A letter written in the middle of the night

I know it’s late but I just realized I had to tell you something.

I’ve been healing. Here’s what I know:

The reason I’ve been on the move the last few years is to take a pilgrimage. I had done well for myself (+ built a life that I loved) in Portland but needed to leave to feel free. If you ever get that freedom itch, you must go.  Love yourself and just go.

Moving to Nashville seemed like a gradual decision at the time (the confluence of a whole series of somewhat ordinary events) but in truth, I had been bombarded with signs. Constant coincidences for more than a year. It added up to enough that I believed it meant something.

I surrendered to the coincidences. I said okay and took my hands off the wheel.

As I write this, I am struck by the enormity of that miracle. I had not believed in much for a long time. I had been hurting and insular and close to my animal self and choosing numbness. The door cracked open November 29, 2011 and I wanted to be well. I wanted to feel like the world was a safe place. Instead, I had been keeping busy – spread thin by commitments – so that I didn’t have any space to fall apart.

My brother’s case was overturned, I surrendered, and a year later I moved to Nashville, Tennessee.

Nashville brought me so much.

Chicago is deepening the work and as a result, I’ve been healing. This healing – spiritual, psychological, physical – is bringing back memory. It’s actually widened my perception of life and given me the ability to see magic.  I am more enthralled with life than I can remember ever being.

(It’s really fucking sad to have no access to memories of awe or wonder. After a while it seems so normal.)

I’m accessing memories from 2002-2008… and even earlier, which has rather painfully illuminated how much I cannot and have not remembered up until now. Nothing is very specific in that time period. To be honest, I’m not sure when it begins or ends quite yet because there’s still fog settled in the lowlands. I’m in the process of discovery; it’s like a breeze has just picked up off the coast and is making it’s way inland.  I’m hoping the fog clears. I’m hoping to see the sun again.

What I now know is this (and this is the real reason for my letter to you): I wanted to be open because I feel I owe you an apology. I’m sorry that I lied to you and broke your trust and was such an asshole to you. You were nothing but good and kind and fair to me and I can’t say the same for myself. I’m ashamed of myself for my negligence with your feelings. I was too broken to see myself at the time, and I didn’t see you either.  It’s not that I didn’t love you. Maybe that doesn’t make much sense to you but I just couldn’t see you anymore. I’m so sorry I went away like that. I really loved you.

And I know, yes, that we were in a mutually beneficial relationship and it is complicated from both sides … but sometimes I get these flashes of feelings or intense sense memories (sometimes in dreams) and I relive this searing pain.  It enters my chest and it’s like I can’t breathe. And I know it’s because I loved you and I wronged you and I did something against my own code of honor and decency.  So in this healing, and looking at this now in a horrifically long letter, all I can say is: there you have it. I’m really sorry for lying to you when we were teenagers. I didn’t love you any less.



Stuff taking up space

What happens after Illinois?

How will I finish the 50 States Project?

What happens after the 50 States Project?

What is the deal with my wardrobe?

Will I regret cutting my hair myself?

Will I have saved money by buying an unlimited pass instead of a 10-class pass?

What is going on in my dreaming/sleeping life?

Why am I not writing down my dreams?

Is the ACV working?

Should I try Tai Chi again?

Could I wake up in the morning and workout before work?

Would I be more apt to read if I cared more about the book I was reading right now?

Should I buy a car?

What car should I buy?

When should I buy a car?

Why is my imagination fast forwarding to fall?

Am I going to keep those shoes?


On being a mountain

Yesterday, my yoga instructor asked me to visualize a mountain.

Standing tall, see your mountain like in a time lapse or stop motion. Clouds swirl around and over peaks. Sunrises cast the early day light, and sunsets explode– all before growing dim again. Stars come overhead. Animals are born and die and flowers open and leaves appear and disappear again. Seasons pass. Wind comes. Rain comes. Picture the mountain; picture the flurry happening around it, and the constant change in every living being touching its surface. Picture a river carving a path down its side. Now observe the stillness of that mountain. Now find your mountain within and see yourself in that mountain stillness.


My grandmother once told me that she felt like mountains were home.


I read an article not too long ago that about shamanic views of mental illness, which presented the notion that there are mountain people and river people.

“A common thread that Dr. Somé has noticed in “mental” disorders in the West is “a very ancient ancestral energy that has been placed in stasis, that finally is coming out in the person.”  His job then is to trace it back, to go back in time to discover what that spirit is. 

In most cases, the spirit is connected to nature, especially with mountains or big rivers, he says. In the case of mountains, as an example to explain the phenomenon, “it’s a spirit of the mountain that is walking side by side with the person and, as a result, creating a time-space distortion that is affecting the person caught in it.”  What is needed is a merger or alignment of the two energies, “so the person and the mountain spirit become one.” 

“The spirit sees in us a call for something grand, something that will make life meaningful, and so the spirit is responding to that.” That call, which we don’t even know we are making, reflects “a strong longing for a profound connection, a connection that transcends materialism and possession of things and moves into a tangible cosmic dimension.  Most of this longing is unconscious, but for spirits, conscious or unconscious doesn’t make any difference.”  They respond to either. As part of the ritual to merge the mountain and human energy, those who are receiving the “mountain energy” are sent to a mountain area of their choice, where they pick up a stone that calls to them.  They bring that stone back for the rest of the ritual and then keep it as a companion; some even carry it around with them.  “The presence of the stone does a lot in tuning the perceptive ability of the person,” notes Dr. Somé.  “They receive all kinds of information that they can make use of, so it’s like they get some tangible guidance from the other world as to how to live their life.” ”


A shaman painted a mountain on my cheek in 2003.

(I have these moments where I wonder: Fuck, am I crazy? Am I just linking together all these unrelated bits and assigning it spiritual significance? And then my brain goes: A shaman painted a mountain on my cheek in 2003.  A shaman painted a mountain on my cheek in 2003.  A shaman painted a mountain on my cheek in 2003.)

I can’t make this stuff up. In the mental file labeled “Stuff I know about mountains” exists all these pieces.

The article, btw, goes on to suggest that part of the antidote to mental illness in the western world is ritual, and spiritual ceremony.  I buy that.  I really do.


It’s not lost on me that I’m living now in the flatlands. There are no mountains here. If you talk to people who live around here, they take an apologetic tone and offer things like: “Yeah, you have to be willing to drive a few hours to find mountains… Have you been to Wisconsin?”

Every time I have some form of this interaction, I feel flummoxed. I want to ask: why do you live here? Don’t you feel unsettled? Isn’t it disconcerting that you can’t see where you are? That the horizon stretches on  f o r e v e r ?  When I drive to O’Hare, I can be 20 minutes away or 5 minutes away and the only indicator I have of the distance is man-made artifact — in many cases, a billboard with an advertisement.


Instead, I don’t ask those questions and I’ve been trying to wrap my mind around what it would be like to live a life where the absence of mountains isn’t profoundly unsettling. Where maybe the presence of mountains might feel imposing, or threatening, or otherwise perverse in some way.

It’s been a good mental exercise to play with these kind of perspective shifts.  (It’s a better emotional exercise.)  It can be hard.


I’ve not experienced such an easy drop into a guided visualization in a long while. (Y’know, sometimes it’s easy to drop into it and other times… the mind does what it wants…) Something about that mountain, as soon as she said it, made me feel like: YES. I hear you, mountain.

I see you, mountain.  Let’s do this.


Medicine comes in all forms

An astrologer recently looked at my chart and offered this interpretation, which I can’t get out of my head:

The image that pops to my mind when I see your chart is of a barge sailing down the Nile, carrying a heavy load on one side, but elegantly gliding down the river. I see the theme in your chart is between balancing the needs of the material world and the world of relationship. But in looking deeper, it seems that while the need to merge with another is king, the need to feel free and self-sufficient is equally powerful . The push and pull can generate lots of steam and even unexpressed resentment and anger, but that is the doorway to your inner gold. It’s about finding the middle path through working with Venus, as she teaches you to enjoy the body and matter. By truly learning to enjoy and receive the joys of the material world, you may find more freedom of movement and a more expansive sense of well-being. The Moon in Sagg needs room to move. When you find yourself locking heads with the two parts of yourself, engage your thighs through exercise – move your legs and let fresh air clear your head. 

I got a pretty big intuitive hit when I first read this bit about a barge down the Nile.  That extraordinary river, with it’s beauty and all its life-giving.  The importance of relationship between port, and goods delivered.  How the relationship to that very river and its seasons dictates the material comfort and success of the people there.

I’ll confess, however, that my ego was none too pleased with the brutness of this image.  The barge in particular: the hull is enormous, the movement predictable and heavy.  This is not the kind of image that invokes an inner goddess, you know what I mean?.  I immediately picture industry.  Steel, iron.  I can recall a video we watched in high school german class about the ports of Deutschland.

A little sleuthing took me to French artist Andre Bauchant’s oil painting (1939): Cleopatra’s Barge.

Well.  Now that’s a barge I can get behind.


The rest of it: working with venus.  That sentence about the doorway to inner gold.  The deep and unyielding need for freedom.  I need time with that stuff.  My focus is drawn to that barge, and saying hello.


The Chicago Theater

The Chicago Theater ain’t playin.

The Chicago Theatre was the first large, lavish movie palace in America and was the prototype for all others. This beautiful movie palace was constructed for $4 million by theatre owners Barney and Abe Balaban and Sam and Morris Katz and designed by Cornelius and George Rapp. It was the flagship of the Balaban and Katz theatre chain.

Built in French Baroque style, The Chicago Theatre’s exterior features a miniature replica of Paris’ Arc de Triomphe, sculpted above its State Street marquee. Faced in a glazed, off-white terra cotta, the triumphal arch is sixty feet wide and six stories high. Within the arch is a grand window in which is set a large circular stained-glass panel bearing the coat-of-arms of the Balaban and Katz chain – two horses holding ribbons of 35-mm film in their mouths.

The grand lobby, modeled after the Royal Chapel at Versailles, is five stories high and surrounded by gallery promenades at the mezzanine and balcony levels. The grand staircase is patterned after that of the Paris Opera House and ascends to the various levels of the Great Balcony.

The 3,600 seat auditorium is seven stories high, more than one half of a city block wide, and nearly as long. The vertical sign “C-H-I-C-A-G-O,” at nearly six stories high, is one of the few such signs in existence today. A symbol of State Street and Chicago, the sign and marquee are landmarks in themselves, as is the 29-rank Wurlitzer theatre pipe organ. [Source]


“To journey without being changed is to be a nomad. To change without journeying is to be a chameleon. To journey and be transformed by the journey is to be a pilgrim.”

– Mark Nepo, in the Exquisite Risk.