Sunday, December 18, 2011


By C.K. Chesterton –

What has happened to me has been the very reverse of what appears to be the experience of most of my friends. Instead of dwindling to a point, Santa Claus has grown larger and larger in my life until he fills almost the whole of it. It happened in this way. As a child I was faced with a phenomenon requiring explanation. I hung up at the end of my bed an empty stocking, which in the morning became a full stocking.

I had done nothing to produce the things that filled it. I had not worked for them, or made them or helped to make them. I had not even been good – far from it. And the explanation was that a certain being whom people called Santa Claus was benevolently disposed toward me…

And, as I say, I believe it still. I have merely extended the idea. Then I only wondered who put the toys in the stocking; now I wonder who put the stocking by the bed, and the bed in the room, and the room in the house, and the house on the planet, and the great planet in the void. Once I only thanked Santa Claus for a few dolls and crackers; now I thank him for stars and street faces and wine and the great sea.

Once I thought it delightful and astonishing to find a present so big that it only went halfway into the stocking. Now I am delighted and astonished every morning to find a present so big that it takes two stockings to hold it, and then leaves a great deal outside. It is the large and preposterous present of myself, as to the origin of which I can offer no suggestion except that Santa Claus gave it to me in a fit of peculiarly fantastic good will…

Friday, November 11, 2011


After a pitch-black, cold night listening to the awful sound of tree limbs cracking outside, it was pure joy to be awakened the next morning by the hum of all the electric infrastructure of my world coming back on – including the lamp next to my bed. (The last official act being part of a tantalizing chapter in a good book.) But that morning held even greater rewards: warmth, music – and coffee!

After the devastating nor’easter of October 29, most of Western Massachusetts and Connecticut woke up to an improbable winter landscape and no power. As the week wore on, the recorded messages from town officials kept reporting only very gradual return of power, and the opening of shelters and warming stations. Our neighborhood became a refuge for family and friends whose homes continued to be “off the grid”. My friend, Elise, whose power didn’t get restored until Friday, came over for a shower most nights.

All this past week the weather has been beautiful – sunny, with temperatures climbing towards sixty degrees. Elise had a day off from work, and we went for a walk. She told me that, in a way, she was disappointed when her electricity finally came back on. She would come home every day to find that her house was still dark and cold. She would put her thermals on, so never felt the chill, and then she would – relax. With no power there was really nothing that could be done, so there were no pressing matters to attend to, and no expectations. And later, she would snuggle into bed for a really good night’s sleep, cozy and warm, under layers of blankets.

In her book, Creating Sacred Space with Feng Shui, Karen Kingston describes the Balinese annual Space Clearing ceremony, called Nyepi. On the night before Nyepi, there are parades, fireworks, crashing symbols, and music making at full-blast to scare away the angry or low-level spirits. On the next day, silence reigns over the island. No one is allowed to work or go out; fires are not lit; there is no drinking, smoking, or gambling; and no radio, telephone, or TV. In many villages, electricity is shut off. It is a day for quiet contemplation of the year that has ended, and prayers for the year to come.

Now that the lights are on again in our communities, there is little wish to return to those dark days of last week. But, for those who were able to adjust to nature’s own version of Nyepi, all the surprises were not bad. Even then, there was a glass half full…

Thursday, September 22, 2011


I had lunch with my friend, JoDee, the other day, and over our scrumptious shared poached pear dessert, she asked me if I was still writing my Blog. I was taken aback for a moment, and she pointed out that I hadn’t made an entry since May. Caught.

I offered some lame excuses, such as, “Does anyone really read these things, anyway?” She was quick to set me straight: yes, they do. She, in fact, checks in on a number of Blogs on a regular basis; and, just as with the magazines she also reads, there is no evidence of the reading having been done.

Taking another bite of the now pleasantly melting ice cream, I was able to admit that I had come up against some walls during the past few months. During June, I found that I had nothing to say; during July, I was lazy (an object now not in motion); and during, August, I found that I did have something to say, but I was afraid to say it. Aha.

JoDee, a writer, told me that lately she has really been inspired by Betsy Lerner’s The Forest for the Trees. Lerner is a long-time editor who offers up savory stories and pungent advice for many categories of writers on the creative path. And, although I don’t see myself as a “real” writer, I can’t help but identify with some of the same issues. In being reluctant to describe a situation which could be construed as critical or uncomfortable, something gets repressed – and just as with any physical clutter, a stagnant energy starts to collect and build.

Feng Shui encourages us to recognize the places within our homes to which we don’t want to go. When we can bring some light to these less than favorite areas, we are beginning to find a new balance within our space. In having the courage to be creative, to find that inner voice that connects to the heart of the matter, something within is also allowed to breathe, unfold, relax, and get released. And in that process, there is likely to be a shift in understanding -- from the trees to the forest. Okay, onward -- thanks, JoDee.

Monday, May 30, 2011


My mother’s cousin, Eunice, came for an overnight a few days ago, including a visit to my house in an alumni reunion weekend at her alma mater, Mt. Holyoke class of 1956. Eunice and her mother have been the family historians, compiling genealogy records that reach back into the distant past. She brought along photos to share, as well as a “Birthday” book of her mother’s – a small volume, received as a gift in 1916, but recording birth dates of family members covering about a century. It was strange to see my own birthday recorded here – another thread in the family tapestry.

Feng Shui takes care to acknowledge the importance of the past. Within the Bagua map, a grid resembling a tic-tac-toe board which is laid over the floor plan of a space and used to adjust its energy, there is a section, or gua, devoted to ancestors, family of origin, teachers and mentors. Called Thunder, and found in the middle left section of the bagua, this gua represents the vitality of life that is the feeling of early spring. Our parents gave us life; and they, in turn, were given life in a chain which reaches back to the far depths of the past. In the springtime we feel the full force of this impulse toward life, which after a long winter can be as shocking as a clap of thunder.

Eunice also brought along some stems from her garden – lovely white Siberian irises. These plants are thriving in her garden at home in Scarsdale, New York, and have spread down along a hillside in her backyard. The original plants came from the garden of her Aunt Mildred, in North Adams, MA – my great-aunt, whom I never met. I’ve been using my close-up lens to try to capture the beauty of these gorgeous blossoms – and realizing that the past might be as close as my ability to focus on it.

Saturday, April 30, 2011


There was a message on my answering machine yesterday from a friend who asked me to call her as soon as I could – she had had a dream about me, and she thought I should hear it. I thought, “Uh-oh” and felt a wave of dread, but I decided that I needed to hear the message, whatever it might be. At the same time I was curious, because I can’t remember when someone has called to tell me they’ve had a dream that featured me – this was a first.

My friend Sherri told me that she had been on vacation in a tropical setting in her dream. She didn’t know that I was there, too, but ran into me on the beach, where I was relaxing in the sun, celebrating the publication of my new book. I showed her the book (of course, I happened to have a copy in my beach bag), and she said that it was beautiful, creative, and filled with feminine soul energy. I was very happy about it.

What Sherri didn’t know as she picked up the phone to call me, was that I have been working on a book – a beginner’s manual of Feng Shui. It is the pulling together of ten years worth of notes and informational sheets that I use for teaching into one unified and distilled booklet. It’s been going along well and smoothly, and I’ve been having fun with it. But, I reached nearly the halfway point last week -- and I suddenly got an attack of cold feet. It’s almost like I had been swimming in the current, enjoying the ride, and then looked up to see that I’m really far away from that safe place where I started. Uh-oh.

But one thing that I’ve learned in working with the nourishing energy of Feng Shui is that the universe does move in mysterious ways. I think that Sherri’s dream was meant to reassure, and to say, “Go ahead, keep going…you have a green light!” So, that’s what I’m going to do. The next chapters are already there, waiting for arrival. I’m jumping back into the stream and letting the current carry me along. Thanks, Sherri, for having the courage to pick up that phone!

Thursday, March 31, 2011


A good friend recently told me that after years of trying to write, and being unable to, she’s finally broken through. “What happened?” I asked her. She answered that it’s been a combination of things: someone new coming into her life with wonderful words of encouragement, loving support from people who’ve always been there, and, also – the timing is right. Where there has been frustration in the past, now her words, thoughts, and recollections are fully there and ready to be expressed. When she’s writing she’s in a clear place -- a real and centered and safe space, in which she’s found her voice. And because she’s writing from the heart she knows that her words and experiences will touch others.

According to a very old form of astrology called 9 Star Ki or I Ching, 2011 carries the energy of 7 Lake. This is a perfect time to pick up creative projects that have been waiting on the sidelines, because the essence of the 7 Lake “house” is finding your expression. It is also a time for enjoyment, celebration, reaping the rewards of our efforts, and recognizing achievements. It represents the harvest and the fullness of life. More than ever, we are encouraged to experience and fully appreciate the world through our senses -- tasting, touching, smelling, seeing, and hearing the richness of our lives. Memories, too, may be especially vivid this year.

I am excited that my friend JoDee is clearing the way for her writing to come center stage into her life. It’s uplifting to be around someone who has found her creative expressive self because it encourages me to find that place within myself. Feng Shui teaches us that we all do have a creative and very wise inner being which is looking for expression not only in our homes, but our lives. In fact, maybe there’s a project or two I’ve had on the back burner which can come forward into being. This is a very good year for cooking with some new ingredients!

Monday, February 28, 2011


Cultural anthropologist Mary Catherine Bateson visited the Odyssey Bookshop last week to speak and read from her latest book, Composing a Further Life: The Age of Active Wisdom. Ms. Bateson, the daughter of Margaret Mead and Gregory Bateson, is now 71 herself, and has spent the last few years focusing on the stage of life that Baby Boomers are now entering – a stage she calls “Adulthood II.” She says that because people are living longer, enjoying better health, and staying active, the old stereotypes of aging are no longer accurate (and certainly not helpful). She contends that “Adulthood II” is actually a new stage, one in which those of us who have made it this far get to use our accumulated experience to redefine ourselves -- and reshape our lives.

This year, the Chinese Solar New Year, which began on February 4, carries the energy of 7 Lake, according to an ancient form of astrology based on the I Ching, or Book of Changes. A 7 Lake year is a time for enjoyment, celebration, reaping the rewards of our efforts, and recognizing our achievements. It represents the harvest and the fullness of life. More than ever, we are encouraged to experience and fully appreciate the world through our senses -- tasting, touching, smelling, seeing, and hearing the deliciousness of our lives. A 7 Lake year is also all about creativity – finding the joy of our own expression.

During her talk, Mary Catherine Bateson stopped to adjust her gray turtleneck and pull out a silver necklace that had slipped beneath it. She explained that the lovely, sparkling, and very intricate chain had been made by one of the dozen people she had interviewed for her book, a man who had been a boatyard worker during his working life. After retirement, he and his wife sold their house and possessions, bought an RV, and headed for Arizona. He took a class in silvermaking at the senior RV park where they stopped. He now has a new and even more fulfilling career as a maker of fine jewelry and art objects.

For those of us approaching Adulthood II (and also anyone who can visualize that stage ahead), this is a great year to drop some ballast, feel the wind in our sails, and embark on a new adventure…

Monday, January 31, 2011


With the weather people forecasting another “monster storm” heading our way, the panic is on. I went to three stores this morning looking for a telescoping roof shovel, something I wouldn’t give a thought to most of the year; but today, they’re all sold out. I was welcome to call back as early as 6 a.m. day after tomorrow to find out if the shipment has arrived.

At this stage of the game, it is truly challenging to believe that spring is around the corner. But it is just now, in the deepest chill of winter that the promise of warmer times begins to assert itself again. The ancient sages perceived that our universe naturally expresses itself in two fundamentally different ways. These two expressions – Yin and Yang – do not exist separately from each other; but, instead, are interdependent and in constant flux. At the moment that either expression reaches its greatest capacity, then it begins to change, perhaps subtly, even invisibly, at first. John Fitzgerald Kennedy stated this principle in another way over half a century ago:

Every area of trouble gives out a ray of hope…

And the one unchangeable certainty is that nothing is certain or unchangeable…”

Yin and Yang are really two sides of the same coin – one does not exist without the other. Hot and cold, dark and light, wet and dry…each shift and dance with the other. In Feng Shui we are working with these seeming opposites, always striving for that place of balance, of hope -- the promise of spring.