Author John O’Donohue, in his book of blessings, To Bless the Space Between Us, has poetically described downward pull, and I’m guessing he didn’t even know it! Mr. Alexander observed that many of us habitually have our heads down and forward of the spine, which compromises head/spine balance. A feeling of heaviness and increased fatigue are often signs that we are engaged in downward pull. When head and spine are happily in optimal relationship with each other, we experience instead a feeling of lightness, along with a quiet and sustained liveliness.
O’Donohue goes on to offer remedies for weariness (and downward pull): ‘take refuge in your senses, open up to all the small miracles you rushed through.’ Cultivating our kinesthetic sense awareness is one of the principal practices of the Alexander Technique. We notice our feet on the floor, the contact of sit bones with chair; we invite the lengthening of our spine as the morning coffee is sipped.
He offers another antidote for weariness and its partner, downward pull: ‘Learn to linger around someone of ease, who feels they have all the time in the world.’ We find an Alexander Technique teacher who can model for us a different way of responding to the never-ending stimuli of daily life. And we linger. What a lovely word.
O’Donohue ends his blessing with this kind admonition: ‘Be excessively gentle with yourself.’ I shall. Whenever I think to, and wherever I find myself, which this morning, was at a new neighborhood bakery, Flowers&Bread.
(With thanks to Sharon Stohrer, who gave me O’Donohue’s book. It’s a treasure, and so is Sharon!)
Strolling throughthe Park of Roses, fall’s arrival was the big picture. Straggling branches, limp in the unseasonable heat, created a scene of tangled decay. The up-close view was quite different and surprisingly fresh and beautiful. Here and there could be found the most perfect of rose blooms, exuberant in their beauty, even on the last Monday of September. (Yes, this one—–)
With concernsfor the future of American civility and fear of nuclear war as world leaders exchange threats, the big picture is grim and unsettling. But up close, there is a walk in the park with Alicia and Leo, applesauce in the slow cooker perfuming the afternoon house, and an evening rehearsal of Haydn’s Mass No. 3 in D Minor.
So. I’m going with roses and goodness today. And what better way to celebrate late roses and right-on-time apples than with Bourbon Butter Apple Skillet. Sauce is adapted from Sherry McKenney’s maple pecan cake recipe, found in her cookbook, A Taste of the Murphin Inn. Thanks, Sherry!
Bourbon Butter Sauce: Combine all ingredients and stir until heated through.
1 Cup sugar
1/2 cup half-and-half
1/2 cup butter
2 tsp vanilla
2 tsp bourbon (with lots of spill-over)
Thinly slice a few apples (leave on the skins) and toss them in a skillet with some of the prepared sauce. Use medium heat until apples are cooked through but not soggy. (5-10 minutes or so) Serve in dessert bowls with a small pitcher of cream for drizzling.
One month ago, I stood in the kitchen raising a glass to a man whose lively engagement with life ensured us a long evening of laughs and great stories. Of four 1971 Ohio State University freshmen assigned to the same dorm floor, one is now deceased.
Kerry Egan,hospice chaplainand author of the just published, On Living, wrote this about those who know they are near to death:
‘…..it isn’t just healththat they wish they had appreciated. It is embodiment itself. It’s the very experience of being in a body, something you might take for granted until faced with the reality that you won’t have a body soon….so they talk about their favorite memories of their bodies…And dancing. So many stories about dancing.’
And Ted did dance. One of the apocryphal Ted stories is titled, ‘the Russian Vodka Party.’ A raucous house party burst through its doors, where Ted and I and others danced our way down the porch steps and into the grass.
Another dancing-with-Ted memory. My daughter, Morgan, was born with Down Syndrome, and died at nine months of age from pneumonia due to a heart defect. Mike and I grieved and struggled for a very long time. Ted gave us a much needed reprieve when he dragged us out of our sad house and into a bar where we ended up dancing out into the street once again. Did I ever tell him what a gift that was? I can’t remember that I did. It’s one of those regrets that those of us still living cannot escape when we lose someone we love.
Tia Sillers and Mark Sanders wrote “I Hope You Dance” in 2000, a big cross-over country pop hit sung by Lee Ann Womack. One phrase repeats throughout, and it is my wish for you this day:
‘And when you get the choice to sit it out or dance…..I hope you dance.’