Thursday, June 20, 2013

Making Connections

Mango yoga
     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.

Softening Up

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.

Tuesday, June 11, 2013


Nature's healing

Maybe you have heard, as I have, that starfish are remarkable creatures, and that if one is cut into pieces, each piece will grow a whole new starfish. There is science to support that (as long as each piece has some of the central disk attached), according to Google. I was lucky enough to come across this resilient starfish during a recent walk on the beach. He had clearly lost an arm at some point, and according to what I read, it can take up to a year to generate a new one. But this little guy had done it! A brand new arm, almost as long as the others, bore witness to his healing. And somewhere out in the ocean, there may be a whole new starfish grown from that missing limb. It made me reflect on my own brokenness, and the good it can do. Priest and author Henri Nouwen encouraged people to come face to face with their own damaged nature in his book, The Wounded Healer. "Our wounds," he wrote, "allow us to enter into a deep solidarity with our wounded brothers and sisters." We all have scars, some easier to hide than others. But when we stop trying to hide them, and embrace them as an important part of who we are, then amazing new things can result.

There’s nothing quite like a summer thunderstorm. I cracked my bedroom window the other night, even though the AC was on, just to hear the rain fall. I half woke in the middle of the night, the pattering intensifying, the night pitch dark, and it felt as if my bed floated on a cloud, my dreams drifting with the rain. I was a young girl again, and the night seemed endless, the morning free of appointments or obligations. I don’t know how rain has the power to do this, to unhinge me so, dissolve me into a mist, but it does. Rain, unless in a flooded downtown Charleston, makes me inordinately happy. I read the Mary Oliver poem "Last Night the Rain Spoke to Me" and thought, ah, another person whom rain makes crazy happy. Here’s the first part of her poem:

Last night
the rain 
spoke to me
slowly, saying,
what joy
to come falling
out of the brisk cloud,
to be happy again
in a new way
on the earth!
That’s what it said
as it dropped,
smelling of iron,
and vanished
like a dream of the ocean
into the branches
and the grass below.”

What a lovely image - rain vanishing like a dream of the ocean, soaking roots, renourishing life.