Leaf Turn

The leaves are turning, so suddenly, red leaves flowing over the neighbor’s fence and the yellowing of grape leaves in our own backyard. The air is redolent with the smell of roasting chiles, that perfectly New Mexican sensory experience that I’ve carried in my nostrils to the shores of the east coast and back again. Any day now, I hope to be picking apples and stewing them down to sauce.

Last night, yoga class was jammed like so many beach blankets. Often, my wandering mind will drift to New York when I am in a Friday evening yoga class. In my Brooklyn Teacher phase, that was where I landed after a week of work and striving, to begin a weekend of camaraderie and rejuvenation. Filing out from this recent one, I was transported to a crowded yoga studio in Manhattan, where people are accustomed to dodging others’ bodies with some combination of instinct and peripheral vision, hopefully a tad more mindfully post-yoga.

Hey now, hey world, this is what my post partum body looks like. It is work for me not to envy mothers whose bodies have retained waistlines and slim profiles. My Mad Men obsession and Betty Draper are not helping, either. In my yoga practice, I am accessing deep core belly with great intention alongside of promptings to relax the pelvic floor in strong poses. I am noticing that I can have a strong and capable core and continue to have loose skin on the top. I am able to do more with my body the more effort I make. This is the body imaging work that I am joyful about conducting.

It’s possible, I may have found my core on my own, without having born children, but as it stands, busting wide open with the weight of the world was my path; a direct link to knowing and engaging those muscles, drawing them back to my midline, supporting the weight of baby, toddler, stew pot. The world as it is each day, always needs a bit more holding, tending, stewarding and I have shown up in this noble lineage of foremothers.

So, the work: enlivening through the deep primal core belly rather than doctoring the outer, social belly. Practicing forgiveness and laughter, when one’s gaze wanders down my lines and a mouth opens to wonder if I am expecting. I am learning, slowly, to dress myself in a way that de-emphasizes my pooch and to stand up tall, of course. It is really too much for me to ask of myself to say no to things that taste good and rich for more than a little while. Sometimes, I fondly hold my belly and call it my beer and ice cream baby. When my husband has been away for a spell, he approaches me with his love and his hand always lands upon my center.

Last night, before the hallway traffic jam, we rested in Svasana, or corpse pose, the final piece of an asana sequence. My head touched the floor and the thoughts spread out-“here we go, mind wandering time!” Rarely, do I put such a quick, firm brake to that. I had time to unwind, a real gift. The contours of my life and body are so hemmed in by others needs and hands these days, I recognized that I was safe from being stepped on, drooled upon, requested, needed, desired by anyone or anything for those precious moments on my mat. I guided myself to release one area of knotted energy at a time: new gifts like cues to allow each vertebrae to relax and spread all the way up my spinal column, the hemispheres of the brain letting go of one another and old favorites, allowing the gums to release their grip on the teeth, eyes softening in their sockets, follicles relaxing their grip of hair. Having worked my way up body from my toes, I let the crown of my head release for a few beats and then moved into the organs as time continued to unfold. To touch internally, these spaces, my ovaries, my heart, my liver-like so many old friends that I regularly neglect to notice.

The social female body, it truly is one part of my puzzle. I thought this form was my own, but the shape of culture infects my perceptions. There are pulses of critique that are not my own, but live in me nonetheless. Self-awareness, being a wife and a mother has shown me that my physical being provides many gifts to those I love. My body becomes my own, again, on my mat, on my bike, on a mountain trail, in water and too, when I loosen the thoughts to appreciate this moment. When I can carry and dance and laugh all at once. As a fifth grader from Bedford-Stuyvesant once told me, “Don’t hate, appreciate!”. Indeed.

The Inner Landscape of Beauty

Some days, life feels like a treasure trove-like when six books recommended by friends all show up on the hold shelf at the library and other days, or moments, I can’t believe how quick the shit builds up, like, literally. Both my home space and my heart space need regular sweeping of cobwebs and detritus.

In our home, we have many different gears turning right now as new routines and rhythms are striven for, in order to accommodate new schools, new work and holding it altogether with room, and energy, left for play, connection, and regular exercise (pretty please).

These early school-year days contain just enough time to allow little guy a nap between our work morning and big guy’s afternoon pick up. He has been falling asleep on our ten-minute drive home and allowing me to transfer him straight to his bed and then taking him back out and straight to the car two hours later. This pause is in my otherwise giving, extroverted day is so very sweet. I wish we could all have siesta.

One of the treasure troves I have stumbled upon, since becoming a mother, is the full world of podcasts. Of course, there are so very many out there. I have a backlog of recommendations for friends, so I thought that I would share them here. And maybe you’d like to tell me what you are listening to or otherwise ingesting?

On Being with Krista Tippet is soul food for me; so many of her conversations, across a spectrum of thoughtful humanity, nourish me directly. This recent one with John O’Donohue is about beauty and much more. I have listened to it twice through and probably will again, I would love to talk it over with you, it is very rich. Also, I enjoyed this talk with Rami Nashashibi about creativity, community, parenting and poverty, but really: listen to all of them. Seriously.

The Moth is culled from a radio hour by the same name and consists of people telling their own stories often with some coaching around storytelling. I listened to this one while walking a long walk to yoga class and laughed and cried a lot of the way; catching flying babies on mountainsides, body image and self worth at ten thousand waves, living in the home of Poe in the Bronx.

Death, Sex and Money is a relatively new one from WNYC that I enjoy, particularly these conversations: Bill Withers on being a man and Jane Fonda on being a woman. Oh, and this guy talking about being in the funeral business.

Katy Says is a great one for geeking out over body mechanics, alignment and best practices for existing in human form. My awesome post-partum PT recommended it to me. Also, it feels like eavesdropping on two gals that you might want to befriend because they think about cool stuff and enjoy laughing. Check out the boob show to get you thinking differently about how you attire your body.

This American Life, a radio program that will keep me from getting out of the car, issues a podcast. I faithfully download and fail to listen to the majority of them. They recently ran a two-part segment on the state of American education today entitled The Problem We All Live With and I intend to find some time for those soon.

The Longest Shortest Time is a great, primarily, parenting oriented show and the creator is really striving to foster a sense of community through sharing stories about how ridiculous parenting can be. I appreciate her vision and enjoy listening to what she brings together. She recommends one called 99% Invisible which is about design and I am sure that will be another portal of listening that I would like to step into.

I got started on podcasts with Zencast, a mindfulness gateway drug if there ever was one. Listening to Tara Brock and Gil Fronsdal or Jack Kornfield as I trooped up and down Eastern Parkway, a little bundle strapped to my chest, on my way to or from quality pizza on the other side of town, might have actually saved me in my early parenting days.

Lastly, Storynory is a definite go-to for those of you with littles who could use some freshly updated, well recorded stories, classic and modern, to listen to on car rides, for resting time, etc.

I went on a long deserved vacation this summer with a dear, old-school friend and I was delighted, though not shocked, to find we listen regularly to many of the same programs. And, I know some more of you good people who already do. Here, I am trying to convert the rest of you; these recordings are springboards to support the good conversations we are already having and let us take them deeper, quicker. I need all the paths to value correlated positively with effort that I can find!

Oh my, now I want to hear them all again. Let me know if you indulge and if you are subsequently moved. Happy nourishment through story, everyone!

Remember the links are the blue text, which you can click on. I can’t quite manipulate the internet to make them less subtle on the screen. 

Crushing It With Grapes

Right now, my hands smell like chives and parsley and it has been awhile since that’s been true.

Gardening can look like a poor metaphor when my glazed eyes are surveying this year’s small attempt at growing food; three years in New Mexico has taught me that it is a true endeavor to eek sustenance out of the red soil. Locally, I am captivated and appalled by this sad ending of Gaia Gardens; an amazing exemplar of how to do just that.

My time in fertile parts of the country and my penchant for staring at homesteading blogs in my early years of parenting has kept me trying, but this year I have scaled way back on my ambitions. Lazily, I have flat out refused to water for stretches of time, trusting in rains that only fall by whim and chance to provide for my plants.

So, rather than expecting groceries to emerge from my patch of earth when for three years I have been witness to withering and dying by sun, drought, insect, cat and benign neglect, I tried to keep it way simple. Carrots and basil planted alongside my boy, greens in the hoop house, experimental melons and squashes, sunflowers for fun, oh, and potatoes, because I never have.

My ability to tend is all used up most days before the plants make the list, but one of the sweetest times of day is just past bedtime, just past sunset, standing in the yard. This year, as a gardener and landscaper cum woman of the earth, I have most relished trimming back plants, ripping out weeds, digging and yanking out roots and food plants gone to flower to soon. This is why I smell of parsley, and chives, right now.

All I really want these days is for my children and myself to have the opportunity to eat directly from plants rooted in the earth. I don’t need to be the one to sow and tend them directly, but simply to recognize and honor them while they are enjoyed. I want to be part of the village, rather than trying to be the village.

Most of what I planted this season is now suffering along the spectrum of Failure to Thrive and I fall back into gratefulness for those who do the planting and tending for me. The real metaphor in my gardening life is to do what I can and do it well, in time.

The other evening, I was able to reach up from my lazy, midnight hammock ride and pluck a grape right into my mouth, late summer sweetness is all around.

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Stardust, baby

Muse, hurumph. She is arriving at all the “wrong’ moments these days. Stretching my imagination, I can see that perhaps she is pointing to all these moments, acts and breaths, being of equal value, rather than simply the ones where I Get Stuff Done. Perhaps I am struggling to trust my muse these days, ripping up to do lists as fast as I can wrestle pen and paper back from little fingers and get them written.

 

It has come to my attention that one way we can mark our time on this Earth is by 18.2 years, a lunar cycle’s length. I understand nothing of what this indicates, but the math shows I have just rounded an astral curve and passed into my third go-round. Following the moon has ever felt right to me and it is satisfying to do simple arithmetic, so I bow down and await further insight.

 

Spring has been arriving as if yoked to a pendulum, swinging us this way and that away with high winds and all that brings. “Vata Deranged” is the term my yoga teacher used to describe how such prolonged airy and disruptive forces affect us. Resting in trust of mother nature is, perhaps, the real underlying tension of these days.

 

This week, though, we have been luxuriating under gray clouds and frequent rainfalls; the clouds with their heavy moisture are lingering still over the land. Last month’s generous planting of peas is beginning to push out of the soil and plants are opening up everywhere beckoning us all towards Summer.

 

There is an ancient and clear reverence for water infused in the culture here and it’s in my bones as well. Orchards, acequias and quiet fountains fill my heart space with humanity’s struggle to live wisely. I fling myself into shade cast by stately trees and imagine digging holes, establishing more trickling fountains where I can perch and be watered by them daily. Gladly, I will drive miles and miles to be near a stream and lie down for awhile.

 

Again, I breathe to slow down, I practice pausing before acting to lessen the weight brought about by mindless reacting, always hoping to solves problems before they arise. I am feeding my muse her requisite fresh air, beauty and laughter, best I can under these oftentimes absurd toddler rearing conditions. Dreaming of the next eighteen-plus years, wondering how my bones will be feeling under my skin by then and if this restless mind will be any more capably reigned in under my heart’s care.

Rhythm is a Dancer, but of course

The moments of nap time (aka MY TIME) are passing by as the sky attempts to whip us up a late September rainstorm, I have done my part to appease the gods of rain by hanging up a substantial load of laundry earlier today. They flap around me now, my laundered cocoon of self reflection.

I am fifteen months out (tending little guy), nearly six years in (being a mother), coming up on seven years (creating and sustaining marriage) and rounding the bend towards thirty-seven years (adapting to self all the way).

One gift hard-earned these six odd years of parenting is my knowledge of self, continually evolving as it is. My sense of my own needs is fairly astute these days. My ability to access the time, energy and support to meet them varies by day, by hour, by week, sometimes moment to moment. Lately, I notice the hourglass reading empty much too soon when I have just gotten into the meat of the writing (or the meat of the meal preparation).

In some ways, I would be a fool to have not learned my own ways by now. I leave signs and notes all over the damn place: Do yoga! Call your friends! Go take a hike! Eat more green things! And on…

I have journals from six years back, they are chock full of words, plans, rhythms, lists, inspirations, realizations that neatly mimic what I have written over the last fifteen months. I am waiting for the opportunity to dig deeper into these boxes, my journals and see what else is awaiting me, reminders of what I once already knew. It is good to be reminded.

My lists of what need to happen unspool and mimic one another. I am grateful for the days when I make minute adjustments and they serve me well. I am searching for efficiency blended well with joyful, easeful attending movements throughout each day. I like to lichen my role in the home as a somewhat drunken (and certainly underpaid) orchestra conductor and it is the same for me, dancing my way through each day, attempting to see, respond and anticipate to all the needs, including my own. After the Ecstasy, the Laundry, indeed.

Today, I cleaned up Caleb’s lunch mess before putting him down for nap. I boiled water for tea while I practiced yoga for my five minutes of baseline due diligence, ate an apple while the tea steeped and I sat to type. These are glorious moments I am living!

The beauty of being at home and seeing all the possibilities, for me, is being able to envision changes that support and nourish. I want to solve the problems before they arise. I want to be a taoist master of simply living and a clown constantly turning upside down. It is overwhelming, and exhilarating, in turns.

On a day like today, this leaves me with piles of whole foods on the counter waiting their turn in my hands, furniture shoved about to be wiped clean and placed anew, there purposes re-imagined. I am learning to wash the dishes when I am washing the dishes and, other times, to ignore the damn dishes and roll around on the floor instead. Leastways, I am trying to learn. I am pretty sure I have some notes about that a few dozen times in my daily jottings. I believe in repetition these days.

This thoroughgoingness is everywhere! I drop out of these routines when I can, eyes up to the Aspens turning, eyes inward to the posture, crouch down to the littles, back up tall to invent a new game. For now, it is back to my practice of zen in the midst of housekeeping, hearth tending, heart expanding. Thanks for coming along for the ride.

Ballast

It’ s almost too exciting to have time to myself these days. My husband resumes his school-year life early next week and I can’t believe that the massive support of a second parent at home is nearly over and done with so soon. I will need to cultivate ballast that I can access for the next month before my kindergardener, too, returns to school.

The kids go out with their dad on bike rides for a few hours at the time, such as now, and I spin in circles, literally, starting projects, getting distracted, starting other projects. (Stretch! Clean! Write! Read! Run! Call! Prep Meals! Organize! Plan! Craft??)

It feels essential to prioritize what I want to have completed by the time any window of unfettered movement has closed again. Today, I requested Writing Time, and I am acutely aware of how even within this, there is much clamoring for my attention. Do I write for reflection, for connection, for publication, for all three?

Yes, I am trying to do all three and the iced coffee helps with that.

Currently, I am reading The Circle by Dave Eggers and I feel the challenge within the story to look at my use of technology and social media. I strive to strike a moderate approach with both; one that gives to me, rather than depleting me. There are, however, deeper questions to consider and the answers feel clear to me when I am out in nature or surrounded by friends, but there is less clarity when home all day with small children.

It is a challenge to achieve “flow” when constantly redirected which I now see that I do to myself at times as if in absurd imitation of my children.  Funny, that. My meta practice for this next round of school-year/Life will be to make more consistent the practices that keep me sane and hold me accountable.

Right now, it seems I ought to go roll out my mat and sink into my bones for a bit before they come a-rumblin’ back.

A note: Thanks for all the good words, comments and reflections that you have been sending my way in various ways. If you don’t feel comfortable commenting on the blog itself, please do feel invited to call, email, smoke signal, etc. I respect all modes of correspondence.

Walk the Proud Land My Friend

I am learning to stand up well, literally, in all areas of my life.

Child rearing is a special kind of blessing; the miracle of pregnancy and joy of childcare are paired with exhaustion and intensely physical, daily demands around a twenty-four hour cycle for years.

I work hard on how I am how I am lifting, holding, carrying and setting down the baby and, sometimes, the big boy. There is a poignant awareness of shoes that don’t support, strollers that draw me into unnatural postures, nursing positions that are causing my shoulders to collapse, etc. This list would encompass everything.

At this point, it feels like an(other) full time job to shine light on how I relate physically to my boys in order to move my body with whatever scant wisdom and mindful attention I have thus far cultivated. More than once, I have proved how easily I can throw out my back, tweak my sciatic nerve, exhaust my wrists and on and on when tending to a willful, unreasonable being all day and some of the night. So, there is motivation to move well after having moved unintelligently and reaped the painful rewards.

Over my life and still now, my connection to my physical body has waxed and waned. As a kid I had a sense that I “should” be doing sit-ups and push ups and tried to force myself into such practices, for self-betterment I suppose. Now, as a semi mature adult, I recognize that joyful and intelligent movement is what matters. I turn towards the wisdom of others to enhance my understanding of integrated movement and practice maintaining a gentle, lively awareness of how I hold myself and move in the world. Children, nature, music and love lead me to play and play leads me to roll, dive, run and jump. For myself, there is grace in breathing with my motions, spending any time playing outdoors, feeling the resistance of water along my limbs and allowing song to shape my rhythm, encourage my foot pattern and remind to radiate in 360 directions or more.

It’s now been a decade and a half since I first stepped into yoga practice and, at last, I have a semi regular home practice. Since last June, I have been checking in regularly with a physical therapist specializing in women’s health and garnering much insight into the tendencies of my bones, muscles and the interplay between them. These traditions and systems give me the structure to play with weaving together my breath and movement, to notice if my skeletal alignment is one that supports, trains my muscles to do this vast holding work, and then always how to cultivate a softening of the skin and sense when all the infrastructural work is alive and pulsing.

Right now, summer solstice, anniversary of baby’s birth, I lean into realigning my native energy patterns. When asked to choose colors, I have been sensitive to blues and greens like a girl, again. I have felt my masculine energy rising on the heels of seven years of embracing my feminine body and spirit. I am pulling my horizontal flesh (foot arches, pelvic floor, corners of the mouth) up and drawing in along my bones, linear expressions to balance the rounded spaces of my hips, shoulders, pelvis, breasts and heart.

Mostly though, I am pulling my shoulders up, back and down, slightly tucking my chin and making sure that my core is engaged, hips are over my ankles and knees are slightly bent as I make my way through these days. I am most grateful for the teachers that have guided me along the way and to deepening my ability to feel/listen within.

I have a long way to go in the more subtle practices of feeding myself mindfully, cultivating spiritual practice that can hold the family. That is where I feel like a lot of my work lies in this next seven-year cycle, but for now it is enough to stand well, intentionally, until it becomes my own natural posture and gait.

I wonder…what are your chronic tendencies that need to be undone? Or, what have you implemented to better thrive in your own precious body? Do you have a sense of your own balance of masculine and feminine energies? What does it look like and how do you play with it?

Thanks for reading along with me and many blessings to you on this, the longest day of our year. Cheers!