Archive for September, 2015

Mañana doesn’t mean tomorrow

Monday, 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

Saturday, 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

Friday, 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

Sunday, 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.