Monthly Archives: April 2012

Letting Go

April 24th,

Still feeling the effects of the new moon, new.

This morning, I sat at the altar and spoke for a long time. I am ready to let go.

Then, while hiking in the Blue Hills, I saw a snake, coiled and still. I thought it might be a sign, but did it read as shedding or death? I nudged it gently with a stick. It lifted its head and stuck out its tongue. Very much alive.

Letting go of the past, of what might have been, has been such a long deal (seventeen years, give or take). For those years, I often had the idea of letting go, but now it is ripe in my heart.

Before me lies an unknown path. The unknown path has always been there. I’ve spent a good amount of time avoiding that way, but the unknown path is all there is.

THE UNKNOWN PATH IS ALL THERE IS. Anything else is illusion.

We are forever facing it. I am facing it consciously because the path I’ve known has become too heavy to bear a moment longer.

This unknown path, maybe, it’s what I am. I, you, we, are the path, and it never ends. You never get there. But we have to keep moving forward for its own sake.

I remember that time I got high with my Auntie in California. We were walking through the woods and came to a grand vista. I got stuck at this spot, simply because it was so beautiful.

I didn’t want to leave this beauty behind, so she gently took my head and turned it toward the direction in which we were walking.

“What do you see now?” she asked.

“More beauty,” I answered, and with that, we happily resumed our walk.

I learned in that moment that the beauty never ends. It is with us in every moment, eternal, supreme, unconquerable.

It’s as though the more certain forces try to define it, to colonize it, the more opposing forces rise to free it.

So today, I let it go, not because I fell out of love or was hurt by it, but because I love it. And because I love myself.

I won’t say what it is. You can fill in your own blank. We all have something to let go of, something to forgive.



“The health of the eye depends on a horizon.”–Emerson

For as long as I can remember, I have been drawn to the mystical branches of spirituality. As part of my search, I occasionally sought divinations including I-ching, tarot, palm readings, astrology (both Western and Vedic), channelling, past-life regression, Michael charts, numerology, Ifa readings and most recently, the shell divination of the Dagara tradition of Burkina Faso as taught and practiced by Malidoma Some.

I go to see a diviner when I need help from the other side. The strength of a diviner seems to be based on the extent to which they are able to become a vessel for a disembodied being: an ancestor, a spirit guide or angel, a kontomble (the little people in Dagara cosmology), etc.

I consider divination to be a kind of art. Finding a good diviner is sort of like finding a good massage therapist. Everyone has a different style. You just have to find the one that works for you.

Skeptics argue that diviners are charlatans who are only after money, but such charlatans exist in every field. These skeptics also argue that diviners say such general things that may be true of just about everyone, but so do most doctors. Even as a ballet teacher, I find myself saying the same things over and over again to different students because people tend to make the same mistakes.

I go with the understanding that even the shabbiest diviner can extract a kernel of truth from the cards, bones, shells or what have you, and it is then up to me as to what I do with that message. Of course, one should practice discernment when going to see a diviner. When you hear the truth, you feel a kind of resonance with it and it’s ok to trust that. If you don’t feel resonance, go to someone else.

Getting a divination from a skillful diviner is like being served a large meal. You can’t eat everything on the plate, but you do the best you can. Some of the things you may not initially understand and you find that the message unfolds mysteriously in layers as you become better able to digest it.

For example, one of the things Malidoma told me in a divination was that I had a weakness in nature. A weakness in nature, now what could that possibly mean? It’s true, as I said in the previous post, that I have a thing for trees. Is that what he meant? Or does the weakness have something to do with my own nature? What is my nature?

During the divination, you are free to ask questions, but at the time, I was so busy trying to grasp other things that I let the weakness in nature issue go until several months later another diviner of the same tradition told me the same thing. And yet a third Dagara diviner looked at my numerology and verified this weakness in nature yet again.

But what does that mean? I decided to start spending more time in nature. Perhaps I would find my answers there. My husband and I started taking almost daily hikes in the Blue Hills reserve, not far from where I live in Boston.

No matter how reluctant we are to make the twenty-minute drive, we are always grateful that we made the effort. We notice that every time we walk through the woods, whatever stress we are carrying is magically cleansed and there is always a gift: a tiny bird’s nest, six hawks that swooped close by, a gentle rain, a horizon, a new path. And we notice too, that the rest of the day seems to flow more sweetly after the time spent in nature.

As I started to become nourished by nature, further understanding of my divination began to unfold when my husband and I took a trip to Manhattan to look at museums and galleries. The streets were crowded. It was a nice weekend but the more we walked through the chic lower West side, the more I started to wither inside myself. Feelings of alienation and inferiority began to overwhelm me. Everyone and everything was so fabulous. I felt like a dandelion struggling through a crack in the cement, surrounded by rare and exotic flowers.

I grew up in New York City and the place holds a lot of memories for me. At night, I was assaulted by dreams of experiences in which I was made to feel small. In those moments, when I felt weak in the presence of others, I could see how my lack of strength in my own nature caused me to cower. Sometimes this energy was intentionally inflicted but other times not. I was just too easily intimidated because I was un-rooted, not at home inside myself, and easily blown off-balance, like a shallowly rooted tree in a hurricane.

Aha! So this is how the weakness in nature manifests itself in me. I could see how I built up an armor around this wound without having healed it and how the recent initial healing in nature was allowing me to see this issue more clearly in myself.

I could see how my nature is tied to the big nature of the world. And at last, I could feel some compassion for myself. Finally, I could unclasp the heavy armor encasing my heart, and reveal it without shame, naked and bleeding, because in my embrace of nature, I have begun to take root.

Malidoma says that a weakness in nature is common for modern people. During my recent visit to NY, I could see evidence of that. In a city, we are constantly told how to be, what to think and do. Walk, don’t walk. Buy this. Eat here. Don’t stop. Keep moving. Faster. Upgrade. I think even if you are strong in your nature, everyone is influenced by city persuasion to some extent.

And I’m not saying that those things are inherently bad. I like sushi and a fancy pair of shoes. I’m just saying that it’s easy to lose yourself by being swept up in a tide of fabulousness that has nothing to do with who you really are. To know nature is to know yourself. And to know yourself is fucking fabulous.

Mr. Octopus

Some people have asked me about Mr. Octopus: who is he? Now, the answer to that is not as cut and dried as it may seem. It’s a Pandora’s box of inquiry, bringing the very nature of existence and reality under scrutiny.

You’ve heard the platitude “we are all more alike than we are different” that people utter for the sake of tolerance and inclusion. Well, I like to ponder the possibility that we are all the same, just one big jellyfish. And as soon as I say that out loud, someone gets mad at me. They want to defend their right to be separate. To not jellyfish.

I mean, I get it. We are different, but that’s only part of the story, no? Where is the line that separates us? I’ve always been a little fuzzy on the line between reality and illusion too. In spite of this, I am a practical person. My interest in the One-ness of the Is-ness is practical. I look at the big flow and that expansiveness tends to fuel and elevate my little flow. I hope I can continue to do so in the moment of my death.

“Oh, would you please lighten up,” says Mr. Octopus.

Speaking of the One-ness of the Is-ness, maybe we are appearing in each other’s dreams and neither of us would be here if that were not the case. I’m here because of you and vice versa. Instead of pointing the finger at someone for something they did to us, we could ask, hmm, now why is so-and-so showing up in my dream? What part of me dialed him in? What was I needing when I made that call?

I’m not saying that each person is responsible for causing everything he/she experiences and I’ve heard the Abraham teachings (channeled by Esther Hicks) ad nauseam. I’m just saying that when I am able to look at people, things and experiences as not-separate, part of one flow, I expand into that flow. That is all a very round-a-bout way of saying that maybe you’ve been looking for Mr. Octopus, and he’s been looking for you too.

“Twinkles,” says Mr. Octopus.

Mr. Octopus first appeared to me as a child. According to my mother, she would find me sucking my thumb, staring intently up at the ceiling. When asked what I was looking at, I would point and say, “Octopus.” This pronouncement seemed all the more significant because, I am told, that I rarely spoke as a child.

My dog does this. Not suck his thumb, but looks at things that I can’t see but that are definitely there to him. Just something to think about.

Anyway, I had no memory of these octopus sitings except for the memory that exists from stories, like in dreams. Do you ever find yourself in a dream, remembering things, places, people, experiences,  from within the dream world? It’s as though your dream self has its own memory bank that can only be accessed there. Then one day, as I was minding my own business writing my blog, he appeared. And here’s where things get tricky, for I suppose that I appeared to him the same moment he appeared to me. Or, was he there all along, watching discreetly, waiting for the right moment to pounce? Let’s ask the octopus himself, shall we?

“So, Bubby, have you been here all along, or did you appear in my dream/life at that fateful moment?” I ask.

“Yes and no,” he says, with an ineffable wink.

See what I mean? It’s complicated. You might ask if Mr. Octopus really exists and I would have to quote him by answering yes and no. But, he is certainly somewhere, wouldn’t you agree? He’s in my mind, and now to some extent he’s in yours too. Tag, no backsies!

Let’s take an outward approach to the question of identity, for that is the simplest. He’s an octopus unlike any other. His style is old-fashioned, like the slim monocled New Yorker mascot, but not as snotty. Unless of course he’s being snotty. He certainly does have an edge that is smart, sexy, mysterious and dangerous. He’s not dangerous because of anything he does or says. It’s just that his very presence tends to stir things up, push people past their comfort zones. That sort of thing.

He is laid back and thorough in most things because he has all the time in the world. (He likes that I said that about him. Have I mentioned he’s vain?) He is completely free of the judgement of others and completely himself, that is to say, in his nature. And he is able to change his nature at will but prefers to appear as a dandy, in his bow tie, delicately sipping a cup of tea. And, this just in, he wants me to add that he occasionally enjoys a good pipe of opium.

And he is terribly naughty, but would prefer a good conversation to sex most of the time because you can have sex with anybody (his words, not mine!).

Get this: he wants me to get a tattoo of him on my right inside forearm. Oh, the cheek! It’s not just the pain of getting a tattoo in such a sensitive area, it’s his entitlement that really gets me. But if I so much as complain about this new whimsy of his, he’ll merely give me one of those irresistible winks and in I’ll cave. I’ll just spill all over myself like the big aquarium at the beginning of ‘Deuce Bigalow, Male Gigolo.’ We love that movie.

Now, I am familiar with the term “imaginary friend.” I have to whisper it because it would offend Mr. O to hear himself reduced in this niggardly way and I don’t blame him. People who use such terms as “imaginary friend” have no imagination in my opinion. They are not comfortable without labeling every nook and cranny of themselves and their mean little inner lives. When one is in the throes of imagination, does it not make the blood rush, the senses heighten? The imagination is real in its own place and has a corresponding ghost-like, shadow-like realness here as well.

I wonder, does a robot feel real to itself?

But I digress. Perhaps I should say that Mr. Octopus exists beyond time/space and just leave it at that. And I describe him as sexy because everything I love, everything, is sexy. It’s the spirit that makes it so. The bark of this tree is so old and weathered and sexy, I want it inside me. I want inside it. Yes! Yes! Yes!

“Don’t mind herrr,” says Mr. Octopus. “She has a thing for treesss.”

This portion of brought to you by Rubifoam for the TEETH. Put up by E. W. Hoyt & Co. LOWELL, MA.

Won’t You Be My Neighbor?

“I like you just the way you are.”– Mister Rodgers

All names, except dogs’, have been changed. Photo of mural by Cyrille Conan on Thwing St.

After teaching my evening class, I took Mr. Chulo, my four-legged friend, up to the park for his requisite second play. With the aid of the chucker (a sort of arm extension with a cup at the end that allows you to throw a ball really far) I hurled tennis balls off of his favorite lump of pudding stone with a force that greatly exceeded my natural ability. The chucker, when properly handled, can turn even the girliest throw into a rocket. To add to the excitement, pudding stone is jagged and uneven, so there was no way to predict where the ball would go. Fortunately, there were no windows nearby.

Mr. Chulo chased after each missile as though possessed, kicking up clouds of dirt in his wake. I marveled inwardly that I never ever got tired of watching him run. He’s a whippet, a smaller version of a greyhound, but not so small as an Italian greyhound.

He’s fast. Wicked fast as they say in Boston. But it’s not only his speed that captivates me. It is his conviction. No amount of uneven, rocky terrain can deter him from his goal, the ball, although to call catching the ball a goal is somewhat missing the mark. When he runs after the ball there is simply no separation. No him and it. When Mr. Chulo runs, he is oneness.

Anyway, after a good twenty minutes or so of this, Bob appeared. Not Disco Bob, but Lucy Bob. You see, at the park when there’s a redundancy of first names, we tend to place the dog’s name before the human’s as a sort of prefix. Lucy, an old heavy yellow lab, and Chulo ran a few circuits while Bob and I fell into conversation. I love these conversations with Bob because he’s, well, interesting: a former high school English teacher, musician, carpenter, former hippy-free-loving-polyandrist, history buff and who knows what else.

On this particular evening, we were discussing the history of Thwing Street, a dead-end street in the Fort Hill section of Roxbury that I happen to live on. The funny thing about living on a street named Thwing is that you have to repeat the name several times and spell it out before people believed that such a place exists. “Thwing Street did you say?” they ask incredulously. Yes, that’s it. And if you think that’s weird, check out the dude’s whole name.

“Drum rrroll, please,” says Mr. Octopus.

Ok, Mr. Thwing, for whom our street was named and who was engaged in the triangle business, involving rum, sugar cane and slaves, had a whopper of a name according to Bob. It was, get this,


Now, as I stood there talking with Lucy’s Bob, the sun setting majestically over Boston, I couldn’t help but wonder what kind of place it must have been way back in the 1800’s where a mother could name a son Supply Clap Thwing. What a world indeed.

While musing over this, another neighbor, Carmen, showed up. She’d lost her dog, Celeste, an albino boxer, months ago, and in her grief rarely made appearances in the park any more. But this evening, the tide seemed to turn just a little. She saw Mr. Chulo, who she calls Chalupa, in the park, and bravely ventured in. She threw the ball for him a few times and we chatted. I knew this was a big deal for her to be able to play with another dog without breaking down in tears.

On the way back home, another neighbor, Dave, was in the street helping Carmen unload her groceries. We hugged briefly. He’s a regular in our home on game night. He asked when the Celtics played next. It’s tomorrow night and we are, that is, Mr. Conan, is making lasagna. Come by!

As I left Dave and walked down the hill to our little spot on Supply Clap’s Thwing, I wondered if I had left Roxbury and stumbled into a parallel world of Make Believe until a fragrant cloud of pot smoke wafted oh so beguilingly past my nose. Nope, still in da hood. Nevertheless, I said out loud to the universe and whoever might be listening, “I love my neighborhood.”

I haven’t felt like I actually lived in a neighborhood with, uh, neighbors since I was a small child. Since then I had grown used to not knowing neighbor’s names and thought of them more as potentially hostile people to avoid. But the neighbor thing is nice. It makes me feel safe and gives me a sense of belonging, of connectedness and I have Mr. Chulo to thank for that. He’s changed my life. I used to be such a loner-hermit type but he has helped bring me into community. He has connected me to people because with him, I have to be outside, walking around, each and every day. You get to know people. You get to have conversations.

Seriously, real live conversations! When we are hanging out in the park with our dogs, sometimes for hours at a stretch with other semi-employed dog lovers, people rarely pull out their phones. We are genuinely interested in each other. We play frisbee. In this age of technology, when we are connected, yet alienated more than ever, these daily gatherings in the park are such simple medicine.

“You know, octopuses can also bring you into community. How ’bout a little credit here?” asks Mr. Octopus.

“Sure. Why not? If I can love my neighbors, any thing’s possible.”

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