My heavenly body

October 12th, 2015

The brugmansia – angel’s trumpets – is blooming galore on the bush I planted in honor of my friend, Dina. The backyard still has milkweed and ginger growing and one fat almost orange satsuma on the tree. The grass is turning yellow and the basil is almost spent. Summer is waning into fall that will most likely be short lived as we segue into colder months.


My posts lately seem to flip between darkness and light, as if I were telling a tale of two women. Perhaps I am – there are many women who live inside of me, and each vies for the stage. I sat in my living room explaining to a woman who was offering me a project that I needed work, I needed additional income. She looked around at my living room and I turned to see my home through her eyes and suddenly I felt ridiculous. Then I turned down the project. It wasn’t going to push my agenda forward of a) a better steady income, b) publishing, or c) doing meaningful work.

A friend offered to turn me onto her life coach, she has two of them. I thought of calling Ellen. But I came to believe in the early before-dawn part of this morning is that I need an exorcist. Or I need an alchemist, someone who could blend my light and dark into one heavenly body.

Wait, it’s already been done. I am that heavenly body.


How to get unstuck?

October 11th, 2015

A friend told me to look up what Louise Hay says about my injury to my right side, hip/knee/calf, to see what it says about my emotional health:

Your right side: Your right side organizes and moves you forward into the future. When you are experiencing problems on your right side, you may feel stuck or hampered in moving forward. Or you may be experiencing unwanted change that is causing fear or trepidation.

Hips, legs and calves are how you move forward in life. Your legs, calves and feet store much of your trauma, resentment, jealousy, and emotional pain, both past and present, especially in regard to your family. Problems in this area show a block in the root chakra, which makes you feel fearful of moving forward or making changes. You may be experiencing issues about your self identity. You may not feel any support in your life–as though you are the one supporting everyone else, or as though you cannot support yourself.

I’ve been thinking about this because it would be easy to chalk this all off to woo woo spirituality but honestly, there isn’t a word of what Hay says that does not fit my situation. I am stuck. I’m caught in this endless spiral that seems to spin backwards instead of forwards and keeps me in this state of Ground Hog’s day that I can’t seem to spring free from.

Three years of trying to organize a new career path for myself around the core of race and parenting has left me where I began. Yes, I have a book to show for it, but yet to have a publisher or agent to show up for it.

My volunteer work is in a perpetual state of neediness from the getgo. There’s no end to what Tin’s school, my book, blog, my community work need.

My trying to surmount the lack of energy that has become a way of life for me has resulted in two major injuries this year – both involving my right hip and leg, which means that I have gone forward and taken five reeling steps backwards. This has kept my weight exactly at the same point no matter how far I travel from setpoint, I bounce right back to it with the very hint of a setback.

Financially, I’ve got the ball and chain of debt I took on to start my own business when my job ended in 2011 and the only work paying me is legacy consultancy work that often feels as if it is the root cause of all of what ails me.

Let’s not even get started on my love life where I am approached almost weekly by married men even on my very own block. I don’t think I have met a single man in years except for Sty.

Even trying to get resolution to a situation that happened earlier has met with futile resistance.

I’m stuck. Stuck here in an eternal and infernal spin where I keep coming back to the same setpoint and even my age old desire to get in my truck and run off to Mexico is thwarted by my equal lack of desire to do much of anything at all.

It’s 2:34 in the morning and I’m writing about this because I truly do not have the answer. I’ve done most of my self work operating on faith and a belief that I can disengage from desire. No attachment means bliss, for some reason I’m resisting that notion with my entire being right now.

Floating up here in this bubble where the only incoming messages are trite expressions like “walk away or try harder” has made my bubble start to feel like a lead balloon.


Practice Random Acts of Kindness

October 9th, 2015

I had lunch with a friend today and she told me something that was going on in her life that brought me to tears. I told her something that had been going on in my life that brought her to tears.

We just looked at each other across the table, both of us crying, both of us with our hand over our heart.

She and I have been meeting up, seeing each other here and there, talking this and that, while our kids have been playing together, and neither one of us knew that inside we had come face to face with the worst that could happen.

I don’t know how people hold themselves together in the face of adversity, but life has sure been teaching me how for a while now – how to hold myself together when the world is falling apart.

Could I get my A+ and diploma now, and finally graduate from this helluva school of Hard Knocks? The lesson plan for this decade has been Resilience. That is Resilience 101, 102 and 202, 302, and upwards to 1002. I have become an expert in how to pick up the pieces and go on.

When I was in San Miguel de Allende I went to see The Treasures of the Sierra Madre – at the end, Walter Huston laughs at their bad luck and Tim Holt looks at him in disbelief and says:

You know, the worst ain’t so bad when it finally happens. Not half as bad as you figure it will be before it’s happened. I’m no worse off than I was . . . .

Remember that we are all living quiet lives of desperation as Hemingway said many years ago. So let’s all try to practice random acts of kindness to lift up all these weary souls and walking wounded who are around us.


Getting off the well worn path

October 7th, 2015

I’m hobbling through life right now and on my way to get a hip xray. What? That’s right, this is the second injury that I’ve sustained just trying to work out and be in shape, so I want to make sure there is nothing wrong with the structure – the bones – of this operation.

So many of my friends who are over 50 talk about the injuries and long recovery times, and yet none of us want to accept what is happening to our bodies. I struggle between settling into long walks and going for fast runs. Can I do it is my perpetual question. I still believe I’m spry and flexible and able to leap tall buildings in a single bound, and yet my body keeps failing to live up to that expectation.

I’m trying to come here – to be here – where this place is at 56 years of age. I was walking Stella this morning – hobbling to the neutral ground to head to the bayou – and I saw a young mother with her young son asleep in her arms as she carried him into the 24-hour nursery. I whispered thanks to the wind that I never had to drop my sleeping son off at a nursery. He had a magical nanny and he has a mother who works from home. This was a gift to me and to my child.

As I walked around the bayou, I thought of a trip I almost was going on. A friend and I have talked about heading towards Chicago for her to see her mother and me to visit my dear Flower and the organization of the trip fell apart. Just as well because I am overdue to go to see my family in Washington Parish. I crave the country and sitting in my aunt’s porch swing and seeing Tin run around with all his cousins. I need to visit my mother’s grave too because word has it that a strange man came and took the last flowers I placed there for Mother’s Day and replaced them with sunflowers. Which is odd, because i had put sunflowers.

My mind is cluttered right now and my body is reacting. Or even worse, the world is a hot mess, the city is a danger zone, my body is a hair trigger away from imploding, and it makes me crazy. The other night, I sat in my bathtub – with epsom salt – trying to heat up the hurt on my right side that has dogged me since I injured it while running the Crescent park three weeks ago. I was also trying to loosen the iron band that had me in a vice grip all the way up to my neck from being poisoned. A friend had given me a bowl of soup but neglected to say it had flour in it and I was wretchedly ill.

I started crying and couldn’t stop. I was crying because I was so mad about who I had become – a person allergic to food, the mother of a youngster, with all my energy zapped, a woman who felt as if my sexy and mojo were all gone and here I was starting all over again in a bath of loneliness and salt water tears. I ran from the tub and threw up several times and then dragged my sorry ass to bed. Disgusted with the cards I had been dealt.

A friend sent me a photograph of her gratitude jar the next morning.

I haven’t put one single note in mine in the past several months. So I thought about what I’m grateful for – and I started with hot water. How many people in the world do not have hot water? A woman my grandmother’s age when asked what she was thankful for in her life said indoor plumbing. My grandmother didn’t have indoor plumbing when I was a kid. When I asked my grandmother and my mother what they were grateful for they both said without any hesitation their children. And I am forever grateful for my child.

As I took each painful step walking Stella the next two mornings, I saw an ancient and wrinkled man walk out of the bank with a walking stick. I remembered that I would recover from this injury. That I would get back in shape. And I thought how fiscal health never matched physical health – or mental and emotional and spiritual wellbeing.

Like my father was want to say when I was growing up, it’s always the darkest right before the dawn and sure enough when I woke the next morning, I was a different person and able to reclaim happiness and most importantly, gratefulness. The world lately has been a hot mess and it can’t but seep into our pores and try to undo us. We need to remember that we are capable of great regeneration.

I listened to Sarah Lawrence-Lightfoot talk about the age from 50 to 75 years old with Bill Moyers and she said there are two paths open – stagnation or generativity, which in her definition meant creating to give to the world. The last six of my fifty years have been the most creative and generative – fiscally and otherwise. I am going to celebrate that – my Third Chapter as Lightfoot calls it – and I’m going to be thankful for the mornings, which always prove smarter than the nights.

And once these xrays are over with, and the blood work finished, I’m going to take that much needed walk in the woods to claim my own regeneration.


Mañana doesn’t mean tomorrow

September 28th, 2015

I returned from San Miguel de Allende under its spell. I’m not the only one, everyone who goes there, returns, and some pack their bags and move there immediately. A woman I met told me it is because it sits on a rock made of quartz and so it has incredibly healing qualities. That said, I did meet a lot of speculative healing types there. But I’d say San Miguel is one of those places like New Orleans, where people can express the craziness of what is inside them without fear or repercussions.

My trip was seen through divided eyes, by looking at San Miguel through the eyes of ex-pats, wealthy ones mostly, who have fallen in love with the city and have made a second or permanent home there. This is where I was able to see first-hand the incredible craftsmanship of the Mexican laborers – stonework, tiles, incredible mantles, gargoyles, terrazo and terrace, buildings that fit together from magical architecture.

My friend has built a house there and you can see by these few photos below that inside and outside is not your everyday. Each roof terrace has a spectacular garden filled with succulents and bougainvillea so bright it dazzles your eyes. I told one of the people I met that each day they went to the roof they needed to give thanks to all of their neighbors who provided them with an incomparable view because of the well tended potted plants and flowers.


Parroquia de San Miguel Arcángel,

The colors of Mexico are vibrant and best observed under the bright white light of a Mexican city like San Miguel de Allende. Every flower blooms extra bright, every cloth is more colorful than any you have seen before. It’s a riot of color that explodes in every nook and cranny of this city, up and down, and all around.


There is a large hotel resort in the middle of Centro called Rosewood and for as little as $30 (all inclusive) you use the pools and jacuzzi, order poolside service of drinks and food and basically luxuriate galore in a manmade but so beautifully landscaped place that you never want to leave.


Each view is more incredible than the next because San Miguel is hilly and surrounded by a mountain range, Los Picachos, where on top of one high peak sits a Catholic Church with the largest statue of Christ (larger than the one in Rio) imaginable. Most every day I would look out from the terrace of the house we were renting and see a hot air balloon traversing the blue sky.


But it was the Mexicans that I fell in love with the most, Salvador the driver who picked me up from Leon for an hour and a half drive to San Miguel. He talked to me about his beloved casahuates that bloom white flowers on the branches after they have dropped their leaves. As we drove through desert hills with vernal pools of brilliant yellow wildflowers and fields of hot pink cosmos, he explained the many varieties of cacti; the nopales cactus and the tuna (the berry) that is sometimes so sweet and juicy and other varieties are sour and used in picantes. He also told me more than I wanted to hear about the corruption in politics including but not limited to the 42 college students who were murdered by a mayor who was upset that they had protested – this info was only assuaged by the average Mexican’s incredible joy of life.

Then there was Amalia, who said the most profound thing to me. I was asking her about racism and she said there was not much in San Miguel. I said maybe it’s because there are so few Blacks here and she agreed. She said that generally if a Black person was around, people looked because they were not used to seeing Blacks, but then she acknowledged that “sometimes you injure a person with only your eyes.” Indeed.

When it was sadly time to head home, Salvador and I stopped on the way to the airport, at this strip of food stands in La Sauceda and had an incredible meal. So good, I want to fly back right now for lunch. Handmade corn tortillas and gorditas with pots filled with menudo, chicken in mole, potatoes, barbacoa, pinto beans, and a vat of warm corn juice to drink. Oh my – this was one of my favorites – guess how much lunch for two was? That’s right – $3.50.


If you are going to San Miguel, beware that you might not come back. Keep in mind, mañana doesn’t mean tomorrow, it just means not right now.

Defenestration and a call for love

September 19th, 2015

I vacillate between the dark and the light – the little dark fury that sits on my shoulder says some pretty nasty stuff like you are not accomplishing anything right now Rachel, you keep getting injured and it sabotages your physical routine Rachel, you’re never going to (fill in the blank) Rachel. The light airy fairy flutters around and makes me feel like I’m on Cloud 9 and overflowing with gratitude for all the bounty that is my life. These two need to meet and have sex.

Just sayin.

A friend of mine built a beautiful house in San Miguel de Allende and invited me to come visit him. I made these plans in early January, when there was the promise of work, not the dismal reality of a paycheck to paycheck livelihood that has punctuated 2015. Food on the table, clothes on our back, gas in the car – I tell myself we are not poor, we are grateful. But that ditty wears thin.

So I’m out of here – what can I say? I’m going to visit my friend in Mexico and soak up the sunlight of another place. I’m fortunate. Yesterday in a board meeting, one of the members was late because her friend, a woman of 56 years, dropped dead all of a sudden, shocking her loved ones. See, I’m 56, I’m still living, and if I’m still living, then I’m still wistful about the promise of tomorrow and grateful for the reality of today.

It makes no difference that I dreamed the other night I was in a valley and up high on the ridge were not one but many people pointing rifles at me intending to kill me. I ran and ran and I wound up in an old deserted office with file cabinets and boxes, and I was on top of the tallest file cabinet when I saw through a dusty window one of the guys about to enter, beside him was my trusty dog, Arlene the Bean. In that instant of terror, I was stunned to see my dog who I’ve missed for so long and a smile automatically came to my lips, then I realized the guy was intending to kill me so I jumped in the closet – there was plenty of time it seemed to get snug back into the clothes when suddenly the man entered the office and was standing in front of the closet and he opened the door and pointed his rifle.

I woke up.

The dream was coded, there is something I have not brought to light, something that needs to be said. Something that needs to be aired in the breaking light of day and the dark cloudless night, and perhaps I need to open the window and throw this out to the universe – I do miss having a partner, having lived most of my life with someone to love. Yes, single life is all easy and doable, but I miss nights of curling up on the sofa and watching a movie with a lover, having sex in the grogginess of the morning before either of us is quite awake, and even text messages that are endearing or sexy or both, and worth saving. The world is too much with us, and I would like to have someone to share my bounty with – that’s all I need to say.

Perhaps this longing was spurred on by a note my neighbor left in my mailbox two days ago that asked me to call him, just to talk, that he is “ready” – he is also married, sadly. I saw him today. I looked him in the eye. Sometimes loneliness is harder when you are with someone rather than by yourself.

I feel for him, but I’m ready for love, not lust or wanderlust.


Andrew Wyeth; Wind from the Sea, National Gallery

May You Be Inscribed Into the Book of Light

September 11th, 2015

Today is the 14th anniversary of 9/11, another tragedy revisited and recalled in horror on the heels of the tenth anniversary of the 2005 Federal Flood.

Again, the talk is of resilience.

How appropriate that these large scale tragedies dovetail into Rosh Hashanah, which begins this Sunday evening, and I will spend it breaking bread with new friends. These friends have helped introduced me to a concept that I would have never imagined a few years ago – Jewish renewal. I first read about it in Rodger Kamenetz’s The Jew in the Lotus, and I’m happy to report that he will be in our little group. It is the Jewish New year, 5776, and I would like to wish everyone L’Shana Tovah and ask that May You Be Inscribed in the Book of Life — as it is believed God opens the big book and makes all of the executive decisions for what will go down in the new year.

Rosh Hashana is … also the birthday of creation. It is a tradition that recognizes human frailty, freedom of choice and responsibility. A tradition that calls on each of us to re-create ourselves anew; to come closer to living in accord with our ideals and highest values. For the religious it is a chance to walk the path of God’s will, for the secular it is a chance to tune up their super-ego.

Jewish Renewal has no cogent definition especially for non-Jews, but suffice to say this Jewish girl who was raised Orthodox and who became a wandering Jew when my synagogue would not count me as the ten men needed to have a minyan to say the Kaddish (prayer for the dead) out loud for my father found renewal in its concept. The concept is that gone from the practice of Judaism today is the spiritual, the song and dance, the mystical and the magical and that was precisely what was missing – for me anyway.

I take Jewish renewal to mean going back to my foundation of what God and life is, and finding the wisdom that translates it all into modern knowledge. The God within us, the awe of life, and the magical breath, the in and out of breathing until you find a meditative or transformational state of mind. It means celebrating a Jew’s view of tzedekah – which is not simply charity but instead tzedakah is the root of life. When you give to others, you raise the sparks from their broken state. And you elevate your own soul. This is not simply giving, it’s about joining.

So here, days before the New Year, and days before the ten days of awe until we get to the fast on Yom Kippur, I will leave you with the most important part about this time of year. It’s a time to start again because God did not give Adam and Eve the key to how to begin in the Garden of Eden, he gave them the key to how to begin again. And that is truly what resilience is all about.

L’Shana Tova; May you be inscribed in the Book of Light.

Da Capo

Take the used-up heart like a pebble
and throw it far out.

Soon there is nothing left.
Soon the last ripple exhausts itself
in the weeds.

Returning home, slice carrots, onions, celery.
Glaze them in oil before adding
the lentils, water, and herbs.

Then the roasted chestnuts, a little pepper, the salt.
Finish with goat cheese and parsley. Eat.

You may do this, I tell you, it is permitted.
Begin again the story of your life.

— Jane Hirshfield


It has already begun

September 6th, 2015

My new life arrived a moment ago, a day ago, last week, sometime in this year, perhaps it was last summer during a New Orleans rainstorm – I don’t quite remember the exact moment, but it’s here.

Last night, I went to a soiree – let’s call it that, although it was simply a gathering of writers, book store owners, journalists, and yes, Chris Rose. Ex-Times Picayuners. It was held in this hidden world atop a parking garage off St. Charles Avenue. You rode up the rickety elevator, pushed back the metal gate, and stepped onto marble floors and into a stage setting for a life I’ve imagined. Large glass door archways gave way to a stormy sky and the side terraces that were so large, my whole house would fit into one side, and then there were rooms and rooms of art, and hidden gardens and a photography studio, Butler’s pantry and a smoking and media room complete with three large screens. Red sheer silk covered sofas and chairs. An enormous ceramic wood stove oven stood majestically in an alcove.

Where was I?

I turned and spoke to the woman by my side who turns out to be nearly two decades older and yet she was ravishingly beautiful. During the course of our conversation, I asked her if she was seeing anybody because she said she was no longer with her sons’ father, she said “no, but I do have a few young lovers.”

I didn’t want to step out of this dream.

There was a cat with copper-colored fur and exaggerated gold eyes that occasionally showed up for an ankle rub down and the entire house smelled like Popeye’s fried chicken, which was on the menu. But the clincher was this – I had been imagining this bathroom that I had in a hotel I stayed at in Bali – one that I have always hoped to recreate – and then I walked into the bathroom of the master suite and there was my tub with the plate glass window looking onto a dreamy garden of statue and leaf.


Uncanny, how this seems to happen so often in this new life, where images manifest from my imagination and people appear larger than life and encounters are more a puzzle piece from my own mystery than not. It’s as if Neil deGrasse Tyson were my spirit guide here in this multiverse.

Neil deGrasse Tyson
An informed opinion is never based on somebody else’s opinion, lest you empower others to do your thinking for you.

See, I have become, as the adages say, more of who I am and in that transformation, the interstitial veil that separates me from magic has grown thinner. I do see myself standing in a whirling planet able to hold myself stiller than inert matter, and yet I feel that tendrils and roots are growing out of me and connecting me with hidden dimensions. And yet, sometimes I spin.

I left this gathering, and drove to my friend’s to sit on her porch and talk into the wee hours of the night. We wrestled with past and present relationships. Relationships it seems have been defined for us – our relationship to our current state, who we love, even the numbers of people we should be loving at any one time – and yet, it is discordant with our reality – these edicts and bylaws – the parts are greater than the sum as if the math doesn’t work anymore so now there are affinity groups instead of reality loops.

To everything there is a Come to Jesus, and this now, this moment I’m in is a time of being because I’ve arrived fully into this particular chapter of the story of my life. My feet have even grown half a shoe size as if I needed physical evidence. It’s as if I have burned myself in effigy. I’m birthing one of the many books I will write in my lifetime. I have the privilege of experiencing life through the eyes of a six year old child. I feel no tug of war between the the polarities of gravity and weightlessness – I welcome both even when they follow each other in rapid succession – the rush is exhilarating. Life Don’t Frighten Me At All.


Resilience defined

August 30th, 2015

Definition of resilience – the thing that hurts you can heal you



Change Expert

August 29th, 2015

There is a popular business dictum that says it takes ten years to become an expert in any field. So here we are 10 years after the 2005 Federal Flood and it’s a full moon.

I know only this as I sit in my garden having my morning tea.

I am a change expert.
Steeped in the knowledge of uncertainty.
A practitioner of faith walks.
A teacher of love.
I follow no plan, only my spirit.