Tag Archives: loss

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

Four Mile Fire

A melancholy day with the haze of a wildfire hanging over the foothills. But for those with homes or loved ones in the burn area, a frightening day waiting for news . . . and for rain.

It started two days ago when high winds kicked up flames ignited by something—an RV or propane tank?–not yet confirmed.

The numbers mount: seven thousand acres burned, three thousand people evacuated, 54 homes lost, and eight people unaccounted for.

As I drove south into Boulder this morning where the smoke is thicker and the air smells like a mountain campfire from the burning pines, I thought of Emmy Lou Harris’s “From Boulder to Birmingham”:

And I don’t want to hear a sad story

Full of heartbreak and desire

The last time I felt like this

It was in the wilderness and the canyon was on fire.

And I stood on the mountain

In the night and I watched it burn,

I watched it burn, I watched it burn.

The stories on the radio and from friends say the same thing:

I could see the flames as I drove away.

I watched it burn and hoped for the best.

And this:

I looked at everything in my house and realized nothing mattered except getting my family and animals out alive.

So I’m listening to the soundtrack of the Irish film Once, melancholy music for a day like today.

When your mind’s made up

When your mind’s made up

There’s no point trying to change it

When your mind’s made up.

These haunting songs seem meant for today, even if they’re more about love abandoned and betrayed than any other kind of loss.

Leave, leave,

And free yourself at the same time

Leave, leave,

I don’t understand, you’ve already gone

But in love and in life, we all face moments when the decision’s made for us because there is no other choice.

Times when you don’t even look behind because it doesn’t matter: You’re on your way and there’s no turning back.

And as you go, our thoughts are with you.

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Filed under memoir