Making Do

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Seven Oaks

To follow-up last week’s post, here’s a quote from Diane Ackerman’s gardening memoir, Cultivating Delight:

As with all creativity, Paula’s art (landscape design), requires spontaneity bound by restrictions.’

Ackerman’s design requests included preserving large swaths of the standard suburban mowed lawn, preferred by her husband. Paula had to ‘make do’ as she sketched and schemed, not able to utilize the full panoply of her talents, but work within the boundaries of a client’s preferences.

My mother did it too, this ‘making do.’ She made a life of it. Her ability to create a lovely, if tiny, home for her family, was often about lack. On my father’s teaching salary, the end of the month usually found us dining on beans and cornbread, no steak to be found.

And my Alexander Technique community ‘made do’ on Sunday afternoon, meeting in a Zoom Room for a Seven Oaks Reunion. Seven Oaks Retreat Center, in Madison County Virginia, is the location for an annual outstanding Alexander Technique Workshop, cancelled this year in response to the pandemic.  Within the parameters, and yes, confinements of a Zoom Room setting, director Jan Baty, and the workshop faculty created a lovely microcosm of a Seven Oaks week.

Making do. We can do this. We are doing this. For the fortunate who have not been ravaged by COVID-19, or suffered as loved ones take ill, we can make do. Hardship? Constraint? Limitation? Yes. Make do. The creative life awaits.

 

 

Mutual Regard

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Walking along the north perimeter lane, I stop at the sight of a warbler pair, nestled side-by-side on a low-lying tree branch. We regard each other in the quiet, a light breeze between us.

The warblers are well-versed in physical distancing, and we could learn a thing or two from them. Appearing comfortable and at ease, they are also vigilant to my presence, and when I do finally step forward, they twitter lightly, lifting off their perch.

They received me. I had been seen; regarded. This moment brought to mind a long-ago Alexander Technique lesson Mike had with Barbara. He was deeply moved by her presence, and the way in which she received him with respect and calm attention, just as the warblers did with me along the fencerow last week.

Thank you, wee warblers. Thank you, Barbara.

 

 

 

‘Writ in Water’

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It’s the best season for cemetery strolls, so lovely when the leaves are turning, the fall breezes blowing leaves about, carpeting the ground. Union Cemetery, situated along the Olentangy River, is a long-time beloved one, now where John McCullough’s remains reside, catalpa tree branches bending over the grave site.

A distant cousin to Mike, John died in August. He was our mail carrier for many years, a kind and gentle man who often walked his route with Maggie, a neighborhood dog. John, his wife and their twin sons became an important part of our lives, especially after genealogical research revealed John and Mike were cousins, having the same several-greats grandfather. At the funeral, honoring John’s request, Mike read from the McCullough family Bible, discovered on-line during the research project. We are missing John, and will remember his generous spirit.

John Keats suggested this for a tombstone inscription: ‘Here lies one whose name was writ in water.’ I like that. It captures the ephemeral nature of our brief time on the planet, and somehow makes me grateful to be in a body for the time being. How remarkable, this life, and then gone. But we are here today. Whatever your present endeavors, keep making, keep living, though it be ‘writ in water.’

 

Wren, Again*

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Singers! So much to learn. Start with a wren in song. No better example of full embodiment and whole-body singing exists. The wren serenades were an on-going feature of last week’s visit to the hill. A wren pair were even attempting to build a nest in the front porch rafters, but with little to no overhead space in their chosen spot, project was abandoned.

The cabin is surrounded with young oaks, and their boughs are a favorite song perch for the wrens. Petite creatures that they are, I recommend a pair of binoculars nearby for quick access when the piercingly sweet melody begins. Bring binocs to eyes and follow the sound. With magnification, you will see the wee body lengthen just prior to the tiny beak opening for the first salvo of sound. Take note. That’s precisely what we need to be about in preparation for our singing.

Stay alert, and you will observe the wren’s throat pulse with the trills, its entire body engaged in singing, much like a baby who responds to your voice with arms and legs akimbo and in motion. (3-month-old Vivi visited yesterday with her mother, doing this very thing.)

Life is our teacher each and every moment; availing ourselves of the lessons, our choice.  Let beauty and amazement teach you today—

*Click here for previous Bird Life post.

 

Feelin’ Groovy

 

Paul Simon, backstage with Stephen Colbert, tells him the tune is ‘naive,’ and not appropriate for 2017. ‘I don’t like it,’ he added. And having watched a 1982 Central Park concert video of Simon and Garfunkel performing The 59th Street Bridge Song, I believe him. They were tepid at best, seeming to force themselves through it, while the crowd roared. I’m with the crowd.

Slow down, you move too fast, you’ve got to make the morning last, just—skippin’ down the cobblestones, lookin’ for fun and feelin’ groovy.’

Feelin’ Groovy takes me back to days when all was new and fresh and everything was possibility. I’ve been hearing it in my mind’s ear this spring, most likely due to thinking about haste vs. hurry, and perhaps as antidote to a sobering American political era. Colbert changed-up the lyrics, and a few belly laughs later, I was glad to have found this present-day twist on an old favorite.

Slow down, you move too fast.‘ That was me years ago, and not much has changed with age. Now, although fingers will not zip those zippers nearly so quickly, and opening cans is a monumental chore, I still strive mightily for speed. Anything less is an annoyance, an affront.

Taking to heart the song lyrics, I’m choosing* to make my way through this day reveling in spring glory in the midst of tasks, pausing** between each one to sing, ‘Life, I love you. All is groovy.’

*Choice: a primary practice of the Alexander Technique. Having observed our habits of use, we can choose what to keep and what to change. 

**The Pause: Also called ‘Inhibition,’ it’s the space between stimulus and response. In the interval, the AT practitioner has options, i.e.–choice, much preferable to a ‘knee-jerk reaction.’

Yes

 

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In Eudora Welty’s Delta Wedding, Ellen is observing her brother-in-law George, her eldest daughter Dabney, and Ranny, her next-to-youngest child:

He had, and he gave, the golden acquiescence which Dabney the bride had in the present moment—-which Ranny had.’

The Random House Dictionary of the English Language tells me that when we acquiesce, we ‘assent tacitly.’ We consent, comply, accede, concur, and this last one is my favorite, we ‘find rest.’

This exquisite gem of a sentence is found near the end of a story in which a 1920’s Mississippi Delta family gather for the wedding of the firstborn. Throughout, various family members are brought to the forefront, their foibles and rich humanity aptly depicting the beauty and also the dark side of family life.

But that phrase, ‘golden acquiescence’! It’s a yes to life, an affirmative to all of it. In the present moment, we can shine.

May you acquiesce to this moment. Find rest. Say yes.

 

 

Surprise Me

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the first!

Weekend retreat. Friends. Cabin in the woods. Soup. Wine. Laughter. And needle felting.

What is that colloquial question…..’Who knew?’  Yes. Who knew I would delight in a brand-new experience, thanks to Cindy, who, in addition to bringing quiche, wine, and her wonderful self, also hauled bags of wool skeins, small white envelopes of felting needles, textured yarns, felt squares.

With a minimum of instruction, Cindy soon had Deb and me happily ensconced on the couch, surrounded by mounds of wool and scraps of yarn. We proceeded to cover the room with shreds of wool, scraps of felt, squiggles of yarn, and all the while birds flitted past the surrounding windows. Exclamations varied from gasps of pain when a needle missed its mark, to amazed wonder at the intense red head of the woodpecker.

And Deb had this to report, post-weekend, as she continued to create the most extraordinary felted animals. ‘I found you don’t need to jab super-hard all the time.’ She had stayed at the cabin for a couple extra days, and was, I believe I can accurately write, surprised to find herself immersed in a new pursuit.

Long-time readers of this Alexander Technique blog could surmise about where this  post is headed. Does ‘Light vs. Heavy‘ ring a bell? Or perhaps, ‘More-With-Less‘? Both recent postings, they address the on-going question in A.T. Land—-how much, or rather, how little is required of me, of you, to skillfully and adequately accomplish the task at hand, whether it be washing the dishes or making a felted creature?

Thanks, Deb, for this A.T. reminder, received via text as I resumed the daily rounds back in the big city. Most any and everything can be done with less, giving us more ease. I raise my felting needle to that!

 

Apples and Roses

 

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Strolling through the 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 concerns for  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.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Moonrise

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courtesy of pixabay.  

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:

Stand tall.

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.

 

 

 

 

 

The Hike From Hell

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tiger swallowtail, courtesy pixabay

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.