Monday, December 31, 2012

A MORNING OFFERING - Remembering John & Lisa

John O' Donohue - Jan. 1956 - Jan. 2008

A Morning Offering

I bless the night that nourished my heart
To set the ghosts of longing free
Into the flow and figure of dream
That went to harvest from the dark
Bread for the hunger no one sees.

All that is eternal in me
Welcome the wonder of this day,
The field of brightness it creates
Offering time for each thing
To arise and illuminate.

I place on the altar of dawn:
The quiet loyalty of breath,
The tent of thought where I shelter,
Wave of desire I am shore to
And all beauty drawn to the eye.

May my mind come alive today
To the invisible geography
That invites me to new frontiers,
To break the dead shell of yesterdays,
To risk being disturbed and changed.

May I have the courage today
To live the life that I would love,
To postpone my dream no longer
But do at last what I came here for
And waste my heart on fear no more.

~ John O'Donohue ~
                                                          "To Bless the Space Between Us"

John - Connemara

A Blessing for Absence

May you know that absence is full of tender presence
and that nothing is ever lost or forgotten.
May the absences in your life be full of eternal echo
May you sense around you the secret Elsewhere which holds
the presences that have left your life.
May you be generous in your embrace of loss.
May the sore of your grief turn into a well of seamless presence.
May your compassion reach out to the ones we never hear
from and may you have the courage to speak out for the
excluded ones.
May you become the gracious and passionate subject of your own life.
May you not disrespect your mystery through brittle words or false belonging.
May you be embraced by God in whom dawn and twilight
are one and may your longing inhabit its deepest dreams
within the shelter of the Great Belonging. (Eternal Echoes 275)

                                                     John O'Donohue

For Lisa

Child, Daughter 

Your death murdered me
I became a stone of grief
flat, gray, cast into a deep well
a weeping stone like the one the druids
placed on the altar at Skye
my life the sound of a well gone dry.

How could it be that an old French woman
from a duck farm in Lucage,
could reach into that well
after so many years, find that stone
and warm it in her hands?

Child, daughter

maybe I can bury you here now
in this new country of grief unleashed,
take your body from that snowy, treeless
patch in Minnesota and place it in a field
of eternal sunflowers that match your golden hair. 

You've always had the power to heal yourself --"...close your eyes and tap your heels together three times.  And think to yourself, there's no place like home."

Glinda, Good Witch of the North

I awoke from a dream on December 8th, the anniversary of Lisa's death, and I remembered that she always had to have her special deck of cards in her hands from the age of 6 months; she kept them with her always-- in the hospital, in the operating room. through radiation; she had them with her when she died in my bed.  She was buried with them.  An old soul--dear Lisa, you've gone home.  Here are your ruby slippers, my little Angel and a card to keep you company:

Tarot de Paris - J. Philip Thomas, All is Sounded

Heart weeps
Head tries to help heart
Head tells heart how it is, again:
You will lose the ones you love.
They will all go. But even the earth
will go someday.

Heart feels better, then
But the words of  head do not remain long
in the ears of heart.
Heart is so new to this.
I want them back, says Heart.
Head is all heart has.
Help head.  Help heart.

Lydia Davis

Angel - Montparnasse

"nothing is ever lost or forgotten."


Thursday, December 6, 2012

OH, LA VACHE! French COWS demand the right to wed

Marguerite La Normande, President of "Oh La Vache"


On the other side of the mirror there's an inverse world,
where the insane go sane; where bones climb out of the 
earth and recede to the first slime of love.
And in the evening the sun is just rising.
Lovers cry because they are a day younger, and soon
childhood robs them of their pleasure.
In such a world there is much sadness which, of course,
is joy.    
                      --Russell Edson

Living in France is sort of like watching a French (or Italian) film:  rien ne se passe et tout se passe --
nothing happens & everything happens. 


I braved the blustery clouds & cycled to O'Sullivans in Feuillade yesterday for my ritual noisette. Haven't been back there since the sunflowers croaked.  They're all plowed under now and the fields have a "strafed" look.  I know that can't be the right word since the definition is:  attack repeatedly with bombs or machine-gun fire from low-flying aircraft: military aircraft strafed the village.

The origin of strafe is worth noting:  early 20th century, humorous adaptation of the German First World War catchphrase Gott strafe England 'may God punish England'.  Those Germans, always with the humor! 

I think la willowy jolie jeune fille, Nathalie, who works at the Cafe (and is generally completely disinterested in me or my noisette needs), must have missed me.  She put an extra milk dollop flourish into my cup and the coffee was hot instead of lukewarm!  I take it business has been slow. Special tip for coffee addicts:  if you order the noisette instead of the cafe creme, it's about half the price, though admittedly half the size.

And speaking of Germans, one from Strasbourg came in while I was ever so slowly sipping my noisette; he asked about the route to Poitiers, which is about 3 hours drive north of O'Sullivans.  No problem, except that Monsieur was pedaling his velo/bike and it was 3:30 in the afternoon; pas de camping equipment nor any clue as to how to get to the bike path which would be his steady companion for the next 25 hours.  His french was reasonably good, but Nathalie just kept rolling her eyes and saying Ohhh La La, and making that little snort that the french do so well.  He was undaunted & took off into a stiff headwind. It started raining.

*The Desert of the Tartars from Museo Dei Tarocchi -- Morena Poltronieri 

For some reason, the pelting rain, the chill wind, the man from Strasbourg, and the last wisp of my cafe, made me long to be in the Roxie Theater in the Mission in San Francisco watching Valerio Furlini's Italian classic, "The Desert of the Tartars", filmed in the mid 70's.  This gem is packed with European actors.  I remember a few of them because who could forget Max Van Sydow or Vittorio Gassman as the Colonel or Jacques Perrin??!!

It was partially filmed in Iran's Kerman Province where the Bam Fortress, the world's largest adobe structure used to be before it was destroyed by the 2003 earthquake.  I can almost feel the warmth of the Persian sun on my back, the soft, pink bricks of sun dried earth and straw. 

Bam Citadel 500 B.C. - Before


"The seed of our destruction will blossom in the desert, the alexin of our cure grows by a mountain rock, and our lives are haunted by a Georgia slattern, because a London cutpurse went unhung. Each moment is the fruit of forty thousand years. The minute-winning days, like flies, buzz home to death, and every moment is a window on all time."

“O lost,
And by the wind grieved,
Come back again.”        Thomas Wolfe - Look Homeward Angel

It's a war movie with no action scenes  Perrin, as a young naive Lieutenant wanting to make his mark, has been assigned to the Fortress at the edge of an archetypal "Empire".  Gradually he meets the other soldiers who have retreated into faux ceremonies and drills, empty routines, as they all wait for an enemy they fear, but have never seen.  Gassman's Colonel is a monolith--untouchable, melancholic. The fear is so pervasive, yet undefined, that any deviation from military procedure is grounds for death.   There is waiting and more waiting which reminds me of "Waiting:  A Novel", by the Chinese writer, Ha Jin, but that's for another blog.

The waiting is punctuated by a few strange occurrences.  A white Tartar horse is spotted. An officer with a strong set of binoculars sees strange lights in the distance.  Months pass into years, the characters grow old, the endless repetition of the days grinds away at them until finally the fortress is abandoned.  "a meditation on suppressed emotion, the futility of war, the physiological effects of continuous fear and tension…" Joachim Boaz.

And if you have ever had to wait in the Prefecture's office in Angouleme for renewal of your Carte de Sejour, you'll know exactly what "The Desert of the Tartars" is trying to illustrate (minus the White Horse).

ok, ok, what about the cows getting married?   Well, while Francois Hollande has been waffling on the same sex marriage issue, the 3.5 million French dairy cows have been busy lobbying their official organization representing both France's dairy and beef herds, demanding that the draft legislation dubbed "mariage pour tous" or "Marriage for everyone" be taken literally & extended to allow cows to tie the knot. I read in a "Survive France Network" piece by Johnny Summerton, that they are hoping Holland will soon put an end to his "aimless mastication".


*"The Desert of the Tartars"  XX - Il Guidizio (The JUDGEMENT), I photographed at the Museo dei Tarocchi in Riolo (Bologna, Italy).  An earthly paradise.  You can visit there too!

I will be reading the cards at the Marche Noel in La Charrue near Brantome on Friday night and all day Sunday at Abjat-sur-Bandiat outside of Piegut.  La Charrue's event supports the "Twilight" doggie retirement home & Abjat's fete will provide funds for the Bansang Hospital. Tis the season to be jolly (and generous)...

Wednesday, November 28, 2012


Latin paene, almost + Latin umbra, shadow
1)  A partial shadow as in an eclipse, between regions of complete shadow & complete illumination
2)  An area in which something exists to a lesser or uncertain degree
3)  An outlying surrounding region; a periphery
4)  Something that covers, surrounds or obscures, e.g, a shroud.

Today the moon slides thru the earth's pale outer shadow, penumbra, resulting in a penumbral lunar eclipse.  Most outside of Hawaii or Alaska won't be able to see it.  If you get up in the middle of the night in Australia or Japan you might catch it.  Little chance in France to see the Moon's underpants, I mean 5 o'clock shadow. Wave goodbye to the last eclipse for 2012.

Australian boy setting up to capture eclipse

Penumbral Moon
UMBRAGE--offense, resentment, from the Latin umbra, shadow--things don't work mostly because they don't work the way we expect them to.  Here, the horizon leaks orange and red while the moon sits farther up, deaf and blind.  Like it or not, light and shade, piano keys, everywhere.  Below there's a town just waking up. --  Stephanie Marlis, from Fine 

Here it is.  Full and small with penumbra chasing it to the dawn.  Gauze in trees and over water shining.  Where you are; is it situated between the Plane trees or found fellowship amongst those lovely persimmons that you sent that wait for the hardest time in December?
The moon thinks then, it is lovely yellow, pink orange.
            Kim Mott, Idaho Poet, Artist, Dreamer

Penumbral Lunar Eclipse, Jeff Sullivan, Bay Area

Petignac Steinway Fete, June 2012, Jurignac, France

Tonight's full moon is in Gemini, my intrepid sign.  So now I've got the full moon with a 5 o'clock shadow to boot. An astrologer friend told me last week that if I come to a "fork in the road", go towards the light! Yeah, when "things don't work mostly because they don't work the way we expect them to,"  go towards the light, or  did she say "right?" or perhaps, I could just lower my "expectations!" No, not an option.  I think it is a time for more transformation, to go beyond limitations.  The moon clarifies, never mind the shadow...

Tarot de St. Croix -back of card
When I was on the Italy Tarot Tour last month (see Facebook, Tarot Art & History Tour of Italy with Arnell Ando & Friends or visit for info. on past years tours and upcoming tours as well as for just about any wonderful thing that is tarot related, like imaginative decks and miniature tarot worlds) some of our merry band gave out single tarot cards as totems when we got a spark of inspiration or vision for one of our companions.  

I was particularly lucky because my roommate, Lisa de St. Croix from Santa Fe, New Mexico is making her own deck and was in the process of sketching & painting cards while we were traveling through Italy.  One of my strongest memories and images is of Lisa taken by the "muse". 

Lisa de St. Croix

7 of Cups - Tarot de St.Croix

Lisa gave me her 7 of Cups card, and I've had it sitting on my desk next to the 7 of Cups from the 15th c. Visconti-Sforza deck replica that I obtained in Milan from the Meneghello shop.  The VS deck is the oldest existing deck and gives us a glimpse into the nobiliary life of the two families, Visconti and Sforza.  The cards were commissioned by the Duke of Milan and Francesco Sforza.  I think one would have to admit to the power of symbols that have survived for centuries and still carry a potency and a trigger for the imagination.

Visconti-Sforza - 7 of Cups

Some tarotologists suggest the 7 of Cups with its watery flow of emotions doesn't go well with the theme of action that we often associate with sevens.  Waite called the cups "strange chalices of vision".  Others say the card represents self-delusion, wishful thinking, choice or temptation.

Here's what I believe the VS 7 of Cups may be indicating:  the chalices or goblets are closed in at the top. I think the emotions represented by the liquid in the chalices were guarded.  The noblemen, royalty of those times, trucked in secrets, intrigue--keeping things under wraps.  And certainly there was self-delusion, temptation and always and forever:  "choice".

I like what Lisa says about her card: "The Seven of Cups asks you how you can take your fantasties and dreams to the next level and make them real." I also like the way her cups are open with possibility, and the way she painted the tea leaves into the cups to represent her visions.  We can't really take action unless we allow ourselves to fantasize and dream of what is possible.  So what we would want to look at in a spread is what the cards around the 7 of Cups say.  Is there a call to action?  perhaps it is time to allow ourselves to "winter over" with our dreams, hibernating till Demeter comes calling in the spring.  Let us think about the "penumbra"--

1)  Is there a shadow obscuring our dreams?
2)  Where does our imagination exist in its most most heightened state?
3)  What lies on the periphery of our fantasy world?  Can we see it, taste it, touch it?
4)  What things are covering, surrounding or confusing our choices?

Lisa's dreams and fantasies came to pass in a waterfall of opportunities to travel & present her work in Portugal among other amazing adventures.  You can find Lisa de St. Croix on Facebook as well as on  her engaging, informative site:, sharing her Tarot de St. Croix deck in progress with artwork and paintings as well. 

And for all of you out there on this side of the world (by which I mean France), I'll be reading at the March de Noel at Manoir de Longeveau in Pillac on Sunday, December 2nd.  It is quite special and one of the largest fetes in the region.  There may be a 7 of Cups or Lovers card waiting for you (certainly some chalices of mulled wine!).  Dress warm, it might snow.  You'll find me in the "Christmas Cottage".

Warm inside

Manoir de Longeveau 2011

Cartomancy - Michail Alexandrowitsch Wrubel

"Inspiration sparks love and ignites enchantment"

Chandra Grahan Penumbral Lunar Eclipse

Thursday, November 22, 2012


If you don't know where you are going, any road will take you there--
     Lewis Carroll

The Road Home


Back home in the Charente, I'm "scribbling futures on oak leaves", like the Cumaean sibyl, Amalthaea, who as legend has it, "lurked about in a cave on the Phlegraean Fields".  How one lurks about in a cave is another mystery! " The Fields are part of a caldera of a volcano that is the twin of Mount Vesuvias, the destroyer of Pompeii. The volcano last erupted in 1538 and is still active, though most of the crater is now under water.  The land portion that is still accessible is a barren, rubble-strewn plateau with fire bursting from rocks, and clouds of sulphurous gas snaking out of vents that lead up from deep underground."

Baiae and the Bay of Naples, painted by J.M.W. Turner in 1823
Amalthaea, once young and beautiful caught the eye of Apollo, who offered her one wish in exchange for her virginity.  Amalthaea didn't know that old genie in the bottle gag and she got tricked-- asking for a year of life for each particle in a pile of dust, but forgetting the all important "ageless youth" clause; thus she aged, but could not die. "Virgil depicts her  scribbling the future on oak leaves that lay scattered about the entrance to her cave and states that the cave itself concealed an entrance to the underworld."* (Thanks to Janet Berres, HP, from the Italy Tarot Tour, who told us about the wonderful Smithsonian magazine article which goes into great detail around the mystery of the Tunnels at Baiae). 

I've always been intrigued by the reading of tea leaves, though I've never seen any visions in the bottom of my teacup.  Oak leaves on the other hand offer a unique challenge which I'm working on.  But in Paris I did my readings with cards and since I've been back, I've been musing over whether there is much difference in the questions and concerns of urban dwellers and country folk.  The  answer is a resounding "NO".  It's all about belonging and desire.  Where do I belong?  Who do I belong to? What do I desire?  What does the future hold?  Where is my true home?


Paris seems so far away now, though it's only a jot over two hours on that fast fast train. Les nouvelles on the street is that by 2016, it will be faster still: an hour+change.  That's TOO fast, not even enough time to read a third of The New Yorker!  Made it home before the turning of the season--in time to collect apples, walnuts, Coing (Quince)-- now lusting after the Kaki (persmmons) in the orchard, which may not ripen till late in December.  It will be a race to beat the birds, squirrels and every other critter with a sweet tooth, to the precious orbs.

Kaki - Persimmons

Back Forty

Cepes we gathered in the Forest
Amanita Muscaria - Magic Mushrooms

It was a bonus Cepe fall;  I used them in omelets, barley soup, souffles and simply sauteed. The dishes were fragrant & intoxicating, with the deep scent of earthly goods.  On our last foray into the forest, one rainy afternoon, we stumbled upon the red spotted Amanita Muscaria.  There were dozens and dozens everywhere, a fairyland.  I felt as if I had stepped "Through the Looking Glass" and was being chased by the Mad Hatter, yet again!  Only later did I learn that Lewis Carroll had written "Alice in Wonderland" after experimenting with the Amanitas.

"Soon her eye fell on a little glass box that was lying under the table:  she opened it, and found in it a very small cake, on which the words "EAT ME" were beautifully marked in currents, 'Well, I'll eat it, said Alice, and if it makes me grow larger, I can reach the key, and if it makes me grow smaller, I can creep under the door:  so either way I'll get into the garden and I don't care what happens!"
 "Which Way, Which Way?" Alice cried...

YES, I was tempted to try those magic mushrooms, after all, WHO doesn't want to change their size and fool around with the tyranny of time?!  Ahhh, but then I read about "Alice in Wonderland" syndrome, also known as Todds's symdrome or Lillipuitian Hallucinations--a disorienting neurological disorder that affects perception, distorts size and other sensory modalities.  One sufferer said people appeared to be no bigger than his index finger. I think Jonathan Swift may have been hitting on those mushrooms too. "I can't explain myself, I'm afraid Sir," said Alice, "because I'm not myself, you see."  "I don't see, " said the Caterpillar.  

The 13th c. fresco on the left is from Plaincourault Abbey in France and depicts Adam and Eve with a stylized Tree of Life, interpreted by some as Amanita Muscaria.

I will confine myself to using them as an insecticide which is what the Europeans learned in the Middle Ages. Anamita Muscaria's common name is "Fly Agaric". You crush the mushrooms in a saucer of milk, attracting the flies--they become stupefied and drown. What a way to go!

In Paris, I  missed the way the sky kisses the earth here.


Fortified 12th c. Eglise

I missed the cows, sheep, goats and my mean donkey friend on the way to Rauzet.  They all seem to be in a state of "repose"-- from the Old French, "Reposer", Late Latin, "repausare", to cause to rest--I like that--as though inside the animals, the onset of winter is causing them to lose their natural vigilance, relaxing & resting between the beats of fall and winter.  There is a hush across the landscape that reminds me of the french phrase "un ange passe"- an angel passes, which is what the french say when there is a sudden silence.


Misty morning walk near Marthon, gauzy spider zip lines all over the fields, delightful smell of gum resin from the Black Spruce trees. The Native Americans turned the resin into chewing gum--natural, unsweetened--which is probably why Tonto had such great teeth.  Kevin told me he had a guitar once with a Spruce soundboard...a tree with a lot of res-onance. 

Cow Poem - Kim Mott, Idaho artist, poet, dreamer
Forest Cow
Doumerac Sheep

Mad because I ran out of apples!

No choice but to rest

Where I belong

A Queen in her Garden

I awoke
this morning
in the gold light
turning this way
and that

thinking for
a moment
it was one
like any other.

the veil had gone
from my
darkened heart
I thought

it must have been the quiet
that filled my room,

it must have been
the first
easy rhythm
with which I breathed
myself to sleep,

it must have been
the prayer I said
speaking to the otherness
of the night.

I thought
this is the good day
you could
meet your love,

this is the black day
someone close
to you could die.

This is the day
you realize
how easily the thread
is broken
between this world
and the next

and I found myself
sitting up
in the quiet pathway
of light,

the tawny
close grained cedar
burning round
me like fire
and all the angels of this housely
heaven ascending
through the first
roof of light
the sun has made.

This is the bright home
in which I live,
this is where
I ask
my friends
to come,
this is where I want
to love all the things
it has taken me so long
to learn to love.

This is the temple
of my adult aloneness
and I belong
to that aloneness
as I belong to my life.

There is no house
like the house of belonging.
               David Whyte