Where were you a year ago?

A couple posts ago, I mentioned my theory about humans being wired for anniversaries. I still haven’t taken the time to consult with Professor Google to see if there is any science bearing out that theory—for tonight’s sake, I’ve decided that whether or not I’m right about humans in general being wired this way, I know from my own lived experience that I sure as shit am wired that way.

I think it started with all the moving around we did when I was growing up. A lot of my memories of growing up are organized on the internal string of beads I keep in my head tracking what town and house we lived in for what years, what school I was at, and what my classroom looked like at different ages.

The internal recollection of where I was when such-and-such a memory took place is one of my most vivid ways of being able to place when something happened and how that memory exists in the sequence of events that have made up my life.

A picture of several beaded bracelets in different shades of red and maroon.

So I expect I’ll be spending the next month or so being a little bit haunted by the recollection of “where I was a year ago.”

Continue reading “Where were you a year ago?”

On Self-Rejection and Synchronicity

With one breath, with one flow
You will know

A sleep trance, a dream dance,
A shared romance,

A connecting principle,
Linked to the invisible
Almost imperceptible
Something inexpressible.
Science insusceptible
Logic so inflexible
Causally connectible
Yet nothing is invincible.

~ The Police, Synchronicity I

One of the reasons The Cruise was such a treasured experience was that it gave me a chance to touch into the energies of my ancestral lands, at least a little bit. I’m Scottish on one side and Lithuanian on the other, so this trip to the Baltic states was my first-ever chance to explore the Lithuanian side of my heritage.

During our time there, one of our tour guides shared stories from his childhood — both his own experiences growing up as well as myths and folktales that were told to him during his early years. One such story was about the rooster.

Now this caught my attention especially. You see, I was born in the autumn of 1969, which means my animal in the Chinese zodiac is — you guessed it — the rooster.


Chinese astrology isn’t ever something I’ve studied. Actually, let me just say I’ve never really studied astrology at all. (End of sentence. Full stop.)

Still, somewhere in my childhood I saw the list of animals and years and matched my birthdate to the rooster.

Oh, let’s be real. The self-proclaimed online guide to the Chinese zodiac puts things this way:

Most people’s understanding of Chinese astrology and the Chinese zodiac doesn’t extend beyond what they see on the paper placemats that cover the tables of their favorite Chinese restaurants.

Yes, that was me. I can see it in my mind’s eye: a red paper placement with a ring of animal pictures and their associated years around the border. And there was Mr. Rooster sitting at 1969.

rooster-cockerel1I remember being generally dissatisfied with that match-up. At the time, I don’t think I knew the slightest bit about what types of personality traits were associated with different animals/astrological signs. I was just making a visceral, childish comparison: there were cool animals (dragon, tiger, snake), strong and useful animals (horse, ox, sheep) and lovable animals (rabbit, dog). And then there was the rooster. But at least I wasn’t the rat.

My dissatisfaction with being “a rooster” was so instinctual and unreasoning that my guess, looking back with these decades of perspective, is that I would have disliked whatever sign matched up to me. The habits of comparison and finding myself less-than were just so strong back then, the degree of self-rejection so total, I don’t see myself as being satisfied with any sign that was mine, however glamorous the associated animal.

‘Cos ultimately, I just didn’t want to be me.


So when our tour guide started talking about how the rooster was an especially treasured animal in Lithuanian folk tales, my ears, they perked up. According to his telling, roosters were treasured because they were the one animal not afraid of the devils or demons — in fact, the rooster’s voice was believed to be the one noise that could drive the demons away.

I haven’t found much online to further illuminate or corroborate this snippet of folklore our tour guide mentioned. The closest I’ve found is an entry on this website about different pieces of folklore regarding protection against witches:

During the Middle Ages, the cock was an important Christian symbol of resurrection and vigilance. A rooster represented God, goodness, and lightness. Cocks’ places were earned at the top of buildings, domes, and church steeples. They crowed at the birth and death of Christ, and they herald the dawn, “which brings light to the sins of the night and rouses men to the worship of God.”

Witches Sabbats were dispersed, and enchantments were dissolved, by the crow of a rooster. The rites of Satan ended because the Holy Office of the Church had begun. The 4th-century Christian Latin poet Prudentius sang, “They say that the night-wandering demons, who rejoice in dunnest shades, at the crowing of the cock tremble and scatter in sore affright.” In the time of Saint Benedict, Lauds and Matins were recited at dawn and became known as Gallicinium, or Cock-crow.

Now, as a card-carrying witch myself,* there’s a bit of disconnect between this interpretation and my own beliefs about who needs protecting from whom. But, knowing how often Pagan folklore was folded into medieval Christianity, I don’t think it’s too far of a stretch to imagine one of my Lithuanian fore-mothers, a wise women and a witch, standing against the demons with a rooster on her shoulder.

After all, if Baba Yaga’s hut has hen’s legs, and the goddess Gabija sometimes chooses the form of a rooster for her earthly visits, why not an ancestress with a rooster familiar?

Amazing how a piece of synchronicity can give you a perspective shift, turning an old source of dissatisfaction into something to embrace. To claim.

* Okay, not card-carrying. I’ve lapsed on my membership dues.


Image credit: http://danielmackie.wordpress.com/2012/10/11/rooster-in-various-mythologies/


J is for Jetlag

Okay, so there have been a few glitches here in JALC-land.

First off was a certain irregularity in the pace of scheduled posts. This has nothing to do with WordPress and was purely operator error: I had time before we left for the airport to tag and schedule the first 4 of the 6 posts I had “in the bank.” I chose an every-other-day pace, because I assumed it’d be easy to find little bits of time during travel and evenings to quickly tag & schedule the remaining 2 posts, and also to take my Game of Thrones idea and lay some quick text down.

Except then I got swept up in vacation mode, and the pace of travel and excursions was so intense, that the blog pretty much completely left my head until I sat down on our last at-sea day (21 July) to lay down that Game of Thrones text and realized — much to my chagrin — that nothing new had ben posted since the 16th. ‘Cos I’d never actually tagged and scheduled songs number 5 and 6, you see. Whoops.

jet-lag-is-comingSecondly, I know I’ve been a touch delayed in getting back to writing since returning home. Chalk this up, as well, to a touch of over-optimism on my part about my available time and energy. We landed early evening Wednesday, and although I was wise enough to know I wouldn’t have any writing in me that night, I did expect to be ready to type something quick come Thursday. Friday, at the latest.

Reality check. I am not as young as I used to be, and it turns out I was sufficiently tired-out and jet-lagged that I was in bed at around 8:30 both Thursday and Friday night. (Yup, partying like a rock star.) So, obviously, no blogging either of those evenings.


first-world-problems-shampooNow, Im hoping that none of this is coming off as whining. Because a few missed blog posts and a little bit of jet lag are a tiny price to pay for a once-in-a-lifetime European trip.

So please understand: I am not complaining about any of this. (Were I to do so, it would really be the obnoxious epitome of first world problems. To the extreme.) I am filled with gratitude for where I have travelled, what I saw, what I was able to learn. What I am sure I will continue to learn as I reflect on these weeks, and as the unwinding of my life’s journey brings new layers of meaning and insight to these events and sights.

Instead, I’m simply reporting out on the various bits of foolishness that have led to JALC being in a bit more of a gone fishin’ mode than I’d expected or hoped might occur.

Now that I am (mostly) caught up on my rest and feeling (mostly) human again, I expect to be catching up on the news, which will likely inspire the occasional feminist screed. And yes, there will be some reflections on the trip and what I learned, and my usual hodgepodge of ongoing learning, reading and introspection.

TL;DR: I’m back at the keyboard.

It’s good to be home.


Image credit:

Jet Lag: http://www.fitacrosscultures.com/jet-lag/

First world problems: http://moneyramblings.com/first-world-problems/


Farmville Cash Cow

The Sequined Threat

Farmville Cash Cow

I knew from yesterday’s exercises that this morning’s concluding movements for the retreat were going to be physical ones. So when I got dressed, I said a small prayer of thanks that I had one T-shirt to wear for the work and a fresh shirt to change into before heading off to the airport and my travels home.

In retrospect, it might have been wiser to switch the order of how I wore these two items of clothing. In my own way of mixing vanity and propriety when I travel, I saved the “dressier” T-shirt for my travels: darker and more subdued colors as well as a subtler design. Dark blue flowers, grey leaves on a dark cocoa background, with a small smattering of sequins across the torso.

It seemed like a good idea at the time. But as it turns out, the security body scanning machine isn’t a fan of sequins, so wearing them may result in you getting sorta-kinda felt up by the lady TSA agent.


Nota bene: As much as I love comic hyperbole, let me be really clear right now about the professionalism shown by the TSA agent in question. She told me what the scanner procedure required, and that she would be using only the back of her hands for this “pat-down.” She made it very clear this was not an enjoyable happening for her, either, and she gave me the option of stepping to a more private location before this extra-level search happened. She also warned me before every body contact within the pat-down, and was as quick as she could be within what was required.

All in all, she did the best she could within the structure to make an invasive and dehumanizing moment as painless as she could. So: honor to her.


Nevertheless, the structure itself was incredibly dehumanizing — something I didn’t really get till I was in the middle of the happening. Foolishly, naively, defiantly, I had chosen not to step to a more private location for the “pat-down.” Naively, because I didn’t quite get how thorough the search was going to be. Foolishly, because I had zero foresight to understand how profoundly shocking this boundary-crossing was going to feel in my system. Defiantly, because even with my limited ahead-of-time understanding about the structure, I knew enough to want it to be out in the open.

Let them see what this system is like. Do not let this be swept over and hidden in the shadows.

No, I don’t really know who the “them” is I want to wake up to this structure. But even now that I know how thorough the search is, and how it really feels to stand and experience that, I have no regrets for staying out in the open for it. Let them see, indeed.

And although today’s happening was an especially charged case study, the principle of how dehumanizing air travel can be holds true in so many other expressions.

Yes, I’ve seen that Louis C.K. bit before. I know how miraculous it is that air travel is available to us at all, and I have profound gratitude at being able to use this miracle in order to attend these retreats, to study, to grow my awareness, and to move my life forward.

But still.

So many elements of airport design and airline systems reduce people to one or all of these things: cargo, cash cows and potential threats. Seats that keep getting more cramped and compressed to increase the profit capacity of each individual flight, and the endless up-charges to try and increase the profit potential from each individual passenger. The continued ridiculousness of taking your shoes off at the security checkpoint. The price mark-up on the Dunkin’ iced coffee bought in the airport as compared to the one a mile down the road from Logan, paired with the regulations that forbid you from bringing the more reasonably-priced caffeinated beverage along on your travels.

I am by no means a road warrior. But I travel enough to have some chances to study these dynamics. And I do see individuals — staff and travelers alike — taking what steps they can to maintain their humanity and bring it into the travel machine in whatever ways they can.

I’ve started making my own conscious efforts in this direction. Saying my “thank you” to someone with attention and sincerity rather than just by rote. Helping someone place a computer cord so he can use the extra plug at the charging station where I’m sitting and feeding my Apple gadgets. Holding my shit together when a TSA agent needs to pat me down rather than exploding any of my triggeredness on her.

But I can’t help but wonder. What would it be like if humanity were intrinsically woven into the travel structure? What would it be like if moments of humanity and connection were part of the design rather than operating as a sub rosa counter-narrative?

After all: how many other structures are similarly ripe for transformation?

Fuel gauge on empty

Running on Empty

Fuel gauge on empty(Just to continue the car metaphors from yesterday, plus bonus points for the 70’s rock call-out.)

When I came back to JALC, I was very deliberate in not setting myself an explicit “I’m going to post every day!” kind of goal. It’s another reflection of that practice/pressure dichotomy: even if, in my heart of hearts, I was kind of hoping I could post every day (or, at least, almost every day), I didn’t want to put that out there as a super-strong goal, for fear of the beat-up I’d inflict on myself when life happened and I missed a day or two.

Now, I’m not entirely missing out on posting today, but this is definitely one in the “quick hit” variety.

‘Cos life, it certainly is happening.

I head out to the center tomorrow afternoon. I am excited. I am nervous. I have a fair piece of packing, travel logistics and generally getting my sh!t together to accomplish tonight. And in the midst of all of that, I’m not really having two coherent or insightful thoughts to string together into a more substantive post.

So: I’m off to get myself ready for travel.

Not even time left over for another castor oil pack. (Which, for the record, have gotten easier to do after the first couple tries. Just like I predicted. *grin*)


Image credit: http://www.publicdomainpictures.net/view-image.php?image=8422