Here’s my current favorite (see photo at right). There are others. Evening toddies, the bristle of Mike’s beard on my cheek, the sweet call of the garden’s blue jay, discovered this very winter. I thought they only made that horrendous cackle call. I was wrong. A card in the mailbox. A student singing in her Alexander Technique lesson.
Yesterday broke the longest streak since 1989 of consecutive below-freezing temps here in central Ohio. Our home’s brand-new solar array has been iced and snowed-over for almost a month. Looking ahead to warmer breezes and a post-pandemic life, Thursday’s Happy Hour Zoom meet-up is with BGSU girlfriends. We will discuss plans for the next get-together. Two falls ago now, it was a Pittsburgh weekend. Good memories. Wishing to make new ones.
It’s what I’m calling The Week of the Pause at OSU. Two days without classes, and encouragement from leadership to reduce course workloads momentarily. Instead of the week’s assignments, I suggest a Dove Bar. A coffee. A walk through a park. Anything but the usual.
The plan was a month-long series of posts with a Mary Oliver theme, but Dove Bars won out on Week 4. Change your plans. Discard The Plan. See what happens instead——
I Happened to Be Standing, Devotions: The Selected Poems of Mary Oliver
Oliver is adamant, ‘being alive’ isn’t possible if all thought and yes, attention, is being given to the self. While well-being does require self-awareness, this is not to be pursued by excluding the rest of the world.
Self and Other. Leo and Tree. Altogether now—–
*Standing-With-Trees Practice: ‘We can take our cues from trees as we stand. They really know how to be in one place for a very long time, yet they manage to be in the timeless present, however old or young they may be. It can be helpful to just stand next to a tree for a period of time, and practice standing outside of time. Imagine experiencing the light the tree is experiencing, feeling the air the tree is feeling, standing on the soil in which the tree resides, inhabiting the same moment the tree is inhabiting. Be fully in your body, imagining, if not actually feeling, that your feet are connected to the ground, and that your head is elevated with a sense of grace and ease toward the sky.’ (That’s Jon Kabat-Zinn, from his most recent book, Falling Awake.)
On Meditating, Sort Of, from Devotions: The Selected Poems of Mary Oliver, 2017.
A student mentioned how her experience of time altered during an Alexander Technique class. Busy and stressed students live entire days, weeks, and months scheduled to the hour. Vigilance is required.
Which is what I love about an Alexander Technique lesson, a paddle in the kayak, working a jigsaw puzzle, walking the pine woods, a sit on the meditation chair. My relationship to, and interaction with, time changes. And that’s a refreshment.
It hashappened again. I am reading through a pile of books on the coffee table, and note connections between two unrelated tomes. First, it was Louise Penny’s latest murder mystery,All the Devils are Here, in which I came across a word never seen nor heard previously: funicular (see above). On completing this gripping tale, I moved on to a more leisurely read, The Weekend, by Charlotte Wood. Lo, and behold, there was that word; funicular.
The funicular railway definition speaks to life in a body, and I believe, is the reason I was drawn to this word. ‘a cable railway operating in such a way that the ascending and descending cars are counterbalanced.‘ Or, ‘a human body, operating in such a way that ascending and descending energies are counterbalanced.’ Gravity travels down through our structures and it is this downward path that gives us our ‘up,’ our ‘spring-in-the-step,’ akin to bouncing multiple times down onto the diving board, which propels the body up and off the board.
Resident in a human body, I am in relationship with earth and sky, counterbalanced, as is the funicular railway. Descending allows for ascending. ‘Down’ gives us ‘Up.’
This is how it’s done, Alexander Technique students. This is what ease and freedom of movement look like. Feast your eyes and ears on the sights and sounds of inherent good use.
Watching and listening to Amanda Gorman today, I sat up, feeling lighter, freer, at greater ease. Her words, her poise (and yes, presence!), the historic import of the moment, all combined to elicit this response. But history-making events are not required for us to access ease and well-being.
Any of our senses can serve as the stimulus for a gentle easing of head-on-spine, for the stopping of holding ourselves up. Last Thursday, it was walking through the pine woods; the kinesthetic pleasure of exerting myself on an incline, the visual delight of sunbeams through the pine boughs, and the sounds of red-breasted nuthatches, unseen but chirring sweetly overhead.
What matters is giving our attention to the swirl of experience coming to us via our senses. Anything we notice, anything with which we contact, can be the impetus for Good Use of the Self, to use an Alexander Technique term. May you find ease in your day, this Inauguration Day of January 20, 2021.
The pandemic rages. Domestic terrorism has arrived in America’s capitol and at statehouses around the country. We are reeling with the headlines. And yet there are beds to make, children to love and care for, meals to prepare, new students to teach. And we are sufficient to the task.
Amuse yourself, please, with a clip from the 1995 film, Babe. Farmer Hoggett (James Cromwell) enters his pig, Babe, in a sheepherding competition, instead of Rex, his sheep dog. Babe is quite a pig, as you will see (and hear). As are we. Not pigs, that is, but quite something, yes. Sufficient.
If your heart, your mind, your body are heavy with the burdens of this winter season, click here for a bit of lightness, and when you arrive at the utube site, scroll down the right side of the screen to Clip 9.
‘All students are requested to self-sequester for 10 days before returning to their on-campus residence, and/or to in-person engagements on campus.’ —OSU’s President, Kristina M. Johnson, Phd.
The Random House Dictionary of the English Language provides two definitions: 1.to remove or withdraw into solitude or retirement; seclude. 2. to remove or separate.
Students are being asked to remove themselves from daily life and others; to ‘withdraw into solitude.’ How extraordinary! Always in my 20’s and 30’s decades, I was wishing for quiet, for repose, for a chance to collect myself, and nary an encouragement from any quarter. And now this, from the hallowed halls of academia, no less. Sequester, please.
Alternate between doing nothing (Constructive Rest, anyone?), and performing needed tasks, along with outdoor walks. Refrain from seeking entertainment and/or distractions during the daytime hours, reserving your amusements for the evening time, if then. The silence that lives as a constant presence all around you will make your acquaintance, and you will find a deeper acquaintance with yourself.
Tomes to accompany sequestering: anything by Thich Nhat Hanh. The titles on my bookshelf are: Present Moment Wonderful Moment, Being Peace, The Miracle of Mindfulness, and Peace is Every Step. Sylvia Boorstein’s, Don’t Just Do Something, Sit There, and John McQuiston II’s, Always We Begin Again: The Benedictine Way of Living, are both excellent guides for a retreat.
It’s that time of year when the beauty to be found is spare and muted, yet compelling. The bare trees branch out much like the neurons of my brain. This is the earth, and I am in it; I am of it.
The hill gave its gifts as it always does, this time on a blustery day that didn’t know whether to be sun-drenched or cloud-covered. As I collected bittersweet for the Thanksgiving table, the wind went soughing through the white pines. A couple of sweet wrens hopped through the fencerow bushes, their backs tawny smooth.
We gather at the holidays, in part, to push away the darkness of the short days. This year, with concerts cancelled, Open House events not happening, shopping excursions nixed, travel bagged, we are feeling keenly the lack. And then there are all those empty chairs at the table, not only due to everyone staying home, but because loved ones have died.
May the season bring you comforts, as simple as trees etched against clouds. Wishing you well this Thanksgiving——–