Tag Archives: friend

The Last Down Dog

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Be grateful that all the work of getting here today is behind you . . .

So speaks my friend and beloved yoga teacher, Lisa, on this final day of our classes together. Word has gotten out that Lisa will be leaving. Her regular Wednesday students are here, joined by others who have come to say good-bye. We fill the sunny studio while Lisa jokes that we could fit in twice as many folks. Smiling and stretching on our mats, we prepare for practice one last time.

I am heartbroken that Lisa is leaving, even though I know we plan to stay in touch and teach yoga and writing again. For the last three years and five months, our gentle and restorative yoga class each Wednesday morning has balanced my week. I anchor the routine of my life to that day. From Thursday to Saturday, I enjoy my relaxed and limber body. From Sunday to Tuesday, I anticipate the mental and physical benefits yoga will bring. Without these years of Wednesday practice, I know my health would have suffered.

As class begins, my awareness is heightened. I want to remember each pose, each posture, and each word that Lisa offers as she guides us one more time through our asanas together. Make this practice your own, she advises again. We know this already, yet we listen all the same. We are not passive recipients of Lisa’s wise teaching; instead, we follow her guidance while staying attuned to our own needs.

Lisa’s sessions regularly incorporate a gratitude practice to acknowledge and appreciate the people and opportunities in our lives. This morning, I consider the words of gratitude with which class began. My feelings are mixed, my thanks bittersweet. I am grateful for the years I’ve spent in class, but I’m sad about the changes that are coming. I’m grateful that “all the work of getting here”—not just today, but every day–has brought me to a place of health and friendship, but I don’t like thinking that this class will now be behind me. Letting go, especially of people, has always been difficult for me–and hasn’t gotten easier with age. At 55, I’m tired of loss and disheartened at the horizon of further loss before me. All the more reason to be grateful, I suppose, for what I’ve already had.

Today, we move, we breathe, we stretch, we hold, each movement paired with breath as we integrate body and mind. Even though I’m not watching the clock—I never watch the clock—I’m aware that time is going much too quickly. When we shift to warrior postures Vera I, II, and III, our concentration deepens as we work to attain balance. Tree pose—never natural for me, especially on the left—seems a little easier this time. I’m determined to hold it longer, if only to sustain our last class a few seconds more.

Too soon, it’s time for a relaxation pose. I lie on my back with my legs extended up the wall. I try not to think, but I am already imagining the days ahead. I know I will continue Wednesday yoga with a new teacher. I’m sure she, too, will offer wisdom and experience, and I look forward to meeting new yoga friends. But it won’t be the same and, right now, “the same” is what I want. If I’ve learned anything in this class, it’s that change can best be met when least resisted. Still, I’m not yet ready to let go.

In our final posture, we sit in hero pose with legs folded beneath us and arms extended with hands on our knees. My palms face up to receive my practice, rather than palms down for grounding. I want to stay open to this moment, to receive each second that remains.

The ticking of the clock behind me turns my desire to prevent change into my own selfish mantra. Tick tock. Tick tock. Don’t go. Don’t go.

I know this is wrong, not to mention futile, so I shift my desire toward the future. Tick tock. Come back. Come back. Come back.

While these words buoy my spirit, I have to concede it’s time to go. I struggle to change the words in my head in the hope of changing my heart. What can I say to release this moment, this desire to hold onto something that must certainly, irrevocably change?

Suddenly, the words seem to come without conscious effort and I know they are right.

Be well. Be well. Be well. Be well. As I send these words to Lisa, I trust they’ll also be true for me.

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Filed under ecobiography, memoir, women's writing

A Friend Like That

“What in the world ever became of sweet Jane?/She lost her sparkle, you know she isn’t the same./Living on reds, vitamin C, and cocaine;/All her friends can say is, Ain’t it a shame?”

In high school, we’d joke that “Truckin’” by the Grateful Dead was about our friend Lisa. Lisa was the daredevil amongst us, but if Lisa went first, I usually went second.

Like the time she leaped off the steep side of Horsetooth Reservoir into the lake twenty feet below without checking the water level for bone-crushing boulders first. Crossing her arms over her chest, she jumped straight as a board into the water without hitting any rocks. When I saw her bob up to the surface, I jumped too.

Or the time we realized the friend who was driving us to the country party was pretty high on something so Lisa bailed out of the back door and I followed, tucking and rolling our way to relative safety. Lisa was fearless because she didn’t really care about the rules.

I couldn’t always keep up with Lisa, though, or follow her into the dark where life became a joke to mask some kind of pain. One day she stole some downers from the pharmacy where her mom worked and showed up at school laughing at nothing in particular. By lunch period, she could barely walk or talk. I was taking college classes in the afternoon so I brought her to campus with me, hoping she’d sit in the café and wear off the drugs with caffeine. When I got back from class, she was gone; I found her wandering the hallways and took her to my house to sleep. Her mother had turned her in to the police before and I wasn’t going to let that happen again. Self-medicating wasn’t a word we used back then, but it would have described Lisa.

Whatever became of sweet Jane? She didn’t even make it to our tenth reunion. She died of breast cancer, leaving her two-year-old daughter to be raised by her straight-edged sister, a secondary tragedy as far as I was concerned.

Lisa was my daredevil friend; she taught me to leap and then look and then leap again.  I miss her laugh and her teenaged irreverence for rules that say “don’t” instead of “do.”  We’re raised to follow authority, not question it, but sometimes I wanted to follow Lisa instead. What better time in life to have a friend like that?

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Filed under memoir

Seeds of Never-Seen Dreams

Rather than write this week, I created a digital story based on a previous post called Our Great-Grandmother’s Gardens. I loved putting old photographs to Flora Hunsley Smith’s story. Although she was a quiltmaker herself, none of her quilts have survived, so for background images I used quilts that were passed down to me from my Grandma Short on my father’s side of the family. I had fun with the transitions between quilts and flowers, looking for similar colors and textures. The music came last. I knew I wanted a traditional piece but hadn’t imagined something this melancholy. I loved the title–and Rayna Gellert’s liner notes–and its driving tone captured the sense of perseverance I associate with my great-grandmother’s life. “Coming through the rye” says it all for me–you come through life the best you can by making the most of each day.

Watch Seeds of Never-Seen Dreams:

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Filed under memoir, sustainable agriculture, women's writing

June

Today is the 28th anniversary of my friend June’s death. June was murdered in her home on June 11, 1982, just a year after we graduated from college. Three years ago, I decided to make a digital story about June, not only to mark the 25 years since I lost her, but to celebrate our friendship and the 1970s feminism that brought us together.

I can’t remember those days without imagining June.

You can see the digital story here:

June from Kayann Short on Vimeo.

Since the making of this story, June’s case has received new attention and is being reinvestigated by an official cold case unit and a wonderful detective who is determined to see June’s killing solved. The murderer knows that he is again under investigation; he may be laughing now but his time will come. I believe that someone or some evidence will come forward some day to lay this crime to rest.

Making June’s story was painful but necessary because I don’t want to forget her and the movement that shaped our friendship. I loved my life then. I could hardly wait each day to meet my friends at our student group’s office. We argued and laughed and sometimes published our ideas.  We organized and marched and wrote letters and showed up when needed to voice our demands. We held garage sales and feminist film festivals to raise money for our efforts. We simultaneously cared so much and so little because our irreverence for the systems of power just pushed us harder to insist on change.

We didn’t yet know how much could be lost.

But at June’s death, we came face to face with the very thing we most wanted to change—the violence in our everyday women’s lives. And 28 years later, I’m still engulfed with rage and pain and sorrow that none of us could save her.

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Filed under memoir