Conveyances

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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 plane descends 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.)

 

 

 

 

Feathering the Nest

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pheasant feather, pixabay

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.

Idleness

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graphics courtesy of pixabay

1.the state of being inactive.Syn.  Dawdling, pottering, shilly-shallying

2.disinclination to activity. —Syn.  slowness, indolence, slothfulness

Webster’s New World Thesaurus was fairly upbeat with its ‘idleness’ entry until ‘indolence’ and ‘slothfulness’ made an appearance. Here we enter into the realm of judgment and the expectation that incessant activity and productiveness is a preferred mode of being.

Easter Sunday was a rare day of, yes, I’ll claim it, indolence.  The positive spin would be ‘rest.’  The massive and very dead ash tree along the Rt. 296 lane had finally been removed and Mike was tired.  Our social life found us happily out late the night before, celebrating the season with long-time friends.  The plan had been to hop in the car the next day and get ourselves to the hill, but after sitting on the back porch in perfect bliss with our morning coffees, we concluded a trip to the farm was altogether too much doing.

Or as my godson Lyle used to ask, when I picked him up from preschool and proceeded to run errands, ‘Diana, could we please stop going?’  Yes, Lyle, we could.  What a fine question.  We do not have to keep going.  Stopping is a very good idea.  Essential, really.

We live in a world with very few pauses, and I write this week to encourage the finding of spaces, moments, hours, even a day, to quit with going and doing.  This Easter Monday finds me refreshed* following a rare day of do-less-ness.  Wishing for you the same—-

*Thanks to Beth C. for her delightful uses of the word ‘refreshed.’  

 

 

Standing Still

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thrush, photo courtesy of pixabay

With new walking poles in hand, I traipse through the pine woods on an enchanted April morning. Meandering over the animal trails, I eventually pause in a small forest opening, catching a glimpse of a thrush hiding in low branches, waiting me out.

How often do we get to be face-to-face with a bird? That’s what happened next.  He studied me carefully, decided I was no threat, and continued his routine, hopping along the pine needle carpet, his beady black eyes intent.

Let’s redefine what it might mean to stand still. When I’m teaching choristers, they are encouraged to observe the support of their feet.  From there, they can let the body move ever so slightly in a figure-eight pattern.  These micro-movements prevent fatigue and fainting, both a hazard for choral singers who often stand in place for long periods of time.

Standing still in this lively way brought so much more of the world to my notice.  On leaving the forest opening by the same path, I now saw spring beauties, the bleached jawbone of a woods creature, a wooly-worm, and heard a deer snort nearby.  None of these wonders were in my field of attention on arrival.

Whether bird watching, singing, or waiting in line at the grocery, remind yourself that standing still can bring the world to you, and does not require freezing in place. May a few moments of lively stillness be yours today—-

 

 

Dressing for Ease

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“What should I wear to my Alexander Technique lesson?”  My answer:  ‘Wear what’s comfortable. Nothing special or particular is required.’  However, I do have a few directives for my own daily dressing:

No more heels. Hallelujah!

Denim on occasion, not everyday.

Natural fibers only. Cotton and linen are go-to’s, with some wool, if it is soft and light.

Camisoles exclusively.  Read:  NO bras.

 

Comfy Shoes: Easton Shoes  on Kenny Road. Owners Lenny and Marcia Comeras travel the world to bring Columbus the finest in footwear.  Finn Comfort, Hartjes, Thierry Rabotin, Mephisto, are a few of the brands carried.   Bi-annual sales make these shoes affordable.

Denim:  Just wear Second Yoga jeans, and forget about it.  You can get a committee-selected* pair at Cheesecake Boutique in Upper Arlington.  Pay the money and don’t blink.  * (Staff weighs in on the best look and fit. No baggy butts allowed!  Very fun retail experience, which says a lot, coming from shopping-averse me.)

Natural Fibers:  Still working on this one, and relying on friends for assistance.  Current-Paris-resident, Julie Donnell, swears by anything Eileen Fisher.  This line is way out of my price range, and I have yet to purchase any of their pieces.  Sales do exist. Susan Petry is gifted at finding fine fabric pieces in thrift stores and second-hand shops, so that’s always an option. (see photo’s aqua scarf for an example of the treasures that await your next thrifting expedition)

Camisoles:   A clearance rack at Anthropologie in the Short North District provided me with the best-ever-camis.  They don’t roll up my torso, and have one side v-neck, the other scooped.  Shelf-bra tops are an excellent alternative to camis and can be found at my favorite location for a mammogram, The Stephanie Spielman Breast Center.  The lobby houses a gift shop! amoena is the brand name.

Have a rollicking good time shopping your way to comfort——- 

Curiosity Recaptured

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  • Curiosity Recaptured: Exploring Ways We Think and Move
  • foreward: Robertson Davies
  • editor: Jerry Sontag
  • Illustrator: Ginger Tate Beringer
  • ©1996 MORNUM TIME PRESS
  • ISBN 0-9644352-2-5

Buy this book.  No, I’m not promoting for Mornum Time Press or anyone else.  It’s a treasured tome on my Alexander Technique bookshelf.  And when it disappeared several years ago (probably a student loan), I promptly found another copy.

Essays by 14 authors each tell a story. Life in the performing arts, sport pursuits, childbirth, death and dying, the quotidian; all are explored through the lens of the Alexander Technique.  Authors include a physical therapist, actor, dancer, singer, flutist, cyclist, tennis player, avid walker, and hospice care worker.

Alexander Technique terms such as ‘directions,’ ‘inhibition,’ ‘use,’ ‘primary control,’ ‘freeing the neck,’ and ‘whispered ah,’ are defined in the context of the essays, which make this collection accessible to the AT novice and of interest for the practitioner of many years.

As a lover of all things bookish, I must also comment on the perfect heft of this book, even the paperback version!  It also pleases the eye, as Beringer’s full-page pencil sketches introduce each and every essay.

A good read on the back porch to you.  May the swallows warble above you and the sun shine down upon you—–

 

 

 

 

 

Ted

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graphics courtesy of pixabay

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 chaplain and author of the just published, On Living, wrote this about those who know they are near to death:

‘…..it isn’t just health that 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.’

Godspeed, Ted.