May 29, 2010

Holiday Weekends

These summertime, long weekend holidays - Memorial Day, Independence Day, and Labor Day - are toughies. I am typically fighting a low grade depression as these things come round each year.

Part of that is, as a single person, not tied in to a traditional / local family unit, I rarely have someplace special to go or big plans. While much of society is off to the beach, a family cook-out, a barbeque, or the like, I'm often at loose ends. This year, I got an invite to a cookout with friends on Monday; I'm also teaching yoga Monday morning. Today was balloon chasing and then a day of vegging and cleaning; hit the GLBT film fest tonight. Tomorrow I hope to hit the mat, and perhaps find myself on the trail in the afternoon. So my weekend has filled up. But I still feel somewhat disconnected.

Another aspect is, as a single and self employed person, I'm fairly disconnected from the cultural shift towards summer mode. The end of the school year does not really impact me. Nor do I take much in the way of formal vacation. So the way these holidays are seasonal milestones for many is less meaningful to me.

I guess there is a nagging feeling that, were I to stop trying to stay connected, I could easily drop out for the 72 hours of this particular holiday, and I'd not be much missed. And even as I do find places to be, I feel very much like a 5th wheel, a spectator, a hanger-on. The undertow of these feelings is not particularly healthy or helpful, but it needs to be acknowledged.

Mostly, I just try to hang in there and not sink into too much lethargy. Tuesday will come and with it, a drop back in to the normal and comfortable rhythms of life. Just kind of weird to realize that while much of world lives for these breaks from the routine and the ordinary, I seem to flounder in these spaces.

May 24, 2010

Breaking Silence

I spent the weekend supporting the 2010 teacher trainees. It was their 5th weekend of training, and this was "silent weekend". They were asked to keep to functional silence all weekend - no chatting, no socializing between sessions. And to extend that to their friends and families, as well as to communications tools - phone, internet, facebook, radio, tv, etc. Quite the challenge for most of us in this culture, myself included.

While I was not within the cone of silence (I'm on staff) I did respect that as much as possible, and kept my radio off in the car and at home, stayed off the internets for the most part, and avoided TV. So this morning, I'm continuing to enjoy the silence; keeping public radio off for a while as I ease into my day.

Assisting at teacher training is an incredible honor and opportunity - I entered teacher training myself 2 years ago because my enthusiasm for and joy surrounding yoga was spilling out of me; and this is just one more chance to share the love. These folks are working so hard and it is so amazing to watch their growth as yogis and as people in the pressure cooker of a teacher training program. I am in awe, most of the weekend.

While I was on duty most of the weekend, including assisting at the practices, I was able to unroll my mat on Sunday morning and practice with the class. The teacher training practices are incredibly challenging; yoga boot camp. And we started with a yin practice that took me down into grief and tears pretty quickly. So a good time on the mat....

The teacher training weekend is long - 5 hours Friday, 9 hours Saturday, and 9 hours Sunday. I also worked at the studio Saturday morning. So not a lot of unwinding and chilling going on this weekend. I missed out on a Falcon Ridge weekend - crew chiefs meeting as well as a concert with the most wanted song swap artists, and the chance to catch up with friends - but what can you do?

I'm back at it this morning, although consciously taking it easy. I have a few small projects to take care of, and an intro to yoga class to teach this evening in Meriden. But I'm hoping that today is a chance to reintegrate and catch up.

The teacher trainees were left with homework, as usual, and this month, one of their tasks was to come up with an "Unreasonable" - something that would challenge them, break old patterns, move them into a place of discomfort or out of habit. As this was being assigned, I thought back to my teacher training. I had no remembrance what my "unreasonable" was (although upon reflection, it involved getting body work; I had up until then never had a massage). But I think back on the past two years - I ended a relationship, purchased a home, began teaching yoga, started playing music in a band. On the whole, my entire life borders on the unreasonable, these days. Pretty great, all in all!

So kudos to my teachers, for the practice that has changed my life. For the teacher training that has helped me to grow. And for the community that continues to challenge me, to nurture me, and is my family.

May 17, 2010

The Under Toad

From 'The World According To Garp' (and cribbed from Currently This):

"Duncan began talking about Walt and the undertow- a famous family story. For as far back as Duncan could remember, the Garps had gone every summer to Dog's Head Harbor, New Hampshire, where the miles of beach in front of Jenny Fields' estate were ravaged by a fearful undertow. When Walt was old enough to venture near the water, Duncan said to him- as Helen and Garp had, for years, said to Duncan- "Watch out for the undertow." Walt retreated, respectfully. And for three summers, Walt was warned about the undertow. Duncan recalled all the phrases.

"The undertow is bad today."
"The undertow is strong today."
"The undertow is wicked today." Wicked was a big word in New Hampshire- not just for the undertow.

And for years, Walt watched out for it. From the first, when he asked what it could do to you, he had only been told that it could pull you out to sea. It could suck you under and drown and you and drag you away.

It was Walt's fourth summer at Dog's Head Harbor, Duncan remembered, when Garp and Helen and Duncan had observed Walt watching the sea. He stood ankle deep in the foam from the surf and peered into the waves, without taking a step, for the longest time. The family went down to the water's edge to have a word with him.

"What are you doing, Walt?" Helen asked?
"What are you looking for, Dummy?" Duncan asked him.
"I'm trying to see the Under Toad, " Walt said.
"The what?" said Garp?
"The Under Toad," Walt said. "I'm trying to see it. How big is it?"

And Garp and Helen and Duncan held their breath; they realized that all these years, Walt had been dreading a giant toad, lurking offshore, waiting to suck him under and drag him out to sea. The terrible Under Toad.

Garp tried to imagine it with him. Would it ever surface? Did it ever float? Or was it always down under, slimy and bloated and ever watchful for ankles its coated tongue could snare? The vile Under Toad.

Between Helen and Garp, the Under Toad became their code word for anxiety. Long after the monster was clarified for Walt ("Undertow, dummy, not Under Toad!" Duncan had howled), Garp and Helen evoked the beast as a way of referring to their own sense of danger. When the traffic was heavy, when the road was icy- when depression had moved in overnight- they said to each other "The Under Toad is strong today."

"Remember," Duncan asked on the plane, "how Walt asked if it was green or brown?"
Both Garp and Helen laughed. But it was neither green nor brown, Garp thought. It was me. It was Helen. It was the color of bad weather. It was the size of an automobile.

I'm conscious of the Under Toad at the moment.

Last week, I got news that a friend, teacher trainee, and one of my regular students down at the yoga studio got hit by a car on her bicycle. Not one of these little brushes or scrapes (which can be bad enough, given the relative size and speed of the vehicle compared to a biker) but a full on collision that involved the neck, concussion, pelvis, ribs, ankle. Pretty scary. She seems to be doing OK, and will recover although I suspect it will be long and difficult.

On Friday, my former partner Zippy called. A mutual friend P was in the hospital - had been for almost two weeks with what appeared to be a stroke. Lots of drama there - Zippy upset that he had not checked up on P (who had not been returning calls), Zippy upset that the way P compartmentalized his life meant that family and friends were not in contact. But two weeks later, P is still barely conscious, in hospital, and they are not exactly sure what is going on. A week or so of testing and observation led up to a brain biopsy last week; results still unknown. Zippy's been over to visit P every day since; and he (Zippy) is pretty shaken up by it all - he and P have been very close.

In the background, some issues at the studio that do not directly affect me but results in my being pulled in to the teacher training (long weekends) - I love and am honored to be part of the training, but it will mean a long and tiring three days, last month and again next weekend.

Meanwhile, my home has descended into a level of mess and clutter heretofore unseen; musical instruments, yoga mats, clothes, shoes, newspapers, mail, you name it. I'm not exactly a neat freak but it's past the point of simply feeling comfortable and lived in. Just a bit too busy to spend the time keeping up around here, and in this place of frenetic activity, things like healthy eating, keeping my living space ordered, etc. go out the window. I've made a list and am starting to pick away at it; my kitchen table is cleared and I bought myself some flowers this weekend to draw myself back into the world of beauty and order.

I have a relatively clear schedule today and will be sneaking in some household chores in between my work projects. Might even sneak over to weight watchers and try to kick start that.

May 13, 2010

Into the Woods

Spent the day up in MA, visiting my brother's workplace. Can't say too much but it was interesting, thought-provoking and more than a little sad. He was excited for my sister and I to see the place though, and it was nice to see where he works, etc.

Got back in time for some power yoga - but Elo the dog was so whiny and needy, and truthfully has bene neglected (due to yesterdays rain) so I opted out of yoga and we hit the farm for a hike. Felt good in my body and Elo needed the chance to run.

I am happy to report that the much anticipated (and endangered) Bobolinks have arrived - their plumage is quite distinctive (kind of a backwards tuxedo) as is their call (a particularly tuneful trill, almost carnival like). They keep the field uncut to permit nesting, so I expect they will be a frequent site in teh coming months.

Also, saw two rabbits on the mown lawn. I wondered how Elo would react (he ignores the birds, robins poking around all over the place) - and true to his beagle heritage, he took off after the rabbit who quickly shook him (must have been Hazel-rah, smart bunny). So it was an exciting day.

In other news, I got a package from today - "Teaching Yoga: Exploring the Teacher-Student Relationship" by Donna Farhi. There have been some issues bouncing around the studio of late (not directly involving me, but I am caught in some of the fallout) that warrant a closer look at teacher ethics - one of my friends had a copy of this amazing book, so I picked up my own copy.

Out Film Fest

Headed off to Cinestudio this evening for the Gay & Lesbian Film Fest. Seemed to be lesbian night.

The first piece, Edie & Thea: A Very Long Engagement, was a sweet bio-pic of a lesbian couple whose relationship spanned the past 40 years of GLBT progress. It was well done, and a compelling story that left me teary in places. The archival slides from their past were fascinating, with the elderly women sitting and watching, and commenting.

But I was also very conscious of the privilege of these two individuals (one employed by IBM as a system architect, the other a PhD Psychologist). They were able to move through the NYC lesbian circles, and insulated by their good fortune, their struggles seemed less about their sexuality and more the normal struggles of a relationship, especially Thea's battle with MS.

Reminded me a bit of how I felt hearing one of the CT gay marriage plaintiffs complain about the economic ramifications of not being able to transfer large retirement accounts to each other; I realized that for the most part, gay marriage is an economic issue for people who don't have a lot of other needs unmet. Me, I'd just as soon have universal health care.

May 08, 2010

Hugh and Lucy

My friend Kim and I trekked out to University of Hartford to see Hugh Blumenfeld, opening up for Lucy Kaplansky last event, part of the Music for a Change series.

First Hugh. Lovely to see him again, although Kim and I also headed out to see him last year at the Coventry Farmer's Market (where the *cough* Guinea Pigs will be playing in June!). A short set; but filled with goodness - opening with Raphael, doing the song about his brother from Strong in Spirit. No "Good Humor Man" (not quite summer enough) and no "How Long (Will the Mill Wheels Turn)" although thatt's probably not the name of the song.

However, extra special bonus, Diane Chodkowski (who I spotted in the house along with long time folkie Cyd Slotoroff) came up on stage to help out with "Friend of the Traveler" (she is the Diane who has "...been from Equador to Cracow, singing like an ambassador from heaven....", and sang with Margo and Adrienne as part of "Madwommin in the Attic" for a time). A fun treat; I was hoping she might join Hugh on stage.

For the Hugh fans - a new album entitled "Father" is coming out in June (in time for Father's Day) and he graduates and puts up his shingle in June also. I'm assuming he's going to be practicing pediatrics; not sure where.

Lucy is also an old favorite of mine; Kim never quite caught the bug. She played a cover heavy set - opening with Lyle Lovett's God Will, closing with Springsteen's Thunder Road (!), and sprinkling in Cohen (Hallelujah), McCartney (Let it Be), and Cash (Ring of Fire) - along with two by her father.

I'm a Lucy fan for a lot of reasons. I've heard her harmonizing on my favorite folk artists for literally decades - perhaps first on John Gorka's tracks. She has written and performed some amazing songs - her cover of Broken Things (Julie Miller) is a staple on my yoga disk, often setting up for Savasana (and often bringing tears). And one year, getting ready for Falcon Ridge Folk Fest she must have called me 1/2 dozen times to be sure her CDs got there; and she was so personable and engaging on the phone that I fell in love with the person to match the voice and music. Having a beloved performer call you on the phone is always kind of an E ticket experience....

But I think I hit on why some folks do not get her - she steadfastly refuses to sing the melody, live. She performed many songs that I know well (her own and covers) and invariably, she sang all over the place. Consciously, deliberately, and beautifully, mind you. But the "hook" of a song is almost always in the melody, and so it's hard to really get the song without that. It's almost like her performances are for the true believer, who has the song's melody in their head (from listening to the track) leaving her free to play around with harmony. She is, as she confessed to having been titled by Gorka "The Dominatrix of Harmony"

She's not on the Falcon Ridge roster for this year, BUT she noted that she, John Gorka, and Eliza Gilkyson are working on a trio project (think "Cry Cry Cry") entitled "Red Horses", and due out in July. Since 2/3 of the trio will be at Falcon Ridge I would not be surprised to see her make an appearance.....

Afterwards, Kim and I grabbed a bite at Gold Roc, a pack of high school theater geeks descended, some in greasepaint and hairspray. Kim guessed "Godspell" based on some of the makeup and I guessed the Greater Hartford Academy of the Arts (they are performing "Urinetown" this weekend and next, which I would love to sneak over to see). Having watched one too many episodes of Glee, I half expected an over the top production number. But we let before they got rowdy and tuneful!

May 07, 2010

Flashmob. Or Not.

Apparently, the Greater Hartford Arts Council organized (or, to use the word that I saw on Facebook today regarding this, choreographed) a "flashmob" today at State House Square. It looked kind of fun....

A small slice of uneasiness here....does something cool cease to be cool (or perhaps, become less cool) when it's used as a tool by an organization (regardless of how worthwhile)? When people are invited to come watch? When it's pre-packaged and marketed?

I think back to that staple of arena and stadium fandemonioum, The Wave. Wikipedia has a few alternate versions of how this got started, but as I recall from those early years, the coolness of The Wave was its grass roots origins, how one fan, or perhaps one rowdy section, would work to get it going, how each section in turn figured out that it was happening, and how the stadium sort of caught it's breath and watched, hoping it would make it around. No organization or marketing needed.

Today, with a mascot leading the charge, a video screen, announcer, and theme music proclaiming "It's Time for the Wave!" - it is simultaneously simple to get a wave going, and a lot less cool. It was plucked from the realm of "self entertainment by the masses" and co-opted by management.

So, an organized "flashmob" set up by marketers and with full sanction of all parties (official or no), with an invited guest list. Kind of cool. But only "kind of".

Addendum: A follow up tweet from GHAC. "Clear Channel Radio was at today's hARTfordFlashmob...were you?" 5 points from Gryffindor. Clear Channel? The bane of independent, local radio? Might as well announce that Walmart, Monsanto, and BP were there as well....."

Addendum II: And (Courant, FoxCT, WTXX, Advocate, etc.) describes this as Spontaneous Dance Breaks Out In Hartford. Sigh. A quick foray over to Merriam-Webster online provides several definitions of the word spontaneous, including:

5 : developing or occurring without apparent external influence, force, cause, or treatment
6 : not apparently contrived or manipulated : natural

Au contraire. This appears to have been completely contrived or manipulated. IMHO.

Jude = Arts and Tourism Crank and Marketing Curmudgeon. Guilty as charged.

May 05, 2010

Dear Susan Bysiewicz:

(a) You won your case. Good for you. But this is not ".... A MAJOR VICTORY FOR CONNECTICUT VOTERS...." (as your recent email proclaims) nor do I feel that "Connecticut voters won a huge victory" as your email proclaims. Rather, an ambitious career politician (i.e. - you) won a victory. At last do us the favor of owning your own gleefulness at wining this decision.

(b) How *did* I get on your mailing list? Each email irks me somewhat - not enough to actually unsubscribe, but enough to make each of your mailings a small incentive to vote for your primary challenger.

Bleah. Politics. I've always kind of liked Ms. Bysiewicz as Sec of State. But this sort of ambition just sticks in my craw.

For the Birds

Elo and I have been hitting the fields and woods of Deming-Young Farm in Newington pretty regularly. On quiet days (weekdays, off hours), I let Elo off the leash - he trucks ahead on the mown path until I call him back, at which point he backtracks and then trots ahead. We walk to the end of the field, take a short hike up the hill and into the woods, emerging at a soccer / lacrosse field of a nearby middle school. If the field is empty, we play a few rounds of fetch the tennis ball (which I can really toss with the Chuck-it) and then back through the woods and into the fields, circling the field back to the car.

Other than dogs and their owners (the place is a real dog walking magnet) the fauna most evident are the birds. The field is reportedly kept long to abet the nesting of the endangered Bobolink, although I have yet to catch glimpse of one of these. But I have seen many common robins, a surprising number of beautiful red-winged blackbirds, an occasional cardinal, and swarming tree swallows, which make me think of the embattled bat as they hunt insects in the late afternoon.

I have yet to start working to identify the bird calls, but it's only a matter of time. It's quite peaceful and wonderful walking in the mornings and evenings as the birds are most active, but there are calls and flashes of wings pretty much all the time.

This afternoon, on our walk, I pondered the concept of birds as the survivors from the age of dinosaurs, and imagined this world in the next era - we homo sapiens having burned ourselves out and those patient birds, waiting in the wings, and perhaps returning to their past dominance.

May 04, 2010

2nd Annual Hog and Grog to benefit Billings Forge

Fully Unexpected

Finished up my last yoga class tonight in Bristol. I've been teaching an adult ed class - six week series, one hour classes, in an elementary school gym.

To be honest, it's a difficult class to teach. The space is a big gym that has been, until recently, pretty cold. If the heat does come on (fairly random) then the blowers are loud and it's hard to teach over them. The overhead lights have two levels - full blast or off. The class tends to spread out to the far corners of the room. And it's just an hour - difficult to get a full practice in when one is used to 75 - 90 minute sessions. I put classes together, I teach, but it's often hard to really feel like I am bringing it....

And yet....this evening as I finished up I got a hug from one student who said her practice has really grown this past year. Another was thrilled to get into an inversion. I left feeling I was doing a decent job, making a difference.

An unexpected bit of affirmation and inspiration. Was on the fence about taking on this class next year, but now.....I think I'm going to re-enlist....