Long Enough

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Mary Oliver ends Such Silence with:

I sat on the bench, waiting for something.

An angel, perhaps. Or dancers with the legs of goats.

No, I didn’t see either. but only, I think, because

I didn’t stay long enough.

Morning coffee in the garden. Mike and I are about to move inside and get our respective days up and running. We pause, and here comes the hummingbird, whom we had been hoping to see. Settling back into our chairs, a pair of songbirds light in the dogwood which wraps the gazebo’s west side. One of them explores the latticework along the screen, a mere 2 feet from us, the gazebo serving as a blind. Its throat trembles with a melody, and Mike says, ‘If you wait, they will come,’ a twist on a line from Field of Dreams:  ‘If you build it, he will come.’

And next, three goldfinches. Following their swooping and chirping path above the garden, the moon about to set comes to our attention. Glory be.

Stay long enough today. Practice the Alexander Technique Pause.

Empty

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Five posts are waiting in the wings, and none of them ready to be published. I’ve tinkered and toyed with each, and will now avert my gaze, and begin again—-

On Saturday, departing for the farm, the book grabbed from the office shelf was 100 Favorite English and Irish Poems. Sitting on the cabin porch in a state of do-less-ness, leafing through the poetry collection in a desultory way, this phrase from William Morris’ poem, ‘An Apology‘ presented itself:

‘The idle singer of an empty day.’

Yes! That’s it! I wish to be an ‘idle singer of an empty day.’ It would seem many of us would do well to aspire to this goal. We, (I), have been altogether too stalwart in our attempts to live in a world turned upside-down with the pandemic. How about giving the efforts a rest?

As I write in the sunroom, able to view the neighborhood west, north and east, one household is busy setting up the back deck for the summer. He is carrying out potted plants, two at a time, and she is arranging them here and there. Folding lounge chairs appear, soon to be opened, I hope, and lounged in.

One wonders, though. Many of us have a habit of creating  lovely spaces for rest and restoration, then choosing to pursue the next chore (of which there is an endless supply), instead of the just-as-important leisure.

The sun is shining, at long last. Another neighbor to the east is lounging. So inviting. This post may just get published without the usual editing, so that I too might be,

‘the idle singer of an empty day.’

(And to Mr. Morris, no apology required. Enjoy your empty day—-)

 

‘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.’

 

Whitman Revisited*

walt-whitman-391107_640‘Gently, but with undeniable will,

divesting myself of the holds that would hold me…

I am larger, better than I thought,

I did not know I held so much goodness.

All seems beautiful to me.

–Walt Whitman, 1856

Did Whitman study the Alexander Technique? You might think so, reading this excerpt from his poem, Song of the Open Road. But no.  Whitman’s words preceded Mr. Alexander’s birth by 13 years. Mr. A. was born in 1869, when Whitman was most likely undertaking yet another revision of his epic work, Leaves of Grass.

Long before Frederick Mathias Alexander (FM) lost his voice performing onstage, years prior to his launching of a self-study which formulated his principles and ideas, Whitman eloquently described the experience of benefiting from Mr. Alexander’s work.  Applying kind and conscious thought to the stopping of ‘the holds that would hold me,‘ mind and body patterns can change, thereby allowing for the emergence of our best selves. ‘Divesting myself of the holds‘ is a key practice of the Alexander Technique, called ‘Inhibition‘ by FM.

Students report, and I concur, it’s a challenge to describe ease and poise in the Self. Thank you, Mr. Whitman, for providing Alexander Technique practitioners a few words worth pondering—–

*see 8/20/19 post here

 

 

Cold Coffee

 

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Not to be confused with iced coffee. That beverage is on purpose. Cold coffee is not. Looking up from Encyclopedia of an Ordinary Life, I see my cuppa, sitting forlornly on the end table, cold yet again, having been warmed up not once, but twice. ‘Words will do that,’ I say to myself, Amy Krouse Rosenthal’s words in particular. Love this quirky memoir. 

Published 14 years ago, it’s one of those titles that came to my attention when first out, and then got lost in the shuffle of too-much-too-many. Books that is. But the book found me, as books often do. I have learned to rely on this mysterious phenomenon,  knowing that an oh-so-special book will appear when needed.

And then this: padding around the studio, returning chairs to their places, picking up anatomy tomes from the floor, tidying up after last evening’s Alexander Technique student, I linger at the poetry shelf, pulling out Jane Kenyon’s Collected Poems, opening randomly to:

Like a mad red brain 

the involute rhubarb leaf 

thinks its way up 

through loam.’

A fitting conclusion to an Alexander Technique lesson, yes? Plants are ‘thinking their way up’ all over the place right now, inspiration for us to do the same.

Wishing for you good words in a good book, good enough to cause your coffee to go cold—

 

 

 

 

 

Fortune

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Reverse cannot befall that fine Prosperity whose sources are interior.‘  Emily Dickinson

Stock market dips, good health turning to bad, these and other reversals of fortune can be counted on to happen. Happily, last week’s tax returns appointment found Mike and I pleased with the news. There’s a refund on the way, already partially spent. And with both of us in a nice long run of excellent health, it would be easy to take for granted our prosperity.

When we are well, when fortunes are favorable, it’s the perfect time to cultivate resilience. And what better way than a study and practice of the Alexander Technique! Rather than stasis, rather than attempts to ‘get it right’ and keep it that way, it’s movement and flow, it’s the ability to respond to stimuli (i.e.-challenges) with conscious direction and ease which are the best approach to the inevitable changes of our life’s circumstances.

Wishing for you inner resources providing ‘that fine Prosperity.’

 

The Wheel*

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Bloomed March 21, 2019

Leo arrives for the afternoon. His mamma’s due date has come and gone, and she’s seeing the midwives.  The two of us play the afternoon away. The three-year-old decides the plastic dinosaurs require a soapy bath, and they receive one. There are card games at the kitchen table, matching shapes and pictures.  Wind-up toys everywhere.

Alicia returns. Midwives found her 3 centimeters dilated! Baby will be here soon. As they are leaving for home, Gary arrives. He and Mike walk the garden paths, inspecting the retaining wall construction, then settle into sunroom lounge chairs for a beer. Gary’s phone beeps and he apologizes, checking the message. It’s his wife, out-of-town with her family, keeping vigil at the bedside of her 94-year-old father.  He is hours from death.

Daily, I check Julie’s blog, missing her posts, which have been regular as rain for many years. Nothing. Bill, her husband, is living his last days with pancreatic cancer. Two to six months are left. The diagnosis was received mid-December.

Kenzie calls on Sunday with news of her pregnancy. She’s the eldest of the nieces and nephews, the first to marry, and now the first to launch the family’s next generation. Baby is due in October.

And this was the week, the interminable week, 35 years ago, that Morgan was admitted to Children’s Hospital, dying 4 days later with heart failure, complications of pneumonia. Her frail body made it all the way through winter, but compromised with a heart defect often found in babies with Down Syndrome, she was unable to gain weight and thrive, and our daughter died on the first day of spring.

We are, all of us, coming and going. The days come and the days go, due dates, birthdays, baby-on-the-way announcements, death days. Play dates, vigil nights. Be present to this day, no matter what it holds for you. Looking out the window of Morgan’s hospital room the morning she died, the spring sun was brilliant. In the midst of losing her, I did see the sun.

*(The Wheel, a Wendell Berry poetry collection. highly recommend.)