Tuesday, April 27, 2010

Good Morning

I woke up this morning hearing the words “Be still and know that I am God”. I lay there for a few minutes and then said them to myself. Images ran through my mind a hundred miles an hour. There’s that mind again! The words are ‘Be still’ and yet the mind races. “Be still and know that I am God”.

Mind at work without my permission and here we go!

Ask my body who I am. It says ‘solid ground’.
Ask my soul. ‘Dizzy as the wind”.
Neither and both.

It seems this is the message of the day.

Monday, April 26, 2010

Che and Me

My mother was queen of expressiveness. She could modulate her voice so that one knew in an instant if she was pleased, tickled, intrigued, curious, perplexed, upset, furious, or in agony. You get the gist. And her facial expressions matched the vocal tone. She could screw up her face in disgust, beam as if to burst, or look as if she was carrying the weight of ten worlds. She was simply a magnificent feeling force where there was little left to the imagination.

One of the areas where I was critically imprinted by her, was her dislike for cats. I'm not sure if it was because she was a champion of birds or because cats are unpredictable and she needed her 'knowing'. The bottom line was that 'WE' didn't like cats and this came with a distasteful smirk and particular vocal tone.

So here I am decades later, having had many cats tip toe in and out of my life but I honestly have never gotten to know one intimately due to this hefty cat imprint wounding.

Right now I am house-sitting the most exquisitely perfect house. It isn’t lavish, it isn’t sparkling new, it isn’t huge and it isn’t one block from the ocean and it speaks to my soul. There is light and flow and curved doorways with warm colors and bursts of bright through every one. There are stories of travel and a spirit of adventure and spiritual questing behind and in front of each artifact and painting. There is a water fountain and fish pond and flowers and trees and tiled roofs, and there is a cat named Che.

Che is the heart's desire and dearly beloved of the owner of this home. I have been given immaculate instructions on his preferences and care. I welcomed this opportunity whole-heartedly as I take my responsibilities seriously. My intentions were in earnest to comply body and soul with Che's owner's requests. Little did I know that within the walls of this new nest Che's self confident, matter-of-fact, snuggly, humorous, brilliant little self , and my lifetime of wariness around cats would come face to face and my heart would open honestly towards one.

After retrieving my bags and books from the car and turning on the lights and looking around I heard the soft clunk of the cat door at the rear of the kitchen. In swept Che, all sleek and black, and he sashayed directly over to my right leg with a rub and a purr and a glance up and then 'Meow'. 'Oh! Che!' said I as I fumbled to scratch him under the chin and in the ears as I'd been coached. He seemed to adore whatever I did and so the little voice inside my head which said "Cats are not like dogs at all and I don't know what I'm doing", began to calm down and I got into a flow. Oh my gosh, as I did, he melted and his purring shifted into a whole new drone. I was enjoying myself with no reservations and yet I kept thinking 'It's just a fluke that he likes me and I'm pulling this off, any second he'll know that I'm new at this and change his mind'. But no. We could have stayed there all night.

Then I decided to run a tub for myself as baths are my favorite thing on earth and this tub was most inviting. It was dusty earthy rose colored and at least six feet long and it came with a pot pourri of bath bubbles. I couldn't wait. So as I ran the tub, Che hopped up onto its edge to watch. I paused for a second as I undressed, as bath-time is most private for me. A sacred, alone time to be with myself and my day. I was feeling a bit 'watched' by Che but I slid into the mass of fig bubbles and closed my eyes anyway. For a few moments I forgot all about Che. I took in the feel of the water and the smell of the figs and I let the water wash away the cares of the day while I luxuriated. I casually opened my eyes and there was Che! He was six inches from my face watching me. He had perched himself on his haunches on the edge of the tub and was totally settled into spending my bath-time with me. "Oh no, what's he doing? What if he falls in? How can I relax with him r-i-g-h-t there?" He twitched his tail at me and meowed, stood up and moved down closer to my feet. He heard me thinking and accomodated me. Hmmm. I LIKE this cat.

The next morning I fed him his water melon (yes, water melon) and sat down to my computer and in one silent move he leapt up onto the table and then to my shoulders. He rested his head on mine and we sat. He purred and I sat. I giggled to myself. I thought about my mother. I thought about my Obie. I thought about the gift of this little being.

I do not know how much Che knows. I do not know if he knows that he is secretly here to teach me or not. I do not know if I will ever be a cat person. But Che represents something special to me now and I believe he will forever. Our thoughts imprison us and mold us. My mother did not like cats, hence I have never welcomed them. This week I choose to change this thinking. I welcome Che and all of his foreign isms into my world. I, a woman in sync with golden retrievers, am taking a wild leap here. Che? Che? Come here Che! I want to snuggle with you now! Whoops......he will do things when he wants and I need to learn to not anticipate one single thing but be open at the same time. Interesting little teachers, these cats.

Oh Mom, are you watching? And what is your face doing? I love you.

Saturday, April 17, 2010


On my way to meet a friend for tea this afternoon, I spied a garden full of snap dragons. There they were, all pink and yellow and perky, standing so straight and tall and smiling at me. And my brain whisked me on a sixty second journey.

My grandmother was a passionate flower officianado and an austere disciplinarian on the niceties of social graces. One day when I was very tiny, she called me over to her:

“Frances, come here dear. There’s something I want to show you”.
She reached over to an elegant porcelain vase and slowly withdrew a single snapdragon stem.
“Come closer”.
“You see dear.....”
and POP! My most serious grandmother began to play! She squeezed each blossom on the stem, opening its mouth at me! And she said laughingly:
“They’re little dragons! Here, you try.”

About nine years later when I was twelve and living in India, an Australian doctor lived in the bungalow behind ours. We shared a glorious garden which was brim full of giant snapdragons. One day I decided to pick him some and take them as a bouquet. I took great care in choosing the brightest, juiciest, lovliest. Earlier that afternoon I had been watching my older brother master his bullwhip cracking technique on our front verandah and I happened to not be wearing my glasses. He had said “France, you look good without your glasses” and I was so tickled that I didn’t put them on for the rest of the afternoon. Hence when I went to deliver Dr. Horace’s flowers to him I was without them. I knocked on his door, he answered, I presented the flowers, and back he boomed: “Vanity is thy name oh woman, where are your glasses?” A small part of me still shudders.

About eighteen years later my own daughters were very young and I had grown some exquisite snapdragons in my own southern garden. I showed my four-year-old, Melanie, how to snap the little dragon mouths. To her delight she could oh so gently squeeze the blossoms making dragon kisses on the cheeks and nose of her baby sister, Nina, who cooed and batted her lashes langorously in response.

One little snapdragon garden.
My oh my what a wonder the mind and memory are.
And I was on time for tea.

Friday, April 16, 2010

Shaman Women and Me

The most glorious, golden, chilly wind and warm sun evening with flitting dark poofy clouds and gulls careening and dogs galloping and frisbees flying. My soul and every cell of my earthly self having just bladed and feeling as giddy as a teenager who has just been winked at by the object of her affection. I am in love with this earth. Thank you God for your artistry and imagination and humor and sense of drama and playfulness and sensitivity and wisdom and timing and ever present love and passion for your creations. I love you. And now I must turn my face towards an invitation that has been extended to me for the evening.

A group of female shamans that meets once a month on Wednesday nights has reached out to include me and this is the night.

The mind boggles at the number of doors there are on this planet and the who's and what's that lie behind each and every one. Entire universes. Unique expressions of what it is to be on the human adventure. Not a single one like any other.

And so I followed my mapquest instructions to the address that I had been given for my experiential introduction into Shamanism. The google directions led me to a dead end and there I was staring at the grand white fortress of Sony Productions. Perhaps a sign? Nevermind. I needed to sort this out and not be late!

After a bit of reconoitering I walk/skipped up the driveway of the place and passed two adobe-type chalets before landing on the doorstep of the third. Burning sage wafted through the door-cracks and female laughter from within. Yes.

This group of three women had been been meeting for months but I instantly felt one with them, as a woman and one on a spiritual path. They had been journeying with their spirit animals for weeks together and they spoke of rituals and entities that I was not familiar with. I was open to being serenaded by drumming and singing while I envisioned the dunes of Lake Michigan from my childhood, and spiralling down beneath them into the world of animals so that I could be claimed by mine. One has to be faced by one specific animal three times in a journey before it becomes yours. Porcupines, otters, butterflies, bears, turtles and a deer presented themselves twice each and then the spotted deer came forth for a third to claim me. She and I shall trip the world fandango together. I shall never forget those giant soft eyes and the black shiney nose gazing at and through me with gentleness.

Then we women were each taught to make medicine bundles with specific home grown herbs and tie them in red felt squares. My three sit here next to me and as I am transient so shall they be. One day each will have a place in my home.

After this a healing session began on one of the women. The power and mystery of the Medicine Woman's actions and words spun us into another time and place where primal natures ruled and inhibitions were not welcome. A cure occurred. The 'poison' was sucked and cut out. The recipient immediately sat up and chatted and nibbled pound cake with total refreshment and freedom almost as if nothing had happened.

My dreams that night were hardly recognizeable to me. They were disturbed and filled with animal spirits. This is a path that is divergent from mine and I shall embrace all that I can. No matter what the gift of being invited into this sacred circle by these women and sharing for one brief shining moment their world will always live with me.

Thursday, April 8, 2010


Easter is over. After a day of wonder and mystery and joy and food and family, it is a rainy Monday morning and the news channels are hawking fear around impending earthquakes. Fear. We each have a choice to make around this. Every moment of every day our conscious selves know this but the habit of hearing without listening, reacting without reflecting, hyperventilating while our brains dart like terrified hummingbirds from thought to thought without allowing a moment of quiet, lead us to a platform of fear fear fear.

What to do?

Trust? Surrender? Love ourselves?

The answer is personal and individual. My own experience promotes all of the above and easier said than done. Whenever I feel that I have slid or popped or evolved through my fears and am genuinely feeling joy as my throne, invariably something slithers into my consciousness to turn my moment of enlightenment on its head. Out of nowhere, often disguised, life provides the opportunity again and again to develop the muscles of awareness around our thoughts and feelings and the subsequent skills to be the captain of our own ship. With this is place, when the thoughts rise up to bite and derail the joy, out comes the grounding, surrender, and trust to nip it and chase it away.

So what does this mean? Such a monster that societies are built on and wars are waged for and yet so simple. It's all in the mind. All of it: the fear, the love, the upset, the calm. Every feeling is first a thought and so here, at the birth of the thought, we can intervene and turn a gulp about 'the giant earthquake' or 'good luck with that screenplay, you know you'll never make it without a major connection' into 'the rain has lifted and it's a gorgeous spring day' and 'I can do anything!'.

Have a superlative day!