D Day

Piping at D Day in Normandy

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If there is one thing that is remembered in Normandy, it is its role in World War II.  Although entire cities were razed to the ground by the Allies in the DDay effort, such as Lisieux and Caen, the Normands still celebrate their participation in the liberation of Europe, and there is no where more important than Pegasus Bridge, which is where it all began at 16 minutes past midnight on 6 June.  Together with Normand neighbours Michel and Julie Foyer, I was invited to pipe at the celebrations and to my amazement discovered hundreds of people and entire pipe bands which had travelled from Holland, Belgium and Australia to pipe over Pegasus Bridge to commemorate the 74th anniversary of Day.  It was incredibly moving experience.

The Indian Hotel with the most Comfortable Beds

The Indian Hotel with the most Comfortable Beds

Hugging, or holding each other, is essential.  It comes from being held by a mother’s arms.  However you don’t need a mother to do this.  If you are ever in need of reassurance, or you wake up in the middle of the night by your cassette of perenial worries, try wrapping your arms around yourself and rocking yourself, just as a mother would rock a baby.  The feeling of relief will be palpable.   Your past doesn’t have to affect how you are today.  Give yourself what you are needing, now.  Self mastery comes moment by moment, and, while bouncing upon Durga’s beds, I’m having one of them. 

The Best Goodbye Ceremony in India

Raas Haveli, Jodhpur, Rajasthan

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Over the years, Indian ceremonies have become more elaborate as hotels realize that guests enjoy being treated like visiting Maharajas.  Trumpets blow; women dressed in colorful saris sprinkle rose petals at your feet and place necklaces of sweet smelling jasmine around your neck and a dab of red on your third eye before escorting you to a sofa to await a cool washcloth and a welcoming glass of sweet lime juice.

Why are these rituals important?  Life is endless and fluid like a river, and rituals are punctuation marks along the way.  They are the commas, the periods, exclamation marks that make us stop, breathe, and become aware of the magic of the moment.

If you take life down to its basics, all we do is stand up, lie down, and move along the earth horizontally (I have to give author Byron Katie credit for pointing out the obvious)  That’s what we do.  Stand up.  Lie down.  And move…until we can move no longer, and then we die and return to stillness.  In our lives of standing up, lying down, and moving, it’s these details that make your life unique. 

So don’t miss them.  Don’t be so rushed to get to where you are going that you forget to smell the roses along the way.  Especially the rose petals that are scattered upon you when you arrive at an Indian hotel.

Many hotels offer this welcome ritual, but there’s only one hotel I know that has created a ceremony to say goodbye, too.  Raas, the ultra-modern sleek contemporary Haveli hotel within the mazelike inner city of dusty Jodhpur, does this, and a lot more.  If you haven’t stayed in Raas, do so.  It’s worth it.

When you say goodbye, you don’t just pay your bill and get into an awaiting car and drive away.  You sit down for a moment to gather yourself together, to think about where you will be going and from where you have come.  You are then given a small grain of salt to put under your tongue and a small teaspoon of yoghurt, which symbolizes substance and soul.   Then you place your hands together in front of your heart, bow to the staff who have gathered to wish you well, and your journey begins again.

What is an event but a modern day ritual.  My next blog will explain how.

Magical Moments in India: Breakfast at the Umaid Bhawan

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After nearly eight months of convalescing in Normandy I'm traveling to Portugal this week to visit my furniture in storage outside of Lisbon.  As I've been run off my feet visiting friends I actually forgot to take a lot of photos except a lot of boring ones of all the beautiful furniture that I had bought in Rajasthan in 2016.  When I loaded it into a container to ship to Portugal I never could have imagined that less than a year later, I would be visiting it, now dressed in plastic and bubble wrap, in a storage unit outside of Lisbon.  Since it's beneath the dignity of such beautiful furniture to be shown in such a sad and neglected state, I've decided to share a few last blogs from its home:  Jodhpur in Rajasthan.   

It’s early morning at the Umaid Bhawan, one of the last of the great palaces built in India, and, as the Maharaja of Jodhpur still lives here, it is one of the largest private residences in the world.  I pad along the lavish interior lined with gilt furniture and elegant artwork, then enter a Renaissance cupola, my hushed footsteps echoing toward the ceiling.  The warm morning air smells sweetly fragrant—it must come from the vases of roses I see dotted within the room.   

The Umaid Bhawan is so vast and palatial that the empty space has created a character of its own.   I’ve noticed that many sacred spaces such as churches and mosques and temples also have this inner emptiness that is, well, full.  It is as if the building contains an interior architecture that has presence.  With its enormous dome, I feel as if I’m walking within the Vatican. 

Outside, a raised terrace is sprinkled with empty tables covered with crisp white linens.  Silver urns filled with every delicacy imaginable beckon from the long table behind me.  Men in white Nehru jackets and the most magnificent turbans in shades of pink and red and burnt orange are carrying coffee, tea, masala chai, and large glasses of pomegranate, sweet lime or watermelon juice.  We place our hands in front of our hearts in the traditional Indian greeting of respect.  “Namaskar.”

Stretching in front of me, at the end of the manicured green lawn, is a graceful bandstand with fluted white marble columns like a Greek temple.  Smack in the center, looking like Aladdin sitting cross-legged on his magic carpet, a thin musician dressed in long white robes plays the Indian flute.  The melodic notes dance on the morning breeze.

At dawn I performed an hour’s yoga on the lawn, saluting the rising sun with my Suria Namaskars while peacocks wailed with their haunting calls.  I settle at my table and savor the surreal, serene stillness while the faint music in the distance envelopes the art deco palace in an otherworldly air.  Without realizing it, I, too, have become part of the Umaid Bhawan interior landscape.  Surrendering willingly, I smile inwardly and sit back to enjoy my breakfast.  Another day in India has begun.

Somewhere over the Rainbow

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The day after I launched my website I woke up to see, outside my window on this overcast Normandy morning, a rainbow.  The sun wasn't shining and it was cold and gray but there it is in its full glory, arching happily over the church like a perfect half moon.  I lit a candle and placed an incense stick in a brass holder, and, with spirals of fresh jasmine wafting toward the ceiling, performed my sun salutations to the church and to the rainbow.  

A rainbow, according to science, is a meteorological phenomenon that is caused when sunlight hits millions of raindrops.  The light is refracted as it enters the raindrop, then it is reflected off the back of the raindrop,  and then it refracts again as it leaves the raindrop.  These drops act as a prism that splits this white light into different wavelengths.  This is what forms the multi-coloured bands that create the rainbow.  All rainbows contain seven colours:  red, orange, yellow, green, blue, indigo and violet.  

A rainbow, scientifically, is an an optical illusion.  It doesn't actually exist in a real position in the sky.   But that doesn't make it any less real.  There is nothing wrong with scientifically understanding what something is.  But don't let the explanation get in the way of its beauty.  To me, Nature, or God or Source or whatever you want to call that which connects us all, is speaking to me all the time.  I only have to be still enough to listen to what it is saying.

Rainbows are considered to be good fortune.   If you follow a rainbow to its end, legend says, you will find a pot of gold.  And, as I was born in Kansas, the home of the Wizard of Oz, I'll let Dorothy finish this blogpost with the words of her song Somewhere over the Rainbow.

Somewhere over the rainbow way up high
there's a land that i have heard of once in a lullaby
somewhere over the rainbow skies are blue
and the dreams that you dare to dream really do come true

Someday i'll wish upon a star
and wake up where the clouds are far behind me
where troubles melt like lemon drops
way above the chimney tops that's where you'll find me

Somewhere over the rainbow bluebirds fly
birds fly over the rainbow why then oh why can't i?

If you'd like to receive these to brighten your day, join me.  I'm still learning so a little patience and let me know what you like and what you don't so I can learn to hone my blog.  

https://www.andrenawoodhams.com/awakening-landing-page

 

Saying Goodbye to Islay House April 2014

It took me so many years to get my site up that here are a few blogposts never sent from exactly four years ago.

Have you noticed that certain things keep showing up in your life?  I’m not talking about karma, or the law of cause and effect.  Nor am I talking about coincidences, which Albert Einstein called called God’s way of remaining anonymous.   I’m referring to situations, people, or geographical locations that keep recurring, again, for no apparent reason.  It’s just one of life’s great mysteries.

For me, it’s mystical and shamanic experiences—and large homes.  That’s right, like Dowton Abbey, castles, manor houses, chateaus and palaces.  These enormous ancestral piles have this habit of dropping in my lap in the most extraordinary circumstances.  So far, I’ve never had to own one, thank goodness, nor could I afford to.   But they seem to happen with an uncanny frequency that makes me realize that whomever is writing the script of my life has a great sense of humor.

The first time it happened was Islay House, which is where I’ve just returned to.  With over 70 rooms and 33,000 sq feet, it is the largest mansion in the Scottish Hebrides.  Islay House was built in 1677 and extended over the centuries as a shooting lodge for the Morrison family and was sold to my friend Laura’s family 30 years ago.  In the spring of 1992, I lived here for a few months alone while I was writing the outline for my first book project.  My friend Laura initially didn’t tell me the house was large when she lent me the house.  It was only when, a few days before I was to leave, she faxed me a map so that I could find the washing machine that I knew something was up. 

I loved living here.  Just look at that staircase!  There’s an identical one on the other side of the house.  The kitchen was so large that my food got cold by the time I had walked with my plate to the sitting room.  I learned to sprint full speed toward the phone when it rang, and would arrive breathless.  And then there were those magnificent bathtubs that were so large I nearly drowned every time I had a bath.  The peaty brown water was so soft it made my hair like silk.  Islay’s second export besides agriculture is peat and water, layers upon layers of it, which, when added to barley and heated, is transformed into the best single malt whiskies in the world. 

And now, 22 years later, Islay House is going to be sold, Laura invited me to visit for a few days to say goodbye.

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