Tag Archives: midlife

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

11-11-11

Last Friday was 11-11-11. Did you notice anything different about the day or mark it in any way? I’m not sure why I was so conscious of the repetitive date this year. We’ve already had 1-1-01, 2-2-02, 3-3-03, etc. and I didn’t pay any attention to those. I did take a little notice of 10-10-10 last year but mainly because since my first year of college, I’ve tracked the weather on 10-10–but that’s another story.

Somehow, 11-11-11 this year caught my imagination more than those earlier dates and I planned the day in celebration of what seemed an auspicious occasion. I had brunch with a dear friend at a little café while a Veteran’s Day parade marched to peppy school bands, making a loop around two blocks of the downtown area. I had to park several blocks from the café because of the parade route but I enjoyed my walk to the car, noticing the few leaves that still clothed the trees.

In the afternoon, I picked rosemary bundles for our Thanksgiving share pick-up the next day. Our rosemary bush is taking over the greenhouse and needed a little pruning. By the time I finished, my hands were dark with rosemary pitch and the bush wasn’t much tamer, but the bundles brought deep green to the roots, squash, & alliums we’d give in the share. We’ve got rosemary plants rooting in the greenhouse too for a plant sale in May; I decided I’d bring a few in the house now for some pre-holiday evergreen cheer.

Later in the afternoon I picked fall spinach for our pasta dinner with this summer’s sundried tomatoes and shallots in cream. Unlike the bright sun the day before, the sunlight was diffuse all day, like fall had finally settled in. The day had passed slowly, more grazing than galloping toward the darkening sunset. I re-kindled a fire in the woodstove and John brought home organic wine (no sulfites to give me a headache) and French bread for our candlelight dinner.

Why did 11-11-11 mean so much to me? Perhaps it’s something to do with being 52, having turned the corner on one career and choosing to slow my pace of life. I’m more conscious of how I use my time now because I know I haven’t got all the time in the world. Marking an unusual date I’ll never see again in my lifetime–triple pairs of the same prime number!–reminds me to pay attention to what I’m doing, to think about how I spend each day, especially those over which I have some control. I’m already thinking about how to spend next year’s 12-12-12, the last time I’ll ever be able to celebrate such a date again. If nothing else on 11-11-11, I enjoyed the enjoying of it.

 

 

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Filed under ecobiography, sustainable agriculture

The First Post

Odd how coming back [to London] upsets my writing mood. Odder still how possessed I am with the feeling that now, aged 50, I’m just poised to shoot forth quite free straight and undeflected my bolts whatever they are. . . . I don’t believe in ageing. I believe in forever altering one’s aspect to the sun.

                                          Virginia Woolf’s diary, Sunday, October 2, 1932

Where to begin is always the question, so today I start this blog with Virginia Woolf, the writer to whom I turn most often for insight into a woman’s writing life.

Since reaching 50 last year, I’ve kept Woolf’s A Writer’s Diary by my bed, reading entries randomly for insight into her genius and “determination not to give in.” Facing 50, she wrote, “Oh yes, between 50 and 60 I think I shall write some very singular books, if I live. I mean I think I am about to embody at last the exact shape my brain holds.”

Woolf is one of my many mentors; the night before I started graduate school, I dreamed that she invited me for tea. Tea with Virginia Woolf! What better way to assure myself that I was ready to realize my own intellectual voice?

Now, as I alter my aspect toward the sun of less certain but newly imagined years, I turn to Woolf again and find that at 50, she too was poised to follow her own mind wherever it might lead. “Shoot forth quite free straight and undeflected my bolts whatever they are.” Let that be my motto as I round the fullness of 50 like a pearl moon embracing the plenitude of its shine.

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Filed under memoir, women's writing