Sunday, October 31, 2010


Ice blue eyes that sparkle with intelligence and life! A swirl of bohemian energy layered over an aristocracy that you were born into; wispy hairs and sloppy jeans slipping and sliding on a lean six foot tall frame. And a voice that betrayed it all, sophisticated and brilliant.

The first time that I saw you was when I was twelve. Margie and I had been told before we went to bed that some new missionaries might be arriving in the middle of the night to share our house, but as it was monsoons and pouring we had no idea if this was true.  We were told to SLEEP, even though they would be arriving with three little boys and a brand new baby girl. WHAT????????????? Sleep? With a baby coming? We winked at each other as Mom blew out the lamp.

And so it happened. You arrived in a downpour and your red circle skirt, white lacey blouse and dark brown shoulder length hair were plastered to you, as you scooped up your children and rushed them into the house to undress everyone by the stove. I peeked through the door to see the baby, but it was you that I watched. You chatted and caressed each one through their whining  and as they draped themselves on and around you, you wore them like a blanket. Little naked bodies, shivering and holding onto you for dear life.

Oh Rita! Little did I know how crucial you would be to my life and my soul!

Six and a half years later, Samm and I hitch-hiked up to New Hampshire from Northfield. We needed to escape so this time we were the ‘two strangers from the mud’.  You greeted us with ebulliance and warmth and before the weekend was over I asked you if you knew of a summer job that might be available in the area. You shrieked with delight “Oh Francie! You must stay here with us! You can help me with the children and the horses and we’ll be friends!” And so it was set.

And so two months later, graduation and the beginning of my summer of discontent  as I was struggling to live up to others’ expectations for the approaching fall.

But Rita, instead it became the summer of my epiphany. I found me after having been lost for three years. On my very first evening, after you and I had stayed up into the wee hours discussing life and philosophy and womanhood,  you tucked your own precious copy of Eliot’s “Four Quartets” under my arm and sent me to bed. That was the beginning and the end. You heard and saw me, as I did you. How can two beings share their inner worlds more intimately than we? We fed, shone the light and healed each other through simple friendship and then sent each other on each’s own way.

What more is there of value on this planet I would like to know?

I recently glimpsed a photo of you that Christina posted on Facebook. You, in your white haired glory and dazzling eyes. Love does thrive forever, even when the tangible connection is no longer. It continues to feed and shine and heal. Bless you, bless you, bless you, angel mine!

Monday, October 18, 2010

A Pumpkin Story

I’m sitting in an old Spanish style Hollywood house, complete with hand painted tiles and arched doorways and windows and I’m looking out over a garden of palms and palmettos and figs and avocados and lemons…all trees!  This must be what the Garden of Eden looked like. This house is an odd one though. It is so beautiful and I can feel its stories wanting to be heard but it holds  a viscous energy; quite like pudding, and I have a difficult time doing anything productive here except bake and clean.

And so today I did both.  I added pumpkin cookies to my rather vast repertoire. Pumpkin, pumpkin, what kind of word is pumpkin? It sounds exactly as it looks. Friendly and round and fertile. And now my very own pumpkin story for you.

Almost forty years ago I found myself living at home with my parents after having been out in the world seeking my path. I had taken a leave of absence from college and found a cottage and  work in the White Mountains of New Hampshire,  and now after two years,  a totally different person, I had returned ‘home’. Is this ever easy? Do we forever revert to being a child when in our parents’ abode? And so, though I was commuting to and teaching in New York City every day, another form of escape was essential and so I followed the suggestion of a friend and knocked on the door of someone that I hardly knew from high school days.

After teaching all day,  as it was still light and fall-crisp , breath-taking I decided to walk barefoot (yes I was a Bohemian at heart and in dress during these years) down to the local bookstore to buy a music book so that I could sing and play my guitar for the children in my class. On the way home, shuffling though crispy leaves I looked up and saw the roadsign for this class-mate’s home, and so I turned towards it. I climbed the stairs, past the Japanese maple, to the elegant door and hesitated before knocking but then I did. Peter answered the door. I introduced myself to him in case he didn’t recognize me, and I said “Would you like to be my friend?”

There I stood with golden hair loose below my waist, in a stunning long black and red, medieval looking, wool dress and barefoot. He told me later that he thought an angel had dropped out of the skies just for him.

He said “Yes, I would like to be friends but I’m just on my way to work at a restaurant and I won’t be home until late”.

I said, “That’s alright! Come on over when you’re done! I’ll make pumpkin bread!”

I had never made pumpkin bread before but I had just been given a recipe by a friend whose sister  was making and selling this luscious confection in Vermont. This was the day for me to try it!

And so at midnight Peter arrived. He burned his tongue on my pumpkin bread, we played gin rummy, and six months later we were married. Peter is the father of my two amazing daughters and though we did not stay married past the fourteen year mark, he is the most wonderful father two girls could have, I shall love him forever, and I shall always have a special fondness for all things pumpkin.

Sunday, October 17, 2010


For thirty years, I have begun my morning  meditation by lighting a candle and spreading decks of medicine and angel cards around me in a circle. When resting, these cards live in a purple silk Chinese bag along with hand-written letters from my mother; snail mails form my daughter, Nina; theater programs of my daughter, Melanie; an exquisite old Klimt address book presented to me by both girls with personal inscriptions in their young handwriting; and bits of notes and memorabilia that I felt were sacred and needed to travel with me rather than be in storage for this gypsy chapter.

One week ago while house and cat sitting, my daughter, Nina, came to visit from New York and needed to work while she was here. This meant that she inhabited the study where my treasures lay and my morning ritual was on hold for four days. During these four days one of the cats (or both) chose to use my treasure bag as a peeing place. Every corner of the bag was drenched and stenched and unsalvageable.

This event took my mind and soul down tunnels, into fire, out into the land of peace and quiet and back into sorrow. The lessons were many and deep.

The good news is that feelings are real, cats can’t tell you ‘why’ and so one is left to either conjure up conjectures or let them all go, the sun still rises, and now there is room for another bag and new treasures if I so choose.

And yes, feelings are real.

Friday, October 8, 2010

Sounds in the Night

It’s the middle of the night, cats are yeowling after a screaming fight and sounds of clinking glass bottles and scrunching papers while a homeless person searches the street-lined garbage containers. The perfect time to look and keep one’s dignity and yet a  primitive eeeriness to the overview. Soft night breezes floating over me, the sound of  gentle splashing of waves, the cat growls and these muffled sounds of searching. Human desperation.

And the distance between ‘we’ and ‘they’ is how far?

Wednesday, October 6, 2010

The Bohemian Exchange

A few days ago whilst peddling my cookies on Abbot Kinney, I stopped into The  Bohemian Exchange to visit the owner, Deborah, and drop off her usual chocolate and coconut cookies. Deborah and her shop reflect that eternal time in our history when medieval fantasy and flower children thrived. Between Deborah’s genuine embodiment of the vibe and her mish mash of color, texture, incense and eclectic around the world paraphenalia, her shop continues to thrive during these challenging times.

On this particular day, Deborah was out of single dollar bills and needed to round some up; hence I babysat the shop for her! The shop had been totally empty all morning and of course moments after I donned the overseer’s cap customers began to appear. The first was a bright brunette woman  on a quest for feathers.  Feathers! She had never been here before but her intuition was obviously pulsating well as she landed in the motherload! There were feathers on masks and feathers on sweaters and feathers on hats and feathers as just feathers to wear clipped into one’s locks. These are the ones that drew her. Of course I had no idea how much they cost and as there are few price tags in this store we were both hookwinked until Deborah returned, and so she played.

After decorating herself with a few and narrowing her choice down to three, she turned to me and clipped one into my hair saying, ‘With your hair surely you should wear one too!”. I told her quite definitively that I am not a feather person. To which she responded “Oh? And what kind of person are you?”

And so I sit, still quite stumped. At that time my mind raced  towards the giant hibiscus that sits on the back porch. No. And then to meadows full of flowers and then rose gardens and then essential oil bottles and lotions and bubbles and then  to trees and clouds and stop!

Was this a question of adornment or collection or spiritual symbols?

And then I knew. All and none.

This entire chapter for me has been about letting go. The leaps and leans of the past towards specific objects such as elephant figurines or delicately jeweled necklaces or dancing violets or tuberose/gardenia perfume or Venetian glass or mystical card decks or burning candle flames, all have been ‘mine’ but are no longer!

I’m writing this in the middle of the night. It is raining in Santa Monica and its sound in the quiet of the night is music. I am in heaven in this moment. Being alive and well and peaceful and in this world where every moment is bursting with possibilities and gifts.

And I shall never look at a feather again without hearing the question “What kind of person are you?”. Thank you, wherever you are, beautiful feather girl.

Saturday, October 2, 2010

October Second

This morning I woke up with memories of the sound of drums and the smell of flowers as October Second is Gandhi’s birthday and so too my sister Margaret’s. A day that becomes more special with every passing year and this year she would have been 58.

As a part of my morning meditation, every day, I draw an angel card from a divine deck with exquisite images and in depth lessons. In my Margaret prayer this morning I asked for a special card and my hand was called most definitively to one card that was peeking out.

The angel is Israfel, sitting in a tree playing a mandoline to a man who is kneeling and looking to her for comfort. The lesson is Music. Music. Music.

Oh! My soul has been longing for something to break itself free over these last few weeks. I have become locked, blocked and enclosed while dealing with personal challenges, and my soul uncharacteristically has not been able to find the key to fly.

Thank you, Margaret, you knew. And so here I sit, eyes pouring tears and a heart that is throbbing with new life as I listen to the French boys sing from ‘The Chorus"! Oh my God, the voices of these boys! Yes, this is heaven and my heart has cracked open to let in the light.

How can one ever doubt that angels and God and loved ones on the other side are ever not watching and knowing exactly what is right and when?

And now, in this land of eternal sunshine we are about to have thunderstorms! The clouds are gathering, the boys are singing and I’m going to go outside and get drenched.