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Monthly Archives: November 2009

Happy Thanksgiving – – – in a weird way

Happy Thanksgiving to all!

It was a weird one for me. We had plans to go to Florida this year to spend the first Thanksgiving in 6 years with my parents, but as the day drew near, Mark was bombarded with work and felt he couldn’t get away. I wasn’t willing to disappoint my Mom another year, so we ended up going separate ways on a holiday for the first time ever in the the last 20 years.   When we lived in Florida, Thanksgiving was always my gig, ( a cooking fest that involved a massive number of dishes) but since we’ve moved, my sister has taken up the reigns, and now the new tradition is for her to take everyone to a very fancy buffet at her ritzy country club. Mark took his Mother & sister (and Kent since he opted to stay home as well) to a fancy resort in North Carolina for a similar buffet. In essence, we ate the same meal, only in different states. 
(Brother-in-law Bill, Me, Sister Linda, Neva, Dad and Mom – all of us pretending we enjoyed posing for a picture, when we could have been at the table with our friends ordering booze already at 11:30 am . . . yeah, we get what a serious gorge is all about.)
 
Mark and I called each other to wish a happy Thanksgiving to all and I said, “This is weird.”
“No kidding,” he said.
“And the worst thing is, I think I’m having cooking withdrawal. The food is remarkable, but none of it tastes like Thanksgiving to me. I wish I had made stuffing and stuffed it into my purse. This meal, for all that it’s so extravagant, seems to be missing real food.”
“No kidding.”
Since the food was so different from my usual holiday fare, I decided to get adventurous and try my first ever oyster. I’ve always avoided oysters because, as someone with no sense of smell, I’m a texture oriented person and I never liked the look of those slimy, gray blobs, but with everyone around me digging in and encouraging me to partake, I thought I might as well join the party. I do happen to like the romantic folklore of oysters, of course, and that gave me inspiration – besides which, going for the oysters gave me a chance to flirt with several cute men at the seafood table who enjoyed giving the “single for the day” young woman advice on how to prepare the tasty morsel (the fact that they considered me, a 50 year old, a young woman tells you just how spry and sexy (and half dead) the men I flirt with actually are) .  
My dad saw me cautiously eating my appetizer, and said, “How come you never had an oyster before – thought you couldn’t handle even one more degree of passion run amok?”
“Yea, Dad, that’s it. It’s  been a self preservation thing . . . I got those wild genes of yours, and it’s all I can do to keep them from raging out of control. Never wanted to risk it  by adding oysters to the mix.”
 “It’s the East curse,” he deadpanned.
For the record, I consider oysters tasteless, and the texture is like eating a flattened slug. Needless to say, I now can say with authority that this particular shell food is overrated . . . especially since I didn’t even feel a glimmer of heightened libido. False advertising, I say! 
It was fun seeing my family though. I enjoyed an evening with my aunt (84  – I’ll offer a picture of this grand and dear old relative, for prosperity sake) and as the next picture proves, I had hugged my sister . . .but don’t let looks deceive. We are always one step away from a full out wrestling match . . Hey, I can take her – really I can – maybe I’ll prove it at Christmas.
     
It was all together an interesting holiday. I drove down in the wee hours, my head mulling over a million thoughts – and I arrived early enough to fit in 5 solo appointments with some lovely young dancers. The next day I spent time with family and we ate, then played dice (which wasn’t so special since lucky me didn’t win a single dang round.) And before you knew it I was up at 4am and driving home dodging the black Friday traffic for ten hours while Neva slept – again just me and my thoughts slipping around my head like a movie on fast forward – the only thing to distract me was the occasional NPR interview blasting on the radio.  I stopped to buy Neva headphones for her I-pod so she could be spared what she called “Mom’s radio torture”.
But despite the pace of this weird holiday, I did pause to give thanks. Even on years when you feel its a stretch, there’s always a great deal to be thankful for if you stand back and think your life through.   
With twenty hours of solo driving to fill, I found plenty of blessings to focus on. Hope everyone else did too.      

My productive day

This morning, I began my Christmas shopping. It is so hard to decide what to buy.

Should I get a mosquito net for a child in Gambia? (13.00) Or a pig for a family in Indonesia (24.00). (Always thought it would be fascinating to raise a pig, but they are incredibly smart and knowing this makes the animal’s long-term fate is too dismal for me to consider. Naw, I’ll skip the pig.)

I could go with a goat for a family in Zambia (51.00) but that would make it seem I lack creativity, because I’ve bought goats several times as Christmas gifts in the past. I used to buy a cow every year, but after moving to Georgia I ventured out and bought different things – a llama, a goat,and/or rabbits. I’m forever choosing something that relates to my life in some small way. I like the symbolism, I guess.

 My budget for this season is limited, but for all I can’t really afford to be generous this season, I’m not going to skip buying gifts for the important strangers on my list. I’m keeping my Christmas giving to about 100 bucks this year, wish it could be more, but  even so, that’s enough to send a water purifier and filter to a rural school in Ecuador (87.00) leaving me enough for 10 chicks for a family in Mozambique (9.00). 

Actually, Mark sold a house on ten acres to a fellow that professed the first thing he wants to get is some chickens, so I agreed Mark could give him mine as a closing gift this Monday. That said, perhaps sending some chickens to an unknown family in a third world country will make Christmas morning special for me, I’ll have that symbolic exchange of both my chickens and those overseas to make the omelet I eat that morning a reminder of all there is to celebrate this year.

That leaves me 3.00 under budget. I can find some jar on a restaurant counter for a children’s stocking fund for that. No prob.

Yesterday, I got a letter from Meaza Zergaw (above). She’s the girl I’ve been sponsoring for several years through ChildFund, international. She is my replacement child, you see, because after 12 years of sending money to a boy named Malukin, he one day disappeared out of the system. No explanation or warning. Just the picture of a new kid in my mailbox one day. Never sat well with me, but I turned my attention and donations to Meaza regardless. Maybe it’s better I not know the fate of my old friend Muluken. But I think of him often, wondering.

 Meaza’s father writes me whenever I’m slacking off (which is always, I’m a dismal failure as an overseas sponsor correspondent, sad but true) to gently remind me how important it is for her to receive letters. I’m overdue, so this morning I wrote her the news of America and I’m sending it with some brochures from my studio. Not that she can read them, but she likes receiving pictures and I figure she’ll show the brochures off to her friends. I tried to explain what yoga is in the letter. Considering how simplistic I try to keep descriptions, due to cultural differences and respect to her narrow life options, I really struggled. It was sort of funny.

 She has already received my Christmas gift, which comes in the form of a check. That money will be dispersed in such a way that she will get a little something personal, but the family will get the rest, and in some cases, a portion is given to the village. Yes, I’d like to send her something frivolous and indulgent, like a doll or an I-pod, but that is not allowed, and all it would do is show how clueless we spoiled middleclass Americans are about the real life issues of those unfortunate enough to be born into hardship and difficult environmental, cultural and political climates.   I believe she is prouder and more grateful for my donation of life necessities than she would ever be of a brightly wrapped personal toy. That is why I think about her so much – she reminds me that life for everyone is a box and the boxes come in all sizes. I shouldn’t be so hung up on the limitations of mine – because the truth is, I’ve been blessed with a pretty roomy box.

So, today, I’m “buying my ticket into heaven” as Mark so aptly puts it. (And he also once added that because he decided to marry me, he has earned a ticket into the pearly gates too – he doesn’t need to be a do-gooder, you see, because I’m the family bleeding heart representative and I do enough for us all. Harrumph. Talk about riding someone’s coat tails.)

Since Christmas is the theme today, and Mark is working, working, working, I think I will drag Neva and her friend to the studio to put up decorations to make the place festive. I’ll get creative and come up with some kind of yoga themed tree – now if that isn’t a challange what is? I’ll listen to all our new-agey Christmas music as we putter and pick some selections for yoga classes. That will make going to work rather fun for the next month.

 It will be a productive day, but an easygoing, upbeat one at the same time. I like days like that. And then, I’ll come home because today is the day I cook. I’m going to make a cheesecake this morning for Mark’s mom (her ultimate favorite) because I’m feeling guilty that I won’t be here to cook on Thanksgiving, and later I will just throw in a ham (keeping it simple) because this also gives Teddy a seriously fun bone later – and yes, I’m still feeling bad that I let him get hit by a car . (He is fine, by the way). Then I’ll make homemade Mac and Cheese (Neva’s favorite) and a fancy salad (For Mark) and some buttery homemade bread (for Kent) and veggies and whatever else might catch my fancy when I start thumbing through my gigantic “one of these days I’m going to make” receipe collection.

 By then, I’ll be ready to relax and enjoy the fruits of my labors. And I’ll feel good knowing I made the day count. Which reminds me – I need to put a fresh bottle of wine in the fridge to cool.

You don’t believe I really just think of other people all the time do you? Get real!I

I’m a selfish prig, I just don’t blog about it.

Me and My Main Squeezes

I’ve mentioned more than once to Mark that I should probably sell the horses before winter sets in, not because I want to, but because we don’t really know how long we will be living here, and finding them a wonderful home is very serious business to me. The house has had some close calls regarding selling, and we are now listing the entire 50 acres, sort of giving up the back up plan of selling the house on only 12 acres. At any time, with little notice, we might just have to pack up and vacate.  Anyway, I’d hate to put off attending to the inevitable problem of finding a home for my beloved horses until my options are limited. That would kill me ten times over, so, I’ve priced them at 1/3 what they are worth, hoping a serious horse lover will surface without me having to pass them on to just anyone, and this will help me live with the heartbreak. When Mark told me a friend from work was interested and would be stopping by this weekend to take a look I decided I should go spend some time with them. Partially to clean them up (They are remarkably dirty from the fall rain and mud ) and partially because I will miss them dreadfully and I just wanted to spend this beautiful day with them. 


I gave them both a bath, loving them with soap and water and touch, and they nuzzled me and licked my palm looking for a treat and I felt my heart shrivel up like the Grinch’s in the movie when “His heart grew three sizes that day” . . . only in reverse. 

I thought I’d like  get some additional pictures of them, actually, pictures of me with them, and I even had a camera in the pocket of my sweatshirt because I went down to the barn right after yoga. I was still dressed in my workout clothes and I’d taken pictures at the studio that day for the newsletter, but no one was around to take a shot, so I tried holding the camera out and taking a few pictures myself, just as my kids do for their my-space all the time. Man-o-man, that isn’t as easy as it looks. I must have taken 15 shots, and totally missed my face (or the animal’s) every time – you’d see a great shot of my ear and the horse’s nostril, or the top of my head (gee, my hair is getting gray in spots). But I managed to snag a few half frame pictures.  Mind you, this was after I spent two hours giving them a bath. . . and after a sweaty yoga class . . . and . . . well, if I was smart, I’d put on some make-up and a cute outfit and go back down and reshoot this to pretend I’m far more attractive on an average day than I am. But I figure the donkey and/or horse is going to steal the show in a shot like this anyway, so why not go au natural. Can’t hide the fact that I’m 50 and have my share of laugh-lines to prove it, or the fact taht I’m inclined to get down and dirty about any chance I get. So here I am, dirty, tired, but happy with with my boyfriends . . . they are not animals to me, but symbols of a lifestyle, a dream and the kind of joy a girl really can count on to remind her that the best things in life are simple (and often covered in fur). What they have given me can’t be described with words. 

(And if you wonder why all my pictures are so huge – it’s because I can’t figure out how to change the pixels on this new Mac mark set up for me, so the only way I can post a picture is to take it as it comes. . . and believe me, I wish I had options. I ‘d look better (and less wrinkly) if the dang picture was smaller. It’s like putting a magnifying glass and a harsh light on your face and sticking it right into the face of someone talking to you. Boy, the ego beating that comes with being techno-illiterate.)     




    

Holiday madness begins


Yesterday, I taught what was supposed to be my last class for ten days. The studio closes for the holidays, so I’m getting some time off. I even canceled Yoga for the week. I’m going to Florida for a visit next week, but first I will enjoy spending a few days at home, sans responsibility. 

Meanwhile Denver, God love her, decided to plan an impromptu rehearsal for some of the students to practice a parade step (a marching dance to the FLEX song). She made arrangements for us to dance down Main Street the Saturday after Thanksgiving at the big light up Blue Ridge festival, you see. I appreciate her enthusiasm, so when she called me last minute to come help, I couldn’t refuse. And in I go to the studio on Friday, my sacred day off.

 Denver teaches the march and I putter on the computer out front, working on the studio newsletter. Then we decide to take the kids outside to practice around the parking lot with me driving the van with the music cranked as high as it can go. Old school. The problem is, these kids have never been exposed to a dancing parade, and so they don’t quite get basic elements like how to keep formation or remember the steps or pace themselves. We have a rather long haul in front of us if we ever want to train real dancers. Now it is a matter of getting by and not being embarrassed by a handful of stark beginners.

 We decide someone needs to dance in front of the group, and Denver suggests  we let Jason (her boyfriend) drive so the two of us can work the group. OK, that means I’ll help and actually do the parade. I haven’t had to actually dance in the parade in about 20 years. I’ve always been the chief honcho on the float waving to the crowd while Mark and other teachers handled our 100 plus dancers stretching out like a FLEX kite tail from the float. The good news is, this is a very short parade distance – perhaps 20 minutes of dancing unlike the 3 mile one hour dancing we had to do in Sarasota. I can handle that.

 Then, I come up with a brilliant idea. What we need is Santa leading the pack to make this fun – that way no one will notice how “unseasoned” these dancers are. And I just so happen to have a new, wooly Santa mascot costume that I bought ‘Just in case” we wanted to do a holiday performance with our young kids.

 Denver says, “Don’t look at me. I have to run around the dancers to make sure we don’t lose any of the little kids and to make sure the dancers stay paced. “

“OK, then I’ll do it.”

Denver says, “Mom, you can’t dance in that costume for the entire parade route. You’ll afixiate!”

I was thinking I’d be much more comfortable dancing with my face hidden underneath this costume, not taking myself seriously, than leading the pack like some figurehead thinking she was all that. I insist I can do it and climb into the costume.


 The head of this thing is like a gigantic pillow, hot and stuffy and the stuffing covers your mouth like a gag. It is lovely to be able to breathe while exercising, but right now I’m thinking I can stand to go san’s air for a mile or so…. All in the name of making this first exposure of the school to the local crowd memorable, of course.

 So I try dancing first in the studio, then behind the van for one round of the FLEX song. About die. I’m wheezing and sweating and thinking that if I don’t take off the head and gasp some air into my lungs, I’m going to puke. But I keep dancing. Heck, I’ve accomplished harder things than this.

 When we finish, Denver looks at me and says, “Well?”

 “No prob.” I lie. “Piece of cake.”

Man, what I won’t do to make things fun for friends.


So, I’m dancing in the Blue Ridge Christmas parade next week. I figure I’m bound to loose 5 pounds if I don’t pass out. I’m going to have to gear up for it, do some serious running this week and practice some efficient breathing if I don’t want to crash half way through. But hey, you are never too old for a challenge, and I kind of like being put to the test if it makes the event more fun.

 Meanwhile the kids are saying, “You’re not fat enough . . .you need more stuffing to be a decent Santa!”

“Stuff this . . “ I want to say, but instead I smile and say “A dancing Santa is supposed to be lean. Besides which, this costume is huge. I look big enough . . “

 What counts is that the kids were laughing and having fun, which is exactly the feelings I want them to associate to dance and this new studio.

 We are a serious school of course. If you don’t believe me, check out this photo of Kent two minutes after he came into dance class with some of his buddies one night. Yep, I run a classy place. But everyone will agree, it just wouldn’t be a FLEX without the playfulness.

         

Asha or nadda?

Monday, I went to visit Asha, a rather prestigious school of massage therapy in Atlanta. Actually, the Atlanta School of Massage is considered one of the best in the country, so it would be nice to go to that institution, but there are two reasons I don’t think the school would work for me considering my goals. One, it’s core approach is rather clinical and less inclined to lean towards organic and holistic health practices, therefore it is less an extension of yoga philosophy (and I want to incorporate massage into my vision for a future holistic yoga center, not just change my career to working in a clinic or spa,) and two, because that school only offers full time programs, day or evening, and I live so far away that it would be impossible to attend and continue being involved in my new business. Asha, on the other hand, has a solid, technically based program but additional electives that lean much more towards new-agey approaches. Seems a nice fit for a yoga teacher. And it offers a special part time program on weekends. I could work all week and still go to school. Takes energy, but I have enough of that.

     The school was smaller than I expected, but well equipped with four lecture/lab areas, 7 massage rooms for the required practicums, and a nice library. I had an interview with one of the administrators and she answered all my questions, and as you can imagine, there were quite a few. She showed me the textbooks all filled with anatomy and hands on technique, a few history books, and we discussed what therapist make in Georgia (50-80$ an hour- not bad for a side job in my opinion).This was important information, because the practical side of my personality has to crunch the numbers, don’t ya know, to determine how much effort it will take to pay off the training. (And thankfully, this works out to be reasonable.) I think the biggest drawback is that I can’t do massage and have long tapered nails. No, it will be short stubs for me. Drat.  Everything else seems fairly positive.

    A few classes in the program are devoted to spa techniques and things like aromatherapy, and I confessed that I have no sense of smell and therefore I might fail in these areas. She assured me I could learn about aromatherapy in an academic way and get by, with or without my nose. That was comforting.  We discussed the state exams and she told me 95% of their students pass the first time.

    “And it certainly won’t be a problem for someone with all your degrees. We love professional students here,” she said.

    I about choked. First of all, I don’t’ have “all those degrees”. I have one BA and one MFA. That is not unusual in today’s world, but since many people choose massage as a vocational school in lue of more formal education, I guess this makes me a rare case for enrollment. Second, I don’t consider myself a professional student – just someone who spent her middle years making up for lost time after devoting her youth to dancing in New York. I didn’t go the traditional course and get a formal education, like every friend I went to school with did, and I hated feeling uneducated as result. I graduated from High School after my junior year (I hated school and wanted out so I could get on with my dancing life) but it never sat well with me that I didn’t know anything except dance. Religion, politics, economics, environmental studies, and business – I was clueless about all of it – clueless about how the world worked. So at 35, I thought it was time to correct that flaw and get educated.  I’m hardly someone who makes going to college a career, despite evidence to the contrary. Actually I consider my schooling as “retraining”. – A necessity for someone who dared dance for the first half of life rather than do something practical.

    My BA was so I could run a business properly and evolve from a dancer to a studio owner successfully.  I would have much preferred to go to school to study English or literature (my passion), but I went for Business for practical reasons. It turned out to be a very good decision, because it did open my eyes to all kinds of information about how the world works. There was a life outside of dance. Who knew?

    The MFA, well that was just a gift for myself – the latent dream that you hold in your heart when you think, “If I ever had the time and money I would .. .” Well, I made a lot of money and decided to follow through on the “If I only could” scenario. Dang glad I did, too. Changed my perception of the world and myself.

    But one door opens another if you dare to open doors, and now my mind is wandering to physical arts and totally new mediums of health and wellness.  Must be a middle age thing. Dance and admitting I was getting older and wanting to do so gracefully led to retiring from my business, and that led to yoga, which led to massage. It makes sense when you see the entire picture on one life map.

    Becoming a certified massage therapist seems a very smart thing to do if I plan to continue on my path as the director of a yoga studio, but while I like the idea, I’m not convinced the time or place to pursue massage training is right, so I am struggling a bit with this decision. As someone who usually doesn’t pause when she decides to leap into something new, I can’t help but think my reluctance is intuition telling me to hold off. So, I’m taking this decision slow, considering every downside.      

    Nevertheless, in my reluctance I’ve looked into massage programs elsewhere, considered all possibilities for training, and still Asha seems most practical considering my current life position. The problem is, the program I am able to attend is on weekends, and this special “weekend only” system only begins once every 6 months, and of course it just so happens that a new program is starting this January – thus pressure to make a decision soon. Once I commit, I’m stuck devoting my weekends to this pursuit for a full 17 months (well, I get one weekend off every 5 –that is something for my sanity, at least.) Can’t transfer the credits to another program and it would be cost prohibitive to just walk away after paying for the full course. Since my life seems to shift and change without notice (for example, I didn’t know I’d open a dance studio until one month before I actually did. It was a total curve ball) 17 months seems like a really long commitment, yet I know that once I begin, life will sort of unfold as it always does, and before you know it, I’ll be finished, with a new skill to add to my repertoire of talents. In that way, 17 months is nothing and getting certified would be a perfect activity for this transitional period of my life. The timing coordinates with the lease on my new school, and with Neva’s middle school years, and carting Kent off to college and getting him settled (one more down, one left to go) Just when I graduate from Asha, I’ll have a certain freedom. I’ll be free to make a choice about whether or not I want to plow forward with this new business and stay in Georgia, or give up trying to make it work and move. That said, perhaps now is a perfect time to enroll at Asha.

    Lea
rning massage will be interesting. I adore touching people, love the intimate connection that comes with helping others, like providing comfort and teaching people what they can do to be healthier and happier too. A friend the other day said, “But won’t you have to touch gross people, like naked old men with warts on their back and fat, old ladies with hairy backs and . . . “ I held up my hand to stop her. The truth is, I have empathy for people with physical problems and can’t imagine a single case where I would be put off by the human body.   Fact.

   And there are side benefits. I’ll know 1001 ways to use massage oil, and everything there is to know about bringing relief and pleasure to others with my hands (get your mind out of the gutter.) Gotta admit that makes a girl have a touch of mystique. I’ll know Swedish massage, neuromuscular therapy, clinical sports massage, reflexology, Asian theory, polarity therapy, mind and body integration, anatomy and nutrition. I’m told I’ll be prepared to teach special seminars if I want to go that route, such as nutritian for health and wellness– a perfect addition to a yoga curriculum in my opinion, just as my journaling classes have proven to be. I’m really proud of that, by the way.

   And here’s the best part, even if I never work as a serious massage therapist (or just do it on the side part time and put the income in a fund for world travel or something else frivolous and self indulgent) it will give me a wealth of knowledge for writing. Because in the end, that is what I want to do most in this life– experience the world in all it’s complexity and uniqueness, and use those experiences to write something worthy. You simply can’t write without having something to write about, and living a full, active life is the best path to uncovering the rich ore that leads to great books. Yes, I may seem to have interests that shift and sway, but at root, my dreams and ambitions are as solid and steady as they’ve always been. Live. Move. Write.

    Sometimes I have to admit that my eclectic interests actually take time and attention away from writing – perhaps this is all just an elaborate avoidance on my part– the barn, the dance studio, yoga, cooking and growing things – these interests rob me of time and fill my world with so much to do that there isn’t time to pursue writing seriously. If you don’t get your butt in the chair and produce, you’ll never sell anything. I haven’t sent anything out to publishers in years and I even have an agent waiting for my revised book. Have I done what I should in that area, given it a chance? No. Other things have captured my attention lately.  But I also feel there is a time and place for everything, and I’m storing this huge wellspring of experience and altered views of life in a bottomless well that I will draw upon for years once I turn my attention to writing the way I probably should. And will. In fact, I know this.

    If there is one thing 50 years has taught me, it’s that I don’t give up on a dream. And writing – writing well – is a dream that is alive and kicking in my gut still. And it feels like the time is getting ripe to make a move in this direction.

    So, this afternoon I am filling out an application to Asha, but not sending it. I am also filling out an application to pursue the master level of yoga training – another process that will take a year or so – might as well enhance my skills in that area too if I’m serious about going this route. But I’m also thinking about turning my attentions to writing for a time. Looking at all the unfinished projects and wondering what one might call to me strongest. So many choices . . . .

    Eventually, all these life possibilities will come together and make sense, and I’ll see the slow, steady evolution that will have led to new horizons and a world that probably isn’t even a glimmer in my eye as yet. That seems to be how living works for me.

As the quote over my desk reads  – 

“There are no mistakes. The events we bring upon ourselves, no matter how unpleasant, are necessary in order to learn what we need to learn, whatever steps we take, the’re necessary to reach the places we’ve chosen to go.”  – Richard Bach.

And that rest beneath an other quote –

“Every now and then go away . . for when you come back to your work your judgement will be surer.”  -Leonardo da Vinci.

Words to trust. 

A rotten run

Sunday the weather was beautiful, so I decided to take a run. No, that is a huge exaggeration. I decided to take a long walk along country roads with intermittent clumsy jogs interspersed so I could pretend I was out on a run. Yes, that is more accurate.

I am and always have been a terrible runner. It’s one thing I really like that I’m absolutely no good at, and despite effort, don’t seem to improve doing. When I lived in Florida I went through a period where I readbooks on running. I did speed drills and distance runs and every single day I tried to improve my performance. Still, I was average at best. Probably a bit bellow average. Hell, I sucked. This is partially because I have such terrible feet from years of dance and running. Every time I run for a few weeks I get plantar facilities. I can barely walk, yet I’ll still plod on – ignoring the pain. I think another reason I’m a lousy runner is that I can’t keep my mind on the task at hand. I start off wanting to run faster or longer, but before you know it I’m ruminating on something – dreams, relationships, personal goals, problems and if not this, I start writing fiction or letters to people in my head. I guess running is medatative to me, so the minute sweat starts to make even the subtlest appearance, my mind take off, and my body simply slows down and falls into that lumbering plodding rhythm that lacks any semblance of runner’s talent.

 Ah well, at 50 how important is it to run fast or far anyway? The fact that I enjoy being outside and alone with my thoughts is what makes me love running. This is why I never run with anyone else. I’ve tried. I even had some lovely neighbors that ran everyone morning in Florida who always invited me to join them. I probably seemed like some anti-social creep because I always made an excuse to avoid joining them. My quiet time back then was just too precious and rare to give it up to be polite.

 In Florida, I ran 3 miles a day, at least 5 days a week. I almost always ran at 5:30 in the morning – first because it was just too hot later in the day to run and it was the only time I could carve out for myself that wouldn’t be interrupted by daily responsibilities, but later because I love mornings and I adored watching the sun come up. It was just me and the sunrise and my thoughts.

 Well, that isn’t exactly true either. It was me, the sunrise, my thoughts and Sam. Sam was my little dog and beloved running buddy.I pretended he was important for safety, you know they say a woman running alone out in the dark needs a dog for protection, but that wimpy mutt would roll over a cry if a squirrel looked at us funny, so the idea that he was protection was ludicrous.   He was, however, enthusiastic company and a great inspiration. On days when I was feeling lazy and wanted to skip running, he would look at me with such disappointment and confusion that I simply had to get out the leash and take him out. I always thought, ‘I’ll make this a short one”, but once I got outside the adrenaline kicked in and I’d do my traditional route.  Sam was my running muse.

 Anyway, I tried running in Georgia, even did a race or two, but the hills and the fluctuating weather and the fact that we had long since lost Sam in the woods one day, all added up to killing my motivation. I bought a treadmill thinking I’d run and watch TV, but since being outside and alone with my thoughts was the real purpose of running, this too sort of fell by the wayside.

 I became an ex-runner.              

 But I’ve been thinking about running a lot lately, missing it. It hit me just how much on a recent trip to Florida. I felt the balmy breeze in the early morning, looked at the long flat stretch of street and thought, “Running is what I miss most about living here.”

 So when I got home, I kept thinking about running, and it occurred to me that when I was a regular runner I spent a week every summer in Boston and despite the hills, I always fit a few good runs in – so the fact that there are hills really shouldn’t be an excuse for me to stop. And the fact that Sam is gone shouldn’t count either. Change is a part of life, but that doesn’t mean your gut self has to change.

 So, Sunday, when the weather was drop dead gorgeous and I was down at the barn with the horses, I looked down and noticed I had on some good (but muddy) running shoes and decided to just take off.

 I walked down the long gravel road to the paved street that rolls along some fields. I have tried walking and running this stretch before, so I’ve clocked the three miles and figured I’d just do the route again and see how things felt.  As I began, I noticed my two huge dogs lumbering along beside me, their long legs talking them a quarter mile ahead, then they would circle back, head into the trees and return to me. I yelled for them to return home, but they don’t listen to me.  I thought of Sammy on his little leash ,always a foot or two away from my legs and thought, “Man, my life is different now. Everything is exaggerated, bigger, wilder and out of control…. Even my dogs.”

I have two huge dogs. One I absolutely adore who is the perfect dog – respectful, protective, adorable, (Teddy) and one who is a great big pain. She is clumsy, demands attention, is too smart for her own good, and always getting into trouble doing things she darn knows she isn’t allowed to do.

 I was uncomfortable with the dogs roaming so erratically around me, but they are used to being free on 50 acres and have no understanding of good behavior in public. The few times I tried putting them on a leash for a run, but the attempt resulted in more a drag than a run and we didn’t make it a mile before I just gave up and took them home.  

After I was about a mile out I decided to turn around. As I said, I’m out of shape so I decided two miles would be enough of a start forday one.  I crossed the street (BIG mistake) so I would be headed towards incoming traffic. There aren’t many cars on that long stretch, but when they do come along, they barrel by like they are in a speed derby. It’s a country thing. 

There is a horse that lives alone in a huge pasture out there. When I ran this route before, I always stopped to talk to him. Horses are herd animals and shouldn’t be left alone, and I always feel sorry for this one, especially since he runs to the fence when he sees me and whinnies, then runs back and forth along the fence as I jog by.

 No sooner did I pause to talk to the horse, than I noticed my beloved dog (the good one) Teddy’s eyes turn to me as if he was thinking, “She stopped. She must need me.” And at a hundred miles an hour he came charging towards me. Across the street. Oh shit.

 I look up and sure enough there is a truck zooming along r
ight at us. I look up and see the dog, then over to the truck and it is as if everything is going in slow motion. I yell – I guess I was yelling at the dog and the truck at once, God too, but no one slowed down. This is a long open stretch of road, so that truck could damn well have slowed down, and it should have considering there were dogs on both sides of the road, but it didn’t. And ofcourse, my yelling made Teddy want to get to me sooner, so he just sped up.

 And I stood there in horror as I watched the truck slam into my dog. 

I guess another woman might have screamed or cried or something. I just stood there and said “Shit. “ then I said “shit” again. And again, and again, and again. I couldn’t believe how stupid that driver was, and the dog, and ME for crossing the street and pausing to talk to the horse. I should have know the good dog would follow as soon as he noticed me pause.

 A 17-year-old country boy was driving the truck. He got out to check his fender. Meanwhile my dog is screeching in pain, yapping and dragging his backside to the grass by the road, his eyes filled with confusion and pain.

“My dog is dying and he’s checking his fender.” I said to no one in particular. Sometimes my sarcasm leaks out despite how I try to keep it in check. Redhead thing.

The kid heard me, blushed and came and apologized. He kept saying, “I didn’t hit him on purpose.”

“Of course you didn’t. No one would run over a dog on purpose.  But couldn’t you see him running straight across the street?”

 “Well, yea, but I thought he’d stop. When he didn’t, I tried to avoid hitting him.”

He saw the dog? It took everything in me not to call him a dumb countryjackass – but really what good would it do? The kid felt bad. The dog was already hit. My anger wouldn’t have helped this situation in any way.

 The kid just stood there watching me muttering, “shit” under my breath as I tried to check how injured Teddy was. He seemed in such pain, but there was no blood. He couldn’t stand, however.

 I asked the kid if he could help me put the dog in the back of the truck so I could at least get him home. I only lived a mile down the road. The kid was quick to help. I didn’t know  if  we should pick uphe dog, but together we lifted him up. Teddy let out such a pitiful cry I almost cried myself. (Instead I muttered “shit” again. Seemed the perfect expression of my frustration at the time – a description of my life this day.)

 We drove Teddy home and amazingly; he stood up slowly once when we got into the driveway. This was good, it meant he didn’t’ have a broken leg or pelvis or anything, but he was still in pain and couldn’t get out of the truck. When we tired to lift him, he cried again. Finally, we placed him on the ground, and the dog slunk to the bushes by the front door and lay down.

 “Nice house,” the kid said.

“Want to buy it?”

“I wish.”

“You and me both, buddy.”

“You have a pool table?”

“Yes.”

“What to sell it?”

“I will when the house goes.”

“Maybe I’ll drive over one of these days when I have cash and you can sell it to me.”

“Yea, and you can see how my dog is doing too.”

“Oh yea. Sorry about that, ya know.”

“I know.”

 

So the kid drove away and I tried to attend to the dog. It was late on a Sunday now, and the vet was closed, so I decided to observe the animal and wait for Mark to get home to discuss what I should do.  I’m guilty of this – waiting to see how bad something is before acting. I NEVER go to the doctor, never take my kids to the doctor, and rarely run animals to the vet. I trust nature and good sense to repair physical problems. My kids always say someone has to be dying to get medical attention around here, and it’s true. I’m just not an alarmist, even when I probably should be. Anyway, Sunday is the day I cook for family so once the dog was settled I went inside. I rummaged all over to find some pain pills that I thought we had from when our other dog was fixed, but couldn’t find them, so I took the dog water and gave him some love then went to prepare dinner.          

 It was hard to keep my mind on cooking. I made a mediterianian flavored cous cous with shrimp, sautéed scallops in a light orange sauce and grilled a big London broil (for those that don’t like fish) thinking I’d have leftovers for the dog. I made potatoes and honey & lime glazed carrots,ratoutee and a gourmet salad (salad is now my specialty having done a recent study of the art of making a decent salad.) I made a custard with blackberries and raspberries for dessert, but it was like I was on autopilot in the kitchen,and I didn’t enjoy the process. I kept going outside to check on Teddy, thinking he might be dead from internal bleeding or something, but he would wag his tale and look at me with warm eyes. Still, he was hurt because he didn’t get up.

 That night I lay in bed wondering if my dog would be alive in the morning. What if he had internal bleeding or something?  I then got a call that my brother was in the hospital and getting triple bypass surgery in the morning. Any thought I had that I might take the dog to the vet in the morning sort of disappeared because now I was going to drive to Atlanta to see my brother.

 In the morning the dog was fine. Sore, but walking. He winced (yes a dog with as expressive a face as Teddy can do that) if he moved much, but he did get around, and even ate some food. (A good sign).

 It’s been three days now, and the dog is moving a bit more.I’m amazed he survived, much less has rebounded so quickly. The damn truck hit him hard, knocked him ten feet.

But my dog is indestructible, it seems. And still loving and responsive and wags his tale whenever he sees me. I bet if I took off for a run, he’d be trying his best to follow. Amazing a dog can love you without reservations like that. Wish it was that way with people – ha, don’t we all.

 I want to continue running again. I feel my body, heart and mind needs that challenge right now– the sweat and solitude. But you can be darn sure I’m not going to do it around here where my dogs will follow.  I could take what happened as a sign that I really just shouldn’t run in Georgia. I could decide to avoid running altogether because a thing isn’t worth doing if it means hurting the ones who love me, but I’ve decided no more excuses. Maybe I’ll head up to the Ocoee Whitewater center where there are long, beautiful trails along the river. This means getting in a car and driving before I run, which is rather premeditative for me. I’m much more a “lace the shoes and go on the spur of the moment” sort of girl. But you do what you have to do sometimes, like it or not.

 So perhaps I’ll share stories of upcoming runs. But I’m afraid they won’t be with the dog. One thing about Georgia that I’ve discover again and again. I’m really on my own here more often than not. That above all else has been the biggest adjustment of all.

Peacock feathers – so many meanings

The weather was beautiful today, the sun shining bold and clear, the air boasting just a hint of impending fall. The temperature outside was like water when it comes directly from the tap, neutral yet refreshing. I teach Yoga on Saturday mornings and then I have the rest of the day to myself. I love starting the weekend by leading others in a positive early morning exercise experience, and I have a particular fondness for the people who take time from their weekend to attend.  Yoga wakes up the heart, like a jump start to the internal motor, and it attracts people who tend to be intellectual, sensitive, health conscious, and lead interesting lives, so I enjoy getting to know every one of my students. When the class is finished and people disperse, my Saturday stretches out like a long roll of banner paper inviting me to finger-paint; I can be messy or creative or just dabble for fun. Yes, Saturday’s lately have been good for my soul.

 Yoga classes unfold with certain properties, or at least mine do. In case you haven’t taken a yoga class, or at least not one of mine, I’ll describe it. I begin by asking everyone to lie in a supine position on the floor and I proceed to give a guided relaxation meditation. This aids the centering process and helps transition the students’ mind from their busy day to the internal place where yoga thrives. Students then sit cross-legged to begin some breathing exercises and a gentle warm-up. No one opens his or her eyes. I keep my voice meditative and smooth, trying to use words and a tone that will stroke them into relaxation. Once warmed up, everyone shifts to knees for a transitional warm up and I try to touch everyone, my hands gentle on their backs and ribs, or the back the neck. This exercise pushes into downward dog where we experiment with gravitational pull and circulation and I usually do some talking (I teach a great deal about yoga while guiding the class– I never just run through the paces) Finally, I maneuver everyone to a standing position (Tadasana) and we begin sun salutations to create internal heat. This leads to a more rigorous asana practice (the physical poses and movements most people associate with yoga.) An hour later, we end up back on the floor for Savasana, which is 5-8 minutes of deep relaxation in a reclining position. I share a reading, usually a poem or short paragraph from literature about nature or personal truth. I tend to offer readings from Mary Olivier or Rumi fairly often, but I try to mix it up.  I’m guilty of having favorites, and usually the reading is reflective of my mood unless someone has said something to me in conversation that touches me, in which case I’ll choose a reading I hope will be poignant for them.

    Anyway,during these 5-8 minutes I always pause to watch my students. I like witnessing their bodies melt into the floor in total stillness, embracing rest so willingly after an hour of physical effort (and unlike many yoga classes, my class never stops moving and I continue to transition students from one pose to the next without ever dropping energy, so it is quite a workout.) As I was saying, I like watching their bellies rise and fall as they breathe deeply and the sound made in the room from their oo-jai breathing (sort of like the sound you hear when you put your ear to a seashell). It is calming & peaceful.People fall into such a deep state of relaxation and the stillness is so great, it’s like the room fell under a spell casting everyone into a meditative slumber. Everyone but me, of course, and there is something neat about being the one person wakeful and aware in a room filled with passive consciousness.  I eventually reintroduce movement with three light rings on Tibetan chimes. Everyone sits up with his or her eyes still closed and I lead the group in pranyana exercises, (deep yoga breathing techniques.) The class concludes with a small bow and we say “Namaste.”

    I don’t do many “om’s” or chanting, at least not at this time, because I’m careful to keep my classes “laymen” friendly. That probably sounds funny or wimpy, but I want to make yoga an enriching, soothing experience even for the skeptical and/or yoga-novice, and so I don’t do anything that will jar people from their trance-like state with thoughts like, “How weird is that?”  But when my student’s get more comfortable with basic yoga practice, I’ll begin adding oral sound and short discussions of philosophy now and again.     

 Anyway, sometimes while my students are lying still, my eyes shift around the room and land on something abstract. My mind wanders.Today, I stared at my peacock feathers arranged in a jar like a flower bouquet in each of the three windowsills. I also have two large arrangements of feathers at the front of the room by shelves where I place more lit candles and my poetry books and chimes – it’s sort of an alter, though I hate to call it that, because the term dredges up thoughts of religion or worship. This artful setup is really just a defined front of the room and a station from which to teach.  

 The room is lit with small pin spots that shine on the cream colored walls and highlight some small, thought-provoking framed messages –words like, “Balance”, “Calm”, “Peace” and “Nature” – corny, I know, but very pretty all the same.   A neat area of shelves is set up in a window inset on both sides of the room, one filled with over 30 Mexican blankets, the other filled with yoga mats, blocks,straps, sandbags, satin eye bags, bolsters and other props for students to use– all in purple of course (a tribute to my FLEX history). Across the front of the room is a long, natural wooden banister (because the yoga loft is actually just a balcony over the studio lobby.) Colorful, abstract art suggestive of bodies in motion is hung high on a wall opposite from the balcony and spotlights are aimed at these too, so students focusing ahead while balancing and/or maintaining yoga positions gaze off into beautiful images that almost float beyond reach, subtle enough in context that they don’t actually stir thought, but they keep the mind focused in a way a blank wall would not. It’s quite a lovely environment, if I say so myself.

In morning classes, light streams in through the bamboo shades over the windows, highlighting the iridescent colors of the peacock feathers. Today, the fans were on and all the hair-like feather wisps beneath the round eyes of the feather stalks rippled in the same way wheat sways in an open field. I was mesmerized. I adore my peacock feathers because they are not something I just went out an bought for decoration, but something I collected from my very own, beloved pet, Elmer (named so he will stick around, unlike my last male peacock, the traitor who took off the first chance he had). The peacock feathers are symbolic of my choosing an interesting life, or at least, trying– go ahead and laugh, that is my romantic view of them. They always bring to mind the striking pet I have so enjoyed raising and observing. He wanders naturally around our land but always returns to roost at night and when he sees me drive in to feed the poultry, he runs, his gate awkward and stiff like the roadrunner in cartoons. Love that. His cry is piercing and dramatic, a sound that seemed so odd when I first heard it, but now will forever be a part of me, just as the vibrato in a good friend’s voice – a sound that brings you pleasure, even if all you are hearing is a short “hello”.

    Today, I actually counted how many peacock feather eyes I could see from where I sat and noted 53. I smiled remembering that as a middle schooler, I had two peacock feathers in my room that I bought at Spenser Gifts. I thought they were so cool that I couldn’t resist allocating a chunk of babysitting money to buy them and those feathers became my prized possession.  For years I kept them in a prominent place in my room, believing they added elegance and whimsy to my dullchild-like surroundings.  When I was a teen, I remember giving my boyfriend a backrub and ending it by stroking his skin with those feathers (Ha, even then I was a sensation monger who loved to share. If my mother only knew.) What would I have thought back then if someone whispered in my ear “You will have all the peacocks feathers a girl could want and then some when you are 50.” In my wildest youthful dreams, I’d not have guessed how or why. But I would have thought it dang cool.

    I have a huge bouquet of peacock feathers in my office at home now too, and they blend perfectly with my muted green walls and shelves loaded with eclectic books. I’ve given single feathers to friends as a memento of a visit, and recently sent a handful with Denver to the yoga school where we both received training. A few ended in Mark’s art & craft supply room for future projects.

    I never would have guessed how dense a peacock tail is until Elmer molted and I received his windfall gift. The feathers come in all lengths depending on what area of the tail they were originally positioned in. The center of the tail offers three-foot long straight stalks, but the sides developed shorter stalks with a natural curve. Some are just a foot long with a big,dramatic eye and a few stalks are crescent shaped with half an eye, a graceful arc that looks like a paisley print. Nature designed these variations to fill in the edges of the impressive bird’s display, and the accumulation of all these shapes and sizes makes for some awesome arrangements, I must say.

   Elmer’s tail is now short; perhaps 12 inches, and thick with dozens of eyes spurting out like a closed fan close to his body. Each month the tail gets longer. I suppose by spring it will be trailing the ground behind him, ready to be spread like a fan for his ladylove. What, I wonder; will I do with next year’s feather harvest? Put peacock feathers on top of gifts in lue of a bow?  Place a hundred loose stalks in a tall stand next to my yoga mats and other merchandise for sale so dreamy teens can buy some for their rooms? Perhaps I’ll just find a hundred friends to give them away to? Ebay? Maybe I should spread love in the form of peacock feathers everywhere I go, leave them like a signature for friends and strangers, kind of like Zorro did after he made an appearance.  Ooooh, the possibilities are endless.

      Years from now, when I am long gone from Georgia and Elmer is nothing but a memory of an interesting phase of life I went through during my midlife years, I suspect I’ll still have a collection of peacock feathers in my home. We are nothing more than the accumulation of our life experiences, and each of us has mementos that we carry forward as tangible evidence of a life well lived. Now, peacock feathers have become one of mine. They symbolize pets, and life adventure, and yoga, and how it is always possible to add elegance and beauty to your life, despite where or how you might be living in the moment. 

A month ago, I bought myself this lovely large scarf that was green and the print if you looked up close, was simply a scattering of peacock feathers. I was thrilled to find it and I thought it suited me. When I recently went to Florida to choreograph a piece for a very respected and dear student, a dance I planned using a big scarf as a prop, I bought three others just for her. But at the last minute, I chose to give her the peacock scarf. I don’t suppose she thought anything of it or ever will. But it meant something to me. I watched her dance, so strong and passionate, marveling over my contribution to her talent and remembering my many years as her teacher, and for some reason, watching those peacock feathers fly through the air in her hands seemed just perfect. It was like watching the the most precious experiences of my life fuse together to create something striking and glorious. 

Now, when I look at the feathers in the yoga loft, I think of dance students as well, and how we all pass on gifts in life, some obvious and others more subtle. And I think of the gifts I’m been fortunate to receive. From birds, from friends, and from simply embracing a rich and reflective life.