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?"

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!

Saturday, April 12, 2008

Sweet Home Seattle.

Let me tell you why I moved to Seattle, you know, the home I just left for three months.

When I was around 20 I went with family to visit my stepsister in Seattle. When we went to Pike Place Market, a huge covered open-air farmers and craft market in downtown Seattle, I literally stood in the middle of the aisle and wept. The color, the life streaming by me in all shapes, colors and sizes, the sound of vendors, eager tourists, and locals buying their groceries all soaked into my heart and woke it up in a way that at that tender age of 20 I had only encountered one other time, and that was shopping in the little patisseries and markets in Brittany when I was an exchange student in France at the even more tender age of 14.

Apparently there is something about the way a culture shops that really turns me on.

Though, its not really that, its not consumerism in action that sets me a-tingle. It is the parade of humanity out to discover and to nourish themselves, it is the vibrancy of foods and goods put on display all shiny and bright, it is the flood of information that washes through all the senses, bringing them to complete attention that makes me happy to be alive.

Do I shop at Pike Place Market for my groceries now that I live in Seattle? No, but I do enjoy a visit every so often.

Ironically, it is the ability Seattle has to create a safe and nourishing environment for solitude that has fed and nourished me for many of the last 12 years. I have, in essence, been “finding myself”. This was possible because Seattle demands very little of its residents, not like New York or Chicago, where I'd lived for 5 years in my early 20's. In Chicago, I always felt like I was fighting to stay in my own skin, mostly because the city was so stimulating that I couldn’t settle enough to know who I was and what I wanted, all on my own.

In Seattle, one tends to be overcome with the energy and beauty of the land, but the people pretty much keep their distance. There is no great swell of humanity that accosts the inhabitants of Seattle when they walk out of their houses, and so when you live in the Pacific Northwest you are free to make your own energetic choices & I have used much of my time there to reach deep inside and to learn what it is that I needed to know in order to go out into the world again.

I have felt, at times, a bit at war with myself. The girl weeping in Pike Place Market was all akimbo inside, I think, because she understood that it was going to take 18 years to reconcile the parts of herself that were afraid of the world, that did not want to be seen, those tender feelings that made her want to hide from the very life and energy that her soul and heart were drawn to fought with the adventurous side that yearned to dive into far away places and cultures, into the sensual pleasures of different foods, smells, the feel of the sun on her face at exotic latitudes, the way the ocean smells on far away shores, the smiles on foreign faces.

It seems that I had to buy a house and make it into a home that had all the stability that the homes of my divorced parents’ did not. I had to sink into walls and gardens over which I had control, I had to learn how to nourish myself, to fall in love with my life before I could even think about letting the rest of the world in.

It is interesting to me that the life and vibrancy of Pike Place Market called to something deep inside of me, drew me to live in the city six years after I had first visited it, and then provided the shelter I needed to find firm footing within my skin so that now I can leave Seattle and soak my senses in the vibrancy and life of the wider world.

As I embark on my journey I feel as tender as I was that day I stood in Pike Place Market 18 years ago, but I am not scared. I am excited to open my heart to the miracles and love that await me, for I feel certain that many unexpected beauties lurk around each corner of every building and being. I feel ready to be bathed in the light and color, sounds and smells, the smiles of yet to be known faces. But I no longer feel akimbo; as a friend of mine is fond of saying, “I’m okay with it.” I feel ready to stand firmly in my own skin, I feel ready to meet the world and to look it squarely in the eye.

Friday, April 11, 2008

Reason Number 547 to See the World....if you are from anywhere that doesn't bank in US Dollars

I was shopping today at H & M in Harrold Square in NYC, trying to find a couple of cute tops to coordinate with my slacks for ease of travel. I was shopping in New York because once I cross the pond everything is going to become twice as expensive. While standing in line for the fitting room, I met three sisters from Cork Ireland. They had flown over for the weekend (two nights, three days) to shop for clothes. Apparently, the dollar is so weak that it is cheaper for them to fly from Ireland to NYC to shop at H & M and Macy's than it is to go to London or Dublin. Not that I don't think you can put two and two together, but that means it is cheaper for them to buy three plane tickets from Ireland to America, hotel rooms, and three days worth of food in one of the most expensive cities in the USA than it is for them to take the train into Dublin for the day to buy clothes. WOW!

I took a deep breath, found my shirts, and resolved to buy memories and not things when I set off for Europe next week.

Thursday, April 10, 2008

The Soothsayer was Right

I love accents. Ever since I was a kid I have listened to the way other people talk, whether they are from a foreign country or from right down the street, and if I hear a sound that I like coming from a word I've never heard pronounced that way, I immediately put that sound into that word, wrap my mouth around it and speak it right out loud. This can seem a little rude, I imagine, and some people have thought I was making fun of them, but it is uncontrollable....

Learning how to speak in other accents is, to me, like digesting the best chocolate mousse in the best restaurant in the world, the sounds melt and warm and excite me all at the same time. I traveled once to Australia with a dear friend, who I think may have come close to throttling me because of my constant repeating of what everyone said. The Australian accent is hard, very very hard, for me.... and for a few brief-shining moments after copy catting everyone in Bellingen Australia, I had it down.

Those were proud moments indeed.

So, you can imagine the pure rapture that I had when a Wise Woman, who is also an astrologer, Gretchen, told me on Sunday last that this was the perfect time for me to travel and that accents were going to be an integral and important part of my trip. In fact, she repeatedly told me that learning accents might be at the heart of why I am supposed to go to Europe right now.

This was like angels coming down and telling a chubby kid who is often mocked for her size that the only way to turn into the beautiful creature she dreams of is to sit down and eat everything in sight.

Now, you may or may not believe in astrology, and I often say that I use it not as prophecy, but as a great tool for meditating on things that may or may not be happening in my life. But when I stepped onto the plane.... I mean, when I literally took the first step onto the aircraft that was taking me from Seattle, WA to New York City and the first leg of my trip, the man in front of me turned to talk to his wife who was following behind me and out came the most beautiful Yorkshire accent you have ever heard. Think "Wallace and Gromit", or "Chicken Run", or "All Creatures Great and Small". I learned the Yorkshire accent for a production of "The Secret Garden" at Seattle Children's Theatre a few years ago and those sounds in particular are some of the most delicious to me and there I was, moment one of my grand adventure, being swaddled by them.

So, I'm happy to report that I began my journey contentedly mumbling to myself as that couple and their two sons sat in front of me on the plane and bathed me in "somats" (something) and "oy"s and big round vowels and rolling "r's and I knew right then that my blessed friend Gretchen, the soothsayer, was right: This is the perfect time for me to travel!

Tuesday, April 8, 2008

What "Bon Voyage" Looks Like

Some of my best girlfriends got together and had a bit of a Bon Voyage fete at Oliver's Twist, here in Seattle.....The owner's four year old daughter turned to her mom and apparently said, "They all look like they love each other." As the hub of the wheel, the only one who knew everyone at the table, I felt so cared for and left the evening full up with love, laughter and camaraderie to carry with me on my voyage.

And my sweet friend Jake made me this picture of Love and Luck!

All adventurers should be so nourished when they set off!

Monday, April 7, 2008

Reason Number 1,236 to See The World & Reason Number 11 to Stay Home

The Italians are offering travel incentives to us poor Americans whose pocket books have been ravaged by the Bush administration!

Saturday, April 5, 2008

Cheap at Twice the Price

I bought a one-way ticket to Paris from London yesterday. For months I've know that I have to be in Paris by April 20th to meet my mom, but I didn't know wether to take the chunnel or fly, where would I sleep, that sort of thing. It's one of the many little decisions about my trip that I just kept putting off.

But yesterday I decided that I wanted to arrive in Paris a day before my mom. I looked at train prices, I looked at airline prices and flying was cheaper, by half. I was relieved, actually, that flying was cheaper because even though I am terrified of flying, the idea of speeding along under the tremendous weight of all that water in the English Channel sends me into a claustrophobic panic.

So, there were fairly inexpensive early morning flights that meant rising before dawn. There were cheap early afternoon flights, which would ruin the day in London AND Paris. There was one super expensive flight with the perfect departure and arrival time. Then there was a 2 p.m.-ish flight which was about $40 bucks more than the late afternoon/pre-dawn flights.

I sat for a good 20 minutes haggling with my inner economist (who has not been at his desk for very long) and debated wether I should spend the extra $40 bucks to arrive two hours earlier in Paris, giving me a full evening in the City of Lights to wander around by myself before my mom arrives in the morning. $40 dollars for 2 hours.....that's $20 bucks an hour....for Paris.

It was an easy $40 to spend when seen in that light.

Wednesday, April 2, 2008

Reason Number 412 to See The World

This undid me...I'm not sure you could doubt animal's have souls and loving hearts after you watch this!