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Monthly Archives: December 2009

An “Off” Christmas – Ah well

This Christmas never seemed to get off the ground for us,and a perfect example is our tree. Last year our gigantic fake tree, chosen especially for our 25 foot ceilings, disintegrated in the attack over the summer, so when Kent and I went to put it up, we ended up using duct tape and fishing wire to hold up the branches. No problem, we thought, we’ll just toss it at season’s end because there is no way we’ll still be living in this house by next season . . . we’ll pick a tree suitable for where ever we land….but of course, here we are. Ah well.

So this year, we decided to get a real tree to fit our big ole house, and about ten days after Thanksgiving, Mark and the kids went to a tree farm to have one cut. Thus begins the tree ordeal. They pick out a nice tall tree and have it cut, but on the way home the truck breaks down and it lands on the side of the road. A day later, we had the truck, tree and all, towed to the transmission shop. I suggested we go put the tree on my van roof rack to get it home and start our Christmas decorating.

Mark says, “I’m afraid that would be impossible. It would crush your van.”

“Just how big is this real tree?”

“Pretty big.”

And it was, because a week later three burly guys came over with Mark to lug the 16-foot spruce into our living room. It had now gone a week without water, and the base was so big that we couldn’t fit water into the largest tree stand we could find. Ah well. We would just cross our fingers that it would last the few weeks until Christmas.

But, before the poor thing got decorated, it was loosing pine needles and looking the worse for wear. We decorated it with lights and started putting on ornaments, but when we had gotten through only two boxes or so, we decided that was enough…. the darn tree would end up bald from losing pine needles if we stressed it any more. For the first time in 19 years our tree was not picture perfect with ribbon and hundreds of meaningful ornaments collected throughout the years dripping from the branches. Ah well.

When it comes to ornaments, nothing compares to the Hendry’s gluttony. We started collecting ornaments in our early years whenever we traveled or did something meaningful, because back then, a small token was the only thing we could afford to buy for a remembrance. As time wore on, it became tradition. Now,each year as Mark puts up the tree he plays, “Can you remember where we got this one?” with me. And every year we prove once again that I am not the ornament historian in this family.  But every beautiful or sweet or funny ornament has a history and once a year, putting up a tree brings awareness to this ornament map our life adventures, so just the act of putting up a tree becomes a poignant experience. Lovely.

In the end, Christmas isn’t about decorations anyway (It’s about mistletoe and cooking in this gal’s book) and no one seemed to care about what might be missing from the tree, which goes to show that you can fret about things for no reason if you fail to put life into perspective. Our scaled back holiday was right sized in the end…..

(Kent & girlfriend, Brianna, sister-in law Dianne, Denver, Neva, & Jason. Mark must be somewhere with his mother. I was behind the camera) 

Dianne & Ginny

(Denver and boyfriend Jason)

Today, the day after Christmas, we were more than ready to get the dead tree out of the house, but how? Mark decided we would have to cut it down piece by piece and burn it. Ah well. It’s a plan.

So this morning, he and Kent removed the few ornaments and packed up the lights and begin cutting branches. Within moments the house was heating up from a roaring fire that sounded like a forest burning to the ground. For hours they kept feeding the fire as the tree dwindled and a foot high pile of pine needles collected on the ground and began to spread to every corner of our home. You can bet whoever lives in this house will be finding them in corners for eternity….

As Mark was cutting branches he called out to me that he found a bird’s nest in the upper crest of the tree.

“That’s a shame.” I said.

“Why? It’s not like there are any birds in it.”

“Well, obviously. But in the spring I’m imagining a bird will be looking for her summer place and not only will it be gone, but also her entire neighborhood will have been cut down.”

“Ah well,” Mark said.

 When enough branches were removed that the tree could be lifted by Kent and Mark together, they lugged it outside, pine needles scattering every which way from room to room – my mess now so extensive I could only grip my broom tighter and sigh. Did people really do this all the time in the old days? Eeesh. Someone told me that a Christmas tree bag is the way to avoid this entire cleanup, but where do you find one for trees the size of Rockefeller Center!

So this afternoon, I’ve been sweeping, sweeping, sweeping…and mopping, mopping, mopping… and I must say, it feels good to have Christmas over this season…. It just wasn’t our year, and frankly, I’m tired of cleaning up messes and making this house picture perfect in case a buyer stops by (and we have two scheduled to come this week). When life feels
like it is all effort and no pleasure, you know it is time to restructure your approach to living…. and perhaps living large is not all it’s cracked up to be.

So, next year, when I get that Christmas gleam in my eye and start contemplating how to go about creating a really dynamic tree from scratch, somebody out there better remind me to go the pre-lit, easy to put up route – or better yet, a live tree in a big dirt ball – so my tree has meaning in a different way and doesn’t need as much glamour and sparkle to be special.   I’m making my new life motto -KISS.





It may mean giving up a little in the creativity department….But, Ah the pleasure of simplicity…….. 

Does that mean I’m losing my celebratory edge? Probably.  Ah well.            

The Collective Consciousness At Work

The other day I spied a pile of turkey feathers in the road near my hen house. My last surviving turkey was nowhere to be seen. 

I sighed and thought, “Merry Christmas, Mr. Fox,” and that evening I closed in the peacocks and chickens to assure their safety.

 Yesterday the weather was so bad I barely stopped by to check my animals, only tossing a bit of food out in the torrential rainfall, and again, I didn’t see a turkey, but then, I didn’t expect to see one. 

Today, I went to feed my poultry, and there, huddled against the fence was a very drenched, forlorn looking turkey, her white feathers all soiled from some kind of tussle in the wet, red Georgia clay.

“Hi,” I said, bending down to stroke her feathers. “I thought I lost you. You must be hungry.”  I tossed a shovelful of chicken scratch on the ground under the eves of the chicken house where it would stay dry and she waddled over to eat. She wasn’t walking normally and her backside looked a bit ravaged. Ah, something did try to get her, but she escaped. Goodgirl.  I tend to appreciate anyone or anything with  the survival instinct, so I gave her some special care and tucked her in safely into the pen thinking, it just goes to show, you should never be so quick to write off a friend, because they may surprise you and turn up when you least expect it.

 Speaking of which, I heard from a long lost friend this very week. It was one of those weird coincidences that Mark would chalk up to the“universal collective consciousness”. He has a theory that all people are connected in this metaphysical way, and all ideas and thoughts are swirling around in great pool of brainpower. And sometimes, people key in to the idea pool and draw ideas out at the same time, which explains why more than one person can invent something simultaneously even if they live half a world apart. At other times, one person can tap into the collective consciousness and it will spark a response from someone else. This is why weird coincidences occur, such as you thinking of a person and suddenly they up and call you out of the blue. In other words, there are no coincidences; we are all linked in this invisible, spiritual way even if we don’t readily recognize it.

 Anyway, the other day I wrote a blog where I mentioned an old friend that I haven’t seen in 35 years. I didn’t mention the fellow by name, so it’s not like he goggled himself and found my blog. I just mentioned that someone had walked into my yoga class and it made me think of an old boyfriend and I wondered how his life turned out.

 Then, two days later, I received a message from that very friend through a classmates finder website. He just wanted to say Hi and was curious how my life turned out. How weird is that?

 He was the great love of my young life, a wild rock and roller with a wicked sense of humor and more talent than he knew what to do with. He sent me a short letter outlining the details of his life, and I must say, his hasn’t been an easy one. Married & divorced three times (though now grateful to be in a lovely relationship with someone special). Had a business, sold it and retired early, then had a financial hardship that turned that blessing upside down (um… I can relate) and now he is starting over with a new company, working from the ground up again. Had two kids, both who passed away due to separate accidents (my heart ached to hear such news.) And to top it all off, he has had to battle flare-ups from his MS for years. That was the news that so often bothered me when I thought of him, because I assumed his affliction probably meant he had given up his beloved music, and I hated imagining him without it.

 But with his letter, he sent me a recent picture, and I can barely describe the thrill I felt looking at it. Because he doesn’t look at all like a fellow dealing with health issues, beaten down by life. He looks amazing. He is behind his guitar (still playing in a band for fun– how perfect is that!) fit and tanned, his body all ripped, with arms like Popeye sporting some bad-boy tattoos that certainly suit him. Ah, my dear rock & roller is living true to himself, and I must say it is not often you find that in old high school friends 35 years after they move on from the youthful dreaming stage.  The only thing different is that my former long haired rocker is now bald, but lately (must be a 50 year old thing) I’ve noticed many bald men are rather attractive, and bald certainly works for rocker ChrisDaughtry, so why not Joe?

Anyway, it warmed my heart to hear from him and see him still behind a guitar in his 50’s. I haven’t written him back yet, but I will one day soon. I just need to think about how to describe my own life journey in a few bullet point pages.Last he saw me he had driven me and a U-hall filled with all my possessions to New York City where I was moving (and leaving him) to pursue my dream to be a dancer. I was 18. Needless to say, a lot has happened since then. I don’t think he is expecting me to be living in rural Georgia mothering a beat up turkey and telling all my darkest secrets to a donkey- but at least I can report that I still dance and I kept up the writing that even back then, found it’s way out of me in the form of poems, stories and journal entries. Yes, we both loved our respective arts and thankfully, we kept that love alive despite the allure of more traditional lifestyles. But perhaps that is the very character trait we recognized in each other way back when, the thing that forged our friendship.

Anyway, here’s to the collective consciousness…. May we all tap into it now and again to reconnect, understand, and share a slice of life with important people from our past. And if not, at least it is nice to know that we are capable of deeper connections, if only we keep an open mind to the endless possibilities swirling around out there in the murky universe.

My affair with books

I tend to gravitate towards books as my way of gaining insight into life as it unfolds around me. For me, reading a book is like talking to a wise friend, only you can’t steer the conversation by asking questions or dropping an information bomb here or there that demands addressing. Well, actually, you can talk back. I’ve been known to hold some pretty heated arguments with the authors of books I’m reading, but since its always a one way conversation, my mumbling is more like scratching an itch spontaneously than communicating that perhaps I’m getting a rash because the other party is irritating me so. 

 You can always see what I’m reading by glancing at my bedside table or by checking out the stack of books on the slate shelf that surrounds our tub. I read in the tub almost daily because it kills multiple birds with one stone. I am always sore from teaching dance and/or yoga and hot baths keep me functional. I always want some private time to myself, and hot baths are the one place where people usually leave me alone. And I always have a bulk of reading material I’m trying to work through, and there is not much else to distract me in a hot bath, like a phone, TV, computer, housework, etc…I suppose it is possible to set up a bathroom with access to all of the above, but I’m not the sort to go for that. I prefer an old fashion bathroom with only a candle, bath oil, and a good reading light for ambiance.   

 Today, my side table has three books on it, all of them half read.  You can tell what is going on in my life and/or mind by paying attention to what I’m reading.

 The first is “The Inner Peace of Tao”. It’s a classic about spiritual connectedness and simplicity in the Chinese tradition of the I-ching. Sort of a down to earth explanation of an ancient philosophy that is at the root of eastern thought. I became interested when I started thinking about adding Tai Chi to the studio classes and decided to learn more about that art form. That interest lead to a couple of Tai Chi books, which lead to wondering about the energy pathways, which lead to this book.  It’s interesting if not a bit dry. 

What is even more interesting to me is that I am 50 years old and only now reading this, because in my early 20’s when I lived in New York, I dated a very handsome actor and, as things heated up between us, he gave me a copy of the I-ching explaining I had to read it to understand how he viewed the world. He was very adamant that the book would rock my world, and he believed once we were on the same mental page, we would be in love forever. I labored through that book barely understanding what it was all about, and frankly, I thought the guy a bit of a kook and we broke up soon afterwards. But I still have that book on my shelf, and every time I clean out old books I run across it and I remember that guy and something tells me to keep the book. And now, some 30 years later, I’m learning what he was trying to share with me way back when. Why now, why me??? Humm …….. perhaps it’s just time.

 Funny, for all I know, that actor has long since passed through his I-ching phase and might be some white-collar crime boss living life with a very different, harsh attitude now. And here I am, embracing the lessons in his book with deep appreciation. Life is like that – it leaves an impact on us that creates paradoxical change, for better or worse. But what’s most interesting to me is that we all seem to be lead to what we need when we need it to provoke growth or change. Anyway, I’m thinking it is time to read that darn book again  – and I mean to read it the way a book is supposed to be read – with an open mind. But it will have to wait its turn and the line ahead is rather long right now, so it may just sit for another 35 years on my shelves. Thank goodness books don’t have an expiration date!

 The second book is the “History of the Snowman.” This is a thematic book, of course, and chosen just because when I saw it on the shelf at Barnes N Nobel I couldn’t resist. I love history, love eclectic, interesting facts about the world, and love snow. My son was snowman crazed for years and has a collection of some 300 stuffed snowmen (which now, at 18, he didn’t even bother to bring out of the attic for once) so I thought this book would give me some fun dinner conversation starters if nothing else. The concept was cool (no pun intended) for a holiday book and the author has a great sense of humor and has collected some pretty fun facts about how the snowman came into existence. Anyway, this kind of book is good for putting me in a positive holiday mood, so this season, it’s an important read.

 The third book is called “Women Who Love Sex.” Don’t snicker or raise your eyebrows. It’s an academic book . . . well, sort of.  The author, a famous sex therapist, interviewed hundreds of women to compile stories about women’s sexuality to theorize how normal it is for a woman to love sex. It is sort of a validation book for woman with a romantic or lusty nature, and it puts into perspective how society (and some individuals) contrives to make females feel badly about their inherent natures. The book explores how it’s OK for men to have a lusty nature – or not – , but when women do- or don’t- they are considered (insert insulting name of your choice for a woman who likes sex here . . . and there are so many, the author points out, from slut-puppy to frigid chick.) Anyway, I was lead to this book by way of other books as well. I started teaching journaling classes at FLEX, which lead me to reading Anais Nin’s famous journals (since she is considered the world’s most prominent journal writer). She is also famed as one of the worlds leading erotic writers, which I find fascinating considering she lived in the 1930’s when “good girls simply didn’t”.  But she sure did. I was so impressed with Anais Nin and her wild, bold lifestyle in face of the social stigma that was detrimental to her writing career (until much later) that the next thing you know I was thinking a lot about how (or if) the world has changed, and that made me think about my years involved in Romance writing groups and my own mixed feelings about writing stories centered on human sexuality – so much so that I went and got an fancy literary MFA all the while hiding my interest in romance writing with shame . . . and I put aside all my interests in writing anything based on relationships or physical love. But reading quality work by Anais Nin made me think that I was a fool to put my instincts aside or to assume that romance writing was “selling out”, and next thing you know I was wondering if I wasn’t more an Anais Nin type than I felt comfortable embracing (as a writer, not as a person) and I started wondering WHY I was uncomfortable with that side of myself as an artist and well . . .that meant mental conflict and that ALWAYS means it’s time for Ginny to reach for a book. It’s not like I have a person I can discuss these touchy philosophies and curiosities with. So, as has become my way, I am having my silent conversations with a book – and this week it happens to be called, Women Who Love Sex.” 

Needless to say, I keep this book under the ot
her two, not because I’m ashamed to read it (or anything) but because I don’t want to have to explain it to family members who might jump to conclusions about what my having a book by that title means. It’s funny. People passing judgment on a woman’s sexuality is what this book is all about, so my feeling compelled to keep the book out of sight speaks volumes about the book’s inherent truths.

 Moving on . . . Near my bath is a novel called, “The Girl in the Dragon Tattoo.” I’m one chapter in, but can’t seem to get into the story.I’m plugging away however, because it was given to me by a yoga student and former book club friend and I so appreciate her passing it on that I’mdetermined to stick it out and read the darn thing so we can talk about it.  On my computer table is “Writing begins with the Breath”, and “The New Diary”, two books I just finished, but don’t feel ready to slip back into the shelves yet. I want to take some notes for future writing classes.  They were very wonderful books. 

I also have a book half read called “When Things Fall Apart, Heat Advice for Difficult Times.” Don’t ask.

 I also have about 4 books on their way to me from Amazon, thanks to a recent sleepless night. I’m guilty of cruising the Internet book place when restless. The books to come are all work related in a round about way. One or two is on massage, another on couples yoga (I’m hoping to create a special Valentines Day yoga class for couples). Another book is on yin yoga, and a poetic book with readings I wanted for yoga class called “An Offering of Leaves”. I already bought myself this book but Denver stole it the day it arrived and she announced she would never give it back because she likes it so much, so I figured it must be good. I might as well buy myself another copy.  

 Meanwhile I still have books stacked up in my “When I get the time I have to read” pile, and I’m happy to report very few of them are work related. I have novels, special interest books, history, and even some philosophy books that wait patiently for me, but who knows when or if I will ever give them the attention they deserve, considering I keep finding more to read.  Ah well . . . so many books, so little time….

 I thought when I retired from my dance business I’d spend a year straight reading and I’d probably get caught up. But that didn’t happen. I enrolled in an MFA and had more assigned reading than a person could manage and ended up falling even further behind on my wish reading list. And now, I’m working again – too busy to read as much as I want. But perhaps always having something in your must read pile is a way to keep you going, one more reason to wake up everyday and function, so I should be glad. The day I wake up and realize there is nothing I want to read or think about is the day I’ll worry. Nothing more dangerous than apathy.

 So, today I will go about my busy chores of cooking, feeding animals, and putting up our Christmas tree (late!) and whatnot, and every time I pass my nightstand I will sigh and wonder if perhaps later I might squeeze in some time to read . . . and I’ll wonder which book I’ll reach for, because that is always determined by my mood in the moment. I’ll walk on the treadmill and perhaps do a bit of yoga and use that as an excuse to take a bath. Then, I’ll sink back in the warm water with one of my smart paper friends to have one of those silent conversations that make life feel like a marketplace of information and theoretical arguments –  nothing as fun as good people gathering to exchange ideas and boldly lay their life insights on the table for you to pick over. I rather do it in person, of course, but when that is not possible, I’ll settle for a paper relationship.    

The Things That Count

Sometimes, when I am feeling low, I start looking at the world in intense detail, as if I’m searching for something to pick me up or to remind me that whatever void in my own life is making me sad isn’t really missing. It’s out there, lingering, and I should take heart because in time I’ll grasp it once again.  It was while I was in this mindset and teaching yoga that I witnessed something special.

 My students were all laying still on the floor in a spinal twist. After I gave hands on assistance to the 9 people in the class, I stood back for a few moments to just enjoy the restful nature of this particular moment, and I noticed that one woman in class was laying next to her teen age son (they always take this particular class together) and she had stretched her hand out to his and her fingers were running gently along his palm in a sweet, motherly way. And after about two minutes of this, the son opened his eyes and cast her the dearest smile I’ve ever witnessed. I watched this innocent loving exchange in the silence and thought my heart would explode, because it was just the evidence I needed to remind me that intimacy and trust and unspoken examples of tenderness are exchanged between people all the time. 

 A few moments later, the class ended and I looked at the boy and said, “How do you feel?”

He smiled sleepily and said, “Totally great.”

And I knew he really did feel great, because his yoga experience tonight wasn’t about stretching or balancing or breathing. It was about sharing a lovely activity with his mother, which led to a moment of sweet communion.  You can’t plan that kind of thing. I suppose ten years (or ten minutes) from now, their exchange will be forgotten, or might have gone unnoticed from the start. The mother and son may never remember this particular class or the gentle caress, but I always will, because I believe that the act of touching a hand of someone you care about, while not life altering, leave feelings that resonant forever. Layer upon layer of simple, tender acts create a blanket of trust that softens relations between people, and this is what makes it possible to endure conflict later.  Anyway, I was not meant to notice what transpired, but I did, and I’m glad. It was a beautiful, moving thing and it filled me with such a longing I could barely breathe. 

 Sometimes it feels like I’m nothing more than an audience for other people’s lives. I watch the world around me and reflect, and because of my heightened awareness, I see (and often record) things that others all around me miss.  I’m glad now that I’m older that I no longer go through life so self absorbed that I fail to notice or appreciate the small signs of beauty all around me. I guess writing and yoga have made a huge impact on how I look at the world, and even if all this personal reflection makes me sad sometimes, I’m grateful for it.   

Feeling is, after all, what makes life an intense trip. 


Winter is here.

Winter has arrived. Always puts me in a bit of a funk here in Georgia where Dec. to March offers mostly gray skies and precipitation. Don’t’ get me wrong, I do love the change of seasons. There is something appealing  about bundling up and curling your hands around a warm cup of coffee when you do venture outside. The sting of cold air sits on your cheeks like a loving slap, a wake up call to get moving and create some internal heat,  but it seems most of my time is spent inside looking out in winter. The natural world looks bare and open, inviting, but each time I heed that invitation I’m forced back in by frozen fingers and a numb nose. I end up gazing out a pane of glass thinking everything looks picture perfect, as long as I’m not actually out there shivering, waiting for the ice to thaw on my wind shied and/or trying to dodge gusts of wind that feel like they’ve come directly from the north pole. I guess after all those years in Florida, I’m just a winter wimp. 

Funny, but despite my obvious dislike of cold, I have always wanted to go skiing. I’m a sporty and I like the outdoors, so its surprising I’ve never tried to ski (not counting water skiing of course.) I just never had the opportunity or enough inspiration to actually arrange a ski vacation. When I was young I worried I’d break a leg and, as a dancer, such a risk seemed foolish at best. Later, I avoided planning a ski trip because everyone told me it was a very expensive pursuit, and since I had no idea whether I’d love it or not, and considering all the other things I’ve wanted to experience in the world, I always put the concept aside choosing some other sort of trip. But still, I’ve always wanted to try my hand at it and every winter I’m reminded of that fact. Over the years, I’ve mentioned my latent desire to go to a ski lodge to Mark, but he usually chuckles and says, “You might like it, but I’m guessing you’d try out a slope or two, and then spend the bulk of your vacation in the lodge sipping hot toddies and enjoying a game of cards by the fire. Cold isn’t your thing.”  He’s probably right, but hanging around a ski lodge sounds rather romantic too if you ask me.  If you’re going to spend winter inside looking out, might as well make the “inside” an enticing, different environment. Besides which, I can only assume skiing is like running, that it’s cold only until your body adjusts and heats up from the exertion. Considering that, skiing probably isn’t cold at all the way waiting for your wind shield to thaw is. But since there is no skiing in Georgia, or at least none in my area, and since I doubt I’ll be taking on that lurking “one of these days before I die” dream anytime soon, winter is just a big drag. 

On Monday of this week, I watered my begonias. big lusty plants that I have outside my new business in four big, cement planters. That night we had a cold spell and the very next day the flowers had all withered and died. The sidewalk under them is now stained with big pink blotches where the color literally seeped out of the flower petals and soaked the ground beneath. Every single student that came in that day greeted me with a smile and said, “Did you notice? You’re begonias hit the dust last night.”

Like I could miss these big dead plants that look like they’ve been liquefied.

“Yeah, I’m planning to do something about that but I haven’t decided what.” 

I was offered a variety of solutions, from getting plastic plants (not my idea of perfection for a yoga studio where nature is celebrated) to planting pansies – a very hearty winter resistant flower (so really, it doesn’t make sense that we call people who have no backbone a “pansy”). One student suggested I leave the pots empty. Well, I suppose that could symbolize the yogi’s detachment to the outer world and emptiness as a path to self understanding and . . . who am I kidding. That’s stupid. 

The pots are under the shade so I’m limited with my choices, but I’m thinking some evergreen would be nice. I sure as heck don’t want to keep those dead flowers on display for long, because somehow it makes me sad to see the passing of something so beautiful, even if it is a part of nature’s rebirth. Change is natural and good, but watching it happen stirs up feelings of loss, at least it does for me lately.

This is the time of year when visiting my animals is something I dread – at least until I’m actually out there with them. I have to deal with the frozen hose making it impossible to fill water buckets and frozen latches on gates and other inconveniences, but at the same time, I love running my hands along Donkey’s back and feeling his warm body on my frozen fingers. There is something calming about watching the warm breath leave the horses nostrils as they snort in greeting. For all that I complain, I really like having animals as an excuse to drag myself outside everyday, and sometimes, I stand there, looking out at the calm, snowy pasture and feel moved by the quiet of winter. Even a frozen, barren landscape is beautiful if you just pause to notice the stillness. My horses have grown their heavy winter coats now , so instead of looking gray speckled, they look starkly white, like the abominable snow monster. The donkey, in contrast, looks like he’s wearing a bear skin. My beloved horses are for sale, and someone happens to be coming to look at them this weekend, so each day I remind myself to savor my time left with them, cold or not. I’m ready to let go of the responsibility, but I will miss them dreadfully and it will hurt to imagine someone else enjoying their lovely sweet company when spring arrives. Sometimes you need to let go of the things you love – a non-attachment concept that is big in yoga philosophy, but that doesn’t make it any easier for me, a girl who could hardly be called “enlightened”, though I do my best to be somewhat aware of the world and my place in it.

Anyway, it is cold today and it makes my heart feel heavy. Spring feels a long way away today.  

Yoga leads to all kinds of gifts

Check out my lovely gift necklace – up close it says “nameste” which in sanskrit (the language of yoga) means “the light in me recognizes the light in you”)

Today, I thought I’d talk about my yoga students. I won’t be using their names or specifics, of course, out of respect to their privacy, but I’ll talk about them in a general way, because the most unexpected and enriching benefit I’ve received from embarking on a yoga journey has been the interesting, diverse people I’ve met. Yoga classes (and I’m talking about the real deal, not health club fitness yoga, which is nothing like a serious yoga experience) draw a certain sort of individual, usually someone with an open mind, an underlying sensitivity and/or intellectual curiosity. In many cases, yoga students are seeking relief from the stress and pressures that are a part of our current culture. Yoga also draws people battling physical problems. It’s amazing how many doctors & physical therapists send people my way.  

 I have quite a few students who take class regularly to handle their siatica. One or two cancer patients. I have people with limited mobility in their neck, shoulders, knees or back, often from old injuries that continue to flare up or just because middle age is raking them over the coals.

 Last week, a man came in who has muscular dystrophy. We talked before class and I learned his body gives out in different places as if there is a roaming weakness that circulates through his system. His doctor recommended yoga as a way to strengthen his body, though there will be times when he won’t have the strength or coordination to get through a class. My dearest childhood boyfriend, Joe, a fellow I dang near almost married at 18,was a guitar player. Some years after I last saw him I ran into his parents and found out he had muscular dystrophy, which caused him to lose dexterity in his hands. I’ve thought about Joe a great deal over the years, thinking his illness was the greatest tragedy. Music was his entire world and I can only imagine how frustrating this particular physical problem has been for a boy who had such vitality and lust for life.  Thinking of Joe, I took to this new student immediately giving him a great deal of attention, working to make the class as restorative and helpful as I knew how.I hope he returns, because my assisting him felt poignant and significant, as if my efforts would result in someone helping my old friend Joe wherever he happens to be today. Is there such a thing as friendship karma transference? Hope so.

 But moving beyond the cases of students with physical ailments, my other students are fascinating just for who they are. People living in the Georgia Mountains all seem to embrace life as an adventure, and as such, they lead interesting, diverse lives, and add to this the fact that the people who take yoga all seem to have a grace about them – warmth and a giving spirit, you have a recipe for some pretty terrific people.

 One woman, a former teacher of Neva’s, started taking my class and one night out of the blue, she brought me a gift. A yoga necklace.Her husband collects flat, smooth river rocks when they go hiking and, for a hobby he paints them with precise detail and the loveliest designs and writes yoga words upon them, such as the symbol for OM, or “Namaste” in Sanskrit. He then drills holes in the decorated rocks and threads it through a cord or leather so it can be worn as a necklace. The finished product looks like a piece of organic, nature art. I was really touched by her unexpected gift and wore it often when teaching. Denver was jealous and kept pretending she was going to steal it, and when the student witnessed our banter, she came in the next week with a necklace for my daughter as well. And then, because everyone kept admiring our necklaces, she gave one to Mark and Neva and offered one to another student who expressed strong appreciation for the work. I told her that if her husband wanted to market his crafts, I’d give him space on my shelves to do so. Yoga students would love the opportunity to purchase one of these beautiful, original pieces to wear. But she said, “No, he only does it for the joy of creating something special. He prefers saving them until he finds someone unique he wants to give it away to as a gift.”

       Only in yoga would you find people willing to turn down an opportunity to make a buck for this symbolic connection to others.

 Another student walked in one day who paused at the door and said, “So, this is what happened to you. I had no idea you owned this place or even that you were a yoga teacher.” It just so happens she is a member of the bookclub I joined last season. About a dozen intelligent women have been meeting each month for over twelve years to discuss literature, and as you can imagine,I was delighted when I happened upon them. For about 9 months I joined in their discussions, but once I opened the studio, I was no longer available on Mondays when they meet. I asked to be kept on the Internet loop regardless, and I continued reading the books. I think book club selections are a good way to collide with really interesting books you would normally never reach for on your own.  Anyway, this week she came in with the book they are currently discussing and she said, “I thought you might really enjoy this one, so I wanted to bring it by.” I thought it so sweet that she thought of me, and while I may not be able to have an involved discussion with the entire group about this story, I imagine I’ll be able to exchange a few insights and opinions about it with this fellow reading enthusiast.   

  Things like this make me feel as if my students are also friends. It makes coming to work a much more inviting prospect and I find myself more devoted than ever to bringing a great yoga experience to the table.

 Yesterday a new student came in, a woman who was 64, who claimed she’s wanted to take yoga for years. She convinced her husband to give her classes for Christmas, but she wanted to come in for a trial class to be sure she really would like it before asking him to invest.  She loved the class and so pondered the schedule considering how many weekly classes she might fit in, because her time is limited. She travels to Atlanta regularly for work. Naturally, I asked what she did for a living.  She explained that she got an MFA in fine arts a few years ago thinking she would teach in a college, but that with the economy in the state it’s been in, there were no positions anywhere.  So, she had to get a different job in the meantime.

   I gestured to the new studio and said, “I know. I ended up doing that too.”

    We talked a bit about the entire MFA experience, and then she explained she got a job working for the weaver’s guild of America. “This happens to be an organization focused on fiber arts, which is spinning and weav
ing and basketry and stuff,” she said.

    I said, “I know, I do that too.” And we talked about spinning and dying wool, and how I raised llamas and angoras for awhile and had taken lots of classes on basketry, spinning etc. at the Campbell school (with a teacher she also happens to know).

   Then she explained that what she actually does is edit the organization’s magazine. “It’s a periodical that features articles on fiber arts”, she explained.

    “I know of it – I happen do that too. I’m a writer,” I said, and I told her how I had written a piece about spinning and submitted it to the New Southerner Literary Non-fiction contest and it won. I mentioned that it was selected to be included in the yearly anthology, and she said she’d love to see it someday.  I happened to have a copy on the shelf behind me, so I gave it to her. (And just like that, my work is in an editor’s hands – not that she can do anything for me as a writer, but it sure is nice to share your words with someone who will appreciate them.)

    Taking up the conversation on the llama issue again, she commented that her daughter has horses and teaches dressage and competition. “I took a few classes in that. I have horses too, but I’m really only interested in them for casual recreation,” I said. And next, our conversation slipped around to horse stuff and riding, until eventually it churned it back to yoga once again.

  Another student of mine, who happens to take class about four times a week and is getting to know me pretty well, was listening in. After the woman left, she said, “I’m shocked. I thought you were just a yoga/dance person, but you can talk to anyone about anything. I didn’t know all that about you. ” 

   “We are all more than what we do,” I pointed out. “Or at least, we should be. “  But it occurred to me that that hasn’t always been the case for me. For many years, I was just what I did. A dancer. My journey in Georgia certainly has expanded my horizons in unique ways. I couldn’t have connected with that woman 6 years ago half as well as I can now. It seems I can talk to most people about anything now a days, but usually my half of the conversation is me asking questions. I love getting to know people beyond the surface. My family has a nasty habit of warning people before they meet me that I’ll know their shoe size before the evening is done. Makes people brace for my inquiry so it doesn’t occur naturally. Hate that.

 Back to interesting students . . . I have a student who takes every Saturday when the weather is bad. He is about my age, and has a traditional job, but he is a river guide on the Ocoee in season. He also mountain bikes and hikes when the weather is good. I told him I was jealous, these were all the things I hoped to do when I moved here, but life sort of got in the way and my focus and resources were diverted to other things, primarily our homestead project.

“Never too late,” he said. “I can turn you on to all the best places to go.”

 The very next day three woman took my adult ballet class and I found out they all work together as river guides too. (As I said, yoga draws active, open-minded people, but it tends to draw people who love nature too.) They range from 40-60 years of age and they are all single, full of life, and share the thrill of adventure. Two of the women also happen to be massage therapists by trade. Of course, I had to pick their brains about their work since I’ve been thinking of going that direction too, and they were very supportive and informative. Before we were done, they had promised to take me down the river as soon as winter breaks as well.

 It’s funny. I’ve lived here for 5 years and my biggest disappointment has been that I can’t find someone, ANYONE who’s willing to get wet and dirty with me (my family is active, but not sporty in this particular way and it’s generally believed that when Mom suggests anything that involves a canoe or kayak, she’s suggesting a subtle form of torture.) Eventually, I gave up hope of having this kind of adventure in my life so I decided to go back to what I know, working & running a dance studio. But now only three months into my new project, voila, I have a fistful of potential river rafting friends. It just goes to show, fate works in mysterious ways.

There are other, wonderful students, such as myTuesday/Thursday morning crowd of 55 & up ladies. They are a very social, upbeat group and I start class ten minutes late because I hate cutting them off as they exchange happy news about their lives. I so admire them because despite the fact that they are aging, here they are, keeping healthy and vibrant through fitness activities and fun interaction with others. They kick butt in yoga class too, by the way. 

 Then, there are my younger students who are beautiful to watch with their lean bodies and flexible attitudes. And married couples who come to yoga together, which is a pretty romantic date if you ask me.  I can’t help but think they must all have a rather active love life too, considering both man and wife are committed to fitness, and pursuing interesting things together. Got to appreciate couples like that.

 The point is, I can’t point to a single yoga student that I don’t sincerely enjoy teaching. My workplace is filled with positive energy and interesting people who always greet me with a smile. When a person can say that about their job, they are lucky indeed.