Sudden Valley Tai Chi
Gather focus with Rin Gong Bowl
Chi comes sprinkling through the sycamore leaves, settling on blades of dewy grass.
Heaven meets Earth somewhere near my tantien.
Already heat stifles the barn where we usually practice.
Each day I make a split second decision.
Today we will practice outside.
Wind off the lake drives some students to the shade edges,
sunshine for shoulders.
I inhale the fresh breath of sky,
seek level footing in grass,
avoid pot holes.
We practice Tai Chi 108 form.
As we have before, as we do, as we will do again.
Students ask excellent questions.
Sometimes I have answers.
Always there is a joy of embracing this ancient art.
By midnight, I will practice again and listen for the call of Owl.
“Excuse me, please, but I’m lost.” I glance up and down the dock at Squalicum Harbor with its little floating sidewalks leading to sail boats, dingys and motor boats of various sizes, colors and conditions.
“I see you’re busy pulling crabs out of that boat. Looks like you stored them on ice but…oh, my, look, they’re alive.”
Alive, alive ho
singing cockles and mussels,
alive, alive ho
Ho ho ho, usually a phony holiday sound now dredges up a twinkle from distant memory of visiting the Smalls at Christmas time where nothing is phony. The time of year when the family visited neighbors, a cardboard box filled with mason jars of chili sauce wrapped in white tissue paper and tied with red bows wedged between my brother and me in the back seat of the old Ford. Mom would chop and cut and stir and can chili sauce in late summer, a task I’d avoid and was also forbidden to explore. I’d help wrap and tie bows in early December.
They’re just up the canyon from us but we have to drive around. Sally Small answers the door, her smile ever ready and welcoming. She’s wearing a new dress she just made and jokes about hemming it quickly with safety pins. They’re all so friendly. Mom doesn’t sew and we don’t have company too often. I don’t think we’re so friendly. Mom always tells Jehovah’s Witnesses that she’s Catholic. She says it scares them away.
Sally moves a mound of clean laundry on the couch so we can sit. She serves warm cookies to us kids. The adults talk and have cocktails, some concoction of holiday cheer. They have six children so there is lots of activity, voices, running up and down hallways. My brother and I are under the watchful eye of our parents, the admoniton to “behave yourselves” still ringing in our ears. We’re dressed up like church even though it’s a foggy day and our Easter clothes are too tight now.
The adults sip, banter and joke. Ward gets out his guitar, a magical instrument, the first one I’ve ever seen. He’s smiling and I’m no longer trying to behave. I’m just sitting there while the adults have another drink. He strums the strings. The music pauses the chaos of kids and adults. Like the Pied Piper, Ward’s guitar strings call his kids from back bedrooms. They lounge on the floor, sprawl over the back of the sofa, settle in. He sings a Christmas song and everyone joins in. Whatever else is happening in the world, in that moment, I’m happy and so amazed at this beaming man and his magical guitar. Sally refills the tall glasses and ice cubes clink as they all sip.
Ward sings “Sweet Molly Malone”. I’ve never heard it but begin to learn the words that day and any other time I went to their house and he sings.
In Dublins fair city, where the girls are so pretty,
I once met a girl called sweet Molly Malone,
As she wheeled her wheelbarrow, through the streets broad and narrow,
Crying cockles and mussels` Alive alive oh
Alive alive oh,
Alive alive oh
Crying cockles and mussels,
Alive alive oh.
She wheeled her wheelbarrow through the streets broad and narrow,
Just like her mother and father before
And they wheeled their wheel barrow,
through the streets broad and narrow,
crying cockles and mussels alive alive oh
I sing it to the dogs this morning as I mop the floor and unexpected memories float to the surface.
My job today is not to freak out.
An annoying little tune erupts from my Android, waking me. Drat. I usually silence all sounds except the alarm when I go to bed.
The tinny jingle indicates an email. I unplug my cell, touch the email app and peer at 4 point font. Squinting does not help. I rummage in my nightstand for a pair of glasses. Immediately I am wide awake and sitting up.
My friend was in the Aurora, Colorado, theatre last night when a gunman killed twelve people. She and her boyfriend crawled to safety.
I call her family member, remind her to take homeopathic Aconite for shock and seeing the unacceptable.
I remember Columbine. I was in Safeway when someone told me about the tragedy. My grandsons’ school district. I was anxious until I found out all the surrounding schools had been closed and “my” kids were safe at home.
I remember 9/11. My son had been in Manhattan the day before. He would go the day after.
I feel sad.
I go to an Al-Anon meeting where I remember I have no control over nouns: persons , places, things. I certainly have no control over the horrific atrocities that occur. What do I have control over? My perceptions of reality.
I am reminded to connect to my own Higher Power, to stay in the moment, to be aware, to take nothing for granted, to be filled with gratitude for every precious day on t he planet.
Still, I am sad. I own the feeling and celebrate having it. For many decades I masked my emotions so even now when I’m feeling them, and it is not pleasant, I’m glad to be in touch.
Peaceful music plays now as soft rain falls on my garden. Once I was told when I’m upset to help others. Tonight I will serve wine for a family night at an Alzheimer’s facility.
What do you do when Mercury is retrograde and Pluto is exhaling a hurricane of ancient blockages?
For now, to you, Dear Reader, I send blessings and gratitude.
Something must be retrograde! I’ve spend two an a half hours trying to tidy up this blog and —sheesh–I have no control of what is going on and everything takes about a vat of lard to shoulder through to a change and I found all these posts that didn’t get published in the beginning of the year…and obviously it is the time to sign off, check out astrodienst.com (great astrology site) and give it up while the slow summer sun traces shadow and light on cedar branches. The cat and dogs sleep but I’m still twirling my skirts like the yellow rose.
Did something seem abysmally slow to you today?
The Prozac Mountain Boys played at Honey Moon last night, a little alley cabaret that reminded Michael of New York and me of Denver in the ’70s. Arielle Luckman, in town from Chicago, joined in the toe tapping tunes on her fiddle. I eased up to the bar with a glass of pull-your-own water, very Bellingham, and settled on a hardwood stool.
Bluegrass with a bit of Connie Francis and Bob Dylan on the side. Standing room only. A tastefully decorated Christmas tree hung upside down from the high ceiling.
Inebriated college students, old and new hippies, a retired border worker, a psycho therapist, a tarot reader, a geologist were among the few I watched and talked to as the evening bubbled along. AND a poet and publisher.
My focus for 2012 is to be back in print. A most auspicious outing.
Photo credit: Flannon Jackson
The new dermatologist admires my tattoos. Others have scolded. Then he talks about a procedure on my foot. I ask about pain. Oh, it won’t bother you. You have a high pain threshold. He’s looking at my tattoos.
It is later that I realize his assumption: you have tattoos. Tattoos are painful. You don’t feel pain. So, if I could endure a tattoo it wouldn’t bother me if he cut on my foot. This thinking is illogical. And annoying.
Because I do not scream, moan or cry, does not mean I do not feel. Life is full of pain. Some of it we choose, some is inflicted upon us by circumstance. I do not whine or complain. I get on with embracing the moment. For surely the next moment will be pain free.
Some people talk about the endorphins released during the tattoo process. I never really get in touch with them or feel the promised “high.”
I choose an artist I trust. I contemplate the work I will carry on my body for the rest of my life. I always forget what it actually feels like. As soon as the needle stops, the pain stops. Rather like a dentists drill…Okay, not quite. No Novocaine.
I do not want others to assume anything about me. Nor do I want to assume about you. Let us discover each other without preconceptions. Perhaps a high thought drifting in from over the top of the full moon. A potential for harmony.
When my current tattoos are complete, I will share.
What do others assume about you? Is it true or false?
I laugh at myself a lot. Despite everything, life is very funny. Sometimes I just smile at a patch of blue easing from behind a bank of clouds, reminding me there is only change.
I notice what stays the same. A letter in the mailbox. A snail mail letter, an oddity today. I glance at the onion skin thin envelope trimmed in blue and red slashes indicating Air Mail, also a lost concept.Upside down, I recognize the handwriting before reading my name.
I met Jackie in college when I was seventeen. Reverse those numbers. That’s how long we’ve been writing to each other. Sometimes years have passed or one of us moved but eventually we managed to catch up.
Now, after all these years we are only a ferry ride away from each other but still find letters the deepest way to communicate. Time and space become irrelevant. We pick up where we left off.
So, I sit with a cup of tea and read the latest tales from the San Juan Islands. Hamilton the cat purrs and rubs my ankles, knowing, I am certain, that a cat person wrote the letter I’m reading. The dogs have visited the islands and stretch as I tell them what’s happening now.
It is officially summer but the Sun delays his arrival. The fire in the wood burning stove crackles. Friendship can be loud and rowdy or calm, sweet and enduring as a letter on a cold day in summer.
When I reply I will select an interesting card (often one I have made), a special stamp (I ask for pretty stamps at the post office and collect artwork on postage stamps), and I use sealing wax with an intaglio imprint.
Do you correspond via snail mail or does texting work better for you?
Last night’s full moon exhaled into a misty morning…and Lor left his body.
A week ago I looked into his deep blue eyes and we smiled as I placed a Tibetan singing bowl in his left palm. His right hand could not hold the wand, known by some as a striker. It was the beginning of a seated Tai Chi class I teach in assisted living facility.
Most of the residents delight in the vibration of the bowls. They love to Drive the Monkey Back. Only one objected to Snake Creeps Down.
The chi swirled around the room on the sound, shimmered with the movement and in that hour, we are all connected on that unexplainable level of oneness.
And now there is only spirit and I send gratitude to his spirit, to his reconnection to the Chi Beyond the Physical.
And I feel a loss.