Missing

 

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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.

 

 

 

The Wheel*

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Bloomed March 21, 2019

Leo arrives for the afternoon. His mamma’s due date has come and gone, and she’s seeing the midwives.  The two of us play the afternoon away. The three-year-old decides the plastic dinosaurs require a soapy bath, and they receive one. There are card games at the kitchen table, matching shapes and pictures.  Wind-up toys everywhere.

Alicia returns. Midwives found her 3 centimeters dilated! Baby will be here soon. As they are leaving for home, Gary arrives. He and Mike walk the garden paths, inspecting the retaining wall construction, then settle into sunroom lounge chairs for a beer. Gary’s phone beeps and he apologizes, checking the message. It’s his wife, out-of-town with her family, keeping vigil at the bedside of her 94-year-old father.  He is hours from death.

Daily, I check Julie’s blog, missing her posts, which have been regular as rain for many years. Nothing. Bill, her husband, is living his last days with pancreatic cancer. Two to six months are left. The diagnosis was received mid-December.

Kenzie calls on Sunday with news of her pregnancy. She’s the eldest of the nieces and nephews, the first to marry, and now the first to launch the family’s next generation. Baby is due in October.

And this was the week, the interminable week, 35 years ago, that Morgan was admitted to Children’s Hospital, dying 4 days later with heart failure, complications of pneumonia. Her frail body made it all the way through winter, but compromised with a heart defect often found in babies with Down Syndrome, she was unable to gain weight and thrive, and our daughter died on the first day of spring.

We are, all of us, coming and going. The days come and the days go, due dates, birthdays, baby-on-the-way announcements, death days. Play dates, vigil nights. Be present to this day, no matter what it holds for you. Looking out the window of Morgan’s hospital room the morning she died, the spring sun was brilliant. In the midst of losing her, I did see the sun.

*(The Wheel, a Wendell Berry poetry collection. highly recommend.)

 

 

 

 

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!

 

For Those Who Are Weary

‘Weariness invades your spirit

Gravity begins falling inside you,

Dragging down every bone.’

Author John O’Donohue, in his book of blessings, To Bless the Space Between Us, has poetically described downward pull, and I’m guessing he didn’t even know it! Mr. Alexander observed that many of us habitually have our heads down and forward of the spine, which compromises head/spine balance. A feeling of heaviness and increased fatigue are often signs that we are engaged in downward pull. When head and spine are happily in optimal relationship with each other, we experience instead a feeling of lightness, along with a quiet and sustained liveliness.

O’Donohue goes on to offer remedies for weariness (and downward pull): ‘take refuge in your senses, open up to all the small miracles you rushed through.’   Cultivating our kinesthetic sense awareness is one of the principal practices of the Alexander Technique. We notice our feet on the floor, the contact of sit bones with chair; we invite the lengthening of our spine as the morning coffee is sipped.

He offers another antidote for weariness and its partner, downward pull: ‘Learn to linger around someone of ease, who feels they have all the time in the world.’ We find an Alexander Technique teacher who can model for us a different way of responding to the never-ending stimuli of daily life. And we linger. What a lovely word.

O’Donohue ends his blessing with this kind admonition: ‘Be excessively gentle with yourself.’  I shall. Whenever I think to, and wherever I find myself, which this morning, was at a new neighborhood bakery, Flowers&Bread.

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f&b

(With thanks to Sharon Stohrer, who gave me O’Donohue’s book. It’s a treasure, and  so is Sharon!)

 

 

 

 

 

Apples and Roses

 

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Strolling through the Park of Roses, fall’s arrival was the big picture. Straggling branches, limp in the unseasonable heat, created a scene of tangled decay. The up-close view was quite different and surprisingly fresh and beautiful.  Here and there could be found the most perfect of rose blooms, exuberant in their beauty, even on the last Monday of September. (Yes, this one—–)

With concerns for  the future of American civility and fear of nuclear war as world leaders exchange threats, the big picture is grim and unsettling.  But up close, there is a walk in the park with Alicia and Leo, applesauce in the slow cooker perfuming the afternoon house, and an evening rehearsal of Haydn’s Mass No. 3 in D Minor.

So. I’m going with roses and goodness today. And what better way to celebrate late roses  and right-on-time apples than with Bourbon Butter Apple Skillet.  Sauce is adapted from Sherry McKenney’s  maple pecan cake recipe, found in her cookbook, A Taste of the Murphin Inn. Thanks, Sherry!

Bourbon Butter Sauce:  Combine all ingredients and stir until heated through.

1 Cup sugar

1/2 cup half-and-half

1/2 cup butter

2 tsp vanilla

2 tsp bourbon (with lots of spill-over)

Thinly slice a few apples (leave on the skins) and toss them in a skillet with some of the prepared sauce.  Use medium heat until apples are cooked through but not soggy.  (5-10 minutes or so)  Serve in dessert bowls with a small pitcher of cream for drizzling.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Ted

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graphics courtesy of pixabay

One month ago, I stood in the kitchen raising a glass to a man whose lively engagement with life ensured us a long evening of laughs and great stories.  Of four 1971 Ohio State University freshmen assigned to the same dorm floor, one is now deceased.

Kerry Egan, hospice chaplain and author of the just published, On Living, wrote this about those who know they are near to death:

‘…..it isn’t just health that they wish they had appreciated.  It is embodiment itself. It’s the very experience of being in a body, something you might take for granted until faced with the reality that you won’t have a body soon….so they talk about their favorite memories of their bodies…And dancing.  So many stories about dancing.’

And Ted did dance. One of the apocryphal Ted stories is titled, ‘the Russian Vodka Party.’ A raucous house party burst through its doors, where Ted and I and others danced our way down the porch steps and into the grass.

Another dancing-with-Ted memory.  My daughter, Morgan, was born with Down Syndrome, and died at nine months of age from pneumonia due to a heart defect.  Mike and I grieved and struggled for a very long time. Ted gave us a much needed reprieve when he dragged us out of our sad house and into a bar where we ended up dancing out into the street once again.  Did I ever tell him what a gift that was?  I can’t remember that I did.  It’s one of those regrets that those of us still living cannot escape when we lose someone we love.

Tia Sillers and Mark Sanders wrote “I Hope You Dance” in 2000, a big cross-over country pop hit sung by Lee Ann Womack.  One phrase repeats throughout, and it is my wish for you this day:

‘And when you get the choice to sit it out or dance…..I hope you dance.’

Godspeed, Ted.