Wednesday, October 31, 2012


I've been thinking & writing a good bit on Sandy-- just not here.  Check out the following for some ruminations on environment, community, and action:

After the Storm on Yoganonymous

Kissing Bill McKibben on Elephant Journal

Being in Sandy on Yogawood's Blog

Yoga During a Time of Crisis on MindBodyGreen

Here are some of the relief efforts working in affected areas:

Food Not Bombs does important on-going work against poverty & homelessness, and is responding to the additional need of the current crisis.

Those on the Lower East Side of Manhattan can connect here to exchange resources.

I have friends working in Atlantic City and along the shoreline, but as of today, Halloween, no one can access those areas.  I believe donations can be sent through the Red Cross and other relief organizations.

Stay safe.

Happy Halloween!

OK, generally I only post images that Kevin or I have created.  I have no idea where this is from.  My friend Julia posted it on Facebook & I think it is AMAZING.  I would be a parent just to create this Halloween Ensemble.  Yup, great impetus towards parenting.  

Anyway, get wild, & enjoy Halloween!

Monday, October 29, 2012

A Prayer for American Chestnuts

Another goodie from Mike:

"Nature teaches more than she preaches. There are no sermons in stones. It is easier to get a spark out of a stone than a moral.

How beautiful the leaves grow old. How full of light and color are their last days.

To learn something new, take the path that you took yesterday."

- John Burroughs

I'm trying to figure out how to express on the page my hands clapping wildly, and big full throated cheers. Those. & a grateful smile.

This quote reminds me of a story related to me by Kevin about his first Goddard advisor, Ralph. Ralph lives somewhere in the vicinity of Shenandoah. He loves place, being in it, of it, located.  Awhile back he invited some other fabulous Goddard faculty, his friends, all world travelers, to spend time with him near his home.  One morning he excitedly invited them on a hike.  As they passed hours in these mountains that he knows so intimately, one after another they began questioning Ralph about the surprise, how long it would take, when they would reach it.  Finally Ralph stopped, pointed to a small sapling, and exclaimed, "Look!"  His friends asked him the significance.  "It's an American Chestnut!  They were nearly obliterated by the great Chestnut Blight of 1904."  Imported Chinese Chestnuts brought a blight that took out nearly all American Chestnuts throughout the East Coast.  Slowly, over time, a few Chesnuts have been found.

Barbara Kingsolver's "Prodigal Summer" involves a subplot of nurturing these trees & seeking to protect them from this blight still plaguing trees.  

Learn something new-- take the path you took yesterday.  

There's a skunk eating our fall crops.  I've learned that squirrels like to eat tomatoes.  Or at least they do this season.  In down dog every day I feel my spine breathe longer.  In sirsasana everyday I feel my body accept balance.  

Take the path you took yesterday.  When I look at Kevin's face I see the face I met when he was 18.  I see years together, and years ahead.  I see his first silver hairs & I love them.  I can't wait to see more gather.

Somedays my meditation is chopping wood.  Somedays my prayer is for American Chestnuts.  Right now my wish is to know my body like I know land, to step lightly, not be reluctant to receive rain, and cherish earth.

Friday, October 26, 2012

Remain Imperfect

I miss my grandmother.  My maternal grandmother gave me my real name, Margaret, twice baked potatoes, her warm lap, & a Southern sensibility.  She was raised in Tennessee, attended Tennessee State Teacher's College in the 1930s, was an orphan by her first year in college after her mother committed suicide and her father had a heart attack.  She gave birth to my mother while living with her Aunt Izzy in Chattanooga, TN.  My grandfather remained in the South Pacific during World War II for two years.  Upon his return they raised both my mother & uncle in Atlanta, GA.

She was pretty great.

& kind of a mess.

I always felt closest to her.  She loved literature like I did.  When she caught me staying up past my bedtime to read she told me that she used to hide in the barn to sneak novels.  She read "Gone with the Wind" staying up one entire night.  In her later years she read crate fulls of Harlequin romances.  Upon completion she donated them to her church.  I heard her tell my Mom that if she'd discovered them 50 years earlier she would have given my grandfather "a much better time of it."

Because I wanted her to be a pure link to a family that didn't always know how to hold close it's own, I often ascribed qualities and values to her, without sufficient knowledge about her true feeling and inclinations.  Towards the end of her life I wanted to know her a bit better and asked more questions.  Truthfully, her own sensibilities were pretty divergent from mine.  It makes sense.  She was raised in an entirely different era. During the Great Depression she became an orphan and watched her four younger siblings be sent to family members throughout the country.  She married my grandfather, who had a pretty severe, though undiagnosed, struggle with bipolar disorder.

I miss her.  Recently, I find myself reminiscing about her & once more casting her in a nostalgic mold of the woman I wanted her to be.  & I find that to be such a disservice.  It's not true that she was an infallible role model for me.  It's not true that she always loved & supported me fully-- she wasn't loved & supported fully by those nearest to her either.  She loved & supported me as best she was able.  She was truly smart, funny, & curious about the world.  She was also ambitious for her children and grandchildren.  She was honestly mystified that I would want to grow food, limit my interactions with technology, and not seek an exorbitant income.  She cared greatly for status and public perception.  But she also grabbed Kevin's ass (literally!) when the mood took her at age 90.  Kevin had to pry her off.

Her sister Lillian died tragically while honeymooning at Niagara Falls.  She said her mother passed from the "change," meaning menopause, but as I aged she shared that her mother hung herself in the barn.  She told me her family were farmers, but I learned later that her Dad was on the board of the local bank & the farm was worked by white sharecroppers.  They tried to hire "help" from the nearby Black community, but no one would work for them given that there was still a slave auction block stone on their property.  It was said that when it rained you could see slaves' blood staining the stone.  The family instead hired poor whites as domestic help.

Her story is richer because it's messy.  I'd rather know honestly who I am, and honestly where I come from, than create fiction.  She told me her grandfather didn't much acknowledge her or any of his grandkids.  She didn't know whether her knew her name because he called them all "Cracker."  She remembered him and the other men digging up sasparilla root to make sodas and tea.  She and her sister, Katherine, remained close.  They would cook sugar over an open flame to make caramel, and then eat it out of the pan.

She never told me much about her mother, other than that she too loved reading and music.  She played the piano in the barn so the kids could dance.  She remembered her father fondly.  She tried to help him sow the potato crop one year.  She incorrectly sliced the potatoes, dissecting the eyes, and waited for him to return home so she could proudly show her work.  Effectively, she had cost him a lot of money, time, and food by her mistake.  He never scolded nor chastised her.  Quietly, with a smile, and by example, he showed her how to do it correctly, and thanked her for her efforts.

This photo was taken soon after my grandmother passed.  Kevin & I flew to Atlanta to help close her apartment.  Afterwards we drove her car to Savannah, where this photo was taken.
I want to be a woman who can smile, 70 years later, at learning from her own mistakes.  I want to be a woman who is flawed, emerging from muddied history, and reaching towards clarity.

Wednesday, October 24, 2012


My friend Erika & I have been mirroring back & forth & it is so freaking fruitful.  Areas of her life where she feels a bit hazy or unsure she brings to me.  I ask her what she would tell me.  & then she knows.  Ditto for me.

I'm so grateful for this clarity.  It's so interesting how others see you.  I've always felt like that vision was so far removed from how I see myself.  I remember a friend in high school telling me that in middle school she never approached me because I seemed so "cool & independent, like I had it together & didn't need anymore friends."  Man was I fronting!  I was completely insecure & lonely.  I had no idea what I was projecting.

Likewise, Erika has been telling me that in my yoga classes I create a safe space for others.  I'm so glad that this is her experience in my classes.  She was describing this to another friend & the insightful friend asked if I create safe spaces for myself.  Based on something I was grappling with at the time, Erika said, most of the time, but not always.  Totally true.  Again, if Erika described a situation where she felt unsafe I would be so quick to figure out a way to make it feel whole.  I don't always have that clarity with myself.

I went on to explain a pattern I have of befriending folks who are pretty badass.  I was saying that I've never understood this-- I'm not at all someone who hits clubs or lives hard.  I supposed that maybe I'm the straight man to their nuttiness.  Erika started laughing.  She responded, "You're totally badass!  I would not want to cross you!"  Incredulous, I replied, "Well, Kevin says he gets scared of me."

I think that badass-ness is somewhere on a spectrum.  I've never taken a bat to a dude who needed to be threatened with a bat.  Unlike some badasses I know...

This whole relationship made me think of the Velvet Underground song, "I'll be your mirror."  It's such a sweetly creepy song.  I looked at the lyrics.  Without any heroin-infused droning, they're so whole & lovely.

I'll be your mirror
Reflect what you are, in case you don't know
I'll be the wind, the rain and the sunset
The light on your door to show that you're home

When you think the night has seen your mind
That inside you're twisted and unkind
Let me stand to show that you are blind
Please put down your hands
'Cause I see you

I find it hard to believe you don't know
The beauty you are
But if you don't let me be your eyes
A hand in your darkness, so you won't be afraid

When you think the night has seen your mind
That inside you're twisted and unkind
Let me stand to show that you are blind
Please put down your hands
'Cause I see you

I'll be your mirror
(reflect what you are)

Monday, October 22, 2012

Gather The Night

"A dreamer is one who can only find his way by moonlight, and his punishment is that he sees the dawn before the rest of the world."  --Oscar Wilde, 1888

Repeat as mantra.  Hear it again, and again, internally, and feel the words wrap like a spell.  See the font as wafting smoke.  Feel the phrase as descending atmosphere, a night curtain drawing down, a reversal of nature.

A path carved by light.  A path in reference to what it is not.  A path in relief.

& then wide-eyed.  Awake, while those around you sleep.  Filled with such sheer glory, such sweet light.  Watching the pace of illumination spread, race, gather the night.

Friday, October 19, 2012

The Shape of God

I just finished Radhanath Swami's memoir A Journey Home.  He won me over.

Big time.

I began reading skeptically.  I'm not entirely sure why I cling to this skepticism when reading about someone else's spiritual journey.  Why am I so quick to judge or find fault?  I guess authentic, earnest, spiritual seeking throes our own journeys into sharp relief.  It's sometimes easier to go on the offensive than to share the quest.

Swami recounted his overland journey at age 19 from western Europe to India.  Somewhere around Afghanistan I began relinquishing my disbelief.  I'm not saying I believe every word entirely as he wrote it-- there's no way I could authenticate his story.  But I guess I believe that he believes it.  I began to respect his journey and the insight it provided.

As he wandered he studied world religions and various incarnations of spirituality.  While in Europe he spent time in the church of St. Francis of Assisi.  He spent time at great mosques in the Middle East.  In India he found his spiritual home in Vrindavan, and began the bhakti yoga path of loving God as he appeared in the form of Krishna.

One of Swami's struggles was to determine if God was an amorphous force in the Universe, or if He took shape as Jesus, Mohammad, Krishna, or any other entity worshiped by humans.  And what it means to worship a force versus worshiping a relatable figure.  He began concluding that both were true-- God is an entity that shapes all of creation, but he also took form at various moments and in various times to enable humans to cultivate a personal relationship to that force.

I'd previously read arguments that Hinduism is largely an umbrella term created by British Imperialism to characterize a huge range of religious and spiritual practices.  Swami indirectly supports this premise by sharing the range of his religious experiences within vast India.  He begins to understand polytheism again as many shapes and forms of one God; all incarnated to allow people to relate to all aspects of the Divine.

This memoir helped me better understand the experience of sadhus, swamis, and gurus.  It helped me better understand the various paths we each take to know ourselves and know a sense of larger connectedness.  And it certainly reinvigorated my desire to travel to India.

When I was 18 I desperately wanted to travel to India and study Sanskrit.  My church had a sister church somewhere in southwest India.  I figured I could go there, work, get my bearings, and then begin venturing onward to learn in an ashram.  I was convinced against the idea.  It's so interesting to me that a decade later that urge East still manifests itself.  I'm curious where the journey will take me.

Wednesday, October 17, 2012

Trees are made of air

Trees are made of air.  Yeah, I said it!

Pete strikes again.  After publishing, "Mountain" last week my friend directed me towards an NPR story covering an exchange with Nobel Laureate Richard Feynman.  When asked where trees come from, Feynman responded, "from out of the air!"

He explains that trees are 95% carbon dioxide.  The NPR blogger, Robert Krulwich, goes on to write, the tree "'eats' air, chomps down on airborne carbon dioxide, then uses sunshine to pull the carbon dioxide apart, gets rid of the oxygen, which it 'spits back into the air,' says Feynman, 'leaving the carbon and water, the stuff to make the substance of the tree.'... Water is in the ground, right?  Water is not in the air.  Ah, says Feynman, but how did water get into the ground?  'It came mostly out of the air, didn't it?'"

I am many kinds of nerd, but not a science nerd.  Which is why I quoted so much text.  If I tried to reframe that content in my own words, chances are I would slightly mischaracterize the information.  With all of that context out of the way, my yogini imagination is swimming.

Practice vrksasana, tree pose, & be of air.  Be of breath.

Monday, October 15, 2012


Prior to marriage, I was a serial monogamist.  I didn't intend to be that way but it just happened. When one relationship ended I always remember thinking, "now I'll focus on 'doing me.'  I'll spend time on all the projects I care about, that were side-lined while occupied with a romance."  Inevitably, in the course of those projects I would meet someone.

Part of what that pattern, I think, was that I wasn't looking.  I always had feelings around the dissolution of a relationship, but I don't remember feeling desperate for a new romantic partner.  Also, I was focused on the creative and political projects that are most important to me.

I'm remembering this now that I'm feeling desperate and scared.  Nothing horrible is happening in my life at all.  Instead, issues I have around how I source my security and identity are being illuminated.  It's a wonderful thing, actually, because I get to become a bit more self-aware, and a bit more conscious of my hot buttons.  However, I made myself sick and am driving a lot of folks around me crazy (namely Kevin).

This morning I walked outside.  I was still in my pajamas because I'm taking today to rest & try to move through this cold/nonsense.  It's sunny and cool.  My comforters dried happily on the line in a day, which was reassuring, because I thought they might take a really long time.  I remembered my response to being single in the past.  Thankfully, I'm in a healthy relationship, but I think the response is applicable to my current situation.  I could behave desperately, run around, and try to *force* what I think I want to happen.  (Do I even know what that is?)  Or I could trust that I'm engaged in the projects & the life that's most valuable to me, and just be on that path.

So what do I do?  Nothing.  Just stop.  Stop worrying.  Stop feeling anxious and nervous.  Just stop.  Trust that the comforters will dry in the sun.  Trust that I've done enough.  Trust that I'm OK.

Friday, October 12, 2012


"To grow may require that we are shaken right to our core." -Radhanath Swami

Eighteen years old, riding for hours in the back of a jeep, with a damp paper towel covering my nose and mouth to block out the dust.  Surrounded by swirls of dust, dirt, and insects no one could see that I was steadily crying.  I felt so completely disoriented, dislocated.

I was in Zambia with my parents, visiting my sister who was then a Fulbright scholar in Mongu.  I can't remember exactly what set me off, but I'm pretty sure it was an incident when we stopped for gas.  We'd been driving for hours.  There's no infrastructure in Zambia to speak of.  In parts of the country, at least at this time-- 13 years ago-- corn rotted on the stalks while in other regions people starved.  We saw a barricaded and closed University in Lusaka.  Former students milled around the gates.  There were no hospitals.  If something drastic happened we would have had to have been medevaced to Johannesburg-- possible only because my father could thankfully afford that.  While in Zambia I was bitten by a scorpion and came down with a bout of malaria, but both were treated by local doctors.

Given the lack of infrastructure we needed to always travel with supplies.  We had a ton of food and drinks in the jeep.  My sister had been in the country for awhile and knew where we could refuel until we met our destination: a convent where Irish sisters would house us for a night before we traveled onward.

I was tired and overwhelmed.  I'd traveled since I was 6 months old but Zambia was the furthest departure from anything I'd known.  While my sister refueled people began milling around the jeep.  There were no jobs, no food, and the land was not arable but dusty and dry.  One man became aggressive and began shouting at my Mom & I, still seated in the jeep.  He began demanding money, or food.  I'm not proud of myself, but I studiously attempted to ignore him.  He knew how to get my attention.  He called directly to me, "You are drinking a coke and I have not eaten nshima for four days."

Nshima is the staple food in Zambia-- a type of maize meal porridge.  You gather the play-doh like consistency in your hands and form it like a spoon to then gather meat or vegetables, depending on what's available.  I was directly challenged.  Rather than acknowledging our shared humanity, our connection, the fact that I, a foreigner, was in his home and could afford to share with him but wasn't, I became defensive.  I didn't know how to relate to his experience, how to respect him, and also de-escalate the situation.  Instead, I began assembling a rationale to ignore him and neglect his plight.

Even though I tried to intellectually disassociate from reality, on other levels of my being I couldn't be intact given this dislocation.  I cried inconsolably.  When we reached the convent I was shaky.  The nuns understood immediately, having experienced culture shock themselves.  I couldn't process the encounter with that man until years later.  While in college I shared the story with a friend thinking she would echo my indignation at this man's demands.

She questioned me, "He was hungry and you did nothing?"  That's when I started to understand what I had done.  I had completely dehumanized him and the others around him.  If I had related to him as a human, if I had considered being in his circumstances, I could have done nothing else but share with him what I had.  I could have forced my parents and sister to do the same.  I don't remember the details around our safety, but I do remember feeling insecure.  His safety was obviously in peril, which was why he was so desperate and angry.

My month in Zambia left me with a profound sense of the web of interconnectedness.  After our flight had landed in Lusaka we waited in the airport for hours.  My sister's jeep had broken down for the umpteenth time.  This was emblematic of all of our experiences.  Fictions that machines would function, that schedules could be kept, were all exposed.  The myth that the natural world could be dominated quickly evaporated.

That first night my sister took us to the home of her friend, a US diplomat who was elsewhere in the country.  We turned on CNN while she began making home-made hummus.  I saw CNN Africa, & reoriented myself on the map.  It felt so different to belong to a different spot on that picture.  I looked out the window at the pool, surrounded by an 8 foot stucco wall bordered with shattered glass.  I'd never seen a city like Lusaka before.  Everything was low walls, sidewalks, and roads.  The life of the city felt hidden.  Over the pool dragonflies were mating.  These dragonflies seemed to each be a foot long in my memory.  I'm sure that's an exaggeration, but it's true that they were so large.  Everything was bigger.

Early in the trip we drove out to an animal refuge where we would take our first safari.  Driving through the vast savanna the jeep again broke down.  We got out to figure out what was wrong.  My father is a lawyer who has no concept of anything mechanical.  My sister became the mechanic out of necessity.  Neither my Mom nor myself were any more help than my Dad.  My sister realized the battery had become dislodged.  She began gathering empty soda cans and coat hangers.  We crushed coke cans on the desolate road as the sun set, frantically using them and the bent hanger to wedge the battery back into place.  I remember looking wide-eyed at the horizon.  I could hear the sounds of animals who consider me prey.  The idea that I, or any human, controlled the world seemed so laughable.  The idea that I, or anyone, was more important than an ant, or a lion, or anyone else, was so obviously a lie.  I felt so connected, and integrated, into the fabric of the universe.  On one hand I was comforted by a sense of being part of a whole.  On the other hand, this was such a shifting of perception.  Raised as an upper-class white woman in the United States, I'd been taught an inflated sense of self-worth (conversely with little self-esteem).  I was beginning to see that I was indeed as vulnerable to the forces of nature as any other living being.

I read the opening quote, "To grow may require we are shaken right to our core," in Radhanath Swami's memoir, The Journey Home.  I'm still in the process of reading, but had to pause when I came to his characterization of culture shock.  As a young man, he travelled overland to India from western Europe.  While in Herat, Afghanistan, he was overcome by culture shock.  Reading about his profound panic, I immediately remembered that long, bumpy, dusty, tear-filled ride through Zambia.  He wrote, "I felt dizzy and nauseated, deeply disoriented and afraid.  All at once, I found it impossible to identify with anything my five senses perceived... On my knees, sweating with emotion, I struggled to connect something to the world that I knew... I felt totally disconnected."

Most members of my family have experienced culture shock because all of us have lived abroad.  One of my brothers has lived in Italy, Indonesia, China, Brazil, and now Australia while travelling most of the globe in between.  My sister lived in Zambia and Nigeria.  My other brother lived in Germany and Russia.  I felt culture shock most acutely in Zambia, though was revisited with that sense of disorientation a few years later in Cuba.  Travel entices me because of the broad experiences of life on the planet.  Simultaneously, being among a relationship to the earth and people that is so vastly different from the one any one of us have known is exhausting and overwhelming.

I began to understand the experience a little better as Radhanath continued to ask, "Why was I so affected?... The conceptions perceived by my body and mind had become my identity.  Now those familiar conceptions had evaporated, casting me into a void... Who am I?"

While abroad, trying to stay aware both to be respectful of my surroundings and safe, I didn't have the presence of mind to reflect as Radhanath did.  In later years, revisiting these memories, I came to realize that shaking me to my very core, challenging this taught belief that my life was somehow of greater value than other living beings, and that my lifestyle, consumption, and choices existed in a vacuum, profoundly reshaped me.  I'm sure I still have problems in truly recognizing all living beings, but I hope to have come a bit nearer that goal.  I began to realize that there was absolutely no logic to me having all my needs for survival met, while the man challenging me at the gas station in Zambia hadn't been able to have food.  There was no reason I should have food and he shouldn't.  Of course, intellectually I've always thought that all living beings should have food to eat.  But when confronted with the reality of inequality I shirked.

I had thought that I could live my life how I wanted without repercussions elsewhere in the world.  Zambia, at that time, looked looted.  And it has been.  By imperialism, by theft of resources, by environmental degradation and neglect.  The world is interconnected.  My actions in the United States have a real impact in Zambia and everywhere in the world.  This sense of responsibility isn't meant to be a stagnating guilt trip.  I try to stay cognizant of this tantric web of interconnectedness to guide my decisions towards what is healthiest for me, and the wider world.

I'm so sorry that I didn't share food with that man.  I'm sorry that I still don't always act generously.  I try to maintain perspective of myself as a small, but vital piece of this larger web.  I try to remember that everyone I encounter is just as vital.

Wednesday, October 10, 2012


My friend Owen shared the following Wendell Barry quote on Facebook the other day:

"The care of the earth is our most ancient and most worthy and, after all, our most pleasing responsibility. To cherish what remains of it, and to foster its renewal, is our only legitimate hope."

I love Wendell Barry.  Owen is pretty great too.  

This quote reminds me of related idea I've been toying with-- freedom.  I mentioned in an earlier post Helen and Scott Nearing's struggle to understand hippies and Leftists from the 1960s onwards.  They became aware of this community's urge towards freedom, but that sometimes the freedom was from responsibility or accountability.  I really value opening that conversation.  Freedom, like the idea of health, is often defined in relief to what it is not.  These are hard concepts to clearly understand in the affirmative.  
Pepper growing in the Mekong Delta, one of the most fertile regions I've visited.  Sometimes caring for the environment seems to be the act of getting out of her way.  And running interference on anyone else who would impose.

The Wendell Barry quote reminds me that if I want freedom from hunger and environmentally-triggered disease (such as over-exposure to chemicals imposed on my environment) then it's in my best interest to learn about the earth and how to be her ally.  If I want the freedom to be fed and healthy then learning about food, how to grow it organically, keep soil fertile, and the environment largely respected contributes to that goal.  If I want health, it serves me to be outdoors, active, and invested in protecting the environment.  

If I want freedom, I need to act free.  If I want freedom, I need to earn it.  

A friend of mine said she often notices that something she really loves-- like a trip-- comes right before a challenge.  She recently took an unexpected trip where she was able to relax and renew.  Right on its heels came a struggle with her son, where it took a lot of her energy and attention to parent him.  


Tuesday, October 9, 2012

Take Root

Recently, I discovered my high school friend, Jen Mazer, is coaching manifestation.  I try to support folks I love.  Even though I haven't seen Jen in the flesh since my 10 year high school reunion (gulp) a few years ago, I still feel close to her.  She provides resources to get clear on both how each of us might ideally live our lives & then stepping within that vision.

I began journalling my own intentions based on Jen's written suggestions.  A few things happened: I found the exercise sweet in its self-reflection.  I also felt reaffirmed that I'm fairly consistent in asserting my intention and living within it.  Kevin & I joke that we have summits to assess how we're living, if it's consistent with our beliefs, & directing ourselves purposefully towards a chosen path.  It's super easy for life to get away from any of us.  I hear all the time people ask where years went, or when a specific physical mobility retreated, or how easy it is to continue going through the paces.  Stepping back can feel like a luxury, or a mandate.  Every time I personally seek perspective on my life, or find the same undertaking jointly with Kevin, I get renewed clarity and energy.

By and large my life reflects my beliefs.  There are a few areas I'd like to grow & strengthen, but no huge departures.  I don't want to live anywhere else or do different types of work.  If anything, I want to deepen my roots in all areas of my life, deepen my proficiency, and continue to grow stronger.

One vow Kevin & I have made to one another is to travel every year, barring unforeseen circumstances (such as illness or job loss).  The world is too wide, rich, and lush to cede our experience of it.  The above photo was taken on Hoi An Beach, Vietnam, on the South China Sea.  I remember so clearly renting my bike for $1 for the day in Hoi An town.  Kevin & I bought a sweet snack of a freshly carved pineapple.
We braved the motorbike-manic traffic to cycle out of town towards the sea.  Arriving, we paid $.25 to store our bikes for the day.  On the beach I stretched on the sand and watched the monks smile while they walked along the surf's edge.  The world felt bigger and wider than my perceptions, my awareness, myself.  Full.  Laden with possibility.  What grounded this and other vibrant moments was the knowledge that I have a home and place to return.  I'm learning the soil, surroundings, and community here in South Jersey, where I've laid my roots.  I was born only a few miles from here.  The vastness of the world, and the possibilities of inhabiting it, continue to stoke my creativity & reinforce my desire to land here.  A month out of the year to reaffirm this intention, to stoke those fires, always strengthens my gratitude to receive this home.

My intentions, my purpose, is to be rooted in community, accountability, trust, & love.  Yoga & travel provide mirrors & affirmation that I'm staying true to these aspirations.  Travel is sweet adventure when there's a home to return to, and loved one's to hear the tales.

Friday, October 5, 2012

Going to the Chapel

As someone who Officiates weddings, I really frickin' love the following:

I found it here

Happy Friday!

Wednesday, October 3, 2012

Rain without thunder and lightning

Chris Hedges' & Joe Sacco's Days of Destruction, Days of Rage will stay with me.  I'm thumbing through the multitude of notes, highlights, & exclamations I've added to these pages.  When profiling Camden as a city gutted by un-checked capitalism, Hedges wrote, "Economic segregation is the new, acceptable form of segregation."  This assertion is embedded in a history of self-sufficient Black farmers in Mount Laurel, who were pushed out when the New Jersey Turnpike extended south and created a Mount Laurel exit.  Developers knew the land would be valuable so they used the weapon of code enforcement to cite farmers who had never concerned them before.  Simultaneously, Camden was being gutted of factory jobs & experiencing white flight.  The Black farmers were enticed to Camden, where there were no jobs, while the developers colonized Mount Laurel.

These histories are so crucial in understanding the rich histories & capacities of all people.  Only one or two generations ago Camden was a vital city.  It's current inhabitants also lead productive lives.  Growth, unchecked by any sense of human nor environmental well-being, displaced all but the most economically elite.

Hedges goes on to interview at length Father Doyle of Sacred Heart Church.  He said, "The immigrants who came with a shovel on their shoulder, could dig a canal.  You could walk till you turn blue with a shovel on your shoulder, and there's now job [now]."  I appreciate this reminder.  I hear a general nostalgia for a lost work ethic-- which I agree with in certain respects-- but it would be well-paired with a nostalgia for lost opportunities.

The theme among many survivors of these economic sacrifice zones is that a generation or two ago, many who were poor didn't realize it, because they weren't surrounded by what they didn't have.  Father Doyle explains that many poor today are compounded with added feelings of rage and deprivation due to the onslaught of consumerist culture.  When investigating West Virginia, anti-mountain top removal activist Larry Gibson echoes this sentiment by stating, "I thought I was the luckiest kid in the world, with nature."  It wasn't until he moved to Cincinnati that he became aware of what his family didn't have.  He still would have rathered his rural life, and the richness of access to the natural world.

From one of our many trips to the annual Woodstock Martin Luther King Day Event
The parallel looting of the natural landscape in West Virginia show the patterns of unchecked corporatism.  Hedges includes a quote from Frederick Douglass, "If there is no struggle there is no progress.  Those who profess to favor freedom and yet deprecate agitation are men who want crops without plowing up the ground.  They want rain without thunder and lightning.  They want the ocean without the awful roar of its many waters.  The struggle may be a moral one, or it may be a physical one, or it may be both moral and physical, but it must be a struggle."

I remain inspired by those who continue to struggle & those who tell their stories.

Monday, October 1, 2012

Pose Catching

Every year I set aside some money to invest in my on-going yoga education.  This year I'm focusing my courses on anatomy & alignment.  I thought this approach would focus my efforts, & it has, but I've found myself learning anatomy & alignment from a few slightly divergent traditions.  I'm currently studying Iyengar yoga as well as Anusara Therapeutics, while maintaining my on-going Jivamukti-influenced vinyasa practice.

All of these practices have common threads-- both the Jivamukti & Anusara styles were influenced by Iyengar.  However, some poses are encountered slightly differently.  For example, I've been practicing sirsasana, or headstand, with my inner wrists against the back of my head and my palms touching.  Basically, the side of my fist is on the mat, with the back of my head pressing my inner wrists.  This approach is helpful because I can press my wrists firmly on the mat.

One of my teachers is now telling me to open my fists, place the palms of my hands on the back of my head, fingers threaded behind my head, while my wrists & elbows still press the mat.  There are aspects of this approach that feel really beneficial.  I feel like I can use my elbows maybe more effectively.  However, I'm really struggling to press the sides of my wrists onto the mat.

I woke up thinking about pose catching, like song catching.  I have friends who are song catchers.  They track the history of songs, where they were played, how they changed, when lyrics were edited or chords adjusted.  I've never heard of a pose catcher, but I'd love a historian who made the same inquiry.  When were these poses altered?  Who practices them in what ways & why?  What bodies move into any of these variations most healthfully?

Last year I focused my on-going education on workshops geared towards adjusting & assisting students.  I LOVED it!  Not only did I gain confidence, skills, & awareness of working students deeper into poses but I also learned more about the poses themselves.  A few weeks ago, my colleagues & I at Yogawood had an adjusting/assisting skill swap.  It was so wonderful to talk about how to aid a student's practice but also to understand more deeply the mechanics of any pose.  Maybe this is why the poses begin to have various incarnations-- a response to one student's body, an approach towards another end, another gradual uncovering.