Wren, Again*


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.


Apples and Roses


2017-09-25 11.16.09

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.










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.






Night Sky, Part II

thanks, pixabay

Nocturnal visits to the back porch composting toilet often turn into sky watching events, with stars, planets, constellations and occasional flaming meteors streaking above.  It is also extraordinary to be up and about when a crescent moon is setting to the west.  Its proximity to the horizon enlarges its size as its white brilliance slides under the horizon in utter silence.

As one who appreciates these night-time interludes, I was pleased to find myself in good company on the reading of a Junichiro Tanizaki essay, ‘In Praise of Shadows.’ He devotes two pages to the glories of the Japanese toilet.  A quote: ...‘the toilet is the perfect place to listen to the chirping of insects or the song of the birds, to view the moon, or to enjoy any of those poignant moments that mark the change of the seasons.  Here, I suspect, is where haiku poets over the ages have come by a great many of their ideas.’*

Mr. Alexander applied the principles of good use to the requirements of daily life:  sitting, standing, moving from seated to standing and vice versa, traveling stairs, walking, resting.  And to them we can add the middle-of-the-night constitutional.

Notice the beauty wherever you find yourself today. Be present to your Self and your Use. Yes indeed, even in the water closet.

*Tanizaki’s essay can be found in The Art of the Personal Essay: An Anthology from the Classical Era to the Present, editor/Phillip Lopate.


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



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—–






Alexander Technique Portals

Listening to Bonnie Raitt’s 1991 album, Luck of the Draw, and reveling in its groove. There are so many inspirations for moving up and being fully present. The Alexander Technique is one of the doorways into this ease and yes, this grace.  Raitt’s music is another.  Her singing requires the body to move, and that includes the new hip joint.  So grateful to you, Bonnie.


Watching clouds while sitting on the hill opens yet another portal into a vital moment of presence. The light spring breeze lifts the hair from my forehead, inviting the thought of ‘head balanced on spine.’   A flotilla of cloud-ships inspires a good deep breath and a walk through the meadow this holiday week-end.  Gracias, dear sky.

And my sister-in-law’s shrimp and grits will change anyone’s day for the better!  To inhale the heady scent of garlic-infused shrimp with cheese-drenched grits is to enter Now, not Then, or When.  Just now.  Good food and good people making it.  Blessings on you, Colleen.

We can realize full-embodiment through immersing ourselves in the sense-rich world. Sounds, sights, scents, tastes, touch.  I, however, needed an extra nudge in the right direction. That nudge came in the form of the Alexander Technique, which re-educated my Body/Mind to the possibility of integration, and to the recovery of well-being.  Some can do this by reading and experimenting on their own, others, as I did, seek out an AT teacher.

Find a door and step over its threshold.  So often we scurry on by, intent for the next task or destination.  Notice, instead, where your body is in contact with the floor, the chair, the air itself.  Watch breath come and go a few times.  You are in!  In your body.  In the world.