Golden now, not grainy-gray, the quality and angle of morning light has definitely shifted in the kitchen. Come 5:30 a.m., I hear returning songbirds chipping and chirping outside my urban bedroom. It is spring again–and still–despite the almost-blinding gusts of snow that assaulted my windshield after dark the other night.
I think about going back to school and sigh, just a little. This will be a challenge. Normally spring is the time students think about freedom! if not the short burst of spring break, then the long open opportunities of summer. Instead, I am picking up books, “screwing on my thinking cap,” as some obnoxious teacher once pantomimed. Ouch.
I am also intrigued, excited, curious. It’s like sleep-away camp–not that I ever attended, just read descriptions in books and heard about it from friends. Supposed to be new kids to meet, a whole lake to swim in, lanyards to twist and knit. In my case, other interesting grownups, a lake to walk around (still too cold for swimming), forest paths and a labyrinth too and a healthy cafeteria: physical and mental growth to be had everywhere.
My problem is that very persistent A+ student who hangs on the edge of my mind, like a bully taunting from the field beyond the playground, Yeah, just try stepping over here. You’ll see what happens! Loser!
She/he interjects comments as I read my Kripalu Yoga textbook. Sometimes I am pulled in by the resonating philosophy, so I forget that voice; sometimes I sigh yet again, frustrated by my more recent midlife difficulties with memorization. Perhaps because I am creating new neural pathways along with the information, undoing old patterns of self-deprecating reaction, my mind has rebelled: This is too hard! I’m not cooperating!
I go into the yoga room and look at the book, the diagrams. Deep breath. I speak the pose names as I stretch out and position myself–
–on the belly, pelvis firmly anchored into the earth, arms and legs lifting up and behind me: I whisper “Nav-asana,” and think Naval, like a boat on the water, floating with waves of breath….
Kneeling, then flowing back over knees-wide-apart, arms reaching forward on the floor, Garbh-asana, Child’s Pose–I am garbed in the freedom and openness of the child-mind and child-body, I take what rest I need, when I need it.
Bala-kik-asana, Crane: a one-legged pose of balance, arms hovering, the staccato Ks remind me of the stick-legs of a bird in water.
Ah, there, that’s a reason you do yoga. Space for creativity, not pushing and grunting along, not cramming yourself into a place that doesn’t fit. By its very definition, yoga is about expansiveness, room for yourself, who you are, at that moment.
Unwinding my body in Spinal Twist (Matsyendr-asana—how to remember THAT one?) I exhale and think: Snow flies yet spring comes. I can’t remember things, I can remember things. Just because I suffered last time I learned, doesn’t mean I have to again. In fact, the intention is to do it differently now.
I enjoyed a marvelous Easter/post-Spring Equinox holiday with a colleague of mine. We tromped through cemeteries overlooking the Poestenkill and around the Emma Willard School campus, deserted on a Sunday; snacked on huge pink slices of watermelon radish with cups of hot tea and maple sugar; worked on individual writing projects while the local whole chicken stuffed with crumbled sausage, butternut squash and kale baked in her oven.
We took a first-course interlude of salad: more radish, avocado, walnut, mesclun and vinaigrette.
I sliced sweet potatoes into fries. Her least favorite chore for the day, the knife-work was a job that didn’t feel like drudgery to me at all; I hummed as I chopped along. That’s something I am watching for in my future earning-a-living, ways of spending my hours that I so enjoy they don’t feel like “work.”
My companion rubbed coconut oil, cinnamon and a little rosemary on the wedges before oven-roasting them. As we tapped our keyboards in the living room, the smells of dinner intermittently tickled our noses and then slammed us lusciously when we re-entered the kitchen in search of more tea.
When all was ready, we ate until satisfied and no more, heaving happy groans nonetheless, and deliberately leaving some food on the plate to wrap up for later. Sips of tart cherry juice with seltzer served as dessert, accompanied by more writing time.
Ahhh, we sighed, a holiday that wasn’t (as is typical) about overstuffing our stomachs or our schedule. As the day meandered, so did we; we took seriously our choices but made them only as we went along–Want to walk more? Turn this way or that? Whoops, the chicken isn’t done; oh, I see why it needs more time, ok, we’ll write for twenty more minutes.
She’s a future yoga teacher too, and we’re both applying the lessons on the mat to daily life: sometimes grappling, sometimes serene, knowing serene-plus-grappling is actually desirable.
Yes, I told her, I joke a lot about breaking into a sweat learning to love my life.
But ease is what I aspire to: ease within challenges, like strength and lightness in a yoga pose, grounded in the earth and yet buoyant, willing to move and respond to the wind, and not let go of connection to who I am in my core.
False starts, shifts in weather, don’t indicate that spring won’t come. How days-off were acknowledged in the past doesn’t define how I celebrate them now. I will allow myself to be not-so-good in school and not worry.
All of it will be delicious. Especially the more I stand in each moment, Right Now, swaying and trembling perhaps, but over and over returning to curiosity, determination tempered with compassion, and gentleness toward myself.