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.
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.
Thanks Mom, for giving me a turn on this blue-green planet. I miss you, 40 years gone from us. Happy Mother’s Day.
Down by the Ohio River this past weekend, attending a family reunion. Of my mother’s 8 siblings, three survive; Aunt Maebelle, Uncle Roger and Uncle Jack. The uncles were in attendance and what a joy to spend time with them, and with a big crowd of Saunders folk; many cousins, their children and grand-children.
Cousin Roger Jr. gave remembrances of each one of the aunts and uncles, and we all kept telling our stories as we ate Aunt Wanda’s brownies and looked at old photos. A picture-perfect day at Raccoon Creek Park, situated on land my Grandpa Connie once farmed. The breeze blew brilliant white clouds through a bold blue sky, the food tasted so good and the hugs were even better. Trees along the creek shimmered in new lime green leaves. The sound of many conversations wafted around the shelter house. All of us very much alive.
Those who have gone before were present too. They came to life once again in our stories and our memories. A big Thanks to the ancestors for being there with us—-
*As this is an Alexander Technique blog, I would be remiss to not bring to your attention the lower-left photo. Head leading and body following, indeed! Any baby or toddler is the very best of AT teachers, if we would just notice their inherent good Use of Self.
Rain. Wind. A bumpy Chicago O’Hare landing. Hoofing it to next flight, I grab a rice crispy bar and scurry on.
As the packed plane pushes away from the terminal, I say to myself, ‘Only a 40 minute flight. Almost there.’ Brain ahead of body. This is called end-gaining* in Alexander Technique lingo. Our pilot then informs us of weather delays. And there we sit in the dark, rain pelting against the tiny window.
Time for some Inhibition.* I call it The Pause. In pausing, I notice my head jutted forward. (Thank you, seat backs.) Bloated belly. (See rice crispy treat above.) I simply quit with my habitual response to discomforts. They remain, but I am no longer fighting them.
Next is the gracious giving of Directions* to oneself. Head on spine. This thought brings with it a gentle movement into length. Full contact of sit bones with seat. Let the cushion receive gravity traveling through the body. Soften. And so forth.
As the planedescends through cloud cover, a glittery scene presents itself. Columbus Ohio comes into view; a shimmering jewel, my home. We touch down, and I am grateful for the means-whereby* to have traveled with a bit of ease on subways, trains, taxis, cars, boats, and planes—-
*end-gaining: to go directly for an ‘end,’ causing a misuse of the self, making the end unattainable.
*Inhibition: to inhibit is not to consent to a habitual reaction which causes a misuse.
*Directions: use of words as an aid to organizing kinesthetic experience
*the means-whereby: Creating and using the best possible means to achieve any given end; pause, observe, choose, direct.
(Indirect Procedures: A Musician’s Guide to the Alexander Technique. Thanks to author, Pedro de Alcantara, for his AT vocab. definitions.)
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.
Happy New Yearand Thank You to all readers of Poise and Presence: Life Withthe Alexander Technique. The blog launched in March 2016 and has seen readership from 41 countries! December brought the most visitors, with 221 of you stopping by—
Here you all are: (in order of number of blog visitors from each country)
United States, United Kingdom, Australia, Germany, Canada, Netherlands, Sweden, Taiwan, Greece, Ireland, Italy, France, South Africa, India, Hungary, Finland, Estonia, Puerto Rico, Spain, Austria, Norway, New Zealand, Israel, China, French Polynesia, Switzerland, Serbia, Japan, Russia, Mexico, Denmark, Brazil, Poland, Kenya, Lithuania, Philippines, Slovenia, Thailand, Malta, Turkey, and Romania.
In the new year, Poise and Presence will continue with weekly postings on the interface between daily life and the Alexander Technique. You are invited to become a follower, which means each week’s posting will be sent to your email address. I also welcome comments and responses—-