Archive for May, 2010

Standing Still in Time in Tokyo

Greetings from the land of heated toilet seats!!!

We are having a lovely time thus far, 4 days in, on our trip in magical Japan. We arrived Tuesday evening and drove into Tokyo in a silhouette against an orange and red soaked sky and a setting sun.

After sleeping as well as I could the first night and waking up for good at 4:30AM and then abandoning my fight to fall back asleep at 6AM. I threw off my still new sheets to hit the streets of Tokyo. I did my usual first arrival to a new place introduction – set out with a destination in mind (in this case Hibiya Park) and abandoned my attachment to find this place (I usually don’t the first time) and just got lost. It has always been in this initial getting lost that I somehow find myself getting found – I find my bearings, I find my context in the place I now exist, and usually I find the closest metro, post office, and grocery store. It is always the act of getting lost that for the rest of the trip helps me to understand the place better and my place in it – it truly helps me be found.

After getting lost, and I did get lost, so lost I had to, in new Ramona fashion, ask for help. The stranger kindly laughed and said you are a block away, and indeed I was around the corner from my hotel. After getting lost and found of sorts, we set out for our first day private tour. We took a car and guide and drove to Kamakura, the capital of Japan from 1185-1333, approx an hour south of Tokyo.

Upon arriving in Kamakura we first went to Hokukuji Temple which is famous for its beautiful bamboo garden that surrounds its main sanctuary. I have never walked in a bamboo garden, or forest as it were – stalks as high as trees and a feeling like one is in a perpetual dream, the way the light reflects and surrounds you the smell of deep, fresh, cool green. Next we went to Tsurugaoka Hachimangu Shrine, my first of many shrine experiences. It was here that our guide taught me the proper way to make an offering – first you present your offering, in my case a few coins, then you bow twice, and clap your hands twice, then bow your head and make a wish or say a prayer, and then bow twice again. As I clapped and bowed and prayed with people on my left and right and behind me doing the same I realized people had been doing this for centuries and would continue to do this for centuries after me. As I heard the sound of my clapping join that of those around me I realized my two solitary claps were just that solitary in the cacophony of history and the claps that surround this place; but they are important just the same, and honored, and heard. And here I stood still for the first time in time.

After lunch we went to see what I had been most excited to see in Kamakura, the Great Buddha or Daibutsu. Daibutsu was built in 1252 and is an impressive 11.31 meters tall. As I approached the statue and the group of school children taking their class picture dispersed I felt my breath and heart slow in a peaceful way only a Giant Buddha can bring to you. Now up until this the entire day our driver in the car had played a loop of western, instrument only music that seemed to always be playing the song “As Time Goes By” every time I became aware of it. And as I walked to this statue the music started to play in my mind, and as I looked at this statue I had so hoped to see with my own eyes I heard my mother’s voice saying to me “Here’s looking at you Kid. Your here Ra, your really here in Japan. Be here, be no where else and take this all in.” And then again time stood still and I was there with this statue and the green hills behind it and the birds and I was in this place and this moment and it stays with me still that I was for a moment completely present and grateful.

Yesterday we went north by train to the town of Nikko. We saw great nature – waterfalls, lakes, wild Hydrangea of purple, pink, and white. From the train we saw rice fields, small towns, and deep green forest covered mountains. In the land of the aforementioned heated toilet seats (my bum loves these), yesterday we came in contact with our first eastern style toilet (read porcelain hole in the ground). No amount of twice a week Yoga or squats can prepare a person for the muscle strength this bathroom break took.

Today we walked along Ginza district – department stores (thanks for the tip Colin, we LOVED this store and after a day of “we have that in America” to everything we finally at this store said “well that is something you don’t see”).

Our tour starts tomorrow and it is late at night here and your days are just beginning. So I will sign off with a big thank you for all of you being in my life, I can feel your love and support even more from this magical place where time is somehow suspended (and no it is not my jet lag) between the modern and stylish and the ancient and timeless. We honor the spirits in everything – nature, our ancestors, those here with us today and joining us tomorrow. And I honor the spirits in each of you and the place you hold in my life.

Love Ra.


05 2010

Sayonara New York – On the road to Japan

“Five hundred year old rock garden: Ryoan-ji Temple Meditating there one year seems like a blink one day like nothing.” ~ Colin Turner in a post card to my mother.

The above quote was a post card that Colin mailed to my mother from his year he lived in Japan. My mother in turn a few years later mailed it to me with a small pink heart shaped post it note with purple (of course) writing that said “love you so much”. I could picture my mother at her desk writing this post it note even to this day, and now I get ready to visit this place of Japan but she won’t be at her desk to get my post card.

It’s hard to believe that this next trip is already here, and to believe that I will actually be going to Japan. It has been a long time since a letter and it makes me think, so what have I done with all of this what of time that has passed. While these months have felt like an out of time period a wash in emotions and life they have also been full of many things – both wonderful and less so.

I went to Atlanta to see two of my closest friends from childhood, Zelda’s nieces Jessica and JoEllen, and their families. I have had a number of wonderful visitors to the Big Apple – a marvelous posh dinner with Val and friends; a wonderful day with Colin, Nancy, and Tuyet and an art gallery; and a Picasso exhibit with Joe Quinn at the Met.

I have been working on different projects as usual filling days with everything from the regular organ concert, to jobs with the Black Eyed Peas, Katy Perry, Camila’s favorite with CW cast, and everything in between. I found my footing, at times, and at times been lost as I venture back into my world of work. My mom always loved hearing who I had worked with. She rarely knew who I was talking about but went to her friend “Mr. Google” and would come back always knowing who they were and some obscure note about how they had started. Show business runs thick in our blood and while she didn’t always know whom I spoke of the conversations echoed those both of us had with her father. The feelings permeated from him to us and imbued our discussions always.

And, I got my third wisdom tooth extracted (no people not pulled, surgically dug out of a nerve and bone! ugh!). Three weeks into recovery and I still don’t have any feeling in the lower right quarter of my mouth (think three weeks of feeling like you have Novocain). I am starting to eat  real food after losing probably close to 10 pounds from the now famed (to me, and I hear an actual fad) baby food diet. Three years ago when I got my first two wisdom teeth pulled and they said they never wanted to pull the bottom two unless in serious situation, I was terrified of the procedure. This time I went in numb from grief, loss, and life and was literally brought to my knees in the subsequent weeks from the pain, discomfort, and the general way I have never felt so utterly helpless before in my life.

Through my time in tooth recovery and my time back at work I have had to find a new Ramona. A Ramona no longer able to get by on determination, will, and sheer stubbornness anymore. A Ramona who has seen very clearly her limits and has had to accept them (or try) and is having to every day find ways to ask and receive help. I have thought often of Lillian Hellman’s book “AN UNFINISHED WOMAN” when she says how on a trip back to Russia she cries for the woman she was when she could endure certain hardships, and the woman who later weeps for the knowledge she is no longer that woman. I have had to see I am no longer the person who for three weeks can get by on 3 hours of sleep a night, I am having to accept the person I now am a more full and realized person. A person who has a more clear, grounded, composed, and compassionate view of the world, but also has a very real idea of how they are forever changed and have to come to terms with that change.

I have been disappointed beyond all capabilities of imagination these months and have surprised myself repeatedly with my newfound outlook and ability to survive and continue on. I have seen how I am at once more honest with myself and others. I see repeatedly how I am a more open book at times and at others a more thickly closed and reserved person, understanding both the place and power of sharing.

And now I get ready for another trip. And so to each of you a very long winded invitation to pack your imagination and your yukata into my kimono clad over night bag as I spirit you away to the exciting land of Japan. I am so looking forward to seeing this magnificent country – the temples, shrines, bamboo groves, drinking crisp sake, the Daibutsu (great Buddha’s) and as Colin said meditating in rock gardens. We go to Tokyo, Nikko, Kamakura, Takayama, Kyoto, and Nara.

I will be gone May 24 – June 9. So this Monday think of me high above the clouds reclining sipping a green tea and after weeks on my feet starting a new journey above the planet, above the volcano with ash, and the ocean with oil, still in the clouds of possibility.

Much love to all of you, I carry you with my always in an overnight bag and in my heart.



05 2010

REMEMBER ME – By Hal Sirowitz

Today’s poem from Val is:

REMEMBER ME – By Hal Sirowitz

Every weekend your mother & I tour cemetery plots,

Father said, the way most people visit model homes.

We have different tastes.  I like jutting hills

overlooking traffic, whereas she prefers a bed

of flowers.  She desires a plot away from traffic noise.

I let her have her way in death to avoid a life of Hell.

But when you light memorial candles for us, arrange hers

in the center of a flowery tablecloth, but place mine

on the windowsill. Don’t say any prayers for me,

just wet your finger & pass it through the flame.

Remember me by the tricks I have taught you.


05 2010