A Change Would Do You Good

Cheryl Crow’s song of the same name
black &white wallI flew back to Toronto on Monday and met my sister Georgia for dinner on Wednesday. I ordered Guinness. She had never known me to order beer. I felt like saying, “It’s not beer. It’s Guinness.” She had not expected that change, but she liked my new hair cut.

Blake, my ex-husband, took me out for dinner Friday. He made no comment when I ordered Honker’s Ale from Goose Island, but he did tell me I looked younger. True, I was tanned from 150 days of sun at 5,500 ft in California, where darkness and silence led me to sleep 10 or 11 hours a night. And I had spent hours sitting beside our patient reading while someone else made dinner. The last seven weeks as recovery proceeded were particularly relaxing.

On Friday, I decided that I hated my minimalist decor and began hanging all the pictures in storage, including a wall devoted to the family and another of Georgia’s colorful paintings of houses. This means that I am giving up on feng shui. I’m not supposed to have red, a  fire element, in my living room during the year of the horse. Georgia’s paintings are full of red. Besides feng shui wasn’t doing  any good. My year has had a deal of bad luck. Our patient had also used feng shui which did not protect her from recession, loss or extremely grave illness. Be that as it may, I prefer now to be creative and bask in the warmth of family fire.

Roberta's wallAt my desk, I rounded up all the receipts I have assiduously saved my entire life and trashed them. I have lived altogether too carefully. During the five months I was away, I didn’t get my mail, of course. I didn’t even listen to the messages on my land line until a month before I left and I couldn’t receive calls because my cell phone got no reception. There was absolutely nothing in the mail or in the messages that was important. Well, there was a thank you note for funeral flowers, pretty much a dead issue.

During my mountain sojourn, I talked about the cold as fall drew on and I adapted to cabins heated in the old way by wood or more modern pellet stoves, both of which meant cold mornings. I have hated being cold all my life. For years, I have included the weather at the top of my daily journal entries. Now I have stopped. At first, I glanced at the thermometer outside my kitchen window. But I’ve stopped doing that as well. I assume that for the foreseeable future it will be below freezing. Snow, ice and wind will be apparent when I open the curtains. What difference does it make? I am going to wear thermal underwear, a heavy sweater, a sheepskin hat and a long down coat whenever I go out. I don’t need to hear a forecaster scaring me silly.

Georgia and her friend, the people upstairs, Blake, my brother on the line from Belgium and others who have called have eased me back into life in Toronto. Not everyone has answered my “I’m-home call”. I am sad, but by their deeds, ye shall etc.

So out of a traumatic and potentially tragic situation, has come new life. As Aunt Mae would say, “Ain’t that grand?”




Exit Dragon: the Chinese New Year and Feng Shui


There’s a black water snake sneaking up on us, chasing the dragon away. Not to worry. If you are turning 24, 36, 48, 60, 72 or 84 this year or next January, you are probably yourself a snake. I would hesitate to tell you that if I did not also confess to being a rat.

Sure others have the dignity of being dragons or horses or even rams, while we labour under the burden of more lowly creatures. Our Chinese horoscope, nevertheless, will reassure us. Rats are very family oriented for example, although they should stay out from under the feet of a horse. Snake people are complex, clever and silent, although also prone to be stingy and arrogant. Whoops! (www.hanban.com). There is something to recommend every one of the 12 animal signs in the Chinese zodiac, but people don’t generally plan babies to be born in snake years as they do in dragon years.

The 12 animal signs in the Chinese zodiac are the dragon, the snake, the horse, the sheep or ram, the monkey, the rooster, the dog, the pig, the rat, the tiger and the rabbit, each recurring every 12 years. In addition, there is an over-lying and bigger cycle of the 5 elements: water, wood, fire, earth and metal, which recur every 60 years. The previous water snake year was 1953 and the next water snake will be in 2073.

The year of the snake is due to arrive Feb 4th, according to the Chinese solar calendar, Feb 10th by the lunar calendar, which most people go by.

I have just finished the feng shui changes recommended to me for the year of the snake. These recommendations were based on my birth year as well as the year the house where I live was constructed and its exact orientation in terms of direction. I had to go to the city archive and pore over elector lists and when they didn’t tell me exactly, I looked at aerial photos of the area. Finally, I came up with a year, 1956. The house seems to face directly east, but I had to verify that with an accurate compass. All of this I emailed to Kartar Diamond in Los Angeles. Because it was a long-distance consultation, I also sent a detailed, scale diagram of my apartment on graph paper and emailed several pictures of every room. (kartar@fengshuisolutions.net)

I had had feng shui done on a previous dwelling by someone in my town, but I didn’t like her recommendations, for example using metal colours instead of real metal. And that turned out to be a bad luck house when the sewer backed up and left me without heat in winter. Having met Kartar in L.A., I decided to go for the long distance analysis. So far, apart from minor and manageable problems, this place seems to enjoy better luck.


This year’s changes, predicated on my birth year, year of construction and direction, were fairly minor. I was told to move metal out of the small front foyer in the SE, so I hauled the 2 10 lb. weights out from under the mail table. I was supposed to add fire, but since there is no electrical outlet there, I couldn’t plug in a lamp and leave it burning. The malfunctioning overhead light does stay on 24/7 so that may count. So does using the colour red, so I put a red running on the table and added a red Fu dog I got for Christmas and a red vase. I confess that the explanation of why is beyond me, involving as it does a 4 wood star, which is doubled here in 2013.

I moved the metal weights, one at a time – I’m old after all – into the bedroom where the SW had need of them. Unfortunately it -the SW – didn’t want any fire this year, so I had to take off the red pillow covers and move a picture my sister had painted for me. No problem. These could go back onto the Second Best Bed in the den. (See 115journals.com), which had looked rather dowdy in the last year. I also moved the living room fountain onto the bookcase that holds my journals because the W needs moving water. In the dining room, I added a lamp to the buffet where,once again, fire was needed.

red in den

This year’s changes didn’t involve any expense apart from paying for the annual update. I was already the proud owner of 125 lbs of heavy metal, bought over the 3 years I have been doing feng shui as well as the red table runner, which was languishing at the bottom of the linen cupboard.

light on buffet

Do I actually believe it works?  Who knows? It’s an interesting diversion at this wintery time at least. And it focuses my attention. In the end, I recall what media guru Marshal McLuhan said: I don’t necessarily agree with everything I say.