Good morning to you.
Monday, being quiet.
Monday, waiting for a Royal Baby to appear any moment now across the pond.
I'm conflicted by how fascinated I am by this whole charade. And am certain that if I lived in Britain I'd be one of those bitter anti-monarchists. Surely, no doubt. But right now, here, I am refreshing People.com just as much as anybody else to find out what Will and Kate decide to name this new spawn of theirs. Sad, but true.
Summer is in full swing.
I've not been on the blog much of late.
Life has been very full in its own many unexpected and totally expected ways. And that means very little time spent on the computer, at all, really. It means watching the light change as the sun sets over Tomales Bay. It means grilling corn in its husk at twilight. It means pulling out my old silver trumpet and greasing the slides and oiling the valves and seeing the rust and feeling the sadness that is knowing impermanence and hearing how my once-crystal-clear bright tone has aged into a furry clumsy one after all those years. It's feeling the simultaneous familiarity in the bones (my fingers still remember ever single note, crazy) and the sorrow of knowing that everything comes and goes.
Including your strong old trumpet lip.
I played piano last night while the Mister stretched. We have this sweet new yoga-slash-music studio now, you know. And I sang an old song I hadn't sung since Toni and Jim's wedding in 2004. I sang Whistle Down The Wind from a show I saw in London waaaay back in 1998. I sang Almost Blue and felt sweetly happy to not relate to its lyrics anymore. I played Misty and Not A Day Goes By and my bones dripped so heavily with memories of playing piano for hours to avoid having to write my Masters thesis. (Grad school was such a hard time in my life. I will be quite content to never ever ever register for any scholarly institutional experience ever again.) I played and felt pleasantly surprised that the notes hadn't yet left my fingers.
Life lends little blessings when you don't necessarily expect them.
We've been hiking. A lot. Every morning, nearly. It's a godsend. An escape.
I decided I'm tired of yoga teachers trying to be preachers. I know I am guilty of this to an extent myself. But I figure I get some street cred here, between being a preacher's kid AND doing a Masters in Systematic Theology.
Maybe that's why it irks me so much.
But I saw all these pics coming out of Wanderlust Festival over the weekend and found myself more irritated with every one. Mala beads are the new rosary beads. Stretchy yoga gear is the new vestment. Long wild curly hair is the new Pope's hat. Coconut water is the new communion wine.
I realize that the yoga studio has effectively replaced the church as a gathering place, as a center of worship, these days. I get that, sure.
I'm kind of over it. I wish people would step back and slow down and stop pushing the heavy-handed preachy stuff. ("Ok, everybody put one hand on your heart and the other on someone else's back and let's pretend we're all uber-connected and everything's gravy.") It feels too syrupy to me. Too contrived, too nursery-school.
Silence does the same job, and better, with less sugar.
Just get us on the mat and cue the breaths already. It doesn't get any more sacred than that.
I am drawn to the breath. I am drawn to the rhythm of the practice. I am drawn to the asana itself. I am drawn to the stillness at the end of the exhalation, when everything is empty. I don't think we honor the wisdom of the practice enough when we assume that we need to stuff it with sugary fillers and New Age marshmallows and perpetual self-portraits on waterfalls overlooking the mountains.
The practice is plenty strong without all that stuff.
And I guess the learning for me, at least, is that I will continue to attend classes with the increasingly-rare teachers I know and admire who are real and down-to-earth and light and laughing and wise. And I will continue to stay away from the festival culture and the sap-soaked teachers who are so caught up in being self-ordained yoga-scene preachers that they forget that we already have everything we need here, theology-wise, ATHA.
Today is Guru Purnima, the day of the year in which we take an extra extra deeeeeeep bow to all teachers, all gurus, all beings (and events) in our lives who lead us from darkness into light.
We sing this chant nearly every day in class, not because we have to, but because I find it's just so damn relevant. Every single day, every single thing we're experiencing: it's our teacher. That time you pulled your hamstring and couldn't walk for 2 weeks? Yep, that was your teacher. It taught you to slow down and be ok, to get less attached to your movement or your hamstring or your practice.
That time you were SOOOOO in love and he totally blew you off, didn't even see you? Yep, that was your teacher, too. And that time your boss lit into you at work in front of your colleagues and you felt about as tiny and powerless as a mouse? Yep, that was your teacher, too.
You get my drift. Teachers all around us. In person-form and in event-form, in experience-form and in broken-toe form.
And once we can look toward our lives as just one big motherfucking experience of being a perpetual student, rolling with the punches gets a whole lot easier.
This morning I'm giving quiet thanks to the beings in my life who have been great teachers: the folks like Rusty Wells and Laura Camp and Jennifer Kartiganer, all of whom have taught me what it means to be ethical, kind, thoughtful, yoga studio owners and friends. I'm giving thanks for all of you who unroll the mat and stay, who are brave enough to chant and sweat and stretch. I'm giving thanks for this body, which continually reminds me that I am not in control, and that I am aging, and that all things come and go. I'm giving thanks for the losses of the last few weeks; the two beloved friends who are no longer here in body, the two who quietly stepped away, unbeknownst to me, both in the span of a week.
She's gone. Died two Sundays ago.
These 4 1/2 years later.
The phone rings on a Monday afternoon. It's a woman I do not know. Her best friend, Susan.
She'll be buried in Oklahoma.
He's alone now. I can't imagine how he'll go on.
She inspired me so.
That I might one day be half the woman she was.
You want the backstory? It's here, below. I wrote this in the wee hours of one Wednesday night, 4 years ago, listening to Sondheim, too aware.
And now the circle has closed.
Wednesday, March 25th, 2009
Bar-tender. Tenderloin. Unexpected tenderness from a newly-married, sentimental Letterman. "Tenderly" (the Nat King Cole version, please). A surreptitiously tender glance from across the room. Copland's "The TenderLand." Tender calves and splinted shins from running hills again in spite of all the evidence against it. Tender skin of overripe pears on the kitchen counter. Garden-tender, heart-tender, extender. Tending the fold, tending to business, tending to procrastinate. Tender spots on the body, ripe for acupuncture; less tender, post-needles. Laughingly tender bromance hilarity from Rudd & Segel (see it!). Tender new shoots fighting their way out of the crumbly spring soil, tender skin sunburned from too much time in this young sun, soft wood of a cafe table tenderized by years of scrawls spills mugs slammed angrily down on its exposed and vulnerable surface. Tenderizing meat on the deli counter. F. Scott Fitzgerald's haunting Tender is the Night. Tender bruise on the hip, tending toward morningtide. Sternum cracking open in camel, in the wake of a good backbend (ergh, too-tender lower back) and all that anahata energy (unstruck) rushes out
just in time
then there is N sitting across the bar from you in someone else's hair (eyes welling, yours) where she is staring down the barrel of the gun of the heretofore-unknown but creepingly menacing advanced ovarian cancer (there is so much suffering in the world), and the heart tends to swell and the hand instinctively reaches across the bar to clasp the one it shouldn't clasp because of a too-tender immune system weakened by chemo (careful, so fragile), this now-delicate little bird across the great chasm (damn bar) pretending at levity, swimming in tender looks from the man at her side whose physical size belies the softness inside, betrayed by the weary eyes you'd not yet seen before that day
the haunting sorrow of knowing this is how she will die
now it is just when
no longer how
Sondheim's "Johanna" on repeat (the tenderest of songs sung by the tenderest of tenors written by the tenderest of composers) here in this quiet catch of silence
tender chamomile and valerian steeping, slowing the restless heart at eventide
tender hours spent in darkness
(the fallacy is in believing there is ever any separation in the world)
feeling her premature loss
her wounds still open, those tender hollow spaces that once held the potential for new life
riddled absent sick removed
same grief echoed the other day
Plath family suicides repeated (repeated, repeated) once again
fisheries, Alaska, a son, this time
(what fools to think we are separate from one another!)
the aching sorrow of the last remaining
still putting one foot in front of the other
tending toward solitude
tending toward sunset
tending toward late afternoon sunshine flaming out in the south bay window
tending the plants
tending the weeds
tending the aphids
tending the heart
[tenderheart ~ karuna ~ compassion]
Tender is the Night, fiction but not ("Night the beloved"). March, tender like a lamb, rolling out like a lion? Tender twilight, soft cerulean sky. Tending the prana, tending to grace. Tending the tendency to tend too much.
tenderize the meat
soften the heart
smooth the edges
explode the center
open it up crack it there break the lobster shells scrape out the sweet tender meat roll it around on your tongue
fracture the sternum
read a line the other day that has not yet left the mind; the author writes that she rejoices she has a heart big enough to break over and over and over again, and i think of that, and break and fill and break again, and tenderness swoons inside
ten·der [ten-der] adjective, -er, -est, verb
1. soft or delicate in substance; not hard or tough: a tender steak.
2. weak or delicate in constitution; not strong or hardy.
3. (of plants) unable to withstand freezing temperatures.
4. young or immature: children of tender age.
5. delicate or soft in quality: tender blue.
6. delicate, soft, or gentle: the tender touch of her hand.
7. easily moved to sympathy or compassion; kind: a tender heart.
8. affectionate or loving; sentimental or amatory: a tender glance.
9. considerate or careful; chary or reluctant (usually fol. by of).
10. acutely or painfully sensitive: a tender bruise.
11. easily distressed; readily made uneasy: a tender conscience.
12. yielding readily to force or pressure; easily broken; fragile.
13. of a delicate or ticklish nature; requiring careful or tactful handling: a tender subject.
14. Nautical. crank2 (def. 1).
–verb (used with object)
15. to make tender.
16. Archaic. to regard or treat tenderly.
Origin: 1175–1225; ME, var. of tendre
15. to make tender.
16. Archaic. to regard or treat tenderly.
Origin: 1175–1225; ME, var. of tendre