Long Enough

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Mary Oliver ends Such Silence with:

I sat on the bench, waiting for something.

An angel, perhaps. Or dancers with the legs of goats.

No, I didn’t see either. but only, I think, because

I didn’t stay long enough.

Morning coffee in the garden. Mike and I are about to move inside and get our respective days up and running. We pause, and here comes the hummingbird, whom we had been hoping to see. Settling back into our chairs, a pair of songbirds light in the dogwood which wraps the gazebo’s west side. One of them explores the latticework along the screen, a mere 2 feet from us, the gazebo serving as a blind. Its throat trembles with a melody, and Mike says, ‘If you wait, they will come,’ a twist on a line from Field of Dreams:  ‘If you build it, he will come.’

And next, three goldfinches. Following their swooping and chirping path above the garden, the moon about to set comes to our attention. Glory be.

Stay long enough today. Practice the Alexander Technique Pause.

Mutual Regard

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Walking along the north perimeter lane, I stop at the sight of a warbler pair, nestled side-by-side on a low-lying tree branch. We regard each other in the quiet, a light breeze between us.

The warblers are well-versed in physical distancing, and we could learn a thing or two from them. Appearing comfortable and at ease, they are also vigilant to my presence, and when I do finally step forward, they twitter lightly, lifting off their perch.

They received me. I had been seen; regarded. This moment brought to mind a long-ago Alexander Technique lesson Mike had with Barbara. He was deeply moved by her presence, and the way in which she received him with respect and calm attention, just as the warblers did with me along the fencerow last week.

Thank you, wee warblers. Thank you, Barbara.

 

 

 

Maybe Tomorrow

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The annual Drama of the Fledglings is underway. This past weekend, it was a tree swallow soon to fledge, but not quite ready.  Her beak opened to bright orange-yellow on each fly-by of the parents. Landing on the box, the pair peered over the edge, chirping to their offspring, offering encouragement, but nothing doing.

On the porch for an afternoon of cloud watching, I  periodically checked on the swallow’s progress through the binoculars. She began to extend farther out of the box opening, her neck lengthening (yes, Alexander Technique students, birds do it, too!) looking up, down, and all around. Still in the nesting box, however.

End-gaining was not in evidence on the hill. Mr. Alexander would be pleased. He observed in himself and his students the common habit of gaining an end, i.e.–striving to achieve a goal, by disregarding how we use ourselves to get there, and mindlessly pushing to complete a task. He was adamant that instead of trying to please, get it right, and get it done, we would benefit greatly from pausing (what he termed Inhibition), and considering the ‘means-whereby‘ any task is best performed. 

The task of flying awaits the young tree swallow. Not responding just yet to the stimulus of cajoling parents, she pauses. She waits. We do ourselves harm when we push through our daily lives, using force of will and grim determination. Try a pause. Be kindly toward yourself in all that is required of you. The swallow will fledge. You will complete your tasks. Maybe tomorrow.

 

 

Wren, Again*

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Singers! So much to learn. Start with a wren in song. No better example of full embodiment and whole-body singing exists. The wren serenades were an on-going feature of last week’s visit to the hill. A wren pair were even attempting to build a nest in the front porch rafters, but with little to no overhead space in their chosen spot, project was abandoned.

The cabin is surrounded with young oaks, and their boughs are a favorite song perch for the wrens. Petite creatures that they are, I recommend a pair of binoculars nearby for quick access when the piercingly sweet melody begins. Bring binocs to eyes and follow the sound. With magnification, you will see the wee body lengthen just prior to the tiny beak opening for the first salvo of sound. Take note. That’s precisely what we need to be about in preparation for our singing.

Stay alert, and you will observe the wren’s throat pulse with the trills, its entire body engaged in singing, much like a baby who responds to your voice with arms and legs akimbo and in motion. (3-month-old Vivi visited yesterday with her mother, doing this very thing.)

Life is our teacher each and every moment; availing ourselves of the lessons, our choice.  Let beauty and amazement teach you today—

*Click here for previous Bird Life post.

 

Surprise Me

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the first!

Weekend retreat. Friends. Cabin in the woods. Soup. Wine. Laughter. And needle felting.

What is that colloquial question…..’Who knew?’  Yes. Who knew I would delight in a brand-new experience, thanks to Cindy, who, in addition to bringing quiche, wine, and her wonderful self, also hauled bags of wool skeins, small white envelopes of felting needles, textured yarns, felt squares.

With a minimum of instruction, Cindy soon had Deb and me happily ensconced on the couch, surrounded by mounds of wool and scraps of yarn. We proceeded to cover the room with shreds of wool, scraps of felt, squiggles of yarn, and all the while birds flitted past the surrounding windows. Exclamations varied from gasps of pain when a needle missed its mark, to amazed wonder at the intense red head of the woodpecker.

And Deb had this to report, post-weekend, as she continued to create the most extraordinary felted animals. ‘I found you don’t need to jab super-hard all the time.’ She had stayed at the cabin for a couple extra days, and was, I believe I can accurately write, surprised to find herself immersed in a new pursuit.

Long-time readers of this Alexander Technique blog could surmise about where this  post is headed. Does ‘Light vs. Heavy‘ ring a bell? Or perhaps, ‘More-With-Less‘? Both recent postings, they address the on-going question in A.T. Land—-how much, or rather, how little is required of me, of you, to skillfully and adequately accomplish the task at hand, whether it be washing the dishes or making a felted creature?

Thanks, Deb, for this A.T. reminder, received via text as I resumed the daily rounds back in the big city. Most any and everything can be done with less, giving us more ease. I raise my felting needle to that!

 

Away

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an Ohio dawn

‘There is no away.’ This statement was in reference to the plastic trash in earth’s oceans, and the capacity of a single plastic water bottle to travel the world on ocean currents. An oceanographer made the comment in the sobering documentary, A Plastic Ocean.

There is no away. There is only here, where bits of plastic lodge in the bellies of water birds and hasten their deaths. Only here, at the grocery store this morning, despairing of finding buttermilk in a non-plastic container. Here, in the Heartland, where my consumer choices affect water health.

Our precious planet is 71% water. Our bodies are up to 60% water; the brain and heart 73% water. There is no away. Only us in our water bodies in a water world. We strive to keep our arteries unclogged for good health; why not extend our self-care to the waterways of lakes, rivers, and oceans? We study the Alexander Technique to take better care of ourselves and improve our quality of life; why not study and act on what will bring well-being to the water world beyond our individual ones encased in skin?

Yesterday, I walked into a menswear store and purchased a set of socks for my husband’s new suit. (The first wedding of the nieces and nephews is in April!) The clerk quickly and efficiently tossed them into a small plastic bag. ‘Thanks, but no bag please.’ It reminded me of Mr. Alexander’s Inhibition Principle. We merely say ‘No thanks‘ to habit and then observe what happens in place of the habit.  The socks fit handily into my purse and off I went. One plastic bag lighter. Just like when I inhibit a body-use habit and find that I feel lighter and freer.

Today, may we, pretty-please, say ‘Thanks, but no thanks’ to habits that no longer serve us or our planet—

 

 

 

 

What If?

 

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Glory be. It’s a fine morning on the hill.  Bird chorus was a cacophony, and early. Sighted a Baltimore Oriole!  A flash of brilliant orange and there he was, singing in a meadow bush. On lifting from his perch, he flew straight toward me, veering off to land in the nearest oak.  Oh, my.

To enhance your birding experience, add some Alexander Technique thinking.  Begin by simply noting and observing your usual patterns of use.  Mine:  1.  In the excitement of a closer view, I plop the binocs right up against my face, blurring my vision.  2. In a mis-directed attempt to obtain the best look, I scrunch down into the binocs, often not noticing this until my neck begins to hurt.  3. Arms get pulled tightly in toward torso in an effort to keep the binocs steady.

Next, having observed Habits (patterns of Use), ask yourself the question,  ‘What if?’  ‘What if I didn’t ram the binocs against my face?’  The body’s inherent wisdom asserts itself when we get out of its way. We get to find out what the body would like to do instead.  Instead of plopping, ramming, scrunching, pulling, there is now the option of lightness, lengthening, widening; all choices that make for more comfortable birding in a happier body.

Feathering the Nest

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pheasant feather, pixabay

Stand in the middle of a hill meadow on a late April morning.  Clutch in your left hand a bag of feathers. With the right hand, hold high one of those feathers and wait.

The swallows will begin to notice you.  Heads will jut out from a few birdhouses and others will swoop around you with their liquid chittering.  Release the feather.  Watch as a swallow dives and angles and deftly maneuvers to catch the feather in its beak.  When this happens mere inches from your head, listen to the snap of its bill.  Say, ‘You are welcome,’ as the swallow flies directly to its box, disappearing inside.

Repeat.  Many times.  Those nests will be veritable featherbeds and your heart will be full.

Postscript:  This is the second April assisting the swallows in feathering their nests. At last year’s nesting season close, a swallow saw me standing on the back porch and flitted into his box, emerging with a single feather.  With it he flew straight to me, releasing the feather before my startled face.  I kid you not.  Befriend a bird today and prepare for wonder.

Standing Still

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With new walking poles in hand, I traipse through the pine woods on an enchanted April morning. Meandering over the animal trails, I eventually pause in a small forest opening, catching a glimpse of a thrush hiding in low branches, waiting me out.

How often do we get to be face-to-face with a bird? That’s what happened next.  He studied me carefully, decided I was no threat, and continued his routine, hopping along the pine needle carpet, his beady black eyes intent.

Let’s redefine what it might mean to stand still. When I’m teaching choristers, they are encouraged to observe the support of their feet.  From there, they can let the body move ever so slightly in a figure-eight pattern.  These micro-movements prevent fatigue and fainting, both a hazard for choral singers who often stand in place for long periods of time.

Standing still in this lively way brought so much more of the world to my notice.  On leaving the forest opening by the same path, I now saw spring beauties, the bleached jawbone of a woods creature, a wooly-worm, and heard a deer snort nearby.  None of these wonders were in my field of attention on arrival.

Whether bird watching, singing, or waiting in line at the grocery, remind yourself that standing still can bring the world to you, and does not require freezing in place. May a few moments of lively stillness be yours today—-