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.

Restraint

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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—–

 

 

Empty

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Five posts are waiting in the wings, and none of them ready to be published. I’ve tinkered and toyed with each, and will now avert my gaze, and begin again—-

On Saturday, departing for the farm, the book grabbed from the office shelf was 100 Favorite English and Irish Poems. Sitting on the cabin porch in a state of do-less-ness, leafing through the poetry collection in a desultory way, this phrase from William Morris’ poem, ‘An Apology‘ presented itself:

‘The idle singer of an empty day.’

Yes! That’s it! I wish to be an ‘idle singer of an empty day.’ It would seem many of us would do well to aspire to this goal. We, (I), have been altogether too stalwart in our attempts to live in a world turned upside-down with the pandemic. How about giving the efforts a rest?

As I write in the sunroom, able to view the neighborhood west, north and east, one household is busy setting up the back deck for the summer. He is carrying out potted plants, two at a time, and she is arranging them here and there. Folding lounge chairs appear, soon to be opened, I hope, and lounged in.

One wonders, though. Many of us have a habit of creating  lovely spaces for rest and restoration, then choosing to pursue the next chore (of which there is an endless supply), instead of the just-as-important leisure.

The sun is shining, at long last. Another neighbor to the east is lounging. So inviting. This post may just get published without the usual editing, so that I too might be,

‘the idle singer of an empty day.’

(And to Mr. Morris, no apology required. Enjoy your empty day—-)

 

Route 66

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This week’s post is a nod to the season’s fine American tradition—-The Summer Road Trip. Think hot macadam, windows down, music on the radio, pulling into a drive-in restaurant to order hamburgers, fries, and shakes, traveling a few more hours, selecting a motel where you can park right in front of your room, IF you don’t see this out front: NO VACANCY.

We long to see a VACANCY sign blazing after a day on the road. But in the motel that is our body, NO VACANCY is what we want. All rooms occupied, i.e.- embodied. That’s us at our best! We study and practice The Alexander Technique for this very reason—-to be fully in residence, present to ourselves and others.

A motel vacancy means empty rooms, unoccupied space. For a road traveler, that’s good news. For a resident of a body, not so much. When teacher-training, one of my Alexander Technique mentors would tease me about my ‘phantom limbs,’ referring to my legs from the knees down. They were there, but absent from my body awareness and only vaguely included in my body map.

A common territory unoccupied by many is the back, not only the back of our torso, but the entirety of our back self: back of legs, back of pelvis, backs of arms, back of neck, back of head. All that is ‘back’ is often disregarded, probably because sight is such a strong sense, and we don’t see our back selves when glancing in a mirror.

Include your back self in a scan of your body, and check to see that all rooms are occupied. NO VACANCY indeed—-

 

 

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.

 

Moonrise

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courtesy of pixabay.  

9:07 p.m. Friday, June 9, 2017.  It’s showtime and we are standing on the crest of the hill, facing east.  Where’s the full moon?  The sky has that summer haze, and the horizon is looking cloudy.  So we wait.

How to Wait for Moonrise:

Stand tall.

Feel the grass prickle your bare ankles.

Wrap your arms around your beloved and inhale his summer-rich scent.

Hear the swallows chortle as they ride the evening breeze.

Notice the cooling air on nape of neck.

Continue returning to the moment and practice patience.

The best things in life are free.  There it is, whole and entire, now visible in the dusky sky.  It travels quickly, changing from white to an orange-mauve hue, gaining in brilliance with every minute.  Yes, I could be in the city indulging in any number of entertainments, but this is where I want to be.  On the hill.

May you find a place, a moment, of beauty today.  It’s worth waiting for.

 

 

 

 

 

Yellow

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Hazel-Atlas Glass Co., Ovide creamer/sugar in yellow platonite, circa 1950’s

When teaching the Alexander Technique, I often malign the visual sense, accusing it of being way over-developed to the exclusion of other senses, and often to the omission of the kinesthetic sense.  But what about using this well-trained sense to assist in returning us to our fully-embodied selves?

A definition is in order.  Kinesthesia is our neglected sixth sense, giving us information about our body; its position, size, and movement. Basic kinesthetic distinctions include:  tense, free, balanced, unbalanced.  It is these qualities which we learn to discern in the practice of the Technique.

A word about the cream and sugar set.  I found these sweeties at the West Liberty Labor Day Festival.  Wilma and I were trudging back to the parking lot on a sizzling sun-drenched afternoon, having strolled the festival grounds for hours.  I was hot.  I was tired.  I was tense and unbalanced.  Along the final stretch of booths, a table of $2 items, on which sat the cream and sugar beauties.  The saturated yellow color made me happy.  I perked ‘up,’ so to speak.  I moved up into length and width, a refreshing boon at the end of the festival day, as restorative as a glass of ice water.  Free and balanced.

Yehuda Cooperman, an Alexander Technique teacher living and working in Israel, offered these gems on ‘yellow’ at a Cincinnati AT teacher workshop:

  • Paint the yellow between you and your student.  Before you direct, you must paint, and the painting is by two painters; teacher and student.
  • Step by step….so she (the student)  sees she is supported by yellow.
  • I have to give myself to those forces, to discover from my pupils, the yellow.

What on earth was he saying with this on-going reference to ‘yellow’?   Perhaps he was alluding to the ineffable, the life force that animates.  As a Reiki practitioner, I often visualize color moving through my hands, but the colors change, depending on the person in the session and the moment.  Yehuda had a powerful association with the particular color of yellow, and used it to good effect in his teaching.

Returning to your visual sense, let the color of something you see today capture your attention, and allow its vibrance to take you ‘Up.’

 

 

 

Blackberry Basking

blackberries-846895_640So much work!  So worth it.  The blackberry patch at the farm was prolific this year. Branches were covered in sweet-deep-purple-blackness.

Now for the rest of it.  Poison ivy. Everywhere.  Heat and humidity.  Pervasive.  Gnats, mosquitos, buzzing, whining.  Check. Purple-stained fingernails for days.  Ugh. Sharp thorns leaving puncture wounds in the hands and arms.  Did I say heat?

I picked berries one evening only.  Mike picked all the rest of the time, and he has my undying gratitude for his fortitude.  It’s been one of the few perks of having a new hip, that I was not up to the challenge of hours bent over berry bushes.

The sun and the moon and the breeze and the good green earth grew the berries.  Mike harvested the berries, and I ‘processed’ them.  ‘Processed’ is kitchen-speak for all manner of procedures:  freezing, drying, sorting, washing, storing, and baking.

But first, there’s basking in them.  This involves standing in front of the baskets, hands clasped together in delight.  Also required to be a true bask-er-of-berries, is the eating of them, preferably one at a time, feet planted on the lane, breeze cooling the back of the neck, and all sweetness savored.  The Alexander Technique community would call this ‘good use.’  Yes, and living the good life.  Have yourself a berry day.  Find whatever brings you sweetness—–

 

 

 

 

A Murmuration

 

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Saw one!  I had read about mumurations and longed to witness this natural wonder somewhere in my lifetime. Who knew that place would be the hill?

First, a definition.  A murmuration is a flock of birds flying together. Lots of birds.  The flock dips, turns, splits into smaller groups, then merges. The patterns formed in the sky are wave-like, spiral-shaped, and varied. How they do this is a great mystery, but ornithologist Claudio Carere of Rome, Italy suggests that in addition to acoustic and visual cues, a bird may even use the tactile sense of onrushing air from close neighbors to help guide its direction.

Thousands (Mike and I are guessing starlings) flew over the hill cabin as we stood on the west-facing porch last evening, jaws dropping in stunned silence as a wave of wings shimmered over our heads. The hairs on my arms lifted with the fly-by breeze.  We dashed through the cabin to the east-facing porch, where the show continued, the flock descending onto a fence row of trees.  The branches bent with the weight of bird bodies.

The wing-generated-breeze whooshing across my arms returned me to Wednesday afternoon’s Alexander Technique class. Students were invited to ask themselves two questions:

1.  What am I touching?

2.  Where am I breathing?

These simple questions, offered by on-line colleague and AT teacher Lauren Hill, are intended to return us to what Mr. Alexander called The Self, the integrated Mind/Body.

Check in with yourself now and then.  Notice what surfaces you are touching.  Where does your body move with an inhalation?   An exhalation?  Glory in your design, which permits you to experience the world via your senses.  Here’s to an alive day—–