Long Enough

summer-69761_640

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.

Take A Walk

spring-2220553_640

Not to be confused with ‘Take a hike,‘ as in ‘get lost.’ No, this is an invitation to take your lovely Self walking. The Midwest is sweltering on yet another day expected to exceed 90°. Walk anyway.

Early, of course. Not for very long. And kindly, certainly. What do I mean by ‘kindly‘? Consider Use of Self as you walk. Instead of slogging through the humidity, doing battle with the elements, choose to receive the rich scents of a summer morning, the eggshell blue of the sky, the cardinal’s call.

What does all this noticing have to do with the Alexander Technique? Everything. Our inclusive awareness, of Self and Other, is the doorway into ease and comfort. And on a hot summer’s day, a bit of comfort is most welcome.

Continue strolling with attention to your structure, head moving away from the spine, inviting the spine to lengthen and the torso to widen.  You can integrate thought with action, as you ease-fully stroll through the neighborhood, the city street, the park path. A good walk to you—–

 

Making Do

20200630_102924
Seven Oaks

To follow-up last week’s post, here’s a quote from Diane Ackerman’s gardening memoir, Cultivating Delight:

As with all creativity, Paula’s art (landscape design), requires spontaneity bound by restrictions.’

Ackerman’s design requests included preserving large swaths of the standard suburban mowed lawn, preferred by her husband. Paula had to ‘make do’ as she sketched and schemed, not able to utilize the full panoply of her talents, but work within the boundaries of a client’s preferences.

My mother did it too, this ‘making do.’ She made a life of it. Her ability to create a lovely, if tiny, home for her family, was often about lack. On my father’s teaching salary, the end of the month usually found us dining on beans and cornbread, no steak to be found.

And my Alexander Technique community ‘made do’ on Sunday afternoon, meeting in a Zoom Room for a Seven Oaks Reunion. Seven Oaks Retreat Center, in Madison County Virginia, is the location for an annual outstanding Alexander Technique Workshop, cancelled this year in response to the pandemic.  Within the parameters, and yes, confinements of a Zoom Room setting, director Jan Baty, and the workshop faculty created a lovely microcosm of a Seven Oaks week.

Making do. We can do this. We are doing this. For the fortunate who have not been ravaged by COVID-19, or suffered as loved ones take ill, we can make do. Hardship? Constraint? Limitation? Yes. Make do. The creative life awaits.

 

 

Restraint

20200622_181313

Re-reading a treasured memoir discovered at Blue Hill Books years ago, I came across this quote:

By using restraint in most things I intended to be joyfully unrestrained in a few. For this was always my favorite way of doing things.’ That’s Katherine Butler Hathaway, in The Little Locksmith, describing the budgeting of expenses for her 1920 home renovation in Castine, Maine.

Restraint. Highly esteemed by the Alexander Technique community, to ‘restrain‘ is to ‘hold back from action.’  This is the very definition of the Alexandrian principle of Inhibition. We pause, we stop, we refrain. Working with what we have—-whether it be  pandemic restrictions, or a limited budget, we pause to consider the possibilities and then act.

Hathaway’s other projects included painting and writing: ‘I could never work with great spirit in any material unless I knew that the amount of it was limited–I had to be hedged in by a boundary of either space or material, in order to awaken the feeling of creative excitement.’ 

We are most certainlyhedged in‘ due to circumstances not of our own making. But I do choose boundaries, and they bear creative fruit; the 250-word-count of the weekly blog posts, for instance. Observing word count limitations contributes to clarity and cleaner prose. Another example–with fewer trips to the grocery, meals are created from what is at hand. The results are often delicious.

Within the boundaries of your present-day life, I am wishing you well, and hoping for you ‘creative excitement‘ in the midst of  limitation and restraint–

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

A Hundred Whiles Ago

Leo is on his way to my house, with sister, Vivi, and their mamma. We will play in the garden all morning, and his 4-year-old-Self, along with my 63-year-old-Self, will delight in games of hide-n-seek, stories to read, and adventures with The Tuesday Morning Friends. (see above photos)

And so life under a pandemic’s terms continues. I have always cherished these playdates, but this spring and summer, they have become a primary event of each week. Life simplifies. What was I doing before that was so important? Seeing friends, meeting up with students, being social. Writing. Preparing for OSU classes. Life is quieter now.

With the exception of weekly jaunts to the farm, travel stopped. A godson’s graduation, a visit to my sister, a trip out west, gone. My OSU teaching contract has not renewed due to the pandemic’s financial toll on the university.  Much has been lost.

Gained? Peace. Ease. At yesterday’s Alexander Technique Online class, I found my pace and speech slowing as I directed the participants through an Inhibition practice.  A colleague responded, ‘The timing was just right. It gave us the time we needed.’

Playdate Postscript: Leo and I were trying to figure out how long it had been since the dinosaurs were last given their baths. We couldn’t decide, until Leo said, ‘It was a hundred whiles ago.’ Yes. That.

Wishing for youa hundred whiles’; all the time you need and more. Riches of the best kind—–

 

 

Gardening

 

abundant, profuse, extravagant, voluminous, plentiful, prolific, lavish, robust

That’s the garden these days. Each morning, weeds are pulled, branches trimmed, the bird bath refreshed. These mundane tasks, surprisingly, give joy. How so? For one, I am outside. All is lush and lovely. (See above vocabulary list.) Also, utilizing Alexander Technique principles means I get to be in the present moment while also in the garden.

Here’s how: Bending, I am both The Puller-of-the-Weeds, and The Observer. As such, I can consider the ‘means-whereby’ the weeds get pulled. Perhaps less force in yanking of  stems?

Less effort worked for a patch with loose soil and shallow roots, but now I am on to a section with deeper rooted weeds. Now what? Noting my response to the more strenuous requirement, I pause, returning to standing. Considering what might be most ‘mechanically advantageous,’ hips are invited to move back as my head and spine travel up and over.

And here am I. Just here. By giving thought, care, and attention to the ‘how’ of the task at hand, I am nowhere else. What a gift, this returning, over and over again, to Self-Awareness,  Inhibition (The Pause), and Direction (Choice). The Big Three of an Alexander Technique practice.

It doesn’t have to be a garden where the Alexander Technique intersects with daily life. But I certainly wish for you a beautiful bloom this glorious day—-

Missing

 

20200501_093530
Katie, at cakes, tea, and dreams, posted a list of all the things she misses right now, and asked her readers what they are missing. Here’s my top five, in no particular order:

the library. A few online purchases and re-reads of home library tomes does not compare to the endless and varied supply of books-on-loan. I love the thematic displays  librarians creatively provide, and long to browse the shelves.

happy hours. Zoom has sufficed, but prefer my people to be in-person. Plans are afoot to meet in P.J.’s lovely garden, sipping beverages in the open air. Can’t wait.

proximity. It’s the ability to catch another’s scent, to occupy the same multi-dimensional space, to avail myself of non-verbal cues and gestures, that I miss.

thrifting. It’s been too long since last strolling the aisles, treasure hunting, and the thrill of a ‘find’— the batik summer skirt, an exquisite cream and sugar set.

Leo. Ruffling his hair. Snuggling on the couch for a book read. Working side-by-side to give his dinosaurs their bath. (So messy, and so delightful.)

I  miss being with others.  I miss the America I thought I lived in, but probably never did. Perhaps racism and lack of civility are just more evident now, certainly more obvious to me. For all gathering to protest peaceably, thank you. Wear a mask.*

*And Thanks to Alicia’s friend and to Susan, for The McCullough Mask Collection.

 

 

 

Mutual Regard

stylized-1320972_640

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.

 

 

 

Supple

Can you coax your mind from its wandering

and keep to the original oneness?

Can you let your body become

supple as a newborn child’s?

Can you deal with the most vital matters

by letting events take their course?

Three questions found in Stephen Mitchell’s 1988 Tao Te Ching, which I tossed into the travel tote for a day trip to the hill. His translation notes included a quote from somatics educator, Emilie Conrad-Da’oud:

There is no self-consciousness in the newborn child. Later on, the mind wanders into self-images, starts to think Should I do this? Is this movement right? and loses the immediacy of the moment. As self-consciousness develops, the muscles become less supple, less like the world. But the young child is pure fluidity. Suppleness is really fluidity. It transcends strength and weakness. When your body is supple, it feels like there’s no barrier in you, you can flow in any direction, your movement is a complete expression of yourself.’

Limber, lithe, pliant, yielding. Wishing for all of us thoughtful questions to ask, with suppleness of mind and body to seek the answers. Be safe. Be well. Wear your masks—-

 

Rowing

20200324_143347

Looking for an inspiring read? Here’s my pick: The Boys in the Boat: Nine Americans and Their Epic Quest for Gold at the 1936 Berlin Olympics.  Meticulously researched, but reading like a suspense novel, Daniel James Brown weaves a gripping tale of the working-class boys from Washington State who made history at the 1936 Olympics.

Here’s a timely excerpt: George Yeoman Pocock, builder of boats, giving advice to one of ‘the boys’:

‘He told Joe that there were times when Joe seemed to think he was the only fellow in the boat, as if it was up to him to row the boat across the finish line all by himself. When a man rowed like that, he said, he was bound to attack the water rather than to work with it, and worse, he was bound not to let his crew help him row.’

Fellow boatmates, we can row these choppy waters. Together.

*Local Prologue Bookshop owner, Dan Brewster, welcomes online orders. Two books and a jigsaw puzzle arrived a few days ago, along with a cheering note from his staff. If Brown’s book is not in stock, I’m sure Dan can get it ordered for you.