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—-

 

Time Travel

WP_20180412_10_33_07_Pro
the very woods

Mike and I, along with my father-in-law Dick, are planting pine seedlings on the hillside. It’s a perfect and sunny day. Dick announces it’s time for a break. We stretch out, the three of us, in the field, Dick’s hands behind his head as he leans back, surveying the countryside.

Time folds in on itself.

I’m walking through pine woods, the ground a soft carpet of pine needles. Rounding the path down the hill to Watercress Gully, a breeze kicks up and ripples the pine boughs to my right, with a sound like gentle ocean waves.

I was there then. The hills were pasture fields. I am here now. It’s a forest. Fully present. Then. Now. Then gives me now. Because of then, there is a now.

Madeleine L’Engle called it A Wrinkle in Time, and as a 10-year-old avid reader, I devoured this fantastical tale. I never imagined experiencing a ‘tesseract in time,’ as L’Engle coined it, but on the beloved hill, time travel did happen, courtesy of two words, ‘fully present.’

On the hill, and nowhere else, planting seedlings. Walking the hill, seedlings towering overhead as full-grown pines, time becomes elastic. Alexander Technique students report this altered sense of time in their lessons, and as a teacher, I have learned to have a timepiece close by because I, too, lose the quotidian sense of time when immersed in the work.

There are many paths through the woods. Find your path to full presence, and be refreshed. The tyranny of time will subside, and aliveness will be yours to savor.

Trees and Their Butterflies

emperor-butterfly-805437_640
hackberry butterfly, asterocampa celtis

There’s a butterfly here in Ohio called the Hackberry, named after the tree on whose leaves its larvae feed.   I had no idea.  That is, until this morning, when one sunned itself on the wood siding of the barn, its brown speckled wings closing, then opening, its proboscis a precise spiral, each antennae topped with one white ball, like the protective coating on a bobby pin.  This obliging butterfly waited while I fetched a reference book and flipped through the pages until he could be identified.

I had walked the farm lanes for decades knowing nothing of this butterfly, a member of the Nymphalidae Family, who relies on the hackberry’s existence for its own.  I did know about the sound of the wind through the branches of the hackberries in midwinter.  Guests to our hillside retreat had seen the black snake who curled up in the cool crevices of its shelter.  I marveled at the sight of red-tailed hawks perched on the highest limbs for the best views of the fields.  It was a benevolence; the cool shade of the hackberry trees on a  summer day.

How I miss them.  And here is what they taught me about being in a body….

WP_20160603_09_03_15_Pro
hackberry tree, farm lane

Let’s consider what happens when the wind blows strongly.  Things move, yes?  A tree’s branches flail about, the silver undersides of their leaves flashing.  And that was the extent of my observations, until one day, I noticed that not only did the branches respond to the wind, but almost the entire tree, yes, even its trunk.

In the tree’s pliancy was its resilience.  Could I let the winds and gales of my life bend me, thereby not breaking me?  Could I move and act, instead of freezing and shutting down?

Some call them ‘weed-trees,’ but I know better.  Thank you, hackberrys, for this lesson.  And thank you, dear brush-footed butterfly, for visiting the hill today.  My heart sings to know there are still hackberry trees nearby, and that your life began on their welcoming leaves.