She Lives


She lives

       Nine hundred and counting

       Fire in her chest

       struggling for breath

She lives

       Hair singed

       her veil is lifted

       exposing her heart

She lives

       Buttresses flying

       gargoyles still grimacing

       holding her place

She lives

       Ageless beauty

       timeless strength

       Built for survival from birth

She lives

     Tattered and worn

     becoming more real

     through love and care

She lives, she breathes, she stands

      she loves – lady of our


Fire…Destructive or Transformative?

Notre Dame de Paris – October, 2018.

As I was watching the télé while flames and smoke engulfed my favorite and most beloved monument in Paris, Notre Dame, my heart was breaking. With tears in my eyes, I watched, while I was so wanting not to. How can one watch something so sad, so tragic, so devastating? Yet I was compelled and driven to catch every word that was being said, every scene that was being shown, perhaps hoping against all hope that it was all a bad dream, or that it would stop and everything would be ok. I was praying that the destruction of beauty and grace, history and symbolism, structure and spirit would not be for naught.

So, as the hours wore on while Our Lady burned, I kept grasping for reason, for reasons, for reasoning to take over. Grasping for meaning in the tragedy that was playing out before my very eyes. Each time some thought about the why of it, the purpose of it, entered my mind, with horror I dispelled it, as what possible reason or meaning could be found in such a catastrophe?

I went to bed with a heavy heart, and slept.

In the light of a rainy morning, I woke with a start – Notre Dame burned last night! Looking out the window, watching the rain, I began to “see” more clearly. Water is cleansing, Fire is transformative. Alchemy happens when one thing turns into another after a process of the death, in a sense, of the one thing to allow for the birth of the other.  Like metal transforms through fire into a tool, or coal becomes a diamond, or a fetus becomes a human, or a tree becomes a house. One thing must be lost for the next to appear. I began to look at the world around me…everywhere chaos, rebellion, division, unhappiness, revolution, entrenchment into various positions and viewpoints. What can break through these stand offs among us? What can reach into the pool of reasoning and pull out compromise and understanding between people? What can create a common ground upon which to stand? What can bring us together again?

That I am in France, amongst the French people as this event of epic proportions is unfolding, is no accident. The love that I have for this country and these people, feels so palpable, and the grief so real. The feeling that I am truly connected with them is, in some strange way, comforting. What I am hoping is that this consuming, destructive Fire will provide the basis for a new connection among people; a common ground from which will rise a structure that will blend the old with the new, and give people renewed hope and identity. At this time of Easter, a symbolic time of resurrection, new life, new beginnings, new possibility, may our hearts be imbued with that message even if our consciousness may not grasp it. May our hearts leap with joy at the opportunity to rise from the ashes of our self-destructive ways and feel love once again. May this Fire, in the end, be for good, for transformation, for rebirth of a new age of consciousness, cooperation, and caring among us all.





Poetry and Prose

The giant wave which has been forever rising, surging,

     and moving toward me

Has broken and washed me from the shore.

I am taken, captured, awakened, cleansed

     by the waters of unknowing 

Released is the fear, doubt, questions.

Possibility is opening its arms, beckoning,

     and I follow, moving toward it

Stepping into the light

Eyes opening, vision clearing

      seeing a path, seeing the arc of the circle

Bringing me home, heart full of love and joy.


Someone recently inspired me to try my hand at poetry. Today, I was feeling so full, so happy, so YES!, that prose was failing me. So, the above attempt jumped onto the page, and seemed to say how I am feeling on this day, 5 days into my France dream. 

And now, in prose, I can recount the unfolding. The trip here was seamless. A wonderful, generous friend drove me to Dulles on Wednesday, airplane flew me to Paris, TGV (train de grand vitesse) took me from the airport directly to Montpellier and I arrived in Montpellier Thursday at 3 p.m. Was met by Dennelle, of Renestance ( the team I have signed up with to help smooth the details of my move to France from the French side. She took me to my Airbnb apartment.

The days leading up to my departure were full indeed. My house went on the market on Friday, March 15; said goodbye to my last patient on Thursday, March 21, and closed my acupuncture practice! 

While I’m not supposed to announce it yet, I had a contract on my house in 15 days! My office « yard sale » was a sell out; I found someone to move me out of my house when I return, who will take everything I’m selling to consignment and will move and store what I am keeping; the inspection on my home was moving forward even as I was packing to leave the following day! A whirlwind, indeed. 

Since arriving here, I have gotten little sleep, walked each day more than I usually walk in a week at home, eaten many of my favorite French foods, spoken French every day (even talking to myself in French for practice), met up with friends, made new friends, hung out with a group of French students who guided a nighttime tour of Montpellier after which we all went to a local hang out for some wine and conversation! I was old enough to be the grandmother to any one of them, and yet they were so interested in me – where I was from, where I learned French, what i was doing here, etc. That was a highlight, for sure.

Things I have learned so far about “being French” – never handle the produce! Allow the merchant to choose your fruits and vegetables for you…it is not ok to pick something up, smell it, squeeze it (“Don’t squeeze the Charmin), etc. No hugging! “Le Bise” is the thing everyone does…you have probably seen it…an “air kiss” from one cheek to the other. Depending on how well you know the person, it can go from one bise on each cheek, to up to 2 or even 3! I forgot to notice what’s done with the hands during this hello and goodbye. I grasped one of the students shoulders, for balance I suppose, and he was curious and asked me about it. I had to explain about hugging in America, and he was amused. Beware the doggie doo on the sidewalks….no pooper scooper law in France! Believe it or not, for as many doggies as there are, I really don’t have to watch my step too much! When eating bread with your meal (and the French seem to eat it with every meal), it doesn’t go on your plate with your food…you just place it on the table beside your plate, and break off pieces as you consume it! And, no hands in your lap at the table! Hands must be showing at all times, so elbows and arms on the table are a must. Otherwise, your hosts, or companions, may wonder what your hands are doing under there! This is a hard one for me as I had “hands in lap” drilled into me from a very young age.

So far, the staples of French life – wine, cheese, bread – are very cheap – $3, $2, $1, respectively for a bottle, small round, baguette. Fresh, organic produce at the open market is inexpensive, too.

Life is good here. I am happy, well fed, walking for miles every day, learning something new every day, stretching my mind, expanding my world view, going where the wave takes me. I have let go, let be, and let live in all aspects of my life, and that feels wonderful. Every day brings a new experience, a new opportunity. Like poetry life is rhythmic and freely moving, and like prose, it is a stream of consciousness that carries me forward onto new shores of understanding and acceptance.


Dancing with My Emotions

Recently, I seem to be a confluence of emotions – joy and gratitude bubble up in me one  minute; sadness and grief striking me the next.  Sometimes they are interchangeable, with one morphing into the other.  I work with this play of emotions in my Chinese medical practice with my patients, and yet, I have not always seen it in myself when it is right in front of me.  These seemingly opposing emotions are actually aspects of the same experience with their own feelings and sensations. Chinese medical practitioners see these four as the energies of Fire and Metal, and I am steeping in them.

So how are these emotions of joy and sadness, grief and gratitude actually the same? The Chinese symbol of yin and yang shows that within everything is contained its opposite, dwelling together, inseparable one from the other. There is always a grain of yin yang - Great ultimateone inside of the other. As you look at this symbol you can see the dynamism. There is movement, always one part turning into and becoming the other. And each part containing an element of the other.

The energy of Fire is playful, warm, bright, expressive, embracing, connecting, loving, heartfelt, joyful. It  rises and falls in a dance like a crackling fire; it is open-hearted and free, and can be quietly happy. When the light of the fire is snuffed out, or the sun goes behind a cloud; when the connection with another is broken; when playfulness turns to loneliness; then the sadness can overtake the joy. They are all part of the same experience.

The energy of Metal is respectful, grateful; it honors and acknowledges what is. It allows us to see the preciousness of someone or something, the gifts they bring to our life, the values we cherish. When that someone or something is gone – dies or changes in some way – grief may overtake the gratitude. Grief is the acknowledgment of the loss of something that was precious to us, that served us well.

So, as part of this transition I am making, from working to not working, from being part of this community to becoming un étranger in France; from leaving my friends, my children (my heart), my patients, my way of life to explore new adventures, I am caught between different forces. On the one hand, I feel deep gratitude and joy for the incredibly satisfying work I have been blessed to do these past 25 years, for all of the relationships with such unique and special people, the comfort of a home that has been my sanctuary for the past 14 years, and the lifelong dream that is about to come true. On the other, I feel the profound grief and sadness of saying goodbye, of knowing that my life will change in ways that I have yet to understand. I am excited and afraid, happy and sad, looking forward while looking back, wondering what lies ahead and reminiscing about what has been. I am embracing it all as part of the whole of this still-in-progress “wild and precious life.” (Mary Oliver) Moving forward, I will try to remember to look at my emotional responses as constantly evolving and shifting phases of the same experience and take them in stride accordingly. They invite me into the dance of life, back and forth, up and down, and with joy and gratitude, I accept.


Until recently, I saw my life as a trajectory….shot forth from the womb, propelling forward through time and space into my life and toward some horizon that I would reach one day.  There have been many curves, backtracks, zig zags, and missing pieces. Slow motion, fast motion, stalls and breakdowns. Always a horizon, “out there”, stretching on beyond time and sight. Always the thought, “Tomorrow, next week, month, year, when I finish such and such…have enough money, education, when the kids have gone to college, when I’m settled, retired…I’ll have time.”

As the contemporary spiritual teacher Ekhart Tolle (The Power of Now, A New Earth) says, “You think you have time…no, you don’t….whether 10 years or 100, it’s over quickly…” The only time is now…

Lately, my view of life has become less of a trajectory and more of a circle. As the line of the horizon begins to blur, I am absolutely aware that the horizon is here, it is now and no longer a distant goal or time or place. I see a circle coming fully round through many seasons of change and transition. Beautiful alchemy, where the past is transformed  and merged with the present.  Over the last 2 years, particularly, and as far back as 10, I have had a series of “reconnections,” with people and events in my life.

You think you have time…no, you don’t….whether 10 years or 100, it’s over quickly…

Thanks to Facebook, 10 years ago I found my French family with whom I spent one of the most significant summers of my life at age 19 and 20, and have been spending time with them every year or so since. I have reconnected with childhood friends, college roommates, old boyfriends, old crushes (one from 50+ years ago!), and family lost long ago because life works that way sometimes. People are calling, knowing I am leaving the country for a time, wanting to see me, catch up, say goodbye. In 2017 I celebrated my 50 year reunion from high school. Our class gathered over a weekend to reminisce about our formative years together, and share our present lives. It was magic, even though some of us have kept in touch over the years. There were only 50 of us in the class, some of us were fast friends, others not so much. However, at this season of our lives, we are one. We marveled how unique it is to have friends who knew us 50 years ago, when we were not yet fully formed, not yet the women we have become. We appreciate each other now and see the gifts instead of the flaws. We all have some of each, and the gifts are so much more beautiful.

And there have been those whose circles are complete. I lost my beautiful friend and French “sister” in 2015 to cancer, and am about to lose another from my high school years. We will all come to the end of our circle, and I am aware that “time waits for no (wo)man.”  As Mary Oliver, the great writer and poet, who just completed her last circle around the sun, wrote, “Tell me, what is it you plan to do with your one wild and precious life?” It is not too late. Do it now.


So, as I complete my 70th year of clock time, I have a new sense of the circle of life rather than a fixed Point-A-to-Point-B timeline. It has been and continues to be a wonderful and miraculous ride, and I am holding on and cycling with the sun in my face and on my back. My circle continues….

Letting Go



Decades as represented in photos.

In one way or another, most of us are influenced by, carried by, identified by, hindered by, or inspired by our past. It is amazing how big a hold it can have on us. This is evidenced by collections, albums, closets, basements, shelving, cabinets, garages, storage units, and even a compartment in our brain full of stuff! We are attached to our stuff because it is all we have of our past OR because it might be needed in the future. Neither past nor future exists. Think about that for a moment. We are living in this moment, and we have this moment ONLY; yet we conduct ourselves as if the past and future are who and what we are.

It seems that with each place I have lived, I have brought there from the last place, all of my stuff. Then, I continue to collect more. If I don’t know what to do with something, I, literally, « shelve it »…why? Because I have space and, I think, time, to put it away for some later date when I can decide what to do with it. Often, it is our children who end up having to do something with it, because we run out of time – the time we always think we have…until we don’t.

The decision of mine to go live in France has brought this issue of stuff front and center. Going to live in a foreign country means that you either get rid of everything, or put it in storage in case you come back, and it is a rare person who moves their stuff across an ocean. This has forced me to purge, purge, and purge some more. I am moving from a 3-4 bedroom home to a small furnished apartment in France. How much do I want to keep IF I might need it, and IF my children might want it? And how much do I want to pay to store it, especially if I don’t come back?

It’s been over a year since I began the process of « letting go. » The fun part has been finding homes for things I thought someone else might want. I have met many wonderful people through Facebook’s « Marketplace »; I have found a gallery that would love to have a piece of artwork that had belonged to my mother; and I took my father’s McDonogh school uniform to the alumni office who will use it during tours of the school to parents and prospective students, to name a few examples. I have sent dozens and dozens of boxes of clothing, bric-a-brac, kitchen things, books, etc., to charities who have picked up from my front porch. I will be selling or having auctioned most of my furniture, and farming out my mother’s art to friends and family who will keep it for me.

While I have not read the now famous book by Marie Kondo, The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up, I think I could write my own. That might be a good post for another time. Let me say, though, that it has been a part of this life change I am making, to embrace the letting go, to experience the grief of it, and then to recognize that in the letting go of something, we re-experience, or maybe experience for the first time, the true value of that thing, or memory, or memento. We acknowledge the value that it held for us at one time, how it served our life in some way. If it still serves, or as Marie Kondo suggests still brings us joy, then by all means keep it. And if its service to us is done, then we can take a deep breath, make a deep bow to what was, and let it go.


First Steps

How in the world does one begin to plan and execute a new big adventure? What is the first step, the second…third…. These are questions I have been asked and have certainly asked myself often during this past year or so.

The first step was to BREATHE…very important! For a long time leading up to this decision, I realized that I truly wasn’t breathing, and would occasionally catch myself deeply sighing, in a whole big body shudder. I think I had been literally, holding my breath while many events were challenging me to think outside the box….approaching 70 was one of them. I have welcomed every decade with new excitement and curiosity, and this one is no different…except for one thing. My mother died at 71, my father at 78 – each lived a healthy, vibrant life up until they got sick. And each died after a short illness. So the question I kept asking myself was, “If you only had 10 years to live, would this be how you would want to live the rest of it? Everything just as it is now?” The resounding “NO,” surprised and inspired me.

At first I started by thinking of the “small” things I could do. Downsizing in place at my home; or moving from my home to…what? An apartment? Condo? Small house? Tiny home? And where? Here in Frederick, MD? Baltimore where I was born and raised and where my oldest daughter and son-in-law live? New York where my youngest daughter lives? So, I looked at a condo nearby…beautiful once inside, and all I could think of was how much walking into the “lobby” of the building; getting into an elevator; winding my way through a maze of hallways to find my numbered door; passing everyone’s little chotchky on the shelf outside their door; and having to go through that exercise in reverse to get back outside; reminded me of the apartment building where my grandparents had lived in their Old Age…and I was not ready for that! I thought of  having noisy neighbors on the other side of the wall, above me, below me, and no, I was not ready for that, either. Frederick currently is not building the kind of housing I was envisioning…a “villa” set up, where 3 one-story residences are attached on one side, where each unit had its own patio/garden area, three exposed sides with views to the outside, etc. Frederick is not, so far, allowing “tiny” homes (or any homes under 1,500 sq. ft. to be built within the city limit, and I knew that was way more than I wanted.


I had never imagined retiring. As an acupuncturist with a small practice, I had not saved much. I had made a profit on selling my first home, and my parents left me with some money. I had invested that, but would that be enough? How long would I need that money to last? Unless one is a millionaire (and today even that isn’t a lot) these are the very real questions we must ask ourselves (and our financial advisors, if we have one) when considering this next/last transition in life. I have never lived on a budget, and believe me it was often suggested; and, though never a big spender, I live comfortably. Working until I could no longer stand at my treatment table was the plan.  When living in Frederick no longer seemed a viable option, my sights had to expand. My daughter in New York suggested coming to live with her, and I knew that while she loves me and meant that, it would not work…not now, not yet. She had a big dream to buy a small house Upstate where I could live and she’d come spend the weekends away from the big city. A good dream for sure, and I wasn’t ready for that either.


The political environment in the U.S., while not a real factor in my decision, was another of the events mentioned above which was challenging me to think outside the box. This box was getting smaller and smaller as I became sucked in by cable news, and each of the many daily “never before in the history of the Presidency” events began to cause me real anxiety! I had never experienced anxiety before and I was seriously beginning to think I had it…the not breathing thing, heat rising in my chest, sleepless nights, etc. I had thought of “leaving the country” many times, and this just didn’t seem possible or realistic. And I let the idea pass each time it came up. Now I realize, that was not the right reason to move out of the country.


My partnership at The Center for Mind-Body Therapies had hit the 17 year mark, and it has been a good run with wonderful partners, associates and friends that have become near and dear to me. However, we were coming up against the end of a 5-year lease and the need to sign another one.  Suddenly, the question was looming – did I want to take on that financial responsibility again? Did I want to commit to another 5 years? I would be almost 75 by then. This question hounded me. The answer continued to be no, I did not. So, then, what would I do?


Then, one day, it hit me like a beam of sunshine breaking through a cloudy day….I can live in France!!!! Of course. Always before there was something that was more important or more demanding: divorce, supporting myself, remarriage, children, divorce, having to “rehabilitate” myself (that was the real term for a woman in a divorce when the judge was considering how much and how long for spousal support…with time to “rehabilitate!!!” herself), divorce with 2 small children, acupuncture school, building a practice, etc., etc. No time. No money. This was it! My life long dream maybe could come true, and it was now or never!

INHALE….EXHALE! Yes. First step…decision made.






Gift from Goethe

Ever since I lived with a French family the summer I turned 20, it has been my dream to live in France again.  Finally, at 70, I am fulfilling that dream. Won’t you follow along and see how a new adventure in one’s later years is truly possible? I have tried to live by the wisdom of this quote of Johann Wolfgang von Goethe. Maybe it will help you in some future decision:

Until one is committed, there is hesitancy, the chance to draw back, always ineffectiveness. Concerning all acts of initiative (and creation), there is one elementary truth, the ignorance of which kills countless ideas and splendid plans: that the moment one definitely commits oneself, then Providence moves too. All sorts of things occur to help one that would never otherwise have occurred. A whole stream of events issues from the decision, raising in one’s favour all manner of unforeseen incidents and meetings and material assistance, which no man could have dreamt would have come his way. Whatever you can do or dream you can,  begin it. Boldness has genius, power, and magic in it!