NEWSFLASH: we open the Portal Crystal Gallery officially in 4 weekends ~ Saturday, Sept. 23 (from 10am till 7pm) ~ at 489 Massachusetts Avenue, in Arlington Center (MA, 02474). I’ve been working on this Blog for a few days – had hoped to bang it out on the exact calendar date, being a month out from opening – but the notion of being able to concentrate on one thing for more than an hour (and it usually takes 3+ on my particular blogs), is a joke. However, it’s Sunday, and I like getting my newsletters out on Sundays. Any later (like tomorrow), and we’ll be less than 4 weeks out, so here goes! I’m not one to defer to astral phenomena – I don’t even follow astrology per se – and yet when I had my chart done years ago, it made sense…and there are times when it feels like the cosmos is indeed aligned in a way that’s impactful to my life. Our almost pathologically subjective views would just love for grander movements in the universe to be synchronized with our own petty realities. Hence, the religious impulse. But we do keep coming back to it – especially at major life milestones – and there was a family wedding earlier this month, almost exactly 20 years after my own.
These blogs always lead me on wild goose chases – something always leads to something else – everything’s interconnected (which is kind of the theme of this blog). Have a look at the photo of me (Kyle Russell) and my wife (Nina Manolson) pictured together on our big day, and then 20 years later. It’s kind of cool – how much has changed – and yet the bond remains. It’s a funny confluence – for a New Ager like me not to be taken by all the alternative modalities or world views – and yet my openness lets me see the synergies when they choose to manifest (and I choose to recognize them).
Take this recent eclipse – earlier this week – I didn’t make an effort to see it, barely looked at the photos. What a hoopla was made about it! Everyone from the most scientific to my neighbor with little kids traveling to Mississippi to be in its wake (who I ran into coincidentally, exactly as they were leaving and coming home, what are the chances of us both being out on the street during both occasions?!)…it was a major media event…and a welcome distraction from the whacky News we’re subjected to daily. Anyhow, sometimes you need to see something twice, to recognize it for what it is. That was the 21st (the eclipse). Then there was the 22nd, one month out from my private Opening party. And then the 23rd (4 days ago now), which was a month out from our official, public Grand Opening. An ark, or balancing act of its own – connecting the dates this month with the key dates of next month – helped me to place what was happening into a larger, spiritual, and cosmological context. The enormity of where we’ve come – and what has yet to be done – hit me. A little background first. Various calendar conflicts had pushed the initial opening back from the 16th of September. Those had to do with us going to New York for the Vegetarian Vision Festival, Town Day in Arlington happening. But when I checked it out, and realized that the private Opening is scheduled for the Autumnal Equinox, I thought “wow, maybe this is meant to be!” As I’ve heard West Indians say “Nuttin’ done before its time.” What more magical a time could this new beginning be launched, than when the length of day and night are identical. Those balancing points – like the eclipse – where light and darkness, the yin and yang of the universe are dancing together (and in more obvious relationship than usual)…those moments are really are magical. By magical I mean out of the ordinary – an unusual time where special, unique things – can and do happen. Miraculous transformation, or major manifestation. Never in my life has so much happened so quickly. To be fair, some of these things have a long tail, there’s a lot leading up to them. Astral bodies have to be a thousand other places before they align in ways that make us say “wow!” We remember the high points, the exceptional, but ought fairly to acknowledge the mundane, day by day that leads up to them. Many moons ago, into last year, I had a shift in dreamscape…from apocalyptic visions (perhaps due to the torturous Election process of 2016)…to wanting a store (or that’s what was reflected in the dreams). I visited places in my subconscious, and then in person, making appointments to look at empty shops, and I contemplated the logistics…what it would take to move in and populate them. Then – during this auditing process – the prospect of a potential landlord’s visit to my showroom – which could have “outed” my wanderlust – made me fear for the security of my current arrangement (it having been month-to-month). Plus, I thought it might be rude for them to not find it out from me. So I called my existing landlord and divulged that I was “on the prowl,” and would be happy to keep my interests in-house. If he had something, he should give me a call.
From Friday to Tuesday, I got the call. The Costume Shop around the corner – which I’d thought was not long for this incarnation – had decided to move. It was May, and they’d be out July 1st. I looked over the place, and based on what else I’d seen out there, made the calculus that this was a good thing for many reasons…not least of which was that I was encouraged (by the same landlord, the 2 spots are in the same building) to keep my current space…which I quickly recognized as a gift from heaven. The prospect of not being rushed to move all my stuff – of doubling or tripling my square footage, with main drag (Mass. Ave.) access – was good enough to be part of a very auspiciously unfolding narrative. Serendipity was smiling on me, a happenstance that was not always mine to hold. I’ve had a decade (at least) of bad luck in my life. There were dark times when I was not hopeful, even of my longevity past the age of 30!
But like the weather – fortunes can change – and I’ve been on a very long, good weather streak. Sure I have my challenges – and there’ve been some precipitous falls on my journey – but overall, I think the stars have been aligned in my favor. I’ve been able to pursue my dreams, have a stable and healthy relationship, and my kids are stepping out into the world with (and from) a solid foundation. It is from this base that I am able to give more – step out in a bigger way – and manifest my own vision of sharing what I know with a wider audience. Is the population of Arlington my target (or ideal) audience? I don’t rightly know, because most of my existing clientele comes from elsewhere – having been drawn in to my monthly, invitation-only Open Houses – from my mailing list, which I’ve built at metaphysical shows near and far.
I’ve traveled a lot over the past 5 years that I’ve rebuilt this business. I launched it exactly 30 years ago, but was waylaid by various other ventures (and undertakings, like having a family, and supporting my dad in his last years). Part of me wishes I’d started back sooner (so I could be “farther along”), but as stated – nothing happens before it’s time – and it’s all those other activities that brought me to here…they each had their purpose. My heavy huffing it, to shows from New York to Maine (I remember packing up early from that one, it was hyped as well attended, not)…those trials and tribulations taught me how to hone my selection and deal with different audiences (and promoters!).
I have a history of shop owning – having had 2 stores in Boston’s primary retail districts – Harvard Square and Newbury Street. The last one I left in 1992, fully 25 years ago. It’s crazy that I should be going back into retail, I told myself I wouldn’t. That’s not entirely fair, because I’m certainly in retail, having gotten back into Crystals more full time since 2012 (5 years ago now). What was different this time around, was that I made my own hours – saw people when I wanted to – and could disappear on vacation for weeks on end (without guilt). What I dread is being trapped in one place all day – being subjected to whomever happens to walk in the door (not always a pleasant interaction) – and having my fortunes tied to the weather. Retail ain’t easy! I also learned a major life lesson when I started the magazine (Rhythm Music Magazine) – also 25 years ago, in 1992 – and that is that when you start a venture for some 3rd goal (you know: “the ends justify the means”), the vehicle end up becoming the destination (the be all, end all)…and the end may end up lost in the means. In other words, I thought I was gonna promote my music by having a publication, but publishing itself became the monster, and it took up all my time (which is why I let it go 5 years later). Last time (as you can see from the photo above, of which I have precious few from the time) – I was selling international clothing and jewelry (as well as music and art) – while my father, my parents really, had been diplomats…and were representing the U.S. to the rest of the world. You see I fancied myself (perhaps not consciously, at the time) representing the rest of the world back to the U.S. as a sort of reciprocal service to that my folks had provided. But the product itself did not have any intrinsic meaning (aside from being ethnically relevant and interesting). This time, the product is front and center – and very much has meaning – which I’ll convey by organizing it in a way that people can immediately understand. They should know, without too much research, “what stone stands for what.” My wife Nina Manolson, actually encouraged me to make the Crystals central to the venture. Even though our spot has additional functions – which include providing space for healers and artists – it’s primarily a Crystal Gallery.
My current showroom (at 7 Mystic St. – and certainly no “out-show” (or Expo) I’ve done – will do my selection justice like this whole layout promises to. Having “a woman’s touch” – in terms of nesting – is also new (my previous stores were partnerships with men). A colleague recently asserted “I could never go into business with my wife,” but we’re ready. I helped Nina with her business (over these past 10 years), but I kept a healthy distance too. Similarly, Nina’s not going to be minding the shop on a day to day basis, but she has opinions about how we represent ourselves (through wellness products and graphically). Our own relationship has weathered so much that we’re able to parlay our collaboration into this new zone with somewhat of an ease. I have no illusions – there will be challenges, even disagreements – but this is just the (a) next step on our life’s journey together.
Let me digress for a moment (more), to tell you a story of what might have been. The first place I was excited about renting – we were gonna call it “Skylight” – on account of its having one. I’d heard nightmarish stories from the previous tenants, and gotten strange, mixed signals from my prospective landlords there. They stood me up for a meeting they themselves requested. Rather – they offered me a day for them to come by, and I accepted – asked them “when shall I expect you?” No reply. As I heard Maya Angelou’s quote (couldn’t readily find it online): “When people show you who you are the first time, believe them.” The clincher came when Terry “the Stone Lady” Milton started talking to me in general about the prospects of my future shop, while reading at one of my Open Houses. I hadn’t even asked her perspective, when she launched into giving me advice – “you won’t get everything you want – you might have to let go of the skylight.” That hit me like an arrow to the heart – but there was no way she could have known we were gonna call it that – and she was right…we did have to give up the skylight.
One thing I do NOT feel bad about giving up – was the old bathroom in our new space – which as you can see, needed help…so much so that we gave it a makeover…which will surely make it a more pleasant “rest” room than it ever was before. Much more has been done too – a photo album (or book of images) might do that whole process better justice. And that could (believe me!) make for its own blog. This one was almost headed in that direction, but most of the drama and challenge will be lost on the outside world, it was our burden to bear.
What’s much more exciting is the blank slate that is Portal right now. Without a single item for sale, it’s like a canvas, awaiting the artist’s touch. It seems crazy that we’re starting over again – given that it took 4 weeks of frantic remodeling to here (thanks to my team!) – and yet that was all just the first step. The next 4 weeks will be what the general public sees when they walk in. I suppose when I think of it that way – given how far we’ve come – that makes it all seem more doable. What I’ve tried to do here – for myself as much as for you – is to paint the picture (before the brush hits the canvas), to put our venture into the larger context of my life, relationship, family, history…even the Cosmos! It’s tempting, in our secular culture, to view things on their own…as if they’re unconnected to everything else. Of course the New Age perspective has something in common with Old School ways of viewing everything as connected (which, of course, they are). While I’m way over to one side of the spectrum, I’m still not as far as some. Sometimes it takes an eclipse and the calendar to line up symmetrically for me to “get it.” My Inner Circle Meditation group was the first to meet in the new space – and each member delivered an auspicious blessing for the place – Terry Milton’s even visited and feels the good vibe overwhelmingly. I’m assuming we are in alignment, else how would we have gotten this far? Many future collaborations are awaiting the official opening – not everyone has the pioneering vision to take a chance on something new – fortunately, I’ve be graced with the capacity to do so…and many thousands will be touched as a result. ******************************************* About the Author Kyle Russell is in his 30th year of working with Crystals, and 20th year of being married, so it’s fitting he and his wife are now embarking on this major new project together. Each brings a unique perspective and talent, as do their extended team members. You can find out more about Nina at NinaManolson.com, and get updates (including an introductory discount) by visiting www.PortalCrystalGallery.com and signing on to our mailing list there.