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Category Archives: Special Interests

Teaching is the best way to learn

As a place to live, Blue Ridge has many lovely qualities, but the small town was so devoid of opportunity in some areas (at least for me) that it made me feel a bit like Dorothy running through the poppy fields in theWizard of Oz. Poor Dorothy is inspired and determined to get to the Emerald City, but on route she becomes transfixed by the beauty of the wild flowers. She stops to admire the beautiful red petals, totally unaware that they are potent with a heady, dangerous aftereffect that distracts her from her goals. Before you know it, the beauty around her has cast a spell and she falls sound asleep – the Emerald city and all the things she set off to accomplish are lulled to rest along with her body, heart and mind. In that story, Dorothy is awakened, thanks to interference of a good witch who sends snow to break the spell.

I won’t get into what became “snow” was for me, but suffice to say I was fighting sleep while I lived in the country. I was so enamored with nature and the calm of living at a gentle pace, that I lost the drive to accomplish many things I believe make my life worthy and meaningful.  I’m not suggesting that ambition is ultimately important – if anything, the older I get the more personal ambition fades, but I do believe continuing to grow as an individual and sharing your unique gifts with others is an important part of living to your greatest potential.

 When I first moved to the country, I volunteered to teach illiterate adults to read. For three years I worked with one particular woman three afternoons a week. Eventually that project came to a graceful end. Always wanting involvement in some kind of community service or humanitarian project to keep my karma in check, I got it into my head that I should get involved with teaching again, be it through writing or dance. I began by offering my services as a dance teacher to local schools free of charge. No one returned my calls, much less offered me a class. So, with my MFA freshly in hand, I offered to teach a writing class for free at two local colleges, the arts association, and for half a dozen individual groups (senior centers, the library and/or the Kiwanis club). No one was interested in my offerings in this avenue either, and after repeated failed attempts to give away my time and services, I simply gave up. Volunteering may be high on my life priority list, but as long as I was living in that particular town, the best I could do was to join a church and participate  n bake sale fundraisers, etc. Not exactly my ideal outlet for giving, considering I long to share my specific talents not just for others, but as away of honoring the arts I love.  It was a very frustrating issue for me.

Since free classes were a no-go, I offered a short journaling class at the new yoga studio. The session wasn’t very organized or well received and if anything, all it did was shake my self-confidence as a writing teacher. Frankly, I sucked at it, but in retrospect I can see that life was falling apart for me, so I couldn’t really give it my all. The project limped along, barely resembling my vision of sharing writing with others, but it did fuel my desire to someday teach people who might otherwise never have the opportunity to explore the power of words. I didn’t know how or when, but I did believed that someday I’d share writing with others and introduce them to new methods of communicating and exploring their feelings.

 A few days after I moved back to Sarasota, I called the Senior Friendship Center to make my standard offer to teach for free. Having hit dead ends so many times in the last few years, I didn’t expect things to unfold so easily, but lo and behold, within a day I was offered an opportunity to lead an ongoing writing class. It just so happens that the former teacher of a long-standing writing class had passed away in Dec. and the student’s had been trying to stick together sans official leadership. My timing was perfect – but life has away of giving you what you need when you need it most.

 When the class discovered I had an MFA and years of involvement in literary endeavors, they welcomed me with open arms and hearty appreciation, so I took the responsibility to live up to my resume very to heart. , I’ve been teaching fiction and memoir writing to a group of seniors every Monday for two months now.  Like every volunteer project I’ve ever gotten involved in, I feel great about the experience on many levels. I certainly learn as much as I teach.  Then there is the fact that, for me, a life well-lived involves giving of yourself, and I don’t mean just doing thoughtful things for your loved ones or getting involved in community projects that happen to further your work ambitions (although I’ve done that too). Like most people, I’ve embraced generic giving. I sponsor a child from a third world country. I donate to worthy causes, such as purchasing livestock for poverty stricken families in Indonesia each year. I’m quick to volunteer for the one-shot project, helping at a school or organization’s fundraiser. I take things to good-will. I walked 60 miles to raise money for cancer. You get the point. These endeavors are lovely, but face it; this kind of giving is easy because it involves limited commitment. It’s the thankless long haul volunteering – being willing to show up long after the initial flood of “aren’t I a nice person” feelings fade, that defines true selflessness.

 I saw this class as an opportunity to walk my talk, so, I made a pact with myself that I would show up, week after week, even if it meant going out of my way to arrange the rest of my life around this once a week commitment, (which is no small feat considering I’m struggling to piece together enough work to sustain me.) I simply sense this project is important -for me and for others, and for the as yet undefined future that awaits me.

Getting involved in the Senior Friendship Center has opened my eyes to an entire world of mature, active adults and the unique struggles people deal with in their golden years. I lived in Sarasota for 18 years, yet I did so completely unaware such a remarkable, free community resource existed here for the elderly. (In fact, it boggles the mind how many wonderful things this town has to offer that I’ve stumbled on now that I’m exploring it anew, approaching the area with fresh eyes and a good attitude.)

 The first time I walked into the center I was floored by the diverse offerings. Each afternoon a three-piece band of seniors performs. People come and sit in the great open lobby to enjoy live blues or big band music. They lounge around on couches or sit at tables with friends, some sit regally in wheelchairs, tapping their feet to the music and calling out to the band members as if they are all the best of friends (which indeed, I’m guessing they are). There are always a few couples dancing on the ballroom floor and I can’t help but stop to admire them. I wonder if I’m watching married couples that have been dancing together for 60 years, or new couples holding hands for the first time- a unique senior dating experience brought about because time marched on and rocked their world, disengaging them from beloved partners or friends. The romance in both scenarios moves me to tears. I’ve spent a lifetime watching young people move to music, but lately, the image of elderly people dancing strikes me as remarkably poignant. It fascinates me that regardless of a person’s age, music can creep into the soul and the body responds. We dance! 

At the far corner of the great room, dozens of men play pool on 3 busy tables. A room to the side features a handful of women playing scrabble with great intent. There is a wii station set up and inevitably, a senior is always hooked up, swinging his or her arms and legs and laughing at whatever challenge they’ve taken on. A convenient snack bar provides refreshments in one corner and/or people can always go into the large cafeteria for lunch or dinner where another musician serenades patrons on a piano. At the top of the curved staircase a busy computer lab invites dozens of people to pound the keyboard – they work on the Internet or write stories (in many cases, for my class).  Several rooms shoot off from this hallway, where all kinds of classes are offered throughout the week: art, writing, painting, scrapbooking, craft and special interest projects etc….The center offers free yoga, fitness and dance classes as well. It’s simply an amazing place for older people to gather and feel active and connected to others.

 Each Monday when I arrive, I pick up an envelope and a sign-insheet at the main desk and head to my assigned classroom. Smiles left and right greet me. Most days, I can’t help but think that life passes by in an instant, and it won’t be long until I’ll be stepping into a place such as this for entertainment rather than as a volunteer. It kind of makes me feel I am paying my dues in advance. I always think about my mother-in-law when I pass the scrabble room. Ever since her husband passed away she’s been consumed with debilitating loneliness. A place such as this would provide her with the companionship and activity she needs to feel life affirmation again. Friends and activities keep a person young at heart and I know she would have loved the music and the people.  She would kick butt in the scrabble room too.

Once I get to my classroom, I move tables and chairs into the center of the room while the music floats upstairs from the great room lending subtle inspiration to the project at hand. I wait for students to arrive. When they do, we share news of our lives. Our friendship grows stronger with each lesson; partly because of the time we spend together, but also because sharing heartfelt words is a bonding experience.

I structured the class to follow the format of a traditional writing critique group. Each week students bring in samples of their writing to share with the class, and after their reading, we open the floor to constructive criticism. After everyone has shared their perceptions about the writing, (and I insist on MFA rules of conduct so the discussion stays positive and helpful) I offer the teacher’s view, giving suggestions and advice for developing a stronger voice or evolving the writing to be more effective. When time permits, I end with a writing exercise. I always have something prepared, so even if we don’t get time to write in class, I pass out my handout and encourage the students to try the assignment at home.

 Amazingly, (at least to me) I’m really a good writing teacher. Apparently I have a wealth of information stored in my head from all those years of taking seminars and going through the grueling MFA process, and it’s all come together at last. When I look at a student’s work, I see the weaknesses with clarity, and the words I need to explain how to rectify the problems are right on my tongue. Several of the students in my class are also involved in writing classes at Eckerd college and Vo-tech, and they insist I’m not only inspirational, but that I explain things in terms they consider remarkably easy to understand. One student has even gotten into the habit of bringing me assignments from a college creative writing class he’s in, because he likes how I explain what the teacher expects.  I enjoy helping him prepare for that class as well as my own.

 It is fair to say I began with serious concerns about my ability to teach writing effectively, but thanks to the praise and the results I’m seeing from my little class, my confidence is growing. I’m sharing the act of writing with others. It’s been a long haul to get here, so I’m savoring every minute.

 I will eventually write with more detail about this adventure, or at least the lessons I’m learning along the way, but I will not go into detail about my individual students out of respect for their privacy. I do think I need to share a short description of the class dynamics, so for this one time, I’ll mention a generic overview of the kinds of students involved. My class so far includes one poet (also a visual artist) who is writing moving prose about growing up black in the south, one woman writing a musical about homeless people (bringing in profound and ultimately creative work that she jots down on the back of napkins and on paper plates– It’s a hoot, and she has no clue how good her work is), a student struggling with serious life upheaval because her husband left her after 40 years of marriage (she is writing as ahealing activity, and it’s all I can do not to lose it each time she reads her gushing accounts of her confusion and pain. I not only feel empathy for her, but I can relate,), a man who turns in a memoir piece one week and wild paranormal fiction piece the next, and there are always a few shy drop-ins. I’m told that when the seasonal residents return in the fall, the class will fill with many new faces.  I can’t wait.

 And so, a new chapter of personal “giving” begins for me. I’ll continue to show up week in and week out because, like all new experiences, there are lessons to learn by teaching. For some reason, I sense this particular activity is important – it has volumes to teach me about living, life and people – lessons I am primed and ready to receive at this stage of my life. Lessons I need to keep going.

Strawberry Jam Under the Sun

This week, I’ve been busy re-establishing my life, which for me involves so much more than just finding employment and a place to live. I’ve been immersing myself in activities that I believe will thrust me into the company of people and events that enrich one’s world. In other words, I’m getting involved.

 Last month I went to my first meeting with the Sarasota Book Club. The book up for discussion was “Salt, A World History.” I thought the factual, non-fiction book a strange choice since most book clubs lean towards literary novels, but I plowed through the book and went to the meeting anyway.  I felt like a nervous little kid walking into a new classroom as I pulled up to a woman’s home and walked through the foyer to face strangers. I’m used to book club meetings being held in less intimate settings, like a library. But the moment I walked in the door I felt at home. I was greeted by a lovely, social group of 20 plus readers (sometimes, when a more popular book is on the agenda they have up to 60 people in attendance, I’m told – that is huge for a reading discussion group in my opinion.) The member’s newsletter encouraged everyone to bring food, so I wasn’t surprised by the table laden with salad, brownies, lasagna, and appetizers (I brought sweet and sour meatballs). The afternoon began with a huge lunch spread, then moved on to a vibrant discussion about the book. I so enjoyed being in the company of people like me, nerds willing to pass up hanging at the beach on a gorgeous Saturday to do something mundane, in this case, discussing a dry history book….  Intellectual stimulation – sad to say that’s my idea of a cheap thrill.

Speaking of books, this week I met someone who recently experienced a trying passage of life – she’s been successfully battling a brain aneurism. The family is interested in hiring me to ghost write a book about the ordeal, so I made plans to meet with them to discuss the possibilities. Not much money involved, but I sense this would be a great learning project for me, and I can use a challenging distraction from my personal issues, so I’m game. We’ll see if anything comes of that.

This morning I contacted the Sarasota Senior Center to volunteer my services to teach writing classes, specifically memoir and journaling. I’ve always felt more grounded when a small part of my life is devoted to volunteer work, and I’ve been thinking for some time that it would be rewarding to help older people preserve their life stories for their families and for prosperity. The problem is, every time I tried to get something along those lines started in my small town in Georgia, I hit a wall.  In Sarasota, thanks to the sheer numbers of the population and the available money allotted to non-profits, opportunities abound, so I’m going to try again. I pursued my MFA for personal life enrichment rather than career training, but the more I think about it, all that effort could be channeled to enhancing the lives of others as well. I don’t know if I’m going to be any good at the task of teaching writing as opposed to dance, but hey, I’ve offered my services for free, so the worst that can happen is I’ll develop some teaching skills and meet some wonderful older friends.

I joined two writer’s groups in Sarasota hoping to turn my attentions back to the dream I had hoped to pursue full time when I retired from my business. It didn’t work out for me due to other family choices, but the fact that writing can’t be a full time pursuit now doesn’t mean I can’t plug away at it. The Florida Writers Association has asked me to lead a new writer’s group in my area. Cool beans.  But I look forward to participation more than taking on the responsibility of leadership. The diverse input you get from hanging with an eclectic group of writers in any fiction group is priceless. I joined the Sarasota Author’s Connection as well, because it offers readings and book signings along with short writing sessions that interest me too. Haven’t joined any romance writer’s groups. Guess I’ve evolved beyond that. In a way, I’m sorry. Anyway, that covers the writing angle of life.

Next is running. Yes, I’m running again – not well,but steadily. Not a day goes by that I don’t head out the door, look up at the brilliant sunshine and the flat stretches of pathway beckoning to me and don’t feel charmed by Sarasota. I was disenchanted with this town when I left, but I’ve returned like the prodigal son, with new appreciation for the quality of life here. Running is one of the things I missed most about Florida, the emphasis on health and wellness, the active culture and the beautiful weather allowing consistency if you love exercising outside. I was not a very active member of the running club when I lived here last, but with a mere $20 a year membership fee I thought, “what the heck”. I rejoined the Sarasota Running club, hoping it might inspire me to go to a few races. For good measure, I also joined the Lakewood Ranch running club. They have some wonderful social events for runners that will get me out of the house and among people who make fitness a priority. Last but not least, I’ve looked into the Sarasota bike club. They organize long rides on weekends that start right by my home. The problem is, I’m a bit intimidated by this group. I have no clue how far or how fast I can ride. I’m guessing I’ll be an abysmal slow-poke if I just show up without some preliminary training. One of these days I have to get my bike out and ride as far as I can and time my ride – then I’ll check the distance with my car. I’ll probably think I’m going 20 miles at a good clip, but find out I’ve gone two in slow motion. But hey, the fact that I want to evolve from a runner to a bike rider doesn’t mean I expect to be good at it. Never been a good runner either – but I do love plodding along and feeling my heart race. Makes me feel alive. Riding might prove the same.

The other day I was driving down the street and a stand was set up selling flats of fresh picked strawberries from plant city. My heart went pang and I thought, “If I was in Georgia, I’d pick some up and make jam or wine . . . I will really miss the organic, natural element of my former life.”

Then it occurred to me that moving doesn’t mean I have to give up the things that enriched my life in the country. People are but the collective experiences of their lives, so everything I learned and loved in Georgia is still with me, and always will be.  I swerved over and bought two flats of gorgeous, plump strawberries. When I got them home, I looked at my tiny kitchen and thought, “who am I kidding…. I am not set up for this kind of thing…” but the dang strawberries didn’t fit in my fridge, so I had to make something out of them. I went to my garage and pulled out my canning materials, dragged them upstairs and at 11:00 that night was finishing my second batch of jam. It was such a pleasure to be cooking again. There I was, rocking out to the blues in my kitchen, singing as I ran a hand over the steam as it shot out of the top of my pressure cooker while I licked strawberry jam off a big wooden spoon. Figuring out how much steam pressure was appropriate was a new experiment for me. A part of my old canning pot was missing after the move so I was attempting a new method. That meant breaking out the pressure cooker for the first time. Cool tool.  Anyway, I now have 24 jars of fresh strawberry jam resting on my counter. Of course I’ll only use about two or three jars myself, and I’ll no doubt want to make other sorts of jams as different fruit comes into season, so I’ll be giving most of what I made last night away. But making jam is not about eating – it’s about cooking and having a gift of food for others on hand at all times. So shoot me. I love feeding others.

Someone asked me the other day if I miss my “expansive life”, a life that included raising llamas and growing tomatoes. I responded that I really didn’t think my life was expansive because of where I lived, but more because of how I lived. I like to think I embrace and explore the opportunities present in a given life situation.  You can lead an expansive life anywhere – it is simply a matter of seeking ongoing growth as a person – of being curious enough about the world to get off your duff and live large. I certainly hope my children have learned that from me if nothing else. 

Frankly, I felt my world was expansive when I lived in New York and I dived into dance and theater fearlessly. I felt it was expansive in Sarasota when I learned about running a small business, bought my first home, had a family and began writing. I felt it was expansive in Georgia as I experimented with organic living and explored the natural world. No one place has ever been more educational or stimulating than another…. no single place was better or worse – just different. Collectively, my life has felt expansive – not because any of those lifestyles were uniquely different from how other people in the area lived, but because moving from place to place provided me with diverse life experience.  Change is good. 

What’s important is to not lose sight of the fact that a person can make strawberry jam in Georgia, Sarasota or Timbuktu. I have a counter full of jars to prove it.

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 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.

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.

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. 

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.    




Do the right thing

Someone sent this to me as an e-mail to forward to others, but I don’t really have an e-mail address list since changing to a mac, so I thought I’d post it here. Don’t be lazy. Look at this face, and do the right thing.

Hi, all you animal lovers!
 This  is pretty  simple… Please ask ten  friends to each ask a further ten today!  
 The Animal Rescue Site is having trouble getting  enough  people to click on it daily so they can meet their quota of   getting FREE FOOD donated every  day to abused and neglected animals.  It takes less than a minute  (about 15 seconds) to go to their site  and click on the purple box  ‘fund food for animals for free’. This  doesn’t cost you a thing.  
 Their corporate  sponsors/advertisers use the number of  daily visits to donate food  to abandoned/neglected animals in  exchange for advertising.
 Here’s the web site! Please pass it  along to people you know.


The Farm slowly shifts and changes

Llama Rescue came and took my final llama, Pulaini, away last week, and I’m happy to report she now resides on a llama ranch in North Carolina with ten other female llamas. The owner called to tell me she’s already been given a haircut, and she’s happy and making friends. I suppose it’s a relief for her to be able to sleep at night without one eye open, wary of the killer coyotes. She’s been through a lot.

 On the day they were scheduled to pick her up, Denver, Kent and I spent two hours catching her, mostly because I was still wearing the dang cast on my foot. Pulaini would let me approach and pet her backside, but I couldn’t get anywhere near her halter, and when the kids came near she bolted.I’d go gimping across the pasture, running like Forest Gump before his bracesfell off, cussing the cast, the llama, and life in Georgia. Eventually the llama got so hot (it was in the mid 90’s that day) that she began foaming at the mouth. Another ten minutes and I’d be foaming right along with her, but thankfully, she stood still and I just walked up through the knee deep muck she had maneuvered herself into, (as if that would stop me – certainly she should know me better by now) and clipped a rope on her halter. Then we had fun dragging her out to the barn, which was like dragging a car with no wheels over gravel for 600 feet. I had to hose my cast, my pants and all of Kent down afterwards, but the Hendry’s always get the job done.     

 Once safely in the barn, Pulaini returned to her usual friendly self. I gave her treats and put a fan on her to cool her off, and we spent another two hours together saying good-bye. Then Llama rescue showed up,which turned out to be a 60-year-old woman and a friend driving a mini van.

 Kent and I looked at that van and puckered our lips. Did they think they could get our big llama in that thing? We always move the llamas in a horse trailer. The woman assured us they’ve been picking up llamas in mini-vans for ages– the back seats had been removed and a quilt was put down in preparation.

 Having just run ten miles to catch the beast with her spitting and foaming like a mad dog had us more than a little skeptical, but I led Pulaini to the side door of the van as told (they never open the big back doorfor this kind of thing, the woman explained).

 Pulaini stood there eyeing me through her long lashes as if I was kidding.

“There’s air conditioning in there. You’ll like it,” I said as convincingly as I could.

The llama blinked drolly.

 The rescue woman slid into the van and pulled on the leadrope attached to the halter. I picked up Pulaini’s front feet to put them in the door as Kent pushed her rear. I couldn’t help mumbling, “Gee if I knew I could get my llama into a minivan, I would have taken her with me to the drive-in on Saturdays”.

I’m not sure the llama rescue woman knew I was kidding.

 Meanwhile, I couldn’t look at my son for fear we’d start laughing. It was so weird folding up and stuffing a temperamental, 400 pound pet into a car.

 We got the llama half way in, then I picked up her back feet and shoved them inside so we could push her the rest of the way in, sliding her on her knees as the quilt bunched up under her. It felt like when you have to move the dead weight of a dog that doesn’t want to get into the bathtub.  When she was in, I closed the door and went around to the other side to say my good-byes. I wasn’t very sad, because I knew this pet was going somewhere safe and I’m not so selfish I’d want to try to keep her and submit her to a potential tragic end. I like knowing she is going to llama rescue rather than to some stranger who just drops off a check and carts her away, because this way I know she’ll end up in a llama approved home with companionship, shelter and ample food.  

 Later the woman called to tell me the two-hour trip was lovely and Pulaini put her head on her shoulder the entire trip and took treats from her hand. They bonded, the woman said, and she couldn’t help but fall in love with Pulaini’s temperament. In fact, she thought this llama was so sweet, she planned to keep her.  I was jealous at first, thinking what llama are you talking about? You can’t mean MY difficult llama. Or are you implying that she is now acting perfect because she likes you and your air-conditioned van more than me. 

But recognizing envy for what it is, I quickly shifted my attitude and grew delighted because I do want my pet to be happy and I was hoping for this woman would adopt her. She usually only fosters rescue llamas until the organization finds a home for them, but I knew her llama farm sometimes adopts an animal permanently. Pulaini’s no fool. She played right into the woman’s hands and heart and was adopted right there in the back of the van.

 I’m thought she had a good chance of landing someplace great. Most of the llamas they “rescue” are given up because they are old, have bad temperaments or health problems. My llama is healthy, beautiful, has quality fiber, is of a great age, has registration papers, and has been handled a great deal this last year. This is the kind of animal people sell, not the kind you call llama rescue to cart away– but I had an emergency situation considering the marauding coyotes. So, it is a win win situation for everyone – Pulaini, the llama farm and me.

 Now, my llama adventure is over forever more. Sigh.

 Last week, a realtor called to say someone wanted to fly into see our home (which has been for sale for 18 months, so this is a very goodthing) but they are interested in additional land. Actually, they would want to purchase the barn too. Would we be open to that? Since Mark and I had discussed this possibility from the very beginning, we said yes, of course.

 I spent one day in mourning and self-pity for the potentialloss of my animal playground, but then I bounced back. Denver and I cleaned the barn from top to bottom (meaning she did the upstairs where her jewelry making equipment and storage is, and I tackled the downstairs tack and feed room and cleaned the stalls.) Then I painted my chicken house, formerly weathered pressure treated wood, a cheery barn red and hung up flowering baskets and cute chicken signs. I had already removed the rabbit cages hanging on the sides and purchased paint with plans to gussy up the house for myself, so this was really just following through on previous plans. I planted some bushes around the shed too, set up a metal sun sculpture and put red mulch around the quaint building. It looks like an adorable egg–manufacturing playhouse now.  Love it.


It’s probably a long shot that someone will actually want the house and this much land as well (the pastures, barn and chicken houses) because that gets rather pricy. These people may not even show up, but I’m willing and open to whatever happens. In fact, it almost feels like fate, because I’m opening a new business in two months so my time for barn play will be limited soon. The fact is, I’ve learned all I needed and wanted to learn through these few years of farming adventures. It’s been wonderful, but I’m ready to explore new horizons now, so maybe this is meant to be. Of course, I’d still want to set something up near the new house to keep my chickens, for the high quality eggs, ya know (I’m a spoiled cook now), and I’d want to keep my peacocks since they are no trouble. And I don’t know what I’d do with donkey, because he is a member of the family and the star of my pending book, but beyond that, I wouldn’t mind spending a Georgia winter without having to devote hours a day in the bitter cold taking care of animals.

 For now, I’m enjoying every minute I spend at the barn because it is so neat and pretty down there, and I consider my time in nautre a precious gift. You must appreciate what you have when you have it, and not live for tomorrow or yesterday, or fail to appreciate the lovely moments life offers us,however subtle of fleeting they may be.

 I’m down to three turkeys now. As you may recall, I started with five chicks. One died early on for reasons unknown (I was at a yoga seminar – these things always happen when I’m away). Another one did not develop properly. He had splayed legs – which means his legs flail out under him so he can barely walk. As a young bird he sort of flapped his wings and nudged himself around the cage. I took pity on him, and kept feeding him in a bowl right beside where he lay in a pile of hay. But because of my diligent care, he just ate all day and kept getting bigger and bigger, until all he could do was lay in one spot and couldn’t move at all because of his increased size. The full grown turkeys needed more space, so I began keeping the cage door open and the other three birds spent their afternoons picking through the pasture for fresh bugs. They’re happy roosting nearby and laying in the grass beside the cage. They are huge and still growing.

 YYesterday, when our farmer friend Ronnie was over I had a moment of weakness and asked if he could make my handicapped turkey disappear.I didn’t want to discuss what would happen to the bird, because the poor thing seems so innocent, but I also couldn’t bear to continue feeding him, knowing he couldn’t move and was sitting in his own waste. His quality of life has been hindered, and I don’t want to have to explain this to anyone who might be coming to see the barn to potentially buy it.

 Ronnie smiled and said no problem. I felt guilty, but only for a moment. This bird’s had months of a cheesy life when anyone else would have done him in long ago. It is only a matter of time until a dog discovers the bird and brings him to a violent end if I leave him just hanging out, incapable of moving.  And the fact is, I’m not interested in killing him to eat (no comments from the peanut gallery,please). Sure enough, yesterday afternoon I went down to the barn tentatively and looked in the turkey cage. There were only three turkeys walking around the barnyard. Such is the harsh life of a farm animal.

 I confess, I named my turkeys Barb, Mike and Jodi after those who caused the demise of FLEX, thinking this would make it easier for me to slaughter and eat them later. But the truth is, their names only makes me smile and laughter only endears the birds to me more. The simple beasts follow me as harmless as any creature I’ve ever known. They don’t react to danger or shy away from problems the way an alert chicken does. They say turkeys are stupid, but I like to think of them as enthusiastic, just naive and unaware of what is going on around them. In truth, they are good-natured, which actually makes the names of at least two of them very appropriate. As you can guess, I can’t imagine hurting them now, so I’ll have turkey pets for years to come. I’ll just let nature take its course and see how long they survive living a normal, carefree life. Of course, that is not to say that come Thanksgiving I won’t have a change of heart, especially considering the pressure I get from family members still expecting organic, homegrown turkey for the holidays, but personally, I can’t imagine carving up one of my little buddies at this time. Turkey raising is an experiment still pending.          

 I’ve got 20 freshly hatched chicks peeping away in little cages now, and my garden is lush and filled with a zillion soon to be ripe tomatoes, peppers, melons, pumpkins, squash, eggplant, and some mystery plant(I can’t remember what seeds I scattered there. Oops.) I’ve planted three sets of cucumbers but they keep dying. No pickles for me, this year I guess.

 Last week Mark pointed out that the blackberries are almost ready to pick, and suddenly it occurred to me that my ’08 wine has been sitting in a carboy for a year now and is ready to be bottled. So I spent the daybottling and labeling 90 more bottles of wine. Blackberry/Strawberry, Blueberry (a new flavor I tried last season, which turned out refreshing, light, and lovely)and a strawberry/grape Chablis.  I need to invite some friends over for some serious country wine drinking. I’d make a few more batches, but with people coming to see the house, that will have to wait. Don’t need the place smelling like a winery – which it always does for the first two weeks. (The new house will have a wine making room in the basement for me, I’m told. Guess Mark is tired of seeing these huge bottles of fermenting wine everywhere.)  

 So, I’m all caught up on the farm chores – except for the bees,which I’ll be tackling today. I have to take the honey off the hive and cut away all the little evergreens that are growing up at the entrance of the hive (no one will mow over there, so my hive looks like sleeping beauties castlebeing swallowed by weeds.) If I get as much as I expect, I’m thinking of trying to make mead this season. Fun!

 Meanwhile, in the back of my mind, I wonder if this will be my last season of this lifestyle. It is always possible someone will come along and want to write a check to buy this life we have worked so long and hard to create (won’t be the first time), which will bring this chapter of our lives to an end, opening the door for something else. Life is unpredictable that way – flexible, every-changing and bittersweet. No reason to fight it – better to go with the flow and collect the meaningful lessons along the way. 

 Speaking of which, I passed my yoga certification exam for the Yoga Alliance last week. I still have one more intensive weekend of training and the graduation to attend, but I’m a true yogi now. Ommmmmmmmmm…………………………….   

I also attended a three-hour yoga for children workshop. Man, do I wish I had all that information when I owned FLEX. My mind was spinning with the potential for incorporating that material in the dance environment. I’m not finished with my yoga training – now I’m researching the next level of training – the 500 hour advanced course that makes you a master teacher. Heck, maybe I’ll maneuver a way to take that one in India someday. Ya only live once. 

 I’ve been doing massive research in preparation for reentry into the dance/yoga world. Stepping back has allowed me to see this business with fresh eyes, and the new resources, music and ideas available have me really excited – I feel like ten times the teacher I was before, thanks to the life experience and new skills I can draw from now. Distance is a blessing. But I’ll address that in another entry. Just know that scoop dancer is on the case and my next school will be better than the last – more authentic – and this one won’t get off lured course or dragged under water by unnecessary drama or ego mongers. The greatest gift of yoga is learning detachment and training yourself to see through the crap to what is beautiful underneath.  Nurturing it, making it glow. I’m ready to apply that to dance training.

 I even took a QuickBooks class last month so I can be incontrol of the budgeting and business side of this new school, so Mark will not have additional demands on his time. He can teach ballet, but beyond that, I don’t want him encumbered by the demands of a dance studio. He has different dreams all together. I am excited about the artistic challenges of a new school, but I’m experienced enough to know how import it is for the director to be qualified as a business manager too, so I’m working to fill in the gaps now that one person will be at the helm. Crunching numbers isn’t my forte, and I’m helpless on the computer, but I’ve tackled QuickBooks knowing it is the responsible, necessary thing to do, and I even enrolled in a class on website design in August too (because I’m resurrecting the Kiddance company newsletter and product line too). Ah, the things we do for love, as Chorus line pointed out.

 Anyway, it is time for this newbie yogi to visit the bees.  Somehow, I no longer fear being stung. Now, if only the bees were in the same yoga frame of mind…..


My Yoga Journey begins

This weekend I began Yoga training. I will share a bit about
the experience – at least my reaction to it.

 It is amazing to me that even after hours spent doing
intensive yoga poses over and over again, I wake up the next day and nothing
hurts. That is a beautiful and remarkable thing about yoga, and the best
tangible evidence I have that practicing is truly good for you, body and soul.

 Dance, on the other hand, hurts all the time, no matter your
age. I suppose this is because dance is about defying nature’s limitations and
pushing your body beyond the limits in an effort to create a visual image that
is illusive and idealistic. Perfection is the dancer’s goal, and the artist is
expected to suffer to achieve it. Between you and me, I love that about dance.
  I hate what the art does to your body,
breaking it down, but it seems worth the end results. The fact that not
everyone can dance is one of the things I admire about the art form. To become
a dance artist requires soul, physical strength, and a gift from God. Dance has
always been, and always will be, my true calling, so I love it despite its

 Yoga, on the other hand, works within the framework of the
body’s natural design, and the mental relaxation and breathing which is central
to good technique forces the student to relax, thus avoiding injury. A yoga
student is taught to listen to his or her body and adapt poses so there is no
stress on joints or muscles. In the opposing dance universe, a student is
taught to suck it up and suffer for art’s sake. Different attitude. I don’t
suppose I need to mention that there I am in yoga class pushing beyond what is
comfortable on my 50-year-old body in every pose, because I can’t shake the
idea that I’m not making progress unless I hurt. Dancers are not only familiar
with physical abuse, but they revel in it because pain is often the path to
improvement. Sick creatures, us dancers.

 I think I am an annoying yoga student. Not by choice, but by
nature of my personality and previous life experience. I ask too many questions
of a technical nature, and the answer I get is always, “it depends” or “You’re
over-thinking things. It’s not important.” Since over thinking happens to be a
problem with me in many areas of life, I’m sure the evasive answers I receive
are a fair response. Still, I am sometimes very frustrated with the lack of defined
answers to my questions. Mostly, this is in regards to the mechanics of yoga
movement. We move from one pose to the next, and I ask about what exact
positions we should move through during the position. Is it better to have a
flat back or to roll through the spine? Should the eyes lead or follow after
the pose is stable. The answer is, “It depends.” It depends on the student, the
body type, the mood of that particular practice, and what I want to achieve at
this moment in time. It depends on what feels right and good. Some yoga
techniques are more defined, and perhaps studying one of those methods someday
would suit me better (hint, hint), but in this particular yoga method we believe
in adaptability and less defined structure.

 Meanwhile, I’m thinking the hell with what feels right and
good, I just need to know what IS right and good adhering to yoga standards
because then, come hell or high water, I’ll master it in that way.
  As you can see, I have a way to go
regarding my gentle yogi-ness.

 In dance, there is an ideal, a defined perfection that a
student is always working towards, so naturally I want to know what the yoga
ideal is so that I can help students, through modified poses or whatever
methods required, to achieve greater skill. And in the back of my mind, I’m
thinking a student with great potential might come along and he or she will
need more advanced coaching, and I want to be prepared. All this makes my
questions seem pushy and too focused on achievement-oriented goals, a very unyoga-like
approach. I’m sure the teachers want to slap me, but that wouldn’t be yoga like
either, so instead they smile at me with love and shake their head with “you
don’t get it yet,” tolerance.

 I then shut up, reading the gentle frustrationin their eyes
and think, OK, I’ll shut up. I get it academically, but setting goals for a
student, having an objective for the class still seems important to me.
  So shoot me. Clearly, I’m going to have
to work on this “total acceptance, no judgments, no expectations” element of
yoga training. I love and admire the attitude in theory, but because I’ve
always been result driven, the gentle approach to movement isn’t going to come
naturally. So this is something I will work on.

 There are other elements of yoga Asana (the physical) I
adore. There is a gentle touch used in correction, and the loving, non-judgmental
attitude where you can do no wrong is alien, but it’s remarkably admirable. I
hope to adapt and evolve as a teacher by learning this approach to teaching

 Yoga training is not just about the physical. It is about
spiritual practice as well. You must define “intention” for your practice and
your life. When I told Mark that we spent the afternoon discussing our
inner-most fears and desires, and I think I disappointed my instructors in this
area, because I was one of the few who didn’t break down in tears and expose
interior pain (not because I can’t or won’t but because honestly, I don’t feel
broken inside), he sighed and said, “Honey, the fact is, you are very
sensitive, but you are never vulnerable. Ain’t nobody gonna make a big
yoga-crybaby out of you.” (He said this not as an insult to those who expose
their feelings in this safe setting, but to hold up a mirror and make me laugh
at my own foibles- and it did.)

 “What are you saying? That I’m not able to let down my
guard? That I’m too pig-headed to go through yoga training in an open way?”

 “Well, Denver and I were just now wondering how you were
doing. She was saying, “Does mom have any idea of what she is getting into,
that she’ll be thrust into a touchy feely environment that will be more than a
little challenging considering her nature?”

 I think I sputtered a bit over that.  

 Mark went on to explain that he knows me well enough to
understand I have great empathy and feeling for others, but personally, I rely
on inner strength to deal with the world, and that’s not conducive to the
exercises used in self-revelation programs.

 Them’s fighting words, but then, that’s my problem, isn’t’
it? I am not a victim, but a warrior, and admitting it comes across as if I am
in denial or as if I’m not honest enough to reveal my innermost pain and
  The truth is I would
reveal my misery if I felt feelings of loss or worthlessness inside, really I
would, but damn if I’m not fairly pleased with myself and my life at this
particular place and time. Of course, I’m not always satisfied in all ways with
my existence, but perfection is unattainable and I believe I’m doing the best I
can with what I have to work. That is the best a person can do, and I won’t
beat myself up because life isn’t perfect.

 In choosing an “intention” I spoke of my wanting to
reconcile my relationship with food – that I felt strongly about industrial
farming and I wanted the strength to kill a turkey at the end of my yoga
training. The teacher thought I was striving for comic relief, and wasn’t
pleased. He asked me to redefine what I was trying to say in a sacred, soulful
way. I just couldn’t explain how seriously I felt about my relationship with
food – that I didn’t think being a vegetarian or a vegan is the answer, because
I rather eat a steak (despite a factory cow suffering) than a tomato because I’ve
learned 97% of tomatoes eaten any season other than fall comes as result of
forced slavery (in AMERICA, ya all.) I want to live authentically to my
environmental and ethical beliefs, and I worry about human suffering more than the
effects of food choices on my personal health (I’m so sick of everyone’s life
purpose rolling back around to me, me, me. Time to think not what the world can
do for us, but what we can do for the world, oh selfish ones.) So, since
killing turkeys is not yoga-like, I let the food thing go, but deep down, that
is the one thing I am truly wrestling with inside. (Food ethics, not killing
birds)so I think that qualifies as my “intention”. The problem is, the world
had gotten so off kilter regarding food production that there is nothing left
to eat if you want to eat morally (not to be confused with eating healthily.)
So it is a complex issue.

 Mark reminded me that the people in my seminar are all
coming from a different place – the place where we were four years ago. They
are living in a stress filled environment, with disappointments and
frustrations at every turn.
are still slaves to environmental conditioning, consumerism, social
expectation, bla, bla, bla. “Remember, four years ago, you were there too. You’d
be the biggest yoga-crybaby in the universe back then, because as I recall, you
were depressed and sad all the time.

 Oh yeah. That was me. But it’s not me anymore.

 I tried to
explain myself to one of the instructors. I said, “I feel like a dog that got
hit by a car and crawled under a bush to lick her wounds. For me, those 18
years of obsessive work and living in the rat race was like standing in the
highway with lights coming at me. Add to that the constant drama and personal
attacks that came with running a dance school, a midlife crisis and a desperate
desire for adventure, and life spun out of control. That was like being hit by the
car. So we walked away from everything and moved to 50 acres for a couple of
years of solitude, peace and nature. The most productive thing I could do was
engage in gentle interaction with innocent animals. That was me crawling under
a bush and licking my wounds. But now, I’m emerging, healed – feeling strong. I
feel like me again, only a wiser me with more diverse life experience adding to
my inner resources. I’m proud of where I live, how I live, and I’m grateful for
the authentic life we’ve created. I have goals again, hopes.”

 When asked to come up with one word to describe how I feel
about myself, I said “strong.” This did not go over with the mediator of our
group. He shook his head and said, “No, another word.”

 I instantly knew that “strong” wasn’t acceptable because in
this yoga-world of peace, love and self-acceptance, “strong” sounds too
forceful and aggressive. It is a word associated to people who cover up their
pain with feigned control or something. But honest to God, strong is what I
feel, and I’m not denying something else inside, at least not that I know of.
  Strong is not a cover-up for vulnerability,
or a way of sheltering myself from the world. I’ve been beat up too, so I know
what it is to feel shattered. But sorry, I’m just not shattered anymore.

 Now, least I give you the impression that I felt
disapproaval from my instructors, let me make it clear that simply isn’t
  Yoga is based on the “you
can do no wrong” viewpoint. It is about total acceptance, approval, and
unconditional love for your fellow humanbeings. But accepting and loving a
student who has some resistance is another thing entirely from their being a
joy to teach.

 The mediator looked at me and said, “What you really want is
for people to love you, right?”

 I said, “Of course, who doesn’t?”

He told not to be flippant and to repeat that I want people
to love me with reverence and truth. So I did.

 And you know what? Repeating that sentence in a solemn way
was the first time I felt like a phony. I know that was not his intention, and
that he is sincerely trying to help me reach a greater truth, but it felt like
he was taking a stab at a common “issue” when in fact, I believe everybody
wants to be loved, so my wanting it too is no revelation. I don’t feel a
desperate need for love and wanting to be loved isn’t a problem because it
motivates me to act differently than I want to act.
 Heck, I already feel loved, by my family, friends and
students. What really motivates me, but I couldn’t it say to him, was my one
core belief:
  that the strong must
take care of the weak – that we are not all given the same gifts when we are
set upon this earth, and I feel I’ve been extremely blessed with strength (and
some hard-gained wisdom), and I’m designed to tap into that inner strength and
use it to help others lead authentic lives.
  My purpose. Ee-gad – that sounds arrogant, but it’s how I
 Strong – and a champion of
those that need help.

 I was told to find a word that defines me. I said I hoped I
was inspirational. My mediator said, “Then voice out loud that you are

But I couldn’t. I shrugged and said, “I don’t think anyone
can slap a label on themselves and suddenly be what they proclaim. That’s pure arrogance.
I think all a person can do is ASPIRE to be inspirational. I can’t control how
the world receives me, but I can commit myself to trying to be inspirational,
and I do.”

 He was willing to accept that, or else he was ready to give
up on me. Like I said, he is always loving and supportive so he wouldn’t say or
do anything to make me feel I failed in the exercise, but I sensed that he
wanted more from me.

 And so describes Ginny in yoga training. I know I am a tough
student and probably not the kind the teachers enjoy working with. This program
is supposed to be life affirming and life altering, but since I do not seem to
need of drastic attitude or a life shift to find contentment, working with me
is bound to feel less fulfilling to someone who has devoted their life to
leading the lost to the alter of yoga. Nevertheless, that does not mean I won’t
get something important from the seminar.

 Despite that I’m not headed for great life revelations (or
at least I don’t think I am) I love yoga training. I love learning new things,
seeing the world from a new angle and probing the mind and attitude of people
that approach life differently than I do. I marvel at the loving, open,
accepting attitude of the teachers, for they are role models that remind me I’m
sometimes cynical and have a great deal to learn about unconditional
  So, I proceed with an
open mind, knowing I’ll embrace what rings right and true for me, and discard
the rest. That is the how we grow, picking through ideology because we each
have diverse life experiences that define truth, as we know it. There is no
universal truth. There is only what works for us independently.

 They have ceremonies in the yoga tradition, sort of like a
“coming of age” proclamation. As people define their intention, they are ready
for their ceremony. I seriously doubt they will find me ready for a ceremonial
confirmation anytime soon, if my first seminar was any judge. Perhaps I’ll
never seem worthy (which means I wouldn’t graduate). What am I supposed to do,
fake vulnerability? Pretend I believe we should all be vegans so I don’t have
to kill my turkeys?
  Make my
intention learning to embrace total acceptance , which wouldn’t be so bad
except that I believe true faith comes after you ask hard questions of any

 I think people come to this yoga training because they are
at a crossroads in life and they are seeking answers, support and permission to
change their world. They feel broken and in need of healing and support. But I
am a different case. I was broken and needed healing four years ago, so I
shucked my life and slinked away to reflect and act on what I believed is
important. I filled my inner longing with animals, an MFA and nature. I changed
my view of the world by immersing myself in a new culture, changed my
relationship with food and consumerism, gave a little something back through literacy
work, and enjoyed a period of few demands for the first time in my life. I
wrote a book, and redefined my relationships with others. Now, I’m ready to
re-enter the world and I’m deciding how. I’ve come to yoga training not because
I’m seeking answers, but because I found them. I came because I want to add to
my arsenal of resources, because I’m ready to make a difference, and I’m
seeking just the best path to do so. Yoga seems a natural addition to my
skills, a way to help others find acceptance and peace and physical awareness.
It helps people learn who they are, what they want, and gives them the strength
to pursue happiness– which is what I love about writing (and dance) too.

 This right of passage that Yoga is supposed to unveil– this
enlightment, is something I’ve already experienced or at least I’m well on the
path to understanding. So, while I’m probably perceived as arrogant and a
really unauthentic yoga student who is missing the point, I think I get the
point more than most. In fact I’m of the opinion that some people who are very
quick to embrace ideology without questioning it or testing the perimeters are
the very people who only receive a surface understanding of that ideology. And jumping
in with both feet on day one without reservation is a habit of people who can
just as easily replace that ideology with the very next one that comes along,
cause it’s the fun of the drama and the IDEA of yoga they love more than the
kind of love that comes from a deep understanding and appreciation for the
reality of the ideology. I am different. I wrestle with ideology, challenge and
dissect it, so that when and if I embrace a new view of life, I do so with sincere
faith and conviction because I couldn’t rattle the truth of it.

 So, I am absorbing the essence of yoga on many levels,
intellectual, physical and emotional.

 Perhaps it is a matter of my learning style. While gaining
my MFA, I was a resistant student. One would even say I wasn’t cut out for the touchy-feely
literary environment with it’s high brow attitude and passionate definitions of
what is or isn’t good, regarding literary verses commercial literature. But I
emerged changed from the training, moved beyond description. I asked lots of
inappropriate questions, challenged the methods, the teachers and readings. I
couldn’t accept that certain masterpieces deserved respect simply because
academics claimed these writings captured the human condition. Sometimes I
couldn’t help but think economics, social attitudes, mass literary hysteria and
the close-knit cultural attitudes of the movers and shakers in the literary
world were responsible for the reputation of a piece rather than it’s true
merit. And if I didn’t stand in awe of the classic masterpieces, I was told I
didn’t “get it”. Perhaps they were right and I didn’t get it because I wasn’t
intellectual enough, or brilliant enough, but to this day, I think there’s an
element of the emperor’s new clothes in academia. A true individual thinker
(which I hope to be) shouldn’t be afraid to voice an opinion contrary to what
is the sophisticated norm feels for fear that it will make him or her appear
“stupid” or unenlightened. The new me rather sheer a sheep than be one, ya
know. But the fact that I wasn’t an easy student didn’t mean I wasn’t a serious
student. My MFA was the most poignant, life altering challenge I’ve ever
undertaken, and I’m grateful to my teachers, the program and God for leading me
through the process.

 I think it will be the same with yoga.

 So, I’ve begun my four-month journey to become a yogi. I
won’t write about others in the class, beyond saying they are all admirable,
lovely individuals. Their journey is not mine to share, but I feel there is
nothing wrong with sharing my own revelations, experiences and failures. Writing
about a thing clarifies it for me and
 lets friends go along for the ride and hey, I’m not shy about
admitting that I fumble ungracefully through new things. But I will say the
teachers are wonderful people with earnest intentions, admirable skill, and positive,
encouraging attitudes, and that makes the introduction to yoga a lovely
  I have a week of homework that includes reading, preparing a short lecture/report on the first chakra, taking a long walk in nature (after fasting) and daily practice. As they say in yoga sessions when you’ve made a commitment to your revelations – “I’m in”.  



I’m going to be a yogi. Oh, you don’t have to go hiding your
picnic basket. I’m not going to be THAT kind of yogi, you Boo Boo. 

I’ve decided to attend intensive teacher’s training to be a
yoga teacher at a qualified yoga institute in Atlanta. The course takes about 6
months and is set over 9 long weekends (twelve hour days) with independent
study and daily practice in between seminars. I’m told it will be a life
altering experience. I don’t know about that, but I am looking forward to
expanding my awareness of movement from a new angle, one more centered on
interior awareness and spirituality than on the more surface, visual elements
of dance.

 To apply, I had to answer ten questions in essay form,
questions that asked who I am, why I am seeking Yoga training, what phase of
life I’m in and what new phase I may be entering. I thought,
phase? Are the interests I’m pursuing at
this age
phases? It doesn’t feel that
way. It feels as if all my interests are connected, like I’m collecting information
that links together in one long ongoing study of the world. I’m
 expanding my understanding of people and
life to gain self awareness while also building skills that provide opportunity
for work and pleasure.
  But perhaps
that is just a fancy sentence for describing me in a phase.

Tomorrow I’m driving to Atlanta for a personal interview
with the director of the program. I will have to do some basic yoga on a mat for
him to establish whether or not I’m physically capable of the challenge (no
worries), and he wants to explain more about the program to see if we are a
good “fit”.
  After a lifetime of
dance training, and lots of little side diversions that included things like
getting aerobics certified, creating and hosting a teacher’s training seminar in
our business, and/or studying eastern religions in college, I feel ready to embrace
this new form of movement/art/life philosophy (however you want to view it)
both academically and on a more intimate personal level.

 So, I’m going to be turning 50 in a few weeks and I’m
celebrating by becoming a yogi. Perhaps the wisdom gained from living half a
century will come in handy here, at least enough to make up for my 50 year old ligaments
that I’m guessing will rebel when I’m asked to twist myself up into a pretzel
and balance on my head and say “ommmmmmmm”.

When I talked to Graham, the director of the training
program, he said, “I’ve enjoyed reading your application. You’ve led a fascinating
life. I think you are one of the more interesting applicants we’ve received.”

I said, “Well, my life is never boring, that is for
  Made me laugh later,
because I don’t consider my life all that unique or “fascinating” but guess it
is fair to say it
  does always
evolve and change, and for that I’m grateful. I’ve gone from dance in the most
urban city in the world (New York) to raising llamas in a quiet corner of the Appalachia.
Never thought that would be where I’d end when I was a teenager dreaming of who
and what I’d grow up to be. But diverse experiences is a way of walking all the
way around the American elephant to discover life is more than a trunk or
floppy ears. (You have to know the blind guys meeting an elephant story to get
that metaphor, sorry.)

Anyway, you may wonder, why yoga? I could be a flippant brat
and say Why not?, but that would be annoying so I’ll answer.

I have a business plan, marketing plan and even
a location picked out for opening a dance studio here, but now the entire idea
is in a holding pattern. Lots of mixed feelings about following this path once
again, starting with not wanting to invite that madness into my world again,
and ending with concerns that once I engage in a new business, I’m planting
serious roots here that rob me of the freedom to leave, at least for a handful
of years. For all the glorious and enriching elements that come with living in
a slow paced town with nature all around me , there are equally strong
drawbacks because intellectual stimulus is severely limited here. Some days, I
feel like I’m going to go crazy, other days, I feel like I landed in the only
place a soul can feel whole. I guess I had similar mixed feelings in the
bustling world we left behind – fullfillment is a mater of where your focus is
in any given moment. Opening a studio may provide the challenge and the balance
of meaningful work along with meaningful lifestyle that I need to be content
here. But it may just as easily trap me. The question is, do I want to live
here and keep visiting Atlanta, or live in a place like Atlanta and visit
someplace like this. It’s a value system thing.

I am taking a weekly yoga class here in a town
30 minutes away from my house, and I’m enjoying it, but the truth is, it’s not
as satisfying a class as those I took at a yoga center in Florida. I find my
mind wandering in the lesson thinking, “If I was the teacher, I’d explain that
pose more thoroughly”, or “she should explain the interior thought process that
helps people meditate at this portion of the class,” and so on. Not that I’m
being critical, but more that I am a natural teacher and after 30 years of
leading classes, I can’t resist thrusting myself into the instructors role. A
few weeks ago, after trying to explain to Denver (new to yoga) how some Yoga
experiences are more involved, it occurred to me I should look into yoga training.
There is clearly a niche that needs to be filled in my area. That, of course,
lead to my finding some strong facilities in Atlanta with comprehensive
programs and one thing led to another….. and well, the spark of an idea is all
it takes for me.

 I figure, once I am certified by the Yoga Alliance,
America’s leading yoga organization, I’ll have one more skill to enrich my life
and provide opportunity. I may teach for the new health club in town (which has
a small aerobics room, but no classes as yet because of a lack of teachers) or
I’ll open another dance school here with an adult health and fitness program,
and evolve my vision for a dance studio so it is not just a center for youth
entertainment but a place designed for the unique needs of the population here.
Or, maybe I’ll use the yoga experience to write some articles for fitness
magazines or for fodder for a story. Maybe (and this is my deepest, secret
dream … ha, not such a secret now) I will find a way to combine yoga with
memoir and journal writing to create a class where people can reflect deeper
upon their personal truths, sort of a writing class with physical exercises to
open the paths to creativity…. OK, don’t laugh at me. Honestly, I feel I can
combine my MFA training with the yoga thing, and along with my natural teaching
instincts , create an intimate learning experience that would impact others in
a great way. Don’t know where I’d host such a class, but ya never can tell . . 

If nothing else, becoming yoga certified will help me be
more disciplined with my personal practice. That would be nice too.

 Tomorrow, I’ll write about my first venture to the yoga
center and meeting the director. I’ll share the experience, and report all my
aches and pains along the way, and knowing me, it will not be with the non-judgmental,
loving, open mind of a seasoned yogi – unless it is truly a life altering (and
person altering) event. What can I say. I’m still me. Perhaps becoming a yogi will
help in that department.

Now, I have to go feed the animals. This is the day I drive
to Marietta to take my weekly horseback riding lesson. This is my third week.
I’m determined to become skilled enough to handle my highbred pinto saddle bred
myself, or I’m going to sell her. She is too expensive to keep as a yard ornament,
and this spring is the make it or break it time for me and horses. Love them to
pieces, but there is only so much time and energy in a person’s life, and
unless I know enough to enjoy these animals and ride safely, what is the point?

 There is more to talk about – real estate talk. Mark won
rookie of the year as the strongest newcomer with the most sales in the tri-county
area, and he is the new superstar of real estate – not that that surprises
anyone. I am actually going to get my real estate license, not because I want
to be a realtor (I don’t) but because he needs help, and rather than hire
someone, I can be his assistant a couple days a week. I’m not much for sales
and don’t have an affinity for houses like he does, but I miss working with my
spouse – there was a great energy in that – and I rather we work together to
support the family so he can come home at a reasonable time
  than let him shoulder the entire burden
and come home too exhausted to enjoy time with the family.
  The imbalance doesn’t sit well with me.
Beside which, he has this entire second life away from the one we share
together, and I want a better understanding of what he does and the stresses
involved. So, I’m going to get a realtor’s license as a support vehicle for my
life partner. Who knows, I might actually like real estate when I get involved,
and it might sway me from opening a studio… or I will hate it and realize I’m
meant to open a studio. Or heck, it could lead to something else altogether.
Life is funny that way.

 So, I proceed with an open mind.  I’ll be a 
dancing, writing, realtor yogi that rides a saddle bred well enough to
be in a rodeo, and ends every day with a glass of homemade wine and dinner made
from her farming experiments.
How’s that for a demonstration of what one gal can do in 50 years?

 Must go. But I promise not to disappear for so long anymore.
 I’ve gotten far behind – friends expect an undate on Kathy’s literacy adventure, the baby llama, writing pursuits, and more. Shame on me.