Ancient Egyptians believed that upon death they would be asked two questions and their answers would determine whether they could continue their journey in the afterlife.  
The first question was, "Did you bring joy?"  
The second was, "Did you find joy?"

Monday, September 22, 2008

When Heaven Feels Like Hell

Someone asked me recently what it means to be a Pagan. I don't really know the answer to that question objectively. But personally, it means to revere all of nature, to find God in each and every tree, rock, person, work of art, building, everything. There are certain places, people, things, however, that glow more acutely, that bring me closer to the sense of Heaven and the divine in the everyday world.

Any place with a painting by Van Gogh is my idea of Heaven.

So it was with great anticipation that I went today to MOMA to see the Vincent Van Gogh exhibit. I was, at one o'clock, in a very good mood. I had slept in, my stomach was feeling better after a bit of bug, and my day was ripe for a little liaison with my favorite painter. On the way up to the museum I had crossed police barricades, heard the sound of angry protests getting under way as the UN began it's Fall session a few blocks away, but I'd also been granted a "bless you" by a passing stranger when I sneezed on my way across the street, and those small kindnesses count a lot in a big city.

When I arrived at MOMA I waited in a short line and was told by the very grumpy young man at the ticket counter that I could not get into the Van Gogh exhibit for another 3 hours.

I asked if I could buy a ticket for Wednesday.

No advance tickets.

I wondered if I should come back another time anyway and inquired whether he thought the lines would die down after a few days.

He promptly informed that, "it was going to be like this for the rest of my life." I said, "Boy, you're having a rough day aren't you?" (When a customer service person is snarky with me I employ this tactic of being sympathetic with their plight, and they usually brighten up....not this guy.) "I've been yelled at, harassed, complained to...this was a very bad idea!"

I can only surmise that he meant Van Gogh was a bad idea. I took my ticket and wished him the best possible day he could have, under the circumstances.

I then went into the museum. I ate some lunch. I went up to look at the painting galleries. Much to my delight, the general collection at MOMA holds some of my favorite works by Monet, Matisse, Kandinsky, Klimt, Joseph Cornell, Edward Hopper. I generally avoid the modern museums because I'm not one to go in for Pop Art or abstract stuff. So it was with surprise and glee that I began to explore. Very soon, though, my mood began to shift. All around me patrons were taking digital photos of the paintings, some used their flashes, which is strictly a no-no. Flash or no, these picture takers were not actually stopping to look at the paintings with their own eyes.

I first noticed this behavior in Paris the last time I visited Le Musee D'Orsay. That day I left sobbing after only spending a relative few minutes trying to glimpse my friends Van Gogh, Redon, Klimt, all the other beauties through hordes of people with their digital cameras dangling within inches of the center of paintings, cameras blocking anyone else from actually taking in the whole canvass.

"Buy the postcard, people!!!"

That's what I want to yell...."BUY THE FUCKING POSTCARD!!!!" And take the time, here, now, while you have it to actually look at the painting through your eyes, look at it with your heart and soul and find out if that picture speaks to you, what might it be saying. Don't just rack up the famous-painting notches on your belt. Van Gogh's Starry Night-Check....Monet's Water Lilies-check.check check check...

I almost had a nervous breakdown today in front of an Edward Hopper piece. When I lived in Chicago I used to go almost weekly to the Art Institute to look at Hopper's Nighthawks.

This was in the day when that gem of a canvass had it's own wall and a bench right in front and I would sit there for an hour and just dive into the painting. My friend Joe and I did a movement piece based on it I really did get to bring it to life....

Here is the painting from today....very moody, the paint looking as if it has barely dried. In person, it is so luminous. Well this man sidles up next to me and takes a flash photo. At this point I have held my tongue at least 100 times, so I can't take it any more and I say, "You know you aren't supposed to take flash harms the paint." He say, "yeah, yeah, yeah..." and takes another photo. Fucker! It was all I could do not to tackle him and smash his camera against the wall....

By the time 4 o'clock rolled around and I was allowed into the Van Gogh exhibit I was shaking. I kept telling myself to take a deep breath and just enjoy. I always feel like Vincent and I are having some kind of affair...his paintings are so alive, so insistent. I have this visceral feeling that he is reaching out into me and I into him. I imagine he is having an affair with countless others as well, so I try to be respectful of the other museum goers.

Fortunately they do not allow cameras at all into the special exhibits. So I was able to get a little one on one time with some of the lesser paintings. But when it came to the masterpieces, we all had to share. For the most part everyone was very civilized about it. Until we all turned a corner and there was Starry Night. It was here that some old guy decided he deserved a better spot than me and started pushing me out of the way...subtly...but deliberately....until I was stuck squarely behind another man with a large head who was right in front of the center of the painting.

Let me make it clear, I was not in a great spot to begin with. I was a row of people away from the wall. I was off to the side, but I had a clear shot between the heads of people in front of me. And I was not blocking anyone else.

Well, I was flabbergasted.

As I tried not to scream out into the void (which Vincent probably would have applauded, by the way) the man in front of me vacated his spot. Then, as the bully who'd maneuvered me out of the way started to trade in his already great spot for the one in front of me, I boldly stepped forward, blocked his way and took center stage in the light of this painting.

I was not proud of myself. But I had a few moments with the canvass of my dreams....and I didn't end up in jail for decking an old guy with an out-dated sense of entitlement.

I left MOMA sad. My day in Heaven had turned into it's own little Hell.

I walked out into the streets of Mid-Town Manhattan where police men with assault riffles stood ready to protect the diplomats of the world, where bankers at Morgan Stanley, Lehmann Brothers and all the rest struggle with the fall of the American economic system, and I felt ashamed. I'd been in the presence of beauty today and I'd gotten a little more ugly.

I don't have an epiphany about all this to share with you. Just the tale. Take whatever meaning you want from it.

Sunday, September 21, 2008

Why I Heart the 23rd St. Subway Station

I'm a big general...of a subway station, be it in New York, Chicago, Paris, even London...I probably would have liked the stations in Rome, had I decided to take the train instead of stubbornly walking all over the place, mostly in circles....

I liken my love of subway stations to a similar affinity I have for farmer's markets or street fairs. There is a sense of community, of life being lived unselfconsciously when people are hustling and bustling from one train to another, or out buying their weekly groceries. Granted, down in the bowels of some big city it doesn't often smell as clean and delicious as your neighborhood farmer's market, but there is usually a musician serenading commuters, just as there might be one busking out on the street during a fair....and I'm a sucker for good music found in unexpected places....

Over the years I've developed fondnesses for particular subways stops.

I've got a few favorite Metro stops in Paris, one I wrote about at length because my family went there often. If you want to read that post you can go here...I love that station not for what is inside, but what is outside: a view of the Eiffel Tower unlike any other. There is another station whose interior makes me smile...that one is tiled all over it's walls and arched ceiling with bright orange tiles...burnt orange everywhere you look. Then there is the simple fact that Paris metro stations just smell better than ones in other cities do, don't ask me why, cuz I haven't a clue.

I ran into a friend from college once at a Chicago train stop about 15 years ago. I was going into the "L" on Armitage, and he was coming out. He said, "Morgan, oh my God, I just had the best dream about you. I'm in a rush, so I'll tell you about it later." When I finally got in touch with him again through facebook a few months ago, he actually remembered running into me all those years ago, remembered telling me he'd had a dream, but he couldn't remember what it was. That meeting and that station are clearly imprinted on my brain, as if I'd just run into my friend yesterday.

Subway stations are good for that kind of thing: chance encounters. Metro platforms hold opportunities to unexpectedly share a moment with a long lost friend....or to speak to a handsome stranger who caught your eye.....But most of us choose to rush on to the next destination...completely unaware that this might be the last time we ever see a certain someone or travel to that spot. Commuters on subways, it seems to me, are daily choosing whether to stop and speak to the beautiful stranger or to hurry on their pre-determined course, leaving them fantasizing for years to come about that mysterious person, with the eyes, and the smile and the sweet way he said, "Bon Vacance."

Subways take you all over a city, rumbling beneath landmarks, palaces, and people you long to meet. Often we use them to get from one spot we already know to another spot we know, and we never investigate the landscape in between.

We rumble through stations that sometimes have enticing or exotic names. For instance, my brother once lived in Queens...I don't remember which stop we got off to visit him, but I do know that it was one stop past "Bliss." I rather thought he'd missed the mark there...always getting off one stop PAST bliss. But I was just a kid then, what did I know.

Other stations, most in New York, as far as I can tell, have simple numbers attached to "street" or "avenue". Now when I visit my brother I get off at 96th Street. It is important, I have learned, to specify that this is 96th Street on the 1,2, or 3 line. There is nothing special about this stop, except that my family lives 4 blocks away which, I guess, is really special enough.

My new all time favorite subway stop is also a simple "Street", 23rd Street. This is on the N, R, and W line. Until this afternoon, I had never actually gotten off the train at 23rd Street. I'd breezed through it several times on the Q train. But that is all I'd needed to see to fall in love...the magic, for me, is actually in the breeze by.

You see this station, like many others in New York, has been newly re-tiled and mosaic-ed. The walls are mostly a bright white tile, very clean, very stark. But all along the walls at random heights are mosaics of various hats from days gone by which look as if they have all blown out of a hat shop and are flying down the underground street. This is fairly whimsical to begin with, but then when you add commuters standing and sitting along the walls, all unaware that there are magical hats above their heads....well, to those of us in the passing train who bother to look out the windows, we are treated to the vision of various modern day people wearing crazy hats, or people standing around non-chalantly unaware that they are in a wind-storm and their fancy chapeaus have just blown off their heads. It is utterly delightful! Ordinary folk are transformed into characters out of some surreal Fellini-esque street scene.

I stopped at 23rd street today to try and get a picture of the effect. I wasn't very successful, but here are a few feeble glimpses.

I recently asked people on facebook to guess why the 23rd St. Station might be my favorite. They told me all sorts of wonderful things about the landscape above the tracks. The stairs out of that station take a person to the Chelsea Hotel where Mark Twain, among others, lived, the Flat Iron building is nearby, apparently Bob Dylan wrote songs in the immediate vicinity and there's even a song called "23rd St. Lullaby" written by Patti Scialfa. My friend Jeff also informed me that the hats flying on the walls are representations of those worn by actual people and, sure enough, that is true. Mark Twain's hat is there, as is Houdini's, I can't remember who else. I suspect all the people whose hats grace the walls of the 23rd Street station might have lived in the neighborhood or even at the Chelsea Hotel, but that's just my guess. Someday I am gonna get off at 23rd St. and walk up the steps and check out the neighborhood. I promise.

In the meantime, I can't shake the wonder I have about the artist who put those hats up on the walls and knew that his models would be there all day everyday to make the hats come alive. I am so grateful to her for granting me that unexpected surprise, those moments of delight, in the middle of an ordinary commute.

There's another thing too. I've always had a wee bit of prejudice against rushing. I am a firm believer in the health benefits of stopping to smell the flowers. When I like the music in the subway I walk slowly to the platform, I linger, sometimes I even sway my hips and dance a bit. I tend to want to lounge in a moment, especially if it is heavy with connection and feeling and beauty. But I guess sometimes you don't have to stop or even slow down to discover the miraculous in the moment, sometimes it's better to breeze let the eyes linger...and then let the beautiful stranger go....maybe that one moment is as good as it gets....that fleeting jolt of intimacy is all the gift there is...or all the gift you both need....the 23rd St. Station is a living example of loving something and letting it go....and I'm gonna hold onto that lesson and carry it with me for a long time to come.

Saturday, September 20, 2008

Staying Present

Okay. I know. I promised you stories from my big European Adventure. And then I came to New York to do a show and life kept happening to me.

I went the other day to Central Park to listen to The Swell Season with my friends Kevin and Jenn, and Jenn told me I had to keep writing. She said she wanted to keep reading my blog. Which was sure nice of her.

So I realized that I'd put myself into a bit of a bind. It seems, thankfully, that life and all it's great little miracles continue to happen back here at home. So I am processing today and thinking that I can only write about yesterday, which is rather ridiculous.

So, I am just going to write and I am pretty sure that as I tell you about the journey as it continues, those delicious tales I promised you from before will find their way into the blog as well. Jenn and all of you who have asked for more. It's nice to have friends to write for.

Mostly, though, it's nice to have friends.

Monday, August 25, 2008

What's on the Menu?

It has been more than a few weeks since I have written something here.

You might have noticed that already.

This summer has been a wee bit strange and mercurial. There's been a whole lot of wonderful and a fairly steady stream of hiccups in the flow of my summer frivolity. Things like broken water heaters, overflowing toilets, lice, identity theft, disappearing gardeners who took my check but left the garden a mess, my computer almost crashing under the weight of all my travel pictures, and a flirty mcflirterman who didn't really mean it...or he did....but then he didn't.

Those are, obviously, the hiccups.

On the other end of the thermometer are wonderful weekends out of town, connecting with long lost friends, dancing, a heck of a lot of sunshine, new family in town, visitors from out of town, spontaneous healings, and the joy of telling stories from my trip....which has kept me from writing about my journey.

It has taken me all this while to sort through my photos. Isn't that a strange part of travel? Reviewing the pictures, looking at it all again from the safety of your couch, culling out the snapshots that you hope will evoke the feel, smell, taste of a place long after you've returned home and traveled through the time and space of your "regularly" scheduled life?

And now I have a week before I jump into the mayhem of what I think will be six months of steady acting work which includes three weeks of performing in New York City and my first ever one-woman show (before you get the wrong idea--those are two separate projects). So I feel called to try and send some of the stories that I have been promising you out into the cyber-world before I sink into the theatre for a while.

Where to start?

There are so many little stories. Little tapas sized tales. I could tell you a handful of those.

Then there are some real juicy, rib-eye steak kind of stories. Maybe I should tempt you with one of those, give you something really satisfying that keeps you coming back for more. Then if it takes me a while to write again, you won't mind because you'd still be full from the story you read a week ago.

Then there is the ONE, the piece de resistance, the story that, dare I say it, really does feel like it encompases the whole enchilada. But I don't think I'll go there yet...not sure I can in this format, actually. In fact, that is what much of my summer has been about, feeling out how to tell THAT story, the one I won't tell you yet. The one that has changed my life. Because that story really needs perspective, back-story, history.

So, I guess that answers the question really. I'll start with the appetizers, work my way up to the main course. Probably sprinkle in a bit of historical perspective, and then, when the time is right, maybe I'll spring the prize on you.

Seriously, I know that's a darn lot of lead up. But there is no other way. You and the story, deserve it.

Wednesday, July 9, 2008

Where Am I?

I have been back in Seattle for 10 days or so. That's a day for every week I was gone, come to think of it. They say that when you end a relationship it takes something like one month for every year that you were together to recover from the break up. After 10 days home, I feel like I am finally recovering from the end of my "world tour".

My jet lag hung on for over a week. Concentration only now seems to be speaking to me again. And last night was the first time I did not wake up and wonder where I was.

It is strange. I never woke up on the road and wondered where I was. Not once. Despite the regular change of local. But here, in my house, the bed that I have slept in for 5 years has felt totally alien, exquisitely comfortable, but alien. It is as if my body came home on the 29th of June, but my soul is only just now arriving.

I am excited to get down to the business of telling you stories, sharing photos. I just have to shuffle through the logistics of returning to a house and job that I have left behind for three months. I had to get my hot water heater fixed almost as soon as I came off the plane. My computer decided it didn't want all the photos from my trip and then decided that it really wanted 3 different copies of all those pictures....that's a lot of now I have to have my computer repaired, before I lose all my pictures. I have to turn my teaching brain back on & figure out how to teach physical comedy to 5 middle school kids. I have to stop driving over the curb when I turn corners. The dog needs to go to the vet and the yard needs to be unearthed from the morning glory that seems to have eaten everything in sight.

As mundane as all that sounds, I really am finding some comfort and even wonder in it all. It relates to a promise wrapped in a wish that I had while I was on Iona. As I was contemplating what my trip was about and what it is I want to manifest in my life from this point forward, well, That point forward technically, I looked over to see a couple walk down to the beach. Without thinking I said out loud to myself, "well, that's one thing. I am done being alone. I am finished being lonely." I thought I was talking about romance.

But as soon as I returned to Seattle, after a lovely week in New York with my brother and his family, to the lovely house that blesses me with it's shelter and warmth, and to my two fantastic house-mates, Cora and Alyssa, something had shifted. I realized how much love and family and support was jam packed into my life. As I have slowly started visiting friends and family the connective tissue is stronger, more solid. I feel no lack. I feel only blessings. I feel surrounded with love.

I have not felt lonely or alone for even a second since I left Iona.

So, where am I? It would seem that I am Home.

Sunday, June 29, 2008


Today is the day. The day I finally go home to Seattle, the house, the pets, the wonderful friends and roommates, bills, work, an overgrown garden, driving, my own bed.

I have been in New York City for the last five days, hanging out with family, in a city I know. So, it is like I have still been traveling, but not, home, but not HOME. It feels a little bit like I have been re-entering the atmosphere gradually, re-acclimatizing myself to the familiar, fighting and reveling in the pull of gravity, i.e. easy access to the internet and long non-international calling rates calls to friends.

So much happened on the journey of the last 10 or so weeks that I haven't been able to share with you yet, but I think I have conveyed the truly miraculous wonder and daily experience of having my heart opened more and more by the beauty and wisdom of this Earth and the people who live on it. This trip was everything I wanted it to be. It was expansive and expanding. And I go home tonight feeling as if the work that needed to be done, the work that called me to travel at this time and to those places was done.

It was easy work.

Re-entry to the everyday of "normal" life, that's the challenge. Keeping the heart and mind open and expansive amidst the people and places I THINK I know, is, perhaps, even greater work. And by "work" I mean, "privilege" and "joy", as well as, an endeavor to be diligent in pursuing. I don't expect this to be "hard" work, but I know that it requires presence and stillness and curiosity. It takes the courage to approach the daily existence I left behind with the same sense of adventure and joy as I approached the world on my European trip, and without preconceived notions of what my daily life is, who the players are. Every friend, aquaintance, co-worker I encounter at home deserves to be met with the same curiosity I afforded strangers on my trip. Each day, deserves the same wonder. It is my hope that I can stand in the kitchen of my house, or the classroom I will teach in and say with the same sense of awe that I held in my heart while standing in the coliseum in Rome, "I can't believe I am standing here. How amazing. How lucky!"

Thursday, June 26, 2008

Some Statistics

Well, while I continue to struggle with technology, unable to upload photos until I get back to Seattle it seems, I thought I'd share a few interesting numbers from my trip.

Countries Visited: 6
Towns/Cities Visited: 36, give or take a few little villages I passed through
Beds slept in: 26
Types of Shower Faucets: At least 20, who knew there could be so many ways of turning on water and making it come out of a shower head.

Modes of Transportation that got me from one town to the next....doesn't include inner city stuff:

Planes: 6
Buses: 19
Trains: 25
Ferry Boats: 5
Tour Buses: 2

Pairs of shoes that had to be replaced: 2

Numbers of emergency pedicures, that made it possible to be in close proximity to anyone else: 1, should have been 2
(and by "close proximity", I mean in the same room, nothing more....don't get any funny ideas now)

Suitcases that had to be replaced: 1

Digital Cameras that had to be replaced: 1

Number of calls home: 3

Number of different keyboards I had to try and figure out because the keys get all moved around: 4

Number of times relative strangers, if not outright strangers, proclaimed their love for me: Well I was in Italy 10 days, so lets say: 25

Acts of extreme Rudeness (someone elses, not mine): Well, I was in Italy 10 days.....Just kidding: I'd say, approximately 12

Acts of extreme Rudeness, my own: 2 that I am aware of.

Acts of Extreme Kindness (someone elses, not mine): At least 47.

Small but brilliant acts of kindness: Hundreds

Number of times I said outloud, usually to myself, "I can't believe I am here": 5

Number of times I shed tears because I had realized "I was here": at least 15

Number of miracles personally witnessed by me: 55ish, unless you count the simple fact that the sun rises everyday and things like that, then: countless

Days I couldn't believe my good fortune: 70

Days I wanted to go home; 0

Days I was sad that my trip was over and it was time to go home: 0

Sunday, June 22, 2008

Random Things I Love About the United Kingdom

1. Many places don't have top sheets on the beds...and I mean nice places, with great down comforters and feather beds. The fact that they don't bother with top sheets makes me feel better, because I always put one on my bed, but it disappears immediately, and I always think, "why do I bother, I should just go without a top sheet." Now that I know the English and Scots and Welsh go without their top sheets, I'm gonna start going without.

2. They have a tv program here called something like: Trees That Made Britain. It's all about cool trees and why they are so important to this country. It treats trees like celebrities. There is nothing wrong with a country that elevates it's trees to star status. Except maybe what this guy is talking about....

3. There is this big-wig politician here named David Davis, conservative as far as I can follow, who just resigned his post as a way of protesting the way the governments seems to be systematically taking away the civil liberties of, well, everyone. This happened the same day I said to myself, "geez, there are CCTV cameras everywhere in England." And they are, almost everywhere you go there are cameras watching you. That's just one little part of it, it's a wee bit 1984 around here. So this guy resigned to force a new election, where he will run again in hopes of proving that his constituents are as fed up with the governments antics as he is. You can read more about it here. Why can't I imagine that happening at home?

4. Scones.

5. The accents. It's like a symphony of music everywhere I go. I've begun to get a feel for what accent belongs to which part of the country, which is exciting. Though people from Bristol and people from Ireland sound strangely similar....

6. It's green everywhere. Okay, not everywhere. The cities can, some of them, feel like strange black holes where the color green has been banned. But maybe that is because there is so much green everywhere else.

7. I was in a pub the other day being flirted up by the five guys who were having a wee tipple and had invited me in as I walked by. They were perfectly harmless and very funny and among them there was a guy who worked on the ferry, two fishermen, one builder, and the last was a world class weaver. He weaves cloth that is sold all over the world ("Very top drawer stuff." imagine that being said with a Nottingham accent, which means the "r"s become "w"s.) That's just not a combination of blokes I think I'm likely to meet anywhere else.

8. From almost everyplace I've been, except the big cities, I can get up, walk out my door and walk through stunning fields or mountains or right near the seashore. There are trails that link all the towns, whether you have to climb over a mountain or through a field full of sheep poo (speaking of...why the tourism board doesn't hand out complementary boots to all visitors is lost on me), you can walk from anywhere to anywhere thanks to the handy dandy signposts that guide you through wilderness and forest.

9. The pet names total strangers have called me: love, my love, duck, duckie, pet. Better watch out, I'm bringing that back with me. Hope that's okay with you, eh Duck?

10. Digestives....thank goodness I don't know where they sell these yummy little biscuits at home. These after dinner-what-we-would-call-cookies can be plain, or covered in chocolate (milk, white or dark), some have caramel, I'm sure there are other kinds, but I kinda got stuck on the Dark Chocolate ones and pretty much settled in right there. If you live in America and know where these little delicacies are to be found, DO NOT TELL ME!

Okay, I'm gonna go eat a digestive now.

Thursday, June 19, 2008

Between a Rock and a Hard Place

I want so much to tell you the story of Iona, of my time with... interaction with....what do you call it when an island almost literally speaks to you, when the Earth answers a call....I guess I'd say, my conversation with Iona.

But this story has visual aids that cannot be accessed on rented computers.

This story and you deserve the whole shebang.

So let me tell you this: The Earth Is Listening. The Earth Is Talking. All we have to do is remember how to speak the language. It is a romance language. It has everything to do with Love.

I assure you I have not gone off my rocker, but something so amazing has happened that I find it staggering to fact, when it happened I almost fell over, and had to stumble to a seat.

Enigmatic, Yes?

I am home in two weeks. Then all will be revealed.

Sunday, June 15, 2008

"Strange Travel Suggestions Are Like Dancing Lessons from God." Kurt Vonnegut

A while ago I received an email from a dear friend family friend, Judy. She told me I should go to a place called Iona off the coast of Scotland. She hasn't been there herself, but a friend goes there and has reported an intense spiritual energy and connection to the place. Somewhere in the haze of my memory, I seemed to have heard that somewhere else, and my guide book happens to say the same thing. So, following Kurt Vonnegut's implied advice I decided that I would make Iona a part of my trip. As it turned out through the twists and turns of scheduling from the road I was able to book two nights on the magical isle for this coming Tuesday and Wednesday. Fortuitously, these happen to be around the full moon, which seemed right. And they also happen to be very near the end of my trip, which seemed even more right.

After I booked Iona, I worked backwards and found someplace to stay on the island right across the water, The Isle of Mull, for the three nights before hand. That is where I am now. If I walked outside I could stare across the water at the beautiful Abbey on Iona, one of the many Christian churches erected prominently on old Pagan pilgrimage sites so that the church can show the world who they think is boss. That's okay though, spiritual energy, when it's really clicked on has no boundaries, no names, and we can all sit together and commune with it whether we are under a stone temple or sitting next to an oak tree by a well.

I have not gone across the water yet to Iona. I feel that I want to look at the island for a few days. I feel as if I am preparing myself. I want to take some time to journal and to remember this trip as it has been up till this point. Then I want to go across the water and step into what I feel will be one of those profound doorways from "what was" into "what will be". Don't ask me to explain that, it is just an intuition, I don't know what it means or what it will entail.

What I do know is that as I drove from the ferry dock that brought me to Mull to the little town I am staying in that houses the ferry terminal for Iona, my heart started to ache and open and tingle.

Then I got another strange travel suggestion. The innkeeper where I am staying, Jillian, said while holding a little pamphlet, "Well you should take this boat to Staffa while you are here." I didn't know anything about it, but I thought, why not, I have three days on Mull and not a lot to do. So, I went this morning.

I must go back to a third travel suggestion that three people gave me right at the start of my trip. They all said that I had to go to The Giant's Causeway when I was in Northern Ireland. That strange place is a mass of hexagonal rock formations that stick up out of the earth for miles around. The pictures of it look breathtaking. So when I was in Northern Ireland I kept trying to go. I got The Paperboys interested in going. We kept talking about it, but could not get there. At one point I thought about going by myself on a bus, but my suitcase prevented it.

So, I had to let The Giant's Causeway go. I was gracious and zen about it, but deep down, I was kind of disappointed. No, I was really disappointed. It was the one place on this whole trip that I'd really invested an interest in going to and I didn't make it.

So, today. I got on my little boat bound for Staffa. As we set off the Captain told us of the wildlife we would see and about the massive cave that Mendelssohn wrote a symphony about, but he mentioned nothing else remarkable about the island. And off we went.

As we neared Staffa I could hardly believe my eyes. Can you guess?

The whole island is made of the same geological, hexagonal formations as The Giant's Causeway!

I was stunned. I thought, "this can't be, there's only one place in the world with those formations, isn't that what all the guide books said.....? "

Then the ever-helpful captain came on the speakers again and told us that this island was made out of the same geographical formations as The Giant's Causeway in Northern Ireland.

It was confirmed....someone, something, somewhere was nudging me where I needed to go and I am so glad I listened, because at that moment I could feel how this whole trip has been a series of dancing lessons and somehow The Giant's Causeway, that particular hexagonal splendor of the Earth had simply sent me out in a spin and patiently waited for me to find my way back....not to the same place on the dance floor....but never-the-less, we made it in to each other's arms safely and with ease, as if I'd known the steps all along.

Friday, June 13, 2008

Reason to See the World Number 1012

To see how other countries do Television.

Yes, the BBC is infinitely more classy, less sensational when it comes to the news than it's US counterparts. But watch out when you watch the other stuff.

Just last night, while trying to chill out and make myself rest for a bit, I watched a documentary called, "Brother's and Sisters In Love." Fascinating. I've also seen more than I'd like to admit of a night time soap opera called Coronation Street. Bad...but oh, so good. It's the kind of show you can pick up and watch at any point and instantly know what is going on. Next time you are in the UK, check it out. You really can't miss it, cuz it is on almost every night, as a far as I can tell.

Then there are the quiz shows, countless variations. My favorite is the one where normal folks are pitted against celebrities and they compete doing all sorts of crazy stuff....kind of like fear factor, only there are only two contestants and one of them is famous. The episode I saw had Martina Navratilova vying for athletic supremacy against some giggly young jock girl. I stuck it out for one inane stunt where they had to balance on a very large disc, then rotate the disc by running on it without falling off. The person who completed the most rotations of the disc won that particular challenge. Martina did not win. Humiliating.

But my favorite show so far is one that has this real estate agent who picks houses out for people who want to move from the city to the country. She finds out what they are looking for, picks four properties that the people (and the audience) see via a cyber tour, then they choose two to go to personally. We follow them along while they critique and wiegh the pros and cons of each property "privately". Then they sit down with the agent and discuss which house they want to buy. They always say they are gonna make an offer. And then the post-script inevitably tells us, the viewers at home, that the buyer decided not to buy any of the houses we saw. Instead they fell in love with some mystery home, one we did not get introduced to. I do not get it. Where is the satisfaction for the viewer at home. We want to see house and buyer united. I've seen this show something like three times, and never do the buyers buy. Strange. That would never happen in the US.

Wednesday, June 11, 2008

Coming to the Surface

Something strange has been happening. As I traipse along, fairly merrily, through the British Isles visiting some pretty cosmic hots pots, my body and my mind seem to be wigging out just a little bit.

Though I haven't talked about it, my back started to give me trouble all the way back in Italy. I have been to two massage therapists, a Chinese acupuncturist, a blind back pain specialist, that I thought was going to be a chiropractor, and a physio...which is the UK way of saying, physical therapist. I cannot find a chiropractor. But this back pain, which really lives at the base of my neck seems to have a mind of it's own, sometimes responding brilliantly to therapy and calming down for a few days, other times it rages on, and then, quite unexpectedly it will just up and vanish for a few days or hours. Nothing that I do, or don't do, appears to make much difference to this neck strain's behavior.

That was the first thing. Later my body started having what you might call a rash...unseen, but felt, at the base of my spine. This little rash comes and goes, causing no distress, but making me aware that something is making it's way to the surface.

The most unnerving thing of all started happening while I was in Cornwall, after I had been to the Tor in Glastonbury. I haven't talked about this yet, and it deserves more time than I probably have now, but the mystical nature of some of the places, the lands that I have been communing with is one of the biggest reasons I am making this voyage. I didn't really understand that before, but it is becoming clearer everyday. And Glastonbury, where some believe Avalon lies shrouded in the mists and Camelot once stood, is an energetic hot spot that draws thousands of pilgrims each year. There, too, is the Chalice Well, said to hold healing powers. I drank from that well, sat with it, and then climbed the Tor, or hill, that seekers have been climbing for centuries.

The next day I went on to Cornwall, land of Morgaine, and, if the myths are to be believed, the place where King Arthur was born. This land, as I have said, spoke to me so loudly, so deeply. And as something ancient within me, stirred by the land, by the energy of so many pilgrims who had traveled to these places before began to resonate and wake up, my mind started to fight back.

Little digs, the way our little demon voices can, began to fly at me out of the blue. Self-doubts about all aspects of myself, my body, my creative abilities, my chance for love, all of it, started hurling themselves into my brain. It's as if the more I connect to something bigger, deeper, perhaps something more powerful which has shown me glimpses of the way I might focus my life and my light in years to come, all the fearful places in me are flooding to the surface, trying to unfocus me.

Fortunately, I have a lot of strength these days, willing me to walk towards the light and the life that is trying to show itself to me. For the most part, I have been able to dismiss the little voices with relatively little effort.

Though, occasionally, I have engaged in a bit of a wrestling match with the fear. Just yesterday this happened when I was getting dressed and all the old and experienced voices started telling me how bad my clothes fit me, telling me, as I waked down the streets of Edinburgh that I was old and invisible, basically attacking me at my weakest spot--my body. I had moments where my self-esteem would start to tumble like dominoes: first my body, then my acting...writing..., then my lovability. So quickly the tumbling can happen. I would then sort of puff myself up trying to make myself appear more powerful and bat at the feelings, ineffectually, creating a sort of shoving match inside. Ultimately, I tried inviting the negative feelings to go through me, as the self-help books tell ya to, I stopped fighting and tried living with the discomfort that comes from listening to the fear, instead of trying to pretend it isn't there.

Then today, I woke up, not feeling solid quite, but more comfortable in my skin than I did yesterday. However, my skin is looking a wee bit like a teenager lives in it. The rash is a little more visible.

I've had a couple of different naturopaths who have said that when the skin breaks out it is a good thing, it means the toxins are coming to the surface....releasing themselves from the body. This is what it feels like, like years of toxins, both of the body and the mind, are making their way to the surface. And I have a choice, I can let them go, finally, or I can continue to puff myself up, pretending they don't exist while they continue to poison me.

I am telling you all this in hopes that by writing about it I can speed up the letting go, the releasing of these voices, these fears that no longer serve me well. Hopefully by bringing these feelings into the written light, without shame or embarrassment, they will lose their hold on me. They will know that I have made my choice; I am no longer willing to spend my energy fighting the fears. I am ready to relax, let them in, and let them go.

Monday, June 9, 2008

Edinborough? Edinburough? oh, Edinburgh....

Well, after a taxi, three trains and a bus, I am about to get on a plane to Scotland. I tallied up how many buses, trains, etc, I have taken so far and I am up to 20 trains and 17 buses. That doesn't include inner-city stuff...just the major get-from-one-city/village-to another stuff. One thing I have learned on this trip is that the more you can go with the flow, the happier you will be. That's really a no brainer; everyone says it. But when you have to make 6 different connections with three different modes of travel, the only thing to do is take one step at a time, hope for the best, and enjoy the trip.

And let me tell you, talking to people along the way makes for some interesting times....just today I've met two missionaries from the church of latter day saints, one from California, the other from Calgary. While they gently tried to convert me to Mormonism, I gently tried to convince them that they should try Paganism.

I spoke with one guy on his way home from St. Ives to Liverpool (he came complete with the Beatles accent), who was trying to get over a girl, vowing to be back in St. Ives by next week (despite the girl being there) after he'd made a few bucks cleaning windows in Liverpool, and who says he is "always undone leavin' this place (St. Ives), cuz its quite spirituul".

I had a long conversation with a train driver who was on his way to his next assignment who lives in a thatch roof home, with another farm house on the french/Spanish boarder, who used to train people how to sail for the British Air Force. He has offered to take me sailing on the Cornish coast the next time I come this way. All the while that he spoke to me, a very strange woman in the seat in front of mine kept turning around and peering at me through the seats....was she trying to warn me that this man is a well known serial killer, or was she just jealous of his blue eyes and attentive nature.....

And just now, I spoke with a family on their way to Spain, for "holiday". The man had the thickest Bristol accent and before his wife and son joined him in the bar, he told me how he thought most people would like to be doing what I'm doing....traveling on my own.

I told him it is a mixed bag. And it is. There are moments I long for companionship, familier companionship. But today, the people I've met have been brilliant and left me feeling quite full up with company.

Now on to Scotland.

Thursday, June 5, 2008

Just In Case

In my post this morning I said that today would be the day that I confirm whether or not Tintagel should be the place that my ashes are scattered (in the very distant future). I will tell you more about the how and why I have reached the following conclusion later, but just in case, you should know that I do not want my ashes scattered on Tintagel Island. However, if they should come to rest, as much as anything can rest at sea, on the ocean off of the coast of Cornwall, my spirit would be happy, I have no doubt.

Now, everybody knock wood....three get back to what you were doing....

Reason to See the World Number 712

To discover that a notion you'd held onto since childhood about a place is nothing compared to the actual beauty of a place once you really go there.


I have finally arrived in Cornwall. I have wanted to arrive in Cornwall for a very very long time.

The first words spoken to me in Cornwall were these: Y'ar right, my love?

They were spoken to me by a taxi driver who was reading the bus schedule standing next to me, as I was also reading the bus schedule. I found it perplexing that he, a taxi driver, was reading the bus schedule. Turns out that he was figuring out how a couple of travelers might get to where they were going, without taking a taxi. Hows that for Cornish hospitality...the taxi driver helping the tourists to take the bus.

Even more mysterious was the way he said, "Y'ar right, my love?" It was so quiet and intimate that I didn't think he was speaking to me, even though I was the only other human there. So I asked him if he was speaking to me. He was. And I knew that I had already made a friend in Cornwall. Even though I got on a bus 20 minutes later, probably never to see him again.

But everyone here is like this, whether they were born and bred here, transplants or just visiting, like me. I swear, everyone has a twinkle in their eye and a warm thought in their heart.

The land itself if perfectly remarkable, as well. Remarkable and absolutely ordinary, in that it looks exactly as I imagined it would. And, Yes, I am in love with Cornwall.

If you are keeping track, I have fallen in love at least three times on this trip. My first love was Vernazza, in Italy. This was like meeting some exotic man, so unlike me, so passionate, yet relaxed. Like certain men I have known, I know that no matter where I go, I will never be able to completely shake off my passion for Vernazza. It calls to me and turns me on and makes me giddy. But I also don't completely trust it, the way you do with certain want them, but your not sure it's good for you to love them.

Then there is Wales. Wales, as I have said, was like going home. Also giddy, and completely unexpected. Everything, every moment in Wales felt somehow electric, as if I'd been plugged into a part of myself I'd long forgotten.

Now, Cornwall. I believe if you could look at the strata of my soul, the way geologists look at tall towering cliffs and see the ages and history of the land in the various layers of rock, Cornwall would be a deep, pulsing vein running throughout my energetic life. I belong here.

I am about to walk three hours along the Cornish coast to Tintagel, a place I've wanted to go as long as I can remember. Some believe King Arthur was born here. When I was young, very young, I wanted my ashes to be scattered on Tintagel's coast. Later, I thought that foolish, to want to be left somewhere I had not been, a place that belongs to fairy tales. Now, I suspect that that young intuitive pull, the desire to let this body rest somewhere so resonant with my spirit might have been a wise one. I shall see soon.

After Tintagel I will hike to a water fall that my Waiter last night informed me has healing powers. He said it won't be a big shiny gift, but it will leave me changed none the less. He also used the word so many have used in the last few days about Cornwall: Magic.

And it is. As tedious as it may be to say, I have once again discovered myself surrounded by magic. I send it home to all of you.

Tuesday, June 3, 2008

Reason to See the World Number 9

Finding yourself standing someplace that you have read and dreamed about for years and hearing yourself say (outloud), "I'm here. I'm really here."

Monday, June 2, 2008


When I last left you, Jane and I had arrived at a little Tapas Delicatessen called Olivas. We were fairly hungry, but in good spirits. Though I think both of us were very conscious that this was going to be our last meal before Jane returned to London and home again. With that knowledge there was, I would conjecture on both parts, a good deal of sadness and also a bit of resolve to start thinking ahead towards what comes next...for me that was three weeks of traveling on my own...for her that was the sudden return to London and home again to work and good things there.

We walked into the Tapas bar and found a frazzled beautiful Colombian woman named Xiamena and her daughter Isabella, no customers, but bowls of beautifully marinated mushrooms on the two long communal tables. We asked if we could have a bite to eat and Xiamena immediately started apologizing in rapid broken English. After a bit of translating we discovered that Xiamena had been about to close up for the night when a party of 12 that was supposed to arrive the next night showed up a day early. Working alone and on a few hours of sleep, Xiamena asked the party to go away for 1/2 an hour and she set about trying to cook and decorate and generally work a miracle. That's when we walked in. She kindly informed us that there was no way she could cook for us, as she didn't know how she was going to cook for the Cotswold dozen that were due back in a minute. As I found myself wishing we could help her...Jane said, "Can we help you?"

Xiamena looked at her flabbergasted. "No," she said half heartedly.

I said, "Yes, let us help you. Jane is a waitress."

Well, after a bit of awe struck stuttering, Xiamena finally relented and let us help. She was absolutely beautiful in her acceptance...once she said Yes, she hesitated no longer and immediately started telling us what to do.

We sprung into action eagerly, donning aprons, pulling out glasses, chilling wine, chopping bread, slicing pepperoni on the professional meat slicer. Isabella helped out too, pointing out where Jane and I could find extra napkins, strawberries, that sort of thing. At one point, Jane was whizzing around the kitchen chopping bread, taking it out to the customers, pouring wine, while I was melting chocolate, dipping gooseberries, and Isabella was sprinkling the confections with coconut.

On one pass through the dining room one of the women said it was good of me to come in at short notice. I just smiled.

Later, Jane broke it to the patrons that we were actually tourists who just came in for dinner and ended up working. It took some convincing, but finally they believed her. When I came out from the kitchen they still thought I was a regular employee, so I had to convince them all over again that Jane's story was true.

"You're not really from America....not REALLY."

It was priceless.

Afterwards, Xiamena made Jane and I dinner and the three of us, with Isabella buzzing around us, drank wine and ate and laughed about the miraculous way the evening, and Jane's trip had ended. Instead of being sad that we were going to say goodbye the next day, Jane and I had had an evening unlike any other and ended her trip with a story that all involved will be telling for years to come.

Throughout the crazy night Xiamena was often muttering under her breath about what a gift it was that we had showed up and she kept thanking us. But it was I who felt like a gift had been dropped into my lap. As soon as she accepted our help, I realized how hungry I had been to be of use, to work, to share the common goal of making a gracious and happy event for someone else, not just myself or my small circle.

I have been learning so much on this trip about the daily ways we can all make the world better for the people we encounter, both through the souls who give me a bed for the night, or through the unexpected ways I find myself being of use as I walk through strange towns. There will be more on this later, when I get home and can process it. But needless to say, the extraordinary events in Painswick were massively educational and uplifting.

The next day, after Jane left I stopped by Olivas for a coffee and a bite to eat and ended up staying for a few hours and working again...making cappuccino and serving pastries. Those two days shall go down for me as two of the happiest days of my trip.

Saturday, May 31, 2008

Arriving in the Cotwolds

My friend Jane and I arrived in a little town called Painswick yesterday. We had a very rude awakening when our little, very old lady from the B & B picked us up at the Gloucester train station. At first she was all cuteness and we thought the great good luck of Wales and Mo and Carol, our welsh caretakers, was going to carry on to the twee little world of small town England. But as we nearly lost our lives in the little sports car with Elizabeth driving a clutch that she could not operate and telling us how the "Blacks" were ruining London and the the "Greens" were driving up the gas prices, we thought life had taken a turn for the worse.

But we took a deep breath and realized that our dear old Elizabeth was probably born in the early 1900's and needed the patience we would accord our grandparents who had lived to see the world change so much, so quickly.

Walking around Painswick is like walking around a is all stone and flower gardens and beauty. And the winding paths led us to a little eatery called Olivia's....where magic happened. We found ourselves a job...for the night.....

I hate to leave you at that junction, but I've just been told I have to vacate the library Internet....just rest assured that the magic of Wales has blessed us...I should say the magic of this trip still continues to sparkle down on me and I cannot wait to tell you more!

Tuesday, May 27, 2008

Do All Ducks In America Walk on Red Carpets?

This and other welsh miracles await explanation. It seems cruel to keep leading you on, but people, let me tell you that Wales is magic to it's core. The air, the trees, the people, the sea, the sky, the all of it. And I only have a day and half left before I move on to Cornwall. So you shall have to wait.

Today I am in Laugharne, where Dylan Thomas lived the last years of his life. As I am short on time, and nowhere near the writer anyway, I'll let him tell you about this mystical place:

Off and on, up and down, high and dry, man and boy, I've been living now for fifteen years, or centuries, in this timeless, beautiful, barmy (both spellings) town, in this far, forgetful, important place of herons, cormorants (known here as billy duckers), castle, churchyard, gulls, ghosts, geese, feuds, scares, scandals, cherry trees, mysteries, jackdaws in the chimneys, bats in the bellfry, skeletons in the cupboards, pubs, mud, cockles, flatfish, curlews, rain, and human, often all too human, beings; and, though, still very much a foreigner, I am hardly ever stoned in the streets any more, and can claim to be able to call several of the inhabitants, and a few of the herons, by their Christian names. Now, some people live in Laugharne because they were born in Laugharne and saw no good reason to move; others migrated here, for a number of curious reasons, from places as distant and improbable as Tonypandy or even England, and have now been absorbed by the natives; some entered the town in the dark and immediately disappeared, and can sometimes be heard, on hushed black nights, making noises in ruined houses, or perhaps it is the white owls breathing close together, like ghosts in bed; others have almost certainly come here to escape the international police, or their wives; and there are those, too, who still do not know, and will never know, why they are here at all: you can see them, any day of the week, slowly, dopily, wandering up and down the streets like Welsh opium-eaters, half-asleep in a heavy bewildered daze. And some, like myself, just came, one day, for the day, and never left; got off the bus, and forgot to get on again. Whatever the reason, if any, for our being here, in this timeless, mild, beguiling island of a town with its seven public houses, one chapel in action, one church, one factory, two billiard tables, one St. Bernard (without brandy), one policeman, three rivers, a visiting sea, one Rolls-Royce selling fish and chips, one cannon (cast-iron), one chancellor (flesh and blood), one portreeve, one Danny Raye, and a multitude of mixed birds, here we just are, and there is nowhere like it anywhere at all.

But when you say, in a nearby village or town, that you come from this unique, this waylaying, old, lost Laugharne where some people start to retire before they start to work and where longish journeys, of a few hundred yards, are often undertaken only on bicycles, then, oh! the wary edging away, the whispers and whimpers, and nudges, the swift removal of portable objects: "Let's get away while the going is good," you hear.

"Laugharne's where they quarrel with boat hooks."

"All the women there's got webfeet."

"Mind out for the Evil Eye!"

"Never go there at the full moon!"

They are only envious. They envy Laugharne its minding of its own, strange, business; its sane disregard for haste; its generous acceptance of the follies of others, having so many, ripe and piping, of its own; its insular, feather-bed air; its philosophy of "It will all be the same in a hundred years' time." They deplore its right to be, in their eyes, so wrong, and to enjoy it so much as well. And, through envy and indignation, they label and libel it a legendary lazy little black-magical bedlam by the sea. And is it? Of course not, I hope.

From Quite Early One Morning, published by New Directions Publishing Corporation, New York, 1954 Copyright © 1937, 1945, 1955, 1956, 1962, 1965, 1966, 1967, 1971, 1977 The Trustees for the Copyrights of Dylan Thomas.

Friday, May 23, 2008

This must be Heaven

Well, I have arrived in Wales only to discover that Vernazza was a close second to Heavenly Wales. Craggy and verdunt and filled with the mystical allure one would expect from the land that bore Sean Connery and King Arthur, is Wales.

On the first afternoon, while my traveling companion, Jane, newly arrived from Seattle, slept off her jet lag, I explored the little town of Betws-y-Coed (yeah, I've been there for two days & still can't pronounce it). I stopped at the camping store...okay one of 10 camping stores within a one block radius and I saw postcards from the National Park we were in the middle of (Snowdonia). I started to pull some to send home and also so I could go back to Jane and say...let's go here...and here...and here. I also pulled out a card for my friend Amy which pictured a Celtic cross at sunset. It wasn't the best postcard, but I thought my wise-woman, mystical friend would like it. As I was getting ready to pay I decided the card wasn't really special enough for her, so I went back and put it in the rack.

That's when I saw, right below the Celtic crosses, a card of one of the most beautiful spots ever....I pulled the card....and this magical place was called The Fairy Glenn, and it was within walking distance of where we were staying. For those of you who know my email address...this will be especially significant. Oh, all right, for those of you who don't, its Morganna.queenofthefairies.

Anyway, that's when I knew I had come home. For that is what Wales feels like, the most mystical of homecomings.

Tuesday, May 20, 2008

Reason to See the World Number 312

To discover that $4 a gallon for gasoline in Seattle is cheap compared to the almost $15/gallon they cough up in Ireland! Of course this is probably why their public transportation systems are so good....

Of Course That's The Holy Well!

After being depressed all day Sunday, I decided to go on a guided tour yesterday to some Celtic hot spots in the Irish countryside. I joined a small band of tourists, three from Italy, two from Germany, a couple from Washington State, a mother and daughter from Holland via Curacao, and six young college guys from Kansas University. We were led by a wee Dubliner named Eamon, who came prepared with stories and cds of celtic music and U2.

Being somewhat of a Pagan, I thought that going to some iron-age ruins might rustle up some vitality in my listless spirit. But as we stopped at Fourknocks, an ancient burial tomb of the early Pagan people, Mellifont Abbey, the remains of an ancient Cistercian Church and a few other early early Christian sites I was vaguely intrigued, but I didn't get goosebumps or any other kind of strange signs that the my ancient ancestors were speaking to me. I will say, however, that the company of our little traveling band was really enjoyable, and until I discovered that the young men from Kansas were Bush loving, anti-Obama-ites, I was feeling very hopeful about the future of our country with these curious, humble young men in the picture.

After a tourist gouging lunch stop, we headed for the Hills of Tara. This is a spot better seen from a helicopter in that it is the grass covered remains of an iron-age Pagan village. It was the seat of power of the early Celtic peoples. There is a very phallic stone set on the top of the hill that the high kings of Ireland had to embrace while calling out into the wind in order to transition into their reigns. Other than that all that remains is a hill, or series of hills that were man made long ago.

I was sure that as I stepped onto this sacred firmament my whole being would light up, explode with life and synergy. But as I set my foot on the hill, nothing happened. I set off in the direction of what seemed from ground level like a spiral path leading to the High King stone, winding around I approached the royal rock, hugged it just to make sure I wasn't the new king & stood there wondering, just a little, what was wrong with me that I felt no visceral affinity with this ancient place.

I looked around and noticed my group reading plaques and climbing the tomb hill, but my eyes were drawn to two beautiful little trees seemingly outside the encampment. They were two of many trees along the border. They, like the others, were covered in little white flowers. But something about them called to me, so I walked over to them, away from everyone else, away from all the plaques telling me what was historic and important. As I got closer I noticed that these trees had all sorts of things tied to them: scarves, socks, shoelaces, plain old string, bibs, baby clothes. It was utterly mystifying and enchanting at the same time.

I immediately removed the head scarf I was wearing and was going to tie it to the tree. But that didn't seem right for me. Then I heard what I thought was the call to head back to the bus. I panicked. I knew I had to leave something at this spot, but I didn't want to hold up the tired and cold group.

As I stood under and between these two fantastic trees wondering if I should leave my scarf or rip something off my clothing, I noticed that there were all sorts of coins inserted into the nooks and crevices of the trees as well. That's it, I thought. I pulled out a .50€ and jammed it between two branches.

It fell to the ground.

I picked it up and set it carefully and deliberately into the tree. At the same time I said a very hurried, but honest prayer/wish. And then I ran back to the bus, only to discover that I had misinterpreted the call I'd heard, and we had a bit more time. So I went out onto the hills of Tara and took a deep breath and sat for a few minutes with the land.

When I went back to the bus I asked Eamon if he knew the story of the two trees and why there were things tied to it.

He said, "Oh, that's where the Holy Well is. It was custom to tie pieces of clothing that belonged to a sick person to the trees closest to the Holy Well in order to be cured."

Amazed, I said, "But I didn't see any water."

"Well, that's because it is a spring that lies under those two trees. The ancient people believed that the source of the great rivers were Holy sites and so named them after the Pagan goddesses, they were that Holy."

"I didn't leave a piece of clothing, I left a coin."

"Oh, well that works too. You know, it's like an offering."

Indeed, I thought, it was an offering, not to cure a sickness, but as thanks for this beautiful land, thanks for the abundance of opportunities I have had to connect to the people on this planet, to the planet itself. It was an offering to the great goddesses of this ancient land in hopes that I might be lucky enough to continue to open my heart to the beauty of this world and to learn how it is that I might repay my debt, how I might learn to put everything I have been given to use. As trite as it might sound, it was an offering to the Holy Well so that I might learn how it is that I can help make this grand and brilliant world a better place.

My mother asked me on Sunday, after I called her and told her I was depressed and lonely, if I wanted to come home. I said no, but I kinda felt a little like I did.

But then, yesterday, though there were never goosebumps, it must be said that something ancient called out to me and pulled me closer at the Hills of Tara.

Perhaps I am coming closer to the home within myself. This stumble around Europe, this lost feeling of the last few days might just be the right path after all.

Sunday, May 18, 2008

Getting Lost

After a week of exploring Northern Ireland with The Paperboys, I am on my own once again. This time in Dublin. I like Dublin. I have a nice little room with my own bath in a B & B run by one Mary and Joseph...seriously...glad there was room in this inn...and I am tracking down tickets for the Abbey or Gate, got a tour of Celtic ruins lined up, and in three days I get to see my friend Jane in Wales for hiking and pub-crawls.

I am, though, to tell truth, a wee bit down. I feel a bit homesick and sad after hanging out with Tom, Geoff, Brad, Matt and Kenny. It was fun living tour life for a week, traveling with a "real band" as Geoff said, listening to my favorite music everyday, being a small part of the trials and tribulations of life on the road: sound checks, bad hotels, the effects of no Internet service. It was such a joy to get to know the musicians better. It is always chancy when you love an artist/artists and then you really get the opportunity to know them as people...will that love carry through? In this case it did. Without speaking out of school, let me say that each of the people I got know on this trip are extraordinary human beings, making their way in this world with humor and creativity, compassion and integrity. I feel blessed that as I journey here in Europe I was invited to share a bit of their journey as well.

But it was the second parting of my ten week sojourn that simply undid me. Leaving my mom and sister and Vernazza itself in Italy was equally wrenching. It is interesting that leaving home to start my trip I was filled with so much joy and enthusiasm, I felt not that I was leaving something behind, but that I was going toward something great and undiscovered. So it has surprised me to feel such deep sorrow in these partings from people and places that I will surely see again. I am experiencing the kind of childlike sadness that I used to have when my big brothers and sister would leave home for long stretches of time. I even chose last night to leave the band before they played their last gig, a gig I had really been looking forward to, on the excuse that I needed to find my way from the country into the city sooner rather than later. It was just like when I was young and my brother Pete, who lived far away, would come home and on his last night in town I always made plans for a sleep over, and then cried for days afterwards, because I hadn't had the chance to say good-bye.

I know there is something rich and deep for me to discover in this sorrow, something about connection and open heartedness. In fact, I am certain that my decision not to cross my arms over my heart, to keep myself open-hearted on this trip is at the crux of my heart-break. So, I suspect that my ability to connect with the people around me is blossoming in a way it might not have since I was a this can only be good.

But, for now, I feel a bit lost.

I always say, though, you can't really learn about a place unless you get lost there.

Tuesday, May 13, 2008

Where's Morgan?

Newcastle, Northern Ireland.

I've been rescued from city life and the little Pakistani man in my seedy hotel who tried to come into my room uninvited, by my dear friends, The Paperboys. They've invited me to hang out with them for a few days, so I am getting some rest from big city life and decision making. As an added bonus, I got to see them play one of the best gigs ever in Belfast.

As some of you know, it is a wee bit hard for me to let people help me out. While I travel and try to figure out what the world is trying to tell me on this journey, I think the little and big daily gifts of a helping hand from strangers, friends and family might be one of the things I am meant to learn from. Either way, my gratitude grows daily.

As usual there are stories to tell, but I ask once again for your patience.

Love to you all!

Saturday, May 10, 2008

Reason Number 922 to See the World

How else would you discover that there are such things as wall calenders with hunky young Roman Catholic Priests of the Month sold at souvenier shops in Rome.

Seriously, people. I just want to know who this is catering to?

Strangest Thought So Far

Okay, please forgive me for sharing this with you, if offends in any way....BUT, as I was trudging through the Vatican Museums, through the labyrinth of galleries, following little yellow signs to the "Chapelle Sistene", along with hordes of other people, I found myself thinking, quite by accident, that if the Roman Catholic Church ever wanted to get into the business of mass genocide, all they would have to do is promise people a peek at Michelangelo's masterpiece. We were sheep, and at times, it felt like we were, indeed headed for the slaughter. Once in the room, I'd like to say the feeling abated. But if you have never been there, let me tell you it is not a big room for the hundreds and hundreds of people crammed into it.

That said, if that had been my last vision on Earth, I would have left this life filled with the sight and memory of unimaginable beauty.

Wednesday, May 7, 2008

Reason Number 627 to See the World

To see how the world sees you. I am still walking around in my same body, with my same life, and the same personality, but out here there is a whole new set of eyes, a new batch of teachers. Every moment, every nod with a passing stranger gives me a slightly new perspective of myself, of the other people who live on this planet, and how I might live on it differently and with them. Tiny little lessons, each step, each glance is a moment to see something new.

Tuesday, May 6, 2008

Just a sip

I have arrived safely in first stop in the trip where I am entirely on my friends to stay mom and sister to share the sights with.

It seems oddly portentious that when I found the street that my pensione is on there were two sets of street numbers, one set in blue, the other in red. One set went up, one set went down; I had to make a choice. Which could possibly be the right one?

I went the wrong way.

I spent the rest of the afternoon running in circles, quite literally. Florence is a maze of curved streets wrapped around each other. I felt I needed to see the important things, the duomo, the David, the Arno, the city bathed in sunset light, don't even get started on the museums. I am only here for a few short hours really. I arrived at 3pm and leave tomorrow morning for Rome. Around in circles I went.

I found the David. He is huge, massive, beautiful. I wanted to touch him all over. Seriously. Perhaps it is being in Italy, being ogled at every turn, watching people neck on every park bench, but I wanted to lay down next to David and, well, you know. Instead I went out into the noisy world again and struggled to find the way into the Duomo.

Then I stopped, abruptly and realized that I was running around acting like I was never coming back to Florence. So, I thought about it and knew that all I really wanted was to see the sun set over Tuscany, to take that first sip of this magical place and trust that I would get to come back later and drink it all in.

So that's what I've done...climbed to the top of the hill and watched the city turn gold and pink. I yearned to be out in the countryside with some huge Italian family drinking wine in a vineyard, or to be snuggled up like all the other sunset watchers with the one I love. But in that too, I tried to remember that I will drink all those kinds of things in, when the time is right. Now is the time for communing one on and Florence, me and Rome, me and Ireland.

Walking home I felt my body give out from all the hiking in the Cinque Terre, from racing through Florence, so I am going back to my little hotel to sleep.

But I needed to say goodnight to someone, so "Buenaserra, my friends."

Tomorrow, Rome, wish me luck!

Monday, May 5, 2008

"In the morning by the station, in the evening by the sea."

Thats what Massimo the owner of The Blue Marlin Cafe said to me last night as I sauntered to the water at sunset. "You look lika you belong here, you have de rydem of this place."

He is right. Being in Vernazza is, for me, like being carried around in a warm pocket, cozy and comfortable.

I want to tell you about all the souls I know now, Antonio and Michelle, Valerian, Enrico, Penelope. These people who say, "Caio" to me as I walk through the town. Even the people whose names I don't know, but who recognize me, we nod, we exchange "buenaserra"s. There is swimming in the sea and walking through the olive groves, there are wild cats, like me, who roam the streets.

But once again, I leave you hanging. It is my last evening in town. The sun is thinking about lowering into the sea, the wine is being poured. My mother and sister go home tomorrow and I go onto Florence, then Rome. After, the cooler climbs of Northern Ireland. I see now that this blog is going to be a series of teasers, then when I return, I will spend the summer writing all the stories on my computer that sit safely in my heart and my journal, waiting for a comfortable chair and a free computer to ease the transition onto this webpage.

Bear with me, the time will arrive sooner than I can imagine it. In the meantime, I go out into the winding comfortable streets, and walk comfortably to the sea.

Friday, May 2, 2008

Oldest Trick in the Book

Yesterday while I was coming out of a little bar in Vernazza I spied a gold coin on the ground. Being a good luck penny picker upper from way back, naturally I bent down to snatch it up. When I got my little fingers on it I realized that it was glued to the ground. At that same second a host of cheers erupted behind me where the Italian men were waiting for just such a moment and just such a victem.

It was beautiful.

I cheered back.

I think Italy and I are gonna get along fine.

Thursday, May 1, 2008


My mother and sister and I arrived in the Cinque Terre today in Italy. Once again, I find myself hampered by internet cafe technology and the sheer expense of a minute of online time, so this will be brief and imageless. Though if you click on my itinerary on the side you can see a picture of the town I am currently in.

As soon as we stepped of the train I fell in love, clear down into the depth of love like only happens a couple of times in a lifetime. It is almost as deep as when I first heard The Paperboys play...yes, believe is fitting, perhaps that Brad, the banjo player from the Paperboys first suggested that I visit, then my friend Samara told me about it. To the two of them, I owe a wealth of gratitude.

To all of you who have sent me messages and suggestions, know that your love and your ideas are sinking in and I am carrying them around fervently in my heart and head and trying to arrange my schedule in such a way that I might get to certain places, like the Isle of Skye and Sienna.

My mom and sister await.

I promise you stories soon....some beautiful tales, some harrowing ones too.

And from this beautiful spot, both outside and in my heart, I send you all love!

Saturday, April 26, 2008

Coming Soon

Someday, when I have a regular keyboard and a computer that likes to take my pictures I am gonna tell you about the Brasserie with the magical musical clown car door.

I will also tell you about the woman with an Edith Piaff voice, bad teeth, expensive jeans, and good omens.

I might be persuaded to share a few little tidbits about the daily flirtations and warm smiles meted out by the locals here in Paris.

I hope you will be patient and come back when those stories are properly cooked and ready for consumption; for, like all meals made in Paris, they should only be prepared with the best ingredients and served in a leisurly fashion.

Sunday, April 20, 2008

Reason Number 12 to See the World

The people are unbelievably beautiful. The women, the men, the babies. This may just be Paris, but as soon as I can upload out. They arent great pictures; but the people are exquisite!!!!

PS Polite Notice (as the English say) I will continue to overuse the exclamation point as long as I am in Paris, so you better get used to it!!!!

Reason Number 329 to See the World

Strong ankles. I have been traveling a week and my ankles and calves are strong-like-bull from all the walking!

I seem to think this means that I can eat whatever I want-I am sticking to this concept until my clothes tell me otherwise. Or at least till I leave France and Italy.

PS I am getting better at this French keyboard, so longer posts will follow soon.

Saturday, April 19, 2008

A Pause

I want to tell you about London...and I really want to tell you about Paris....even though I just got here. But it turns out that French keyboards are not laid out like ours. So, until I find an American keyboard, or I am not too tired to figure this one out, it will have to wait. or "until i find qn ,ericqn keyboqrd; or i q, not too tired to figure this one out; it zill hqve to zqit!"

Let me just spit this much out: never try to tell me not to go to Paris because I have already been there before. Paris is like home, wrapped in heaven, covered in chocolate mousse. That is the kind of thing a person can never have too much of!

PS. The one thing I like about the French keyboard, is that the exclamation point is a primary key. That says a lot about a culture, dontcha think?!!!!!!!!

Thursday, April 17, 2008

Taking the Blinders Off

While crossing the street in London:

Where we would normally look right.

Where we would normally look left.

But whatever you do, don't do what I do: step off the curb, looking straight ahead, and hoping for the best.

Granted, I am still in one piece...but I think it could only be a matter of time....

It's just that these English are so bloody intimidating and I find that I don't want to look like a tourist, so I just walk....then about half-way across the street I start giggling, a little maniacally, at my own stupidity.

I don't know if its the English, or the utter absurdity of finding myself half-way around the world on a trip that doesn't quite know what it is yet, but I haven't settled into my own skin. It is as if I'm walking around with blinders on. Unlike in New York where I found myself chatting with everyone I encountered, here I am stubbornly quiet. Though that may be because I am afraid I'm going to start talking in some weird British know the way you do when someone at home is playing around with an accent, so you just jump in. But these people aren't playing....they really talk that way.

So, I am finding ways to take deep breaths. I found this magical place in the middle of the financial district.

This sign intrigued me, so I followed the slim corridor between two huge buildings to find a little courtyard with a tent in the middle of it, with stained glass windows. The doors to the tent were open so I went in and found the most beautiful little sanctuary for meditation. So, naturally, I meditated.

Each of the windows in the tent had the word Peace in a different language. And the room glowed with warmth and serenity.

So, while the financial district of London, buzzed around me....

I sat in....

Later, I went to St. Bartholomew's Church. My friend TJ informed that he would not respect me as an enlightened human being if I didn't check it out. He said it should be on the list of things to do right before I went back to the states. But I thought it best to assure myself of my own enlightenment by seeing it on the first day of my European journey.

Well, it was one of the prettiest churches that I have ever been in. Ancient and warm and full grace. I stopped to take a picture the tomb of the prior who first headed the church.

Well, as you can see, it was more like the back side of his tomb. This isn't a great picture but the silhouette of his head was very intriguing. As I stood there, one of the men who runs the church stopped to tell me that right where I was standing was where pilgrims used to come to be healed by the energy of the great man who started the church whose bones, they have confirmed, really are within that wall.

I got chills. Just last Sunday, my friend Shane had called my trip a "pilgrimage" and I was struck by the word. I couldn't picture myself in that light. Pilgrims have an aura of devotion, of such deep intent. Yet, there I was standing where pilgrims had come for hundreds of years. There I was, another pilgrim, who in a weird way, is looking to be healed by the gift of a vision, of clarity about my life, my purpose. So, again, I stopped and meditated.

One more spot held my inner attention yesterday. Out of the blue, on a non-descript wall in central London was this plaque:

Nothing around this sign holds an ounce of mystical power. But I thought it best to stop and open my heart to the possibility that my heart, too, would be "strangely warmed" by the site. I'd like to say that angels spoke to me. But not much happened. Though I did smile a lot at the prospect, the promise that our hearts can be warmed, opened at the oddest times and the most unlikely places.

And so, today I'm gonna take the blinders off, look right, look left, look up and down, chance looking like a fool who doesn't know what she is doing. That way, I probably won't get hit by a taxi-cab, but I might be bowled over by divine inspiration.

Wednesday, April 16, 2008

Safe Landing

Well, I made it to London. After 6 hours of xanex soothed flying, and years of dreaming, I touched town in rain soaked England. I got off the plane, wound my way towards customs, stopped in the loo, and balled like a baby. It just happened, I started crying as soon as the door closed. I didn't see it coming...wham....sobbing. The stalls were very fully enclosed, like little water-closet I felt free to just let it go.

I thought, "what in the world am I crying for?"

"I'm here!" I answered.

I'm finally here.

Sunday, April 13, 2008

My "World Tour" Stop Numero Uno: New York City

I have been trying to piece together the relevant bits of storytelling that would convey to you the magic of my first couple of days on this journey. I have written loads and loads of intricate spider webs narrating each encounter that has happened since I got off my plane in NYC. I've decided to spare you the detail, and to offer you tasty morsels, little bites that will hopefully make a satisfying meal in the lovely kitchens of your brains.

Flying over the country I was presented with the opportunity to purchase a movie for my individual viewing pleasure...I adore Delta Airlines.... there were many fluffy pieces like, Enchanted or August Rush. But I decided that I was going to watch Ma Vie En Rose, the biopic on Edith Piaff. Only days before I flew, a friend of mine that I will always think of affectionately as "Mr. Barolo, yes that's spelled B-A-R-O-L-O", or Mr. Barolo, for short, said that I should see the movie before I went to Paris, to whet my appetite, as it were. So, despite the fact that I was a little nervous about the depth of emotion I knew the movie would stir up, I ordered it up and immersed myself in the love affairs of Edith Piaff and all her reasons for a broken heart. It's a tragic story. No doubt about that. But at the end a reporter sits down with Edith and has the following conversation, or something like it:

Reporter: Do you pray?

Edith: Yes, because I believe in love.

Reporter: What advice would you give to another woman?

Edith: Love.

Reporter: What advice would you give to a younger woman?

Edith: Love

Reporter: What advice would you give to a young girl?

Edith: Love.

Well, I was a wreck.... here was a woman who had no reason in the world to believe in love, but she had dared to anyway even after life had tried to break her faith over and over. I was thankful Mr. Barolo had suggested I watch it, but a little unsure that that was the emotional tone that I wanted to set on my trip....was I inviting love or heartbreak into my trip?

For the next three days, I met up with various friends from long ago and different pockets of my life. It is something else to reconnect with people that I studied acting with in college 18 years ago, or shared my first apartment with. Once upon a time we knew each other’s dreams, we walked the streets of Chicago late at night and talked about what we were going to do when our "real lives" started. Now we are all somewhere around 40 and securely ensconced in our "real lives," we've had and lost and found loves, we've followed certain dreams, and abandoned others, we've learned how to walk around in our own skin, and we all talked about the process of having our skin change and age. It has been a deep blessing to touch base, with all these voices from the past, as we all navigate into the future, into the next dimensions of our lives. Love, for all of these old friends, has blossomed again, in fresh new ways, just like plants come back to life in spring after the long winter.

Jamie Harrold was the first old friend I saw, first thing Friday morning & the first thing he said was, "Is this the first day of your world tour?"

I said, "It's hardly a world tour, Jamie!"

"I know," he said, "but I like saying that, it feels right."

I realized over this weekend that Jamie is one of the few souls I know that has always wanted the people around him to shine just as brightly as he hopes to shine in this life. And his unending enthusiasm and glee for my "world tour" has made him the perfect sort of river guide between the safe shores of Seattle, to the unknown journey that I depart on tomorrow in Europe.

While out at lunch on day one I got a call from the Seattle Children's Theatre and was asked to do a show that will bring me back to NYC in the fall for three weeks. My New York debut! I adore working for the children's theatre and the miracle of having work come my way on first day of my trip was a clue, as Jamie pointed out, that I was meant to travel just now and that all would be taken care of at home while I was away.

I have also been reconnecting with my 10-year-old niece, Melina.

In the last two years since I saw her, she has developed a keen sense of humor and the eye of an avant-garde artist. She took pictures in Riverside Park, and we people watched. I started reading her the second book in the Madeline L'Engle series, a favorite of mine that I began with her a few years ago. Love, love and more love.... for this young soul who is a part of me, part of my family, and a connection to the book which had filled my heart so long ago, now was fresh and new as I passed it on to Melina.

Melina's Shots:

Each encounter with all these friends and my family here, and even with many strangers that I chose to chat with as I waited for someone on the street, all these people have felt like great gifts, as if each held keys to the doors that are opening into the mysterious world that awaits me on my "pilgrimage", as another New York friend coined it.

Each of these miracles, each new open door was made possible, I know, by daring to take the first step outside the comfort zone of Seattle. But they also happened because of a promise that I made to myself Friday morning as I waited to see Jamie in Union Square. As I stood there with humanity swirling around me, wondering what my trip would be like, what Jamie would be like after all these years, I began to fold my arms over my chest, anxious, wary. Then I thought about Edith Piaff, and I took a deep breath, and in a sort of prayer, I released my arm and made a vow to myself that I won't cross them again the whole time I am traveling, so as to remain as open hearted as possible.... It’s amazing how many beautiful things light up your day when it's approached with your hands comfortably at your sides, instead of barricaded against your heart....I made a choice that moment to invite in love, and should heartbreak also happen, well that's the price for really loving isn't it? Sometimes. But my heart would break even more if I lived the next three months and beyond unaware of the beauty around me because of fear. With that vow, that prayer, I chose love. I can't wait to see what happens next!