Notes from the Mat

For the first time in…how long would that be…forever? I felt like myself as I rolled up my mat after class. Despite the sweat, despite the stiffness that began creeping into my shoulders and lower back as I walked to the car, the endorphins, serotonin, and dopamine released by the morning’s practice had swept me to a place of calm alertness.

While that morning’s hatha vinyasa practice had demanded a lot from me, it had given me a sense of well being that I hadn’t felt since before my passage through menopause. Coupled with pride in having accepted and met the challenge, I felt nearly invincible.

I had tried to keep up with classes via Facebook and videos posted by different teachers on YouTube, but it just wasn’t the same. The studio where I take classes did offer them through Zoom, but my technological ineptitude and concern for cybersecurity (one too many hacking incidents targeting Macs for my taste in the early days of the stay at home orders) overrode my desire and need to participate in classes, even remotely.

I struggled. I grew bored and stuck and dug the rut deep enough to feel the heat from the earth’s core, and then, finally, the vaccines came and the state opened up and we could get back to some semblance of normal. With a sigh of relief, I signed up for a workshop on opening one of the chakras, and I invested in a 10-pack of lessons.

Most of the classes I had taken fell on the side of more gentle, meditative styles, but I needed to do something more active. With a gulp, I signed up for the vinyasa class.

I silently gulped again as I looked around and saw a roomful of lithe students young enough to be my children. A couple of exceptions, another woman who was a little older than the average age of the other students, and a man a bit older than me who looked as if he’d been doing yoga the better part of his life.

Good teachers will help you succeed, whatever it takes. This teacher is excellent. Use blocks; modify; and if all else fails, go into child’s pose or downward dog until you can join the flow, she advised.

Begin with a little breathing, then off we went. The pace was gentled enough so everyone could keep up, but not allow enough to allow one to dwell on one’s chances of surviving the class. Stay in the moment, keep going, keep going, do some modifications and before I knew it, we took the last stretches and went into savasana, the relaxation pose that ends most practices. Even just a couple of minutes helps the body, mind, and spirit incorporate lessons learned in the practice.

My lessons included: 1. I had been grossly underestimating my physical abilities 2. I am not that old and 3. I need to set some new goals to push myself into the next phase.

And I’m doing it all again tomorrow.

Finally…

The clouds parted; the stars aligned. The little things that needed to fall into place did so as did some of the larger things, and on we went.

On the large end, the weather decided to moderate. I was able, at last, to get the garden going. Usually, I plant around Mothers’ Day weekend, but that brought frost. F-R-O-S-T. The white stuff that clings to grass after a chilly damp night. A few days later, we had to turn on the air conditioning. I don’t deal well with hot weather, so only short ventures in the yard with Oakley and early morning walks were on the daily agenda. Memorial Day brought cold and rain. Not a good weekend for planting.

And then there was more heat, and then, finally, this past Monday brought a window of a few days suitable for outdoors work without risk of heat stroke, so Oakley and I went to a local home improvement center and bought tomatoes in various sizes and colors and some herbs. We went to the other home improvement center and bought more herbs and some flowers this morning. Another trip to the blast furnace is on the weather horizon, but no matter since the plants are in the ground. I threw in a few green bean seeds for posterity, too.

Also in the large department, the state of Illinois opened up this past Friday. With a sigh of relief, I went back to yoga class in person. It was good to see the people there, and good to open my eyes after savasana (the relaxation pose that usually closes out classes to give your mind/body a chance to process what it’s learned), look out the studio window, and watch the gentle sway of the locust tree’s branch in the breeze.

In the small department, I shopped in person at the Aldi in town for the first time since…well…all this began. I needed a handful of minor items, not enough to justify a curbside pickup at the big grocery store that’s 15 miles away. I masked up, went inside, grabbed cucumbers, a little fruit, yogurt, those sorts of things, paid, and went back to the car. The first song was a choral arrangement of “Jesu Joy of Man’s Desiring” featuring Alison Balsam on trumpet. I choked up with gratitude–my family and friends were/are still here (not counting one friend of a friend whom I’d enjoyed conversations with at gatherings at a mutual friends house. May her memory be a blessing). It was safe to shop in person again. And I was there, here, to do it.

And to plant my garden.

And to start the world over again.

Summertime Is Here…

Getting a little nostalgic for the day trips to see my sister (my brother had moved to the east coast by then) when she lived in western Michigan with this in the background: https://youtu.be/gSQAlfyaKyc. (“Summertime Is Here” by War.) The drive to St. Joseph-Benton Harbor is about two and a half hours from Lansing. Once at our destination, we’d stop at a store, grab supplies, and have a picnic at one of the state parks with a view of Lake Michigan spreading before us and the wind in the pines and the waves . While Dad tended the grill and Sister tended the place settings and related matters, I would take Fritz the Wonder Schnauzer for a walk along the beach. He didn’t like water, so that made it more of a drag when I wanted to dip my toes in the lake. Any time in nature with a dog is well-spent, though, even with a lack of cooperation.

Flash forward to present day. It’s quite hot and muggy already, more like July or August out there than mid-June. I limited this morning’s walk to 30 minutes. Oakley and I were both pretty uncomfortable by the time we returned to the car.

I don’t think we’ll go back to the forest preserve today. We’d have to go rather late, and I’m not comfortable going there after five or six by myself. Not as if we live in a high crime area, but safety first.

I have other plans this evening, though. When the sun moves to the front of the house and the raised bed lies in the shadows, I will finally unveil the raised bed and plant some seeds. I tried growing my own seedlings, but they all died. This week’s errands include a stop any place with plants. They will join their younger siblings after I pick them up. Water, cross fingers, hope for the best.

According to sources, I can still plant up to July 1. At the rate things are going, that might happen. Mothers’ Day weekend, the traditional last date for frost, brought it as well as snow not that far north of here. Then we had a heat wave, and then Memorial Day weekend brought another round of frost and freeze advisories along with measurable snow in Eau Claire, WI, about three hours to the northwest of me. And then came another heat wave.

Seeds will be planted, however. Period.

The other hallmark of the summer, Renaissance Faire, is up for grabs. We’re leaning towards a pass this year. We’re vaxxed, masked, but we aren’t going to relax until Dr. Fauci says it’s over. The one we go to is encouraging masking up, but there are always the few that impact the many. It’s why they’ve had do purse and diaper bag and backpack searches on entry for guns since Wiconsin became a concealed carry state despite signage all over the front gates and website forbidding guns.

We’ll be able to get back to the bookstore, though, shortly. Illinois is slated to reopen, masking encouraged, on June 11th. I’m going back to in person yoga then.

No matter what else happens, we’ll have some produce.