9:07 p.m. Friday, June 9, 2017. It’s showtime and we are standing on the crest of the hill, facing east. Where’s the full moon? The sky has that summer haze, and the horizon is looking cloudy. So we wait.
How to Wait for Moonrise:
Feel the grass prickle your bare ankles.
Wrap your arms around your beloved and inhale his summer-rich scent.
Hear the swallows chortle as they ride the evening breeze.
Notice the cooling air on nape of neck.
Continue returning to the moment and practice patience.
The best things in life are free. There it is, whole and entire, now visible in the dusky sky. It travels quickly, changing from white to an orange-mauve hue, gaining in brilliance with every minute. Yes, I could be in the city indulging in any number of entertainments, but this is where I want to be. On the hill.
May you find a place, a moment, of beauty today. It’s worth waiting for.
Humid, sunny, no breeze, no water, no hat. A horse-fly repeatedly dive-bombs, then burrows into my hair with an angry buzz. Waving walking poles at it, I whack myself in the head. Good Lord. Did I mention 7 ticks on my person? S-E-V-E-N.
Trudging up the final crest, a litany of complaints was in rehearsal, performance scheduled for an audience of one (my husband). With gaze fixed glumly on the ground, I happen upon a pair of tiger swallowtails. Returned to the present moment by astonishing and surprising beauty, I stop in my tracks.
And you know what comes next. This stopping of whatever you are doing Mr. Alexander termed ‘Inhibition’. Having stopped usual habits (i.e.–trudging, mental rehearsals, downward pull compressing my spine, etc.), I then have the opportunity for something else. Usually something much better.
Please note: optimal conditions are not required for choosing optimal Use. In other words, you can, in the most unpleasant of circumstances, stop and receive whatever is right in front of you. This provides greater ease and comfort in the physical body, and a lightness of mind as well.
That performance of complaints? Never happened. The swallowtails stole the show.
Glory be.It’s a fine morning on the hill. Bird chorus was a cacophony, and early. Sighted a Baltimore Oriole! A flash of brilliant orange and there he was, singing in a meadow bush. On lifting from his perch, he flew straight toward me, veering off to land in the nearest oak. Oh, my.
To enhance your birding experience, add some Alexander Technique thinking. Begin by simply noting and observing your usual patterns of use. Mine: 1. In the excitement of a closer view, I plop the binocs right up against my face, blurring my vision. 2. In a mis-directed attempt to obtain the best look, I scrunch down into the binocs, often not noticing this until my neck begins to hurt. 3. Arms get pulled tightly in toward torso in an effort to keep the binocs steady.
Next, having observed Habits (patterns of Use), ask yourself the question, ‘What if?’ ‘What if I didn’t ram the binocs against my face?’ The body’s inherent wisdom asserts itself when we get out of its way. We get to find out what the body would like to do instead. Instead of plopping, ramming, scrunching, pulling, there is now the option of lightness, lengthening, widening; all choices that make for more comfortable birding in a happier body.
Stand in the middle of a hill meadow on a late April morning. Clutch in your left hand a bag of feathers. With the right hand, hold high one of those feathers and wait.
The swallows will begin to notice you. Heads will jut out from a few birdhouses and others will swoop around you with their liquid chittering. Release the feather. Watch as a swallow dives and angles and deftly maneuvers to catch the feather in its beak. When this happens mere inches from your head, listen to the snap of its bill. Say, ‘You are welcome,’ as the swallow flies directly to its box, disappearing inside.
Repeat.Many times. Those nests will be veritable featherbeds and your heart will be full.
Postscript: This is the second April assisting the swallows in feathering their nests. At last year’s nesting season close, a swallow saw me standing on the back porch and flitted into his box, emerging with a single feather. With it he flew straight to me, releasing the feather before my startled face. I kid you not. Befriend a bird today and prepare for wonder.
All is well with the world when the horizon can be seen; a luxury not often afforded to city dwellers like myself. And finally the election season has ended…all the more reason to get myself to the farm for restoration. As the leaves fall, the vistas open up to distant rolling hills beyond the valley. The wide horizon lengthens and widens me into spaciousness and a long deep breath. Space to move. Space to breathe.
Opera Workshop students recently received a list of Alexander Technique Prescriptions, which included an attention-training practice and instructions for Constructive Rest (a future post). I would now add, as a prescription for election season recovery, giving yourself an horizon-view-stroll. Get outside, even if it’s overcast, windy, and dank. Dress well and go. Only then will you and I stand a chance of rallying our resources and making our next contributions to this 240-year-old experiment in living well together. We’ve got a ways to go. Start where you can. Take a walk first, and often.
(This horizon thinking stroll was made possible by Mike, who cleared the perimeter lane of the hill meadows and woods. Thank you, Mike. It was a wonderful walk.)
So much work! So worth it. The blackberry patch at the farm was prolific this year. Branches were covered in sweet-deep-purple-blackness.
Now for the rest of it. Poison ivy. Everywhere. Heat and humidity. Pervasive. Gnats, mosquitos, buzzing, whining. Check. Purple-stained fingernails for days. Ugh. Sharp thorns leaving puncture wounds in the hands and arms. Did I say heat?
I picked berries one evening only. Mike picked all the rest of the time, and he has my undying gratitude for his fortitude. It’s been one of the few perks of having a new hip, that I was not up to the challenge of hours bent over berry bushes.
The sun and the moon and the breeze and the good green earth grew the berries. Mike harvested the berries, and I ‘processed’ them. ‘Processed’ is kitchen-speak for all manner of procedures: freezing, drying, sorting, washing, storing, and baking.
But first, there’s basking in them. This involves standing in front of the baskets, hands clasped together in delight. Also required to be a true bask-er-of-berries, is the eating of them, preferably one at a time, feet planted on the lane, breeze cooling the back of the neck, and all sweetness savored. The Alexander Technique community would call this ‘good use.’ Yes, and living the good life. Have yourself a berry day. Find whatever brings you sweetness—–