted to only working with money, then blamed for monopolizing the market and subsequently persecuted.

That is a terrible oversimplification and may not even be accurate - I found it on the internet where anyone can post anything. It sounds about right, though. I need to do some reading, for sure.

One interesting factoid I read today is that there were very few Ashkenazi Jews for a long time, then all of a sudden our numbers increased, peaking in 1931. We did well in Europe. We flourished. After the Holocaust, there were far fewer of us, of course.

What is it with my tribe? So interesting to think about. In particular what I'm thinking is that it's no wonder we Ashkenazi developed a culture of witty complaint, guilting, wailing and lamenting. It's a cultural style, the Oy Vey Lifestyle, it surely is. When I think about the long term history of my tribe in Europe, it's easy to see why these behaviors developed. We are also given to bouts of joy and bliss; we are passionate, but there is always an underlying note of melancholy. Just listen to klezmer music. It always begins mournfully, builds to a frenzy of bliss, ends in a minor key. There is a lot of sadness embedded in Ashkenazi Judaism.

Oy vey!!

I'm pretty good natured in early old age, more tolerant than I could have imagined when I was younger. My life is wonderful. I have no complaints. My life is as different from my ancestors' as I can imagine. In fact I can't imagine. I might as well live on a different planet.

One of the reasons I had to write my ancestors a letter was to tell them I won't carry their grudges and will not relive their pain. I will not wear the Oy Vey groove any deeper into the oversoul of our family and tribe. No. This is not the path of healing!

Did I say I was done with ancestor work for the time being? I am not, I guess. Right now my work is about research and refusing to be melancholy. I tell you my life as a shaman is so weird. I would love to turn my attention to something other then those who came before me. Seriously! But they whisper to me, they do. The tribal culture is powerful. The echoes linger.

Life is short, my fine grandfathers and uncles, grandmothers and aunts. I wish to move on. Please? Thank you.

Thursday, May 29, 2014



When I came home from Paris, one of the first things I noticed were all the Hindu deities in my apartment. There was a Ganesh in the shrine, Shiva naturaj in the "fireplace," a portrait of Durga on the wall. I live in a tiny space, yet I had three representations of Hindu deities in my living room.

I asked myself why. I am not a collector of things in general. I am not Hindu. I don't even like yoga! They are fine deities with great stories and I did have a relationship with God through them at one point. That was a long time ago, though.

A friend of mine will come to collect the deities this weekend. They are dear enough to me that I resisted the idea of putting them on the sidewalk as is our custom on Capitol Hill. (Everything you put on the sidewalk is scooped up instantly.) I have a history with these idols, I couldn't just discard them. But they are no longer an appropriate lens for the divine. I haven't related to them in a long time, actually.

Once Ganesh was out of the shrine I realized I also no longer need a designated altar or shrine. Now that is a really big deal! I've had a shrine everywhere I've lived since the 1980s. But as I gazed at my shrine minus Ganesh, it came to me that what I really need is a bookshelf. Hence I will paint the space that was once a shrine, add some shelves, at which time I'll be able to move several stacks of books currently on the floor in my bedroom to a more suitable location.

I smile every time I tell someone I experienced a soul retrieval at the Eiffel Tower because it sounds so funny. But I did! I really did. I feel like I've found a room within me I didn't know was there, a fabulous room, too. My shrine is now internal. This is a monumental shift.

Likewise monumental is my decision to cease and desist with my ancestor work at least for the time being. How does it help to remember their grief, grudges, fear and pain? Try as I might, when I connect with them that's the only thing I can access. I've been trying to locate their happiness and contentment but can not find it in the aether. They suffered at the hands of Czar, during the revolution and of course when they were ghettoed and later murdered during the Holocaust. They suffered terribly, I am so sorry.

My sister suggested I write them a letter - great idea. I did it yesterday morning, as the moon was just about to turn, mailed it to my aunt's old address in Paris, no return address. I wrote on tracing paper, my way of addressing those who are beyond the veil. Here's a pic of the three pages one on top of the other.

I have been very uneven since returning from my trip - though not nearly as bipolar as I was while in Paris. I did that thing I always tell other people to do - let it change you. I am changed for sure. It's exciting and uncomfortable. What these changes mean is still coming into the light. In the meantime I'm releasing a ton of old stuff on every level.

I do not feel lost however. Just the opposite. I feel open and trusting. I feel a sweet emptiness in the space where I used to carry heartache. It's an incredible feeling.


Wednesday, May 21, 2014


Yesterday, while standing in line at Whole Foods, the one by GW Hospital, the woman behind me started talking - loudly - on her phone about her nephew's diagnosis of brain cancer and how freaky is it to have a brain biopsy and the tumor in the skull bone, etc. She went on and on. I couldn't help but turn around to look. I'm sure my facial expression conveyed that I was aghast - a horrible diagnosis indeed but I was also aghast that she would announce it to everyone in line at Whole Foods. Whoa. 

She was young. She started yelling at me and I saw it, that she was in shock and not in a place to behave appropriately - whatever that means. I didn't get into it with her. I said, "Why are you shouting at me?" My voice was so kind when I asked her. In a situation like that, no one knows how to behave - including me, probably. The question defused the situation. She went back to her phone call while I turned around and waited for the next available cashier.

I've been thinking about it ever since, thinking about boundaries and appropriate behavior and the uselessness of the rules of etiquette when your nephew has just been diagnosed with brain cancer. When in shock, the rules of etiquette can not help. Can they?

One thing I missed in Paris is the casual banter we Americans have with strangers all the time, while standing in line, for instance. We don't always talk to the people next to us, and we don't usually talk about anything personal, but we chat about the weather, for instance. It's a light connection that I enjoy. 

In Paris, as far as I could tell, no one in line ever spoke or even acknowledged others. But many people seemed to get in long, involved conversations with the cashier. Buying a bottle of water could take a half hour if there was someone in front of me in line. I didn't understand what they were saying. It didn't seem to be the kind of light-hearted banter we Americans engage in. Were they negotiating? I guess I'll never know. This is one of the things I loved about being with my aunt in Paris. I could say to her, "What is going on?" and she would explain. Without her, I was confused almost all the time.

Except for bizarre exchanges like the one at Whole Foods yesterday, I love American friendliness, even if it's just a style and has nothing to do with the sincere wishes each of us might have to connect with other human beings. We talk to each other to pass the time, or because we've had too much coffee, or are hyped up for other reasons. 

Sometimes we lash out at strangers like that woman did to me yesterday. It had nothing to do with me. Still, I've been thinking about it ever since. I wonder if anything like that happens in Paris?

Tuesday, May 20, 2014


My middle name is Grace. It's a beautiful name I have always loved. I'm named after my maternal grandmother who was a wild flapper back in the day and still fun 50 years later when my sister and I came to know her. I love being named after her.

It's a great name, though I've never deeply connected with it. Grace is not a quality I usually associate with my personality. In the wake of the trip to Paris, I'm feeling a kind of internal grace I'm thrilled about, though unfamiliar with.

That thing I always say, Let there be light. Well, the light has arrived, a pearly, graceful light. Every day the light feels better incorporated in my body/being. I'm not as visually glow-y because the light has been sinking in.

The other thing I say, Let it change you. I did! I let Paris change me.

Yesterday I dismantled and decommissioned the space I've used as a shrine. Since I began learning witchcraft back in the 1980s, I've always had a shrine or an alter. It's a wonderful practice. But yesterday I decided that what I need is another bookshelf. All of a sudden I do not feel like I need a shrine. I feel that the shrine is now internal. Likewise my life of the moment - here in the chateau, my work, community and environment - is a sacred landscape, my church you could say. My life is the church and I am the alter. I no longer need to set up a special area in my house to hold my connection to the divine. That's inside me now.

See what I mean when I say I'm feeling the grace of what happened to me? I really am. Wow.

Monday, May 19, 2014

Thumbs Up

One of my favorite astrologers posted about Mars going direct today. She spoke to the situation of feeling, since the beginning of this strange year, that there was no forwards motion. She talked about projects that could not be completed, about failures of all kinds. Of course I thought immediately of my fiascos - the birthday cake episode and the new glasses episode.

She also spoke of old patterns that had to be shed, karma that needed healing.

Paris was no fiasco and though at the time it did not feel like forward motion (more like spinning around in a circle, blindfolded, holding a donkey tail in one hand), the trip was healing at a level I don't remember ever experiencing before. Getting lost, rained on, feeling chilly and lonely, crying my eyes out in front of my aunt's apartment and the subsequent soul retrieval at the Eiffel Tower - even finding a thumbs up sculpture while with Steve - the trip was, all of it, a sacred drama of release, healing, promise and renewal. It was a pilgrimage. My goodness, it surely was. No wonder I thought about it for such a long time before I went. No wonder I yearned. No wonder I was reluctant to take it on. No wonder that when I returned I felt tapped out on every possible level. No wonder!

The cardinal grand cross was exact the day I flew across the ocean. A big square above, the slowly spinning vortex of the sandy basin underfoot. Is it any wonder I was so discombobulated? I did not think about the astrology of the moment when I planned the trip. I was only interested in coinciding with friends while I was there. But oh, the configurations above and below! Good lord. The timing was masterful. I wish I could claim it but it just unfolded that way. I am well guided.

I was uncomfortable, yes, but I didn't deflate, I didn't just sit in my hotel room, no. I got out there every day. I did my work.

Steve and I believe this could be the best selfie of all time.

I'm pretty spacious after all those releases. I will remain open to forward movement, but I intend to pay attention to which direction I'm headed. No big projects for awhile. Uh-uh. No. No thank you.


As I approached, I said "Please" very sincerely. He posed for me! When I finished taking pics, he flew into a tree. Or she. 

Saturday, May 17, 2014

I like to talk

Shade pool.

Every now and then, I go on a one-day word fast. No writing, no talking, no reading. On days when I'm on a word fast, what I do is listen.

It's challenging for me since I believe I always have the perfect thing to say. Always. I do mean - ALWAYS. On word fast days it kills me that I can not add my clever two cents to any ongoing conversation. Astounding to me on those occasions is that the world keeps on turning, even without my witty opinions. I say nothing, and life goes on. Wow.

It can be challenging here in the U.S. where it's our custom to speak to strangers. Buying a coffee or some groceries, we are expected to chat a little bit. On word fast days, I always wonder if I'm perceived as rude for saying nothing. I always smile and make eye contact, but it feels awkward.

In Paris, I was on an intermittent word fast. It's no wonder that when I did come into contact with my friends there, I talked a blue streak. The rest of the week I said little more than, Une autre cafe creme, si vous plait. My head was full of thoughts, questions, observations, opinions. I wrote a lot, so it wasn't really a word fast, but it had the same cleansing effect.

It's dawning on me how medicinal it was to visit Paris. I squawked while there and for awhile after returning - also endlessly before I went - because it wasn't comfortable. But it was enriching. I learned. I got a soul bit back from the realms of light and I did great ancestor work. It was important.

My new/old friend, who has lived in Paris for 14 years, asked me last night if I'm having Paris aftershocks. I certainly am! Wow.

This is where, and almost at the moment when, 
my soul bit returned. You can see my soul bit coming down
 from the realms of light, right? I can see it for sure. 
I love it that it happened at the Eiffel tower. Sweet!

I have the day off. It's going to be beautiful. I'm going to take a nice walk down to the Botanic Gardens, see if the roses are blooming yet. I'll walk through Eastern Market where I will no doubt run into neighbors and friends, chat with strangers about the beauty of spring after last winter, that sort of thing. I love my life here where I can run my mouth whenever I want. I am very lucky.


Friday, May 16, 2014

Structure follows energy

It's great feeling normal. I've felt normal for three days in a row. I love it!

The only thing that isn't normal about me is what my sister calls the Gaussian blur of light I'm still permeated and enveloped by. One friend, who grew up in Nebraska and is the smartest, most no-bullshit person I may ever have met said, when we met for coffee, "You look glow-y." It's interesting that I can see it in the pictures but not when I look in the mirror.  I can feel it, though. It feels like something that was empty has been filled. It's like one of those dreams where you find a room you didn't know was a part of your house, or one you'd forgotten. It's a happy thing, even if a bit much at the moment. I am not complaining.

The roses are blooming all over Capitol Hill. Oh. I love roses. Earlier in spring, most of the energy is upwards shooting. The early flowers, like the bulb flowers, are all about punching through the cold earth. Their stems are incredible, and the leaves, too. By the time you get to the daffodil or tulip bloom, there isn't a lot of energy for anything except pollinating. The early spring flowers come and go quickly and kind of all at once.

Not so with the roses. I associate this moment in spring with a major shift in the energy. Instead of being mostly about pushing upwards, the energy begins to unfurl, spiral outwards, open up across the landscape. Roses are perfect examples of that outward swirling energy. Their stems are great - sturdy and dangerous - but the energy isn't in the stems, it's in the blooms. All those petals, well - wow! Roses are HEPA level energy filters, they surely are.

Roses generate wonder. Daffs and tulips generate hope, but then their petals fall off and and the next time you see them, someone has tied down their stems. Roses bloom all summer, generating wonder, extending wonder outwards as they spiral open. Roses are so beautiful and so fragrant. Oh man. What is not to love?

Happy waning moon, happy spring, happy Gaussian blur, happy season of the generous, wondrous, unfurling rose. L'chaim.

Sweet smelling but not sticky or cloying, uplifting, like tea but not bitter, and something vanilla-y. I couldn't stop taking in lungfuls of that beautiful smell. Ahhh.

Wednesday, May 14, 2014

No place like it

Today is the day I really am normal again. I'm not bluffing this time, I actually do feel normal. The cold and terrible allergy outburst was cathartic. Something moved through me like a thunderstorm. I feel clean and grounded in the aftermath.

I'm no longer smelling Paris. My nose is full of the boggy, skanky, sweet clay smell of Washington DC. I am so grateful!

So now what? Well. I'm not going to pursue any big projects or dreams for the next little while. This summer I'm going to live my life (a life that is fabulous, may I say). I'm going to see clients and water the garden, cook, have friends over. I will take walks and take pictures, look at art. In the mornings sometimes I'll head down to the coffee shop to trade gossip at the table of good vibes. I'll drink beer and laugh on the back porch at John and Manuel's, also at Tom and Marian's.

On the super hot days, I'll go see a movie in the middle of the day, or hang out at the National Gallery of Art, or go bowling in Georgetown. I have friends who love baseball. This is the summer I'm going to go to the new ball park, at least once.

I look forward to taking my camera when I ride the big ole wheel at National Harbor. I'm going to sit on a blanket by my beloved Potomac, listen to the sound of the great tidal river lapping the riverbank.

What a great summer!

Will I travel? No, I will not. Unless someone dies, I'm not getting on an airplane for a good, long time. I hope to visit my friends who have the house in W. Virginia. I hope to spend a day or two at a beach house with other friends. Those trips involve a minor amount of time in a car. That, I can handle.

Hear ye, hear ye: I have completed my pilgrimage. I did excellent ancestor work in Paris. I felt there the briefness of life in this form and I grieved. I let go of many fantasies. I was a shaman at the Eiffel Tower and even was offered a Euro for my efforts. The work was good and now it is complete.

I'm enriched. My feet are on the ground here. What a long, strange trip it has been! Wow.

At U.S. Botanic Gardens.

Tuesday, May 13, 2014

In my dreams

When is it OK to let go of your dreams? I ask because in our society you're NEVER supposed to let go of dreams. Work hard, keep at it and your dreams can come true.


Because I wish I had let go of my dream to find the perfect birthday cake this year. I didn't feel like baking (unusual) and I had this fantasy that the perfect cake exists - out there somewhere. My quest for the perfect cake made for a sadly hilarious story, such as when I persisted in buying cake from the bakery at the Watergate that had just been closed by the health department. So determined was I to see my dream to fruition, that in spite of the sign, I walked in, I bought three slices of old, dried out cake. My determination created a momentum that was uninterruptible. I couldn't think straight. I couldn't put two and two together. t ended up throwing out the dreadful cake without even tasting it.

Continuing to pursue my dream involved eating several slices of mediocre cake. Finally I ordered a Very Fancy cake from Baked and Wired in Georgetown. But then it snowed on my birthday, heavily enough that getting to Georgetown would have really been ridiculous. I called the bakery. They said they would hold the cake for one day only, and advised me to hire a courier to deliver it to me.

Ha. So funny. I clearly am not among the demographic of people who frequent Baked and Wired. Made me laugh when she said it. A courier on a snow day would cost a fortune and would be a horrible experience for the person who had to navigate the weather. For heaven's sake.

The next day the snow had stopped falling but it was a mess out there. The streets were full of slush and the sidewalks caked with icy snow. Nevertheless I set out to pick up the damn cake. I was determined to fulfill my dream, I tell you.

On the way there I twisted my ankle pulling my foot out of a heavy brick of slush at a corner. I limped a few steps. Then I asked myself, Do I really want this cake? At last I was ready to give up on my dream. To hell with the cake. As soon as I gave up, I felt so relieved.

But - could I have let go of that dream a little faster? All the signs pointed to FORGET IT, but it was my dream. And you're never supposed to let go of your dreams, right? Right??

At the Tuilleries

After that I tried to get new glasses. I had a dream. I could tell a long and drawn out tale about how hard I worked to fulfill this dream, but it's not that different than the cake story. Seriously, you can't plan to have two experiences so similar in tone, happening one right after the other. Epic fails!

My attempts involved numerous eye doctors as well as internet frames - I'll never try that again! It was time consuming, frustrating as hell and of course expensive. At the end of it, I was left a few hundred dollars poorer, wearing the same old, scratched up glasses, through which I can see just fine. Crazy.

Of course I'm thinking about Paris, wondering if it was the magical third strike in this series of dashed dreams. Well. Yes and no.

I'm glad I went, more glad as the days pass and I settle back into my fantastic DC life. The trip was enriching beyond belief. It was a much needed soul retrieval and I did some great ancestor work. I spent time with dear ones, the best part of the trip. I connected with the land and the soul of the city at a level I never have before. I saw the city through my own eyes, not through my aunt's. It was powerful. Paris is a very different thing than new glasses or good cake, oh my. And yet, I did not achieve my dream in Paris, my dream of recharging, of feeling at home. I wanted to partake of the glamour and history of Paris. I thought that would be comfortable. I was uncomfortable the entire time!

Just yesterday I found myself at one point thinking about how I could be comfortable in Paris. What? I stopped myself immediately. This Paris in my mind, where I wander the streets without getting lost, where I don't care that the cafe waiters, shop salespeople and such detest my presence, where I feel confident in a way that makes it possible to enjoy the experience - well - that Paris does not exist in time/space outside of my imagination. It is an impossible dream. Like the perfect cake, like a great new pair of glasses.

My journey to Paris did what it was supposed to. I did my work there and I'm better for it, I'm sure I am. Am I? The Voice in the Shower says yes. However my journey to Paris did not fulfill my dream of Paris.

So, what does it take for me let go of my dreams? How does one know when to hold 'em, when to fold 'em? Do you know?

This is DC, not Paris.

Sunday, May 11, 2014

Rowing gently down the stream

Boats on the Seine.

It never occurred to me to grieve my youth because I wasn't very happy as a young person. That mantra, every day in every way, life gets better and better, has resonated for me. But when I turned sixty, the need to grieve for all that was, and all that was never meant to be, arose - unbeknownst, since my mind is always the last to know.

Shortly before I turned sixty, the idea came to me that I had to see Paris again in this lifetime. Initially I was able to talk myself down from that idea by way of reason. Going to Paris in mid-February, all alone, with everyone I love somewhere else, would surely not have been an ideal way to enter what my sister's acupuncturist calls the "third third" of life.

Maybe it would have been better to just get it out of the way, who knows? I'll never know because I didn't do it. I resisted the urge to buy the ticket, but could not resist thinking about it. From February 13, 2013, until the end of April this year when my foot at last made contact with the sandy basin of that ancient city, I dreamed of the trip. I yearned, I longed to be in Paris. I talked about it, I thought about it. I read and studied. I had maps and books all around me about Paris. I felt the city calling me. I certainly am not the first person, nor will I be the last, to be summoned there.

I had a year and a half to imagine how the trip would pan out. I didn't see the details, except I knew I would walk around, take pictures, and sit in cafes. Other than that, I didn't know how it would be. One thing I was sure of is that I would feel at home there.

I haven't visited lots of times, but my first journey was in the winter of 1979-80. I was twenty-six. That and every subsequent trip has had a profound impact on me. I've had a long-term, long distance relationship with Paris. Of course I thought the city would be familiar. But no. It was as if I had never been there before. The one thing I was sure of turned out to be totally off. I was very ill at ease, extremely. It's interesting.

In addition to the ancestor work of grieving my aunt and family before her who died in the Holocaust, also in addition to the soul retrieval which has made me "glow-y" as a friend puts it, I was there to grieve my youth and a different time in the world. That's the perfect thing to do on the occasion of turning sixty. At sixty, it's time to begin letting go.

Life is short. You can really feel how short it is when in an ancient city. In Paris I felt life's briefness, and I grieved.

The DC friends I met up with in Paris. They were there to celebrate turning 60, too.

Yesterday's cold drained my head not only of the smell of Paris, but cleared a lot of grief. The common cold is a systemic cleanse, also the only way the body knows to grieve. It's the immune system saying, "Hey! It's not my day to die. I'm here. I will prevail."

Bless my immune system.

I slept fitfully last night, intermittently coughing, mostly blowing my nose. I knew the cold was on its way out when my throat stopped hurting. It passed through me like a thunderstorm. As I tossed and turned, went through a second box of kleenex, I tried to put the Paris trip together in all its parts. It was a three-D tetris game, stretching backwards and forwards in time and into several of the eleven dimensions physicists talk about.

Tossing, turning, coughing, blowing, tetris - this is all part of integrating what has happened to me. I cleared a lot of inner space yesterday. This is a good thing.

Today I'm easing back into work. I took antihistamines because in addition to the last dregs of the cold, I'm reacting to oak and grass pollen. The air is so full of pollen it actually appears to be green.

I'm not complaining. Life is glorious, a precious existence, as the Buddhists say. Let it be fecund! L'chaim!

Just outside my front door, this morning. Glorious.

Saturday, May 10, 2014


Did I say Paris was still in my nose? Yes, I did. Yesterday I came down with a minor cold, just a head cold, at least so far. I am blowing Paris out of my nose. How funny.

I didn't exactly say I wanted to get Paris out of my nose, but the body never lies. It was time, hence the cold. The worst of it passed last night. Today I have no plans so I can lie on the couch, watch movies or continue reading David Lebovitz's excellent cookbook, My Paris Kitchen.

An excuse to do nothing is rather nice. I'll drink tea, nap, avoid the ongoing exploding pollen bomb of spring.

It's another day of settling in, coming closer to normal, whatever that is.

I asked the Voice in the Shower this morning if I regret the trip to Paris. I dreaded it beforehand, rightfully so, I think. In hindsight I wish I had spent a couple of days there, the rest of the time in England. The best day in Paris by far was the day I spent with a friend who lives in London. My new travel mantra: I will travel to see people, not places.

So, do I regret it? The Voice in the Shower said, "Almost." That's on one level, though, the did I have a good time level, the level of what you expect when you go on vacation. But for me, vacation involves mountains, a lake, stars, people I love. Paris was not a vacation, and no, I did not have a lot of fun. I felt terribly lonely most of the time, I wept gallons of tears, most of them in my hotel room, thank god. When I went out, I was confused. I got turned around. I didn't eat enough, or drink enough. Sometimes I would sit down at a restaurant, stare at the menu for awhile, then leave abruptly. It was an ordeal.

Quite apart from the did I have fun level, I think something happened to me there. A healing on some level took place. I think. A friend who is not at all oriented to noticing such things told me the other day I look "glow-y." Even she could see that I took in some kind of light. I guess it was a soul retrieval.

Was it? My head is congested and my forehead numb today. Must go blow my nose.

Thursday, May 8, 2014

A slow re-entry

Tree box plants reflected in the shiny door of an UBER car.

Every day I think, This is the day I feel normal again. But then the next day dawns and I feel even more back to myself than the day before. Everything is relative, and coming back from my pilgrimage is a lengthy process - obviously.

One thing I would love to do is get Paris out of my nose. I can still smell it. I know that doesn't make sense, but there it is.

It was months after my dog died before his scent dissipated. (He smelled like dry cleaning. When he was freshly bathed, he smelled like expensive dry cleaning; when he hadn't been bathed in awhile, he smelled like cheap dry cleaning.) Now I can't exactly remember the smell, but every time I pick up my dry cleaning, I get a whiff of my old dog, dead almost five years now. Going to pick up my dry cleaning is always poignant. Is that funny?

Paris: rancid butter, piss, really rich, fragrant earth, and history. That's what the city smells like. That smell got into my nose, into my sinuses and my head, heart and soul. It might be awhile before I can smell DC again. (Though - when I came home last week and turned on the water to take a shower, I smelled chlorine, so I'm perceiving at least some of DC's fragrance.)

I always say about soul retrieval that there's a reason why soul bits take off, hence the return of a soul bit involves a lot of negotiation and integration with the rest of the person. This is true for me. I feel full - whole - in a good way, yet all the pieces don't yet fit together nicely. It will take awhile. I'm having no problem being patient about it. What a trip!

I'm having crazy dreams, sleeping hard but dreaming hard, too. My days are surreal, especially because when I left we were still at the very beginning of spring, but a week later, when I returned, the midatlantic landscape had erupted into the most colorful part of spring. After the bitter, severe winter, this spring is hallucinogenic.

I'm not complaining!

It was very warm today, almost 90 F. I found every excuse I could to be out and about. I walked for a long while this morning, drank coffee with a friend outside Peregrine Espresso. I swept the sidewalk and the front walk and my front stairs here at the chateau. After that I sat for an hour on the folding chair on the terrace, gazing at the sky, listening to the birds, watching the people walk or jog down East Capitol. It was warm, really warm! The air was soft. After last winter, and then Paris (where it was chilly and rainy), the sweet air, warmth and color was healing, nutritious, restorative.

David Lebovitz's My Paris Kitchen cookbook arrived today. I've been reading it off and on all evening. Oh those cranky, complaining, officious Parisians! He writes about Paris lovingly. Really? Who could love that crazy place?

Oh! I must love it. I keep thinking, If I went back, I would ... even though I know I will never go back. I'm done with the continent for this lifetime.

I would love to return to England, to visit my friend Steve and to walk that land again. Paris? No. I am done.

And yet I remain in a liminal state.

Go figure.

Tuesday, May 6, 2014


The spectral light I brought back from Paris is not as visible today - a good thing, if you ask me. What I feel is that it's becoming integrated into the complex tapestry of my body and energy, hence is not as obvious. It hasn't gone away; it's a part of me now.

What I feel is that the soul retrieval part of the journey involved a soul bit that was not stuck in the underworld but has been in the bright and splendid upper world for a really long time. I welcome this long lost part of me back into the fold.

The ancestor work has to do with the inadequately grieved family who died in the Holocaust. I reached back through time in Paris, grieved for my aunt and in so doing somehow extended recognition, respect, and love backwards to the ancestors I never knew but who nevertheless are part of my DNA.

When I was thinking about it the other day, the image that came to my mind's eye was of a river. When I think of family usually the visual is the family tree with different branches and little boxes, but I saw my family as a river, all of us floating merrily, merrily, merrily, merrily, some ahead, some behind, and some right along next to me. I really got how what affects one of us affects all of us. By grieving the people who died in the Holocaust, I do my part to keep the river of my family flowing more smoothly. It doesn't address every snag in the river, but it doesn't hurt. People have been honoring their ancestors for 100,000 years, from the north pole to the south pole. My behavior is appropriate.

The Forest Preserve, by William Bronk

Mainly, we float. Not lighter than air
in our grossness but lighter than water nearly. We drift
around in our mythical pools and cling sometimes
to other flotsam coming by, rafts of myth,
call them islands and pretend to be trees with deep
roots in the island ground. But we aren't trees.


It's a spectacular spring day in Washington DC. I had the day off work, hence I walked around, took some of my favorite pictures, visited some of my holiest places here. It felt wonderful to say hello to the landscape.

I'm enriched by Paris. Oh. I'm so glad I went! And so glad to be home.

Monday, May 5, 2014

Bathed in a Peculiar Light

Paris, the City of Light. Really? I didn't experience it that way, but it was gloomy and rainy the whole time I was there. It's not a bright shiny landscape in any kind of weather, though, and because most of the streets are narrow, it can be difficult to locate the sky. The light doesn't come from up there. It must come up from the landscape. What kind of light does the spiraling sandy basin generate? It's interesting to think about. That light has attracted a lot of artists over the centuries. What is that light? Do you know?

Whatever it is, I do feel bathed by the strange light of that ancient city. I feel scrubbed clean and full of light. It's bizarre. The city is grungy - like all huge cities. It's a magical paradox that I came out of the trip so clean and bright.

See what I mean about the light?

Initiation, soul retrieval, ancestor work, grieving for my aunt, also grieving a different time in my life and in the world, letting go. I've settled on these words to describe what my week in Paris was about. I did not need to enter any of the museums there. I was in the plein air Reya Museum all week. Whew.

The energy is beginning to settle. Every day I feel more normal, more like the me I remember from months ago, perhaps even since before my sixtieth birthday. I feel whole. It will take awhile before I have integrated what took place. Every day now I'm reminding myself to rest and breathe, to go about my rituals and routines, to trust that whatever happened to me will find a comfortable space within my body/mind.

I have a few words I'm happy with to explain what I experienced in Paris. I don't understand, but I am in a place of trust.


Saturday, May 3, 2014

Botanizing the Asphalt

Luxumbourg Gardens

Belonging under the heading of You Can't Plan for This Kind of Synchronicity, is this, about traveling solo to Paris. It appeared on the New York Times website today. If you look at my post from yesterday, you will see a photo similar to the one at the top of the NYT piece. I, too, took a picture of a single chair in the Luxumbourg Gardens. Crazy.

Flânerie is, in its purest form, a goal-less pursuit, though for some it evolved into a purposeful art: Walking and observing became a method of understanding a city, an age. Baudelaire described the flâneur as a passionate spectator, one who was fond of “botanizing on the asphalt,” as the essayist Walter Benjamin would later put it. Typically, it was a man. No longer.

That was exactly what I did there. I do it in Washington, too. I engage in flanerie. The person who wrote the piece had a lot more fun than I did, but then again she was in Paris to gather experiences she could weave together for this article. She wasn't there to grieve her aunt, to grieve an earlier era of life and the world. For her, the time in Paris wasn't a soul retrieval, an initiation, and an important chapter of ongoing ancestor work. But it was for me.

Actually, she probably did some ancestor work whether she wanted to or not, or whether or not she was aware of it. Paris is a soulful city. I think it would be hard to go there without connecting in some way with the ancestors.

I had hoped to connect with the Parisii, the Celtic tribe that inhabited the Ile thousands of years ago. However, I could not pick up on their wavelength, nor was I able to tune in to any of the French Revolution, off-with-their-heads energy, even in the Place de Vosage, which I adored. Likewise I couldn't find the fabulous artist/writer vibe from the 1920s. What I did connect with was the Roman energy. Hmmm.

The Place de Vosage.

I also was very aware of the echoes of my aunt's era in Paris, the post WWII Paris and the years of the French new wave in the 1950s and 1960s. There are so many layers of history there, no one can find a wavelength with which to tune in the whole spectrum. That would be madness.

Today I feel even more back to myself than yesterday. In a certain way I'm more myself than I have been since this idea came into my mind, to go to Paris. That was just a couple of weeks before my 60th birthday.

It is good to be back, I mean all the way back. I am done with Paris. Onwards and upwards.

L'chaim and shalom.

A really old sundial. Go into the courtyard at the Hotel Sully. Go into the inner courtyard. It's on a wall at the back. Then walk through the door in the wall, and find yourself in the Place de Vosage. Magical. Like the Secret Garden.

Friday, May 2, 2014

Let's get lost

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.

Hee hee

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.

I love this picture of my DC friends with whom I coincided there, as baffled as I was about where we were and how to proceed.

This morning I was thinking about the hundreds of years it took to build Notre Dame. I was thinking about the Pont Neuf. The first bridge there was built in the 17th century. I was thinking about the Petit Pont. There has been a bridge of one kind or another there for 2,000 years! One human lifespan - even a really long one - is not sufficient to, in any way, comprehend the city and its long history. How do the Parisians do it? Every day they contend with the vortex of energy, the layers of history, the intensity of their culture - and with all of us visitors, every one of us wanting to extract a piece of the magic there, a talisman to show our friends when we get home. Wow. Or should I say whoa? Parisians are tougher than I am!