Yoga at 7 a.m. under a mango tree in a Balinese garden. ( I know... go ahead and hate me now.) Well, those of you who know me can laugh about the 7 a.m. part but the yoga was a truly beautiful experience. Our Slovakian teacher led us through the gentle deep breathing yoga that I love. But this was Mother Earth yoga. I kept flicking insects - both familiar and unrecognizable - off my mat. Surprisingly though, no mosquitoes. It was hot and even more humid, even at 7 a.m. Back home, this would be sold as hot yoga with Mother Nature supplying the sauna.
Our teacher encouraged us to settle our feet into the ground, feeling the earth beneath us. Moving into triangle pose, I found myself looking up into the sunlight filtering through the mango tree above me. Roosters were crowing as we moved into corpse pose. Lying quietly, I remembered that nature isn’t still at all. I could hear the birds calling raucously, roosters crowing, dogs barking, insects humming. Dirt from the garden dusted my ankles and arms from their moments off the mat. As we finished, the garden’s owner, dressed in a sarong and kabaya, walked quietly past, carrying morning offerings of rice, fruit and flowers for the Hindu family altar at the front of the garden. It was a moment of deep connection with life, lying between earth and sky, under a mango tree.
They should put warning signs up at Ye Ole Fashioned. The banana splits there could feed a family of four, thank goodness and bless their hearts. This is a treat I splurge on in summer. I don’t know why. They are good anytime of the year, but somehow in summer when life seems a little slower and afternoons get hazier and hotter, the treat takes on more of an irresistible appeal.
I ignore what I know about glycemic index and sugar addictions and dive in to enjoy with a friend. You can’t eat these alone. Well, you can, but it’s more fun to share the guilt. The words from a yoga class drift back to me: “Soften in poses, in life, in effort.” Because I have a deadline-driven job, I often am cracking the whip on myself to get tasks checked off. At home, I have a child with a disability. It can take amazingly large amounts of energy and motivation to deal with those needs. Sometimes I’ll come to a stop in the day and realize, it’s OK to just be. To stop pushing. To stop caring.
And, yes, occasionally, dip into a split.
Last weekend, I went home for my childhood best friend's wedding. Even as I type that, it doesn't feel right. Harlan, KY is where I spent the first 18 years of my life, but is it really "home" anymore? Maybe Mount Pleasant, SC, where I now live, is home. The truth is, since I left Harlan, I have made my home in ten different places on two continents. In most of those I eventually felt some sense of belonging, sometimes even more so than in the town of my birth. And yet, something stirs in me whenever I drive back across the state line and I see the mountains, the same ones that stood sentinel over every moment of my childhood.
In college, I remember reading Scott Russell Sanders' Staying Put: Making a Home in a Restless World. His words have stayed with me ever since: "One’s native ground is the place where, since before you had words for such knowledge, you have known the smells, the seasons, the birds and beasts, the human voices, the houses, the ways of working, the lay of the land, and the quality of light. It is the landscape you learn before you retreat inside the illusion of your skin. You may love the place if you flourished there, or hate the place if you suffered there. But love it or hate it, you cannot shake free. Even if you move to the antipodes, even if you become intimate with new landscapes, you still bear the impression of that first ground." No matter how far away I go, even now at the edge of the ocean, I still stand in the shadow of those beautiful, familiar mountains, and I guess I always will.