APRIL knew her blossoms were late this year. She was distracted by reading the history of humankind.
The Bones of Winter
The last day of February rolls out.
Chilly. Clear. Familiar.
Patches of snow. Patches of dirt. A quiet, bored energy prevails.
Dullness. Ordinariness. A day easily forgotten as so many other unremarkable days blur into one another.
But what of it?
The stars remain behind the clouds. Life stirs deep in the soil unseen by the naked eye. Velocity and time continue their kinky relationship. Nothing is truly more or less dull in this day, than what we so easily celebrate as the glory of a summer month.
February merely demands more of us, by offering less.
It prompts us to remain curious about the journey. Poised for the shoe to drop. Tensions of a waning winter build. In prairie cold places, this is also known as cabin fever build up.
It is a stark offering. Tired bare branches reach long, sinewy fingers; intricate silhouettes of their winter bones against the fleshy sky.
Oh, I do long for the warmth of sun on my cheek. My eyes yearn now for the pop of spring blossoms, like cotton candy for the retina. To unburden oneself from the weight of wool jackets.... the sheer lightness of being wearing one's own skin again!
Yet, February is the anchor that holds us steadfast to winter moments. An undervalued stillness. A quiet that regenerates us. IT serves to both prepare and amplify our joyful bursting forth into a different kind of feverish pitch-----
Perhaps February is an unsung hero that showcases so beautifully the power of patience. Stillness.
Mining the dream.
It is the bare bones of winter which gifts us the distinct and delicate birthing of spring.
Wherever you go, there you are.
I met my shadow self again in the most unlikely of places. A triangle of deep grey luxurious bamboo lycra.
'What, what, now?... ' You say.
For me it's more, “Ack!” a la Bill the Cat!
The lovely Couture Designer, Genevieve, instructs us on the first day of a 5 weekend workshop to create our own garment.
Her prompts include--”hold the fabric,
go with the flow,
feel the bias,
feel the energy—f l o w with it...”
Sounds simple enough.
But, after my 1st pin is secured in the mannequin, I find I am on a frozen ice jam more than the relaxed river of silk I imagined. The fabric tangles in my fingers as my mind tangles competing thoughts.
First I willfully force the direction and the shape of material- -the fabric resists.
It's an epic power struggle already.
And there I am, observing myself mocked by this unassuming triangle of cloth.
The deceptive simplicity of this act, draping fabric, allows me the clarity to see the four deadly horsemen of my inner apocalypse.
Clinging, controlling, comparing and complicating everything!
Suddenly, a new fifth horseman gallops towards the posse-- self criticism.
Perhaps you have encountered such bandits yourself?
The antidote to their poisoning effect?
Chill. Relax. Flow. Allow. Yield. Trust thyself.
Effort without tension.
(This time, side step the dung left by the horsemen.)
When I do relax, forget my agenda and let my limbs and instincts weave together with the sensual flow of fabric (rather than my signature overthinking) the fabric and I both soften, like intimate dance partners and begin to trust one another. Together we begin to mold a dress form.
The sun is out and glints even brighter against the mirror of my inner reflections. Humbling lessons can step on our well shod feet in the most surprising encounters. Observing oneself in our own learning curves illuminates our deeply help patterns—unless we are able to hold beginners mind, without ego.
Not generally my strength.
Once I allowed the process, the process allowed for my inner flow and easily dissolved all the clinging and controlling into a refreshing drink of creativity; and time flew.
To visit the sublime couture designs of Ms. Genevieve herself,
visit her website at: http://www.genevievegrahamclothing.com/ A revelation in hand sewn originals.
So many paths to brilliance.
Undim your light.
A Brief Affair
I rather enjoy hiding out when the world is noisy and mayhem ensues. The dizzying days leading up to Christmas encircling us like a spiral staircase, spinning, heady; is the perfect time to seek refuge. The brief days and long nights of winter. I like the focus night time brings, and as the darkness begins at 4.30...there is lots of it to be savoured.
The permission to sleep. The permission to rest. Delicious.
And what better way to curl up and slow down, then with a book. A wandering, wondering, wild tour of unknown territory; down the rabbit hole of wooly imaginings. Or deft learning.
Books are intimacies we explore, relationships we dive into, with a clear beginning, middle and end. A good book is like a great friend or love affair. One is always happy to see them and it's almost always equally hard to say good bye.
Bittersweet partings catch your breath.
At times constant companions, some you crack the cover and never put down again; others you flip through and push aside with disdain. Occasionally, you may even go through a stack at your bedside; on hand for a brief dalliance at your whim, unaffected if you are reading other tomes.
Some reread books many times.
Some never finish them.... Abandoned. Heartbroken. A cold shudder shimmies through you at the thought of unread pages.
The beginning, like a worthy courtship.
A flirtation catches your eye. A flashy cover perhaps. Alliteration, or a metaphor, you simply cannot resist. Curiousity builds, a mysterious attraction..." Why this story? Why not the one with the clever booksleeve? The promise of an exciting plot? " No, no, it's definitely the quiet, plain bookish one in the corner that appeals most.
Then comes the excitement of the first date!
Your thoughts preoccupied all day by the object of your affection, waiting anxiously for that bewitching hour to gently touch for the first time. Fingertips barely skim the smooth surface. The deep inhale for the smell of your new book. The first clean page turn. Shudders.
And, like many love affairs, the ending comes all too quickly.
The writing was on the wall, you could feel the relationship thinning out through your fingers, lopsided, top heavy, the foundation eroded.
Reflecting back, perhaps it was about the time you spilled tomato juice on it's pages, unable to forgive your carelessness; or the flashing, dynamic prose, once such a vibrant challenge to decipher, until it cruelly pointed out your stupidity. It's unpredictable nature left you ragged and tense.
Perhaps there was a crisis when they realized you were reading other books as well, and they weren't into your lending library lifestyle.
Regardless, however they end, closing a beloved book is a heartache.
Sensing the end is nigh results in sadness, stalling, avoidance.....
There is a mourning period. Forlorn regret, it is over. Even deep sorrow.
Weeks go by before one can even think of fondling another. Leafing through cheap paperbacks, a mere distraction. The wounds, the papercuts, the stains, torn pages, missing passages....what was it all about? You try and reread a chapter or two only to discover,
“I don't remember that! Or, I skipped this section it was too upsetting....”
When you are really lucky, there comes along an epic book, so beguiling, it holds you enraptured.
And yet, one can never regret the mis-education that some book folly brings. It makes you the avid, discerning reader you are today. Still passionate, still curious, longing for more learning.
No one ever forgets their favourite reads. Imprinted timelessly like fossils in our soul.
The end of each year part of my 'ring in the new' ritual is collecting a bevy of titles that thrill me.
What will you be reading this new year? What reading did you celebrate in 2016?
.....and by my bedside waiting patiently for me:
Beyond Words: what animals think and feel Carl Safina
Fearless Arianna Huffington
My Life on the Road Gloria Steinem
Sapiens: a brief history of humankind Yuval Noah Harari
Sublime, expansive, juicy, vexing reading to you all, in 2017! Happy New Year!!
How could you leave us now, this wretched week of
hate and ignorance rise in the south
confusion and disbelief
How could you leave us behind in this world?
I cried out in denial when I heard the news
the smoke and embers overthrew me
Did you know I loved you?
Touching the edge of sin renewed me
Not this week.
It cannot be true,
to lose this soulful starlight?
'we don't want it darker.'..I call out in vain
you killed the flame--
or did you leave a crack in the universe, for the light to seep in
eery quiet blankets my world
I don't want it darker,
let's light another flame.
c. norma hoeppner
Travel parallels life. Due to the obvious fact that it is life. Yet, despite often idealized holiday expectations, things still happen. Having previously landed in a foreign hospital myself, I can attest to this wholeheartedly. Life is art and stranger than fiction. Hence, let us begin with a disclaimer. For the sake of this ambling tale, any resemblance to people either real or imagined is strictly coincidental. (*Also, my husband's name has been changed to protect his identity.)
Ready, set, GO. Let the NoNSEnSe begin.
Welcome to my September holiday review of a Canadian road trip from Toronto to Ottawa, Mont-Tremblant, Quebec City, Baie-Saint-Paul and Montreal, with a few other stops in between.
Toronto, that lively, self loving centre of the universe, was the first landing of our tour; initiating us quickly back into city life after sleepy Salt Spring Island. Taking the bus from the airport at yes, 2 a.m., due to delayed flights, was a peak back inside a life I no longer lead. The mere fact that there still was a bus running, never mind full, was a fun re-awakening into nocturnal options. Amidst young people heading to the next party, (it was Thursday night after all,) and costumed eccentrics including bag lady vendors travelling with their caravan of shopping carts onto the bus, the driver seemed unaffected.
Other delights, besides the joy of reconnecting with friends and family across the country, included the cheap and delicious fish tacos, the most terrific north Indian food, and the surprising fact that Toronto is in fact cheap! Cheap gas, cheap eats, cheap coffee, even public transit. Cheap. At least compared to BC. We are also lucky to know talented artist friends that took us to arts festivals, dance shows including the inventive Peggy Baker Dance Projects, TIFF events, and an evening punctuated by an all female Mariachi band from NYC, inspiring us as dancing fools under a convenient and spectacular full moon. No doubt about it, it was thrilling to be back in the hub of humanity.
I was filling up with culture, art, stimulation, OPTIONS, colour, flavours, friends, diversity---and realizing how much I miss and need the stimulation of the city and people, to balance the solitude of rural living.
Next up, Ottawa was our first exposure on the trip to a fully bilingual city, steeped in french, lively to the ear. Just walking down the street hearing the music of various accents mingling, blended with interchanging languages, is enchanting. This is always a favourite part of travel for me, the multicultural aspect. Human diversity and similarity.
Canada's peace tower, striking as the central axis of the Canadian Parliament buildings, is a bell and clock tower. It's majesty brought a deep sense of rarely felt patriotic pride swelling into my awareness. My heart filled with the beautiful warm September weather, pretty gardens and joy of mischievous gargoyles throughout the architecture; was suddenly transported to a harsh reality housed within.
The peace tower conceals a beautifully rendered memorial to fallen soldiers. It was disturbing and humbling to witness the sobering documentation of page after page of soldiers names. Thousands upon thousands of soldiers. Written beautifully, painstakingly. Ghost names scribed into gilded pages.
Lost souls of too many wars; WWI, WWII, Afghanistan, the Korean war....these books honour their official sacrifice.
A political town, overhearing lawyers briefing over dinner, attending a session of Parliament debating in the house; one realizes how far removed one is from influencing anything; yet how essential it is that we hold influence where we can. Voting. Writing. Petitions. Rallies. I believe this is how travel serves a sometimes loftier benefit and purpose of providing individuals expanded insight, education and when truly lucky, even awakenings and epiphanies. Befriending strangers too, are all worthy events to be celebrated.
Mont-Tremblant brought us just such a lovely surprise, awaiting us at the log cabin we booked. It was no easy feat to find at night, in the inky country blackness. Initially, intimidating barks by a sizable standard poodle and his schnauzer amigo, bellowed through the crisp night air.
The vendor was out. I was cold.
'Was this even the right place?' we wondered.
*'Larry' pushed boldly forward through the door to investigate, ignoring these two 'guard dogs', who quickly turned into welcoming mushy love gluttons. These two furry knuckleheads, Zorro and Naples, became our fast friends and soothed the jangled nerves of city dwelling and provided the requisite grounding and love that only animals can. (Any respectable pet owner understands of what I speak and pines on vacation, far away from their beloved.)
The next day saw a hike up the back hill with these enthusiastic and loving companions, a delightful vigorous hour with Zorro and Naples bounding ahead, to begin the day before another long drive. This air b and b, is worth the trip off the beaten path! (www.Rivkahrachel.com) Mont-Tremblant is lovely countryside any time of year, not just for it's celebrated ski season. Kai, a young German guest sharing our lodging was another reminder of the happenstance encounters that can serve to expand your world view and remind you to push past the parameters of your living room netflix menu.
Quebec City itself was our mutual favourite spot. It was lovely, charmed and historically interesting. The art galleries were impressive. The miles walked revealed layers of life, love, art, cuisine, and history. Food was plentiful. Our lodging was fantastic staying in old Quebec at a former nunnery, the first home for wayward girls in the late 1700's, the classic french design lent terrific European essence to savouring the day, the meal, your life and your coffee. Another successful air b and b, compliments of our fantastic host, Francine!
Quebec city appreciates artists; appreciates art. We attended so many art openings throughout the 3 week tour, several were happy walk by accidents. This trip lit up the thrill of city living again and got this gal out of the forest back into the concrete jungle, soaking up the inspiration of Quebec art legends, language and libations. We even lucked out on the festival de cinema, which had street screenings going all day long! A terrific place to rest your feet and fill your creative spirit.
Driving through the Charlevoix region, was perhaps the quaintest and most fullfilling day we had, complete with picturesque hilly vistas leading to Baie-Saint-Paul, another enchanting town on the St Lawrence. Full of art, joie de vivre, friendly gallery curators and artists, and wonderful bistros, Baie-St-Paul was in mid swing of a local artists festival as well. Quebec in general feels subjectively as though it supports its artists and culture better than other areas in Canada or at least celebrates them with more verve.
Montreal, a worthy world class destination; full of life; music, art, food and various cultures—didn't exactly welcome us with open arms, but rather the spit of a troubled vagrant, as we took our first steps onto city streets.
'Larry' was completely thrown off by his erroneous GPS and failed to listen to common sense and his wife's extraordinary inner compass. This resulted in the usual aches and pains locating our accommodation on a busy city street, struggling for change at the parking meter. An air b and b secured in a 'central walking neighbourhood', (read downtown Sherbrooke St) became a bit of a 13th floor walk up nightmare, due to a broken elevator. Ouch.
After our initial city spitter greeted us, the next person to speak to us literally blurted out,
“Does this look infected?” This was then punctuated by showcasing his scars from a recent 'accident.' We reassured him things seemed to be healing fine.
"Larry” was now already hating my previously beloved Montreal. In fairness, his attitude wasn't the only thing that coloured the not so great 2 days here. The ABSOLUTE WORST restaurant meal of my entire life on our last evening, (YES, recommended by trip advisor no less,) in this usually celebrated culinary city, also greatly served to dissuade favour. (The WORST, I tell you.) 'Larry' swears there was a hacked app cross firing information on that mishap, but I say, trust your gut, not your technology. Montreal is such a great walking city, just stroll around and move toward what calls to you; do not become a heat seeking missile on a mission to some obscure site a la 'Larry' style. [Travel tip for "Dummies": Do not wait until you are 'hangry' to negotiate and find a restaurant.]
Along with lousy sleep due to construction on our apartment complex and almost being tackled returning from the loo at night, mistaken as an intruder by a half asleep Larry,-- all conspired to sabotage impressions of a usually awesome city.
A rookie move, we also mistimed the closed day for Musee des Beaux Art, looking longingly past street sculpture at the treasures denied us through locked doors. This disappointment was offset by one sweet Persian cafe, a hidden jewel in the otherwise murky long corridor of yet even more street construction on a cold, damp morning.
Old Montreal did lend some lovely boutique stores featuring local clothes and jewellery designers to which my creative fashion heart beat faster, as well as a slew of interesting small galleries along the oldest street in Montreal, Rue de St Paul.
Notre-Dame Basilica, the oldest catholic church in Montreal founded in 1642, the original wooden chapel now housed by the current impressive structure built in 1824-29, opened in 1830. Upon entering, the luminous blue vaulted beauty transfixes and transports you as though somehow you are swimming underwater in a teal sea of treasures. It served as a curious soothing balm to the spirit, both arresting and calming to the weary traveller, otherwise struggling with her short sojourn through this city.
The morning we left did bring sunshine, warmth and the redemptive graces of warm Montreal bagels, fresh out of the 24 hr/a day available oven. Accompanied by a perfect latte made by the industrial cafe next door, we began to finally imbibe the finer qualities of a complex city. This along with the contrasts and curiousities of a Hasidic Jewish neighbourhood lent much more interest to a city seemingly plagued by particularly bad construction this year (as reported by locals), much excellent graffiti, (apologies on limited photo documentation) and too many angry or numb looking faces. (That might of just been 'Larry').
Travelling through the province of Quebec at large, you will find there will be no shortage of rich food to indulge in; including french onion soup, warm baguettes, croissants, chocolat chaud, crepes, poutine, a tremendous emphasis on meat particularly pork,[ frightening to this current pescetarian,(wannabe vegan ]and of course wine flowing readily. poutine, for the random non-Canadian reading this, is a Quebec invention of french fries, covered in cheese curds, then topped with gravy. I would call it 'heart attack on a plate', but I can see how, Poutine, has more cachet! One does naturally query, 'what is the life expectancy in Quebec anyway, with all this meat, bacon and cheese?'
One of the most enjoyable meals we had on our journey was in Baie-Saint-Paul, at the Chez Bouquet Eco-bistro; along with the 2 hour lunch we savoured at the Musee national des beaux-arts du Quebec situated in the sprawling Plaines d'Abraham. (I am getting both hungry and nostalgic just writing this.) The french understand the way food was meant to be enjoyed; sensually!
Kingston’s prettiness was a pleasant surprise although admittedly arrived at accidentally, as a washroom break detour. It was a relief to get off the busy trans Canada expansive highway encroaching on landscapes and wildlife, demonstrated by the all too frequent heartbreaking road kill of coyotes, racoons, and various other unfortunate creatures. The tragic weight of human influence. The serious lack of recycling options on this trip was another disheartening concern along this continuum, although Ontario definitely out performed Quebec on this front.
Kingston, at the mouth of the impressive St Lawrence meeting the great lakes; was a very fitting lunch stop for us personally. Many moons ago, “Larry” had arrived in Canada as a young boy sailing down the St Lawrence after 7 days on the Atlantic ocean. We had a lovely lunch under a spectacular weeping willow, one of my all time favourite trees, as he reminisced about his journey immigrating to Canada. A familiar tale for many fellow Canadians. A brash group of young thug sea gulls also joined us for lunch, (it is unclear as to where they originated) squawking about and providing entertainment. This, along with the memory of the recent final tour of the Tragically HIP just weeks prior, lent an odd poignancy to our stroll down the Kingston streets. Another distinctly Canadian landmark moment to wind down our trip.
A short flight from Vancouver back to SSI was smooth and pretty, exposing the intense greens and blueness of the west coast. It's definitely a different world out here. I am deeply grateful for the vast and varied beauty and gifts of this entire nation. As a prairie person in my bones, I felt happy throughout our small eastern Canadian tour; lighter and a sense of being ''at home'' throughout Canada. Wide open spaces were found and savoured. This is a great nation! And I feel my Canadian pride deepened as a result of this 3 week dapple into other bits and bites.
On our first night back home; surrounded by abandoned suitcases and the laundry machine whirring; I turned to kiss “Larry” goodnight and lay my weary head to rest. I smiled the deeply felt smile of blissful, quiet, gratitude. And lo, an owl doth hoot, ushering me into peaceful slumber.
'Cause it remains a timeless truth; ' there just ain't no place like home.'
[Now, get out there and explore. Put your phones down first. Trip advisor be damned, there is much more to be gleaned with your inner compass and eyes wide open. Safe travels.]
Playfully yours, nh.
'Action is eloquence', as Shakespeare defines.
It stands to reason then, that the inverse is also true; indecision is paralysis. For example, I have had upteen ideas for blogs in the past 3 months and yet, no posted output. Topics from competitiveness in the creative nature, to Olympian inspiration, to travel logs, reflections on aging, agism, summertime blues, reviews of canadian cities, culture and landscape. So, why the inactivity then?
A constricting combination of self doubt, (what's original? does it matter? Why am I doing this?) and faltering indecisiveness have restricted my writing muscles into a frozen cramp of creative rigor mortis. It could be called the infamous writer's block, but perhaps more fitting; indolence, distraction, and generalized anxiety and neurosis overwhelming the creative circuit. Routine and discipline are important for writing, I am bad at both, at least with prose.
Sharing can feel unnerving and vulnerable at best, even privately and publicly? Well, let me tell you, it takes courage and a bit of steely resolve; Or perhaps some would rather say, a bout of hapless foolishness and an oversized ego, to post your own words to the Black hole of the cyber universe.
The frozen knot of my immobilization comes in part from constant evaluating and comparison;
Is this of value?(how?) Does it matter? (to whom?) DO I and others even enjoy it? This last question is the only one I can adequately answer.
(So please do comment, cheer, jeer, or complain...as civilly as possible, I humbly request of you)
Naturally, certain subjects appeal more to some then others. Some reflections hit the spot, others simply hit a nerve. It is always a matter of perspective. Life itself is subjective. Reading material, creative contributions, endeavours, what one deems an adventure is always very personal, like choosing a perfume. Of course, these days there are far too many allergens and asthma episodes to be wearing fragrance. It is indeed a complicated era, to be marching through one's journey on Terra firma.
“It was the best of times, it was the worst of times, it was the age of wisdom, it was the age of foolishness, it was the epoch of belief, it was the epoch of incredulity, … '' this opening held serious impact as a young girl when I first read Charles Dickens' wise words from the opening of A tale of Two Cities. His words have indeed staid the test of time and could be held true in fact, of ANY era in history.
His lines in fact, encapsulate the very nature of living. Today, we work at finding the joy, being in the moment, appreciating the now, while struggling with stress about the bleak global future, reacting to news and demands of the day and juggling the crazy busyness of modern life. Feeling at times overwhelmed can even lead to over-correcting this until a state of underwhelm is achieved, or numbness, creating a strange creepy stress of it's own.
Is there an antidote to the angst of this cycle?
It may simply be taking action.
The art of making swift decisions is POWERFUL. I think it is also a learned skill for many of us. Swift, to be clear, is also different then rash or impulsive. It simply avoids the dithering, the procrastination. Decisions free up our energy, bringing clarity, focus, and renewal. Even when the choice at hand is very difficult, painful or complex, a decision can launch us into the momentum of healing, letting go and feeling lighter; which is often energized and more expansive. As the buddha teaches, 'pain happens, but suffering is optional.'
Sometimes the decision should be simple, and isn't...say which shirt, shampoo or peanut butter to buy! One can get buried under copious detail researching ingredients, company practices and price comparisons; the mass options and choices of everyday presented us in today's western world is utterly astonishing, gluttonous and confusing. And potentially a HUGE time sucking machine. Three choices, done. Seventeen choices........23? ..........um...........???? Wtf.
This is where, and why, I am training myself to be decisive. This self induced, self administered study program has admittedly been initiated now for a few decades with intermittently poor results or forgotten application; nevertheless, I am now happy to report that I have seen much improvement recently.
Therefore, in the spirit of decisiveness, hence action, I am posting this tonight.
And, as I have just returned from a spacious trip to parts of western Canada, the next blog will be a travelogue of the grand road tour from Toronto to Ottawa, Mont -Tremblant, Quebec City, Baie Sainte-Paul, Montreal and Kingston: complete with cultural hilights, spotlights, fashion, heartwarming animals, culinary delights and disasters, all seen through the golden fall lens of September's soft light.
There, another decision. I'm feeling chuffed.
Now you try it! YES! If there is something that has been weighing on your mind, or dwelling in your proverbial background taking up valuable real estate; and you simply haven't yet made decisions about what ails you, just try it. Whatever the nature of the matter. Chuck it, chop it, recycle it,; call them, block them, invest in it or sell it. Enroll, drop out. Invest in yourself. Sure, outcomes may remain uncertain but notice how you feel after a decision; isn't that lovely?
Your own energy rises again and focus returns. Action is eloquence after all.
Part one: Finding one's inner compass through travel.
Part deux: Glad to be Canadian: and here's why.
in gratitude, NH. oct/2016
Remnants of July blew down my front street today,
like a parade of ghosts riding erratic tumbleweeds
gossiping gaily in the distance
I felt you as heat against my bare skin;
a half bitten ruby cherry squirting lusciously on my tongue
the sonic swell of distant tourist traffic rises
like covered bread dough in Grandma's country kitchen
summer swoons in a billowy dress, a little drunk again
on her own delights
as the parade of frenetic ghosts shake sunbeams loose
through delicate fingers of pine
the sudden solitude fills an unquenchable loneliness
a fiery arbutus exhalts its arms toward the endless blue sky
as a drenched dancer sweating their prayers
good bye sweet, sweet July--
your hand brushed my neck so softly
the hairs stood on guard like a platoon of soldiers-
just the bare impression of you
brings me to my knees.
-N. Hoeppner, jul 31/2016
The genius of movement....in praise of our MASTERPIECE, the human body.
[Movement; joy, healing, strength, grace, expression, personal power, dance.]
Our body, yes: everybody's body, the human machine, was built to move. Even the perennial couch potato's.
I have recently returned from a white belt NIA dance teacher training held in the majestic BC coastal mountains. This has been a decade long dream, since I was first introduced to the inventive hybrid of NIA dance. Marrying yin/yang effortlessly, it is a joyful expression of what Nia calls, ''the body's way''. The most natural way to find strength, coordination and well being while preventing injury and burn out. Not to mention the secondary rewards of kinship, delicious music and personal creativity. It is the frequent longing for more creative movement and physical expression, not just 'fitness' that has led me on a lifelong journey to find Nia.
Dance of course, gives you a bit of all of it. S l o w intimate dances, fuNky swing, break dancing, martial moves, yogic balance, jazz attitude, tap, modern dance - at times as indecipherable as abstract painting; yet freeing, captivating, cathartic. It is the energetic steps dissolving into the stillness, agility snuggling playfully with strength moves. And the intensity, of course, dependent on the player.
The theatre of dance tells our story. Dance expresses so many levels of ourselves; our spirit, our longings, our physical reality, the material poetry of our body. Perhaps physical intelligence lives most fully in dance. The gifts of movement, and the sheer genius of our body design, maximized through the marriage of all elements in NIA; strength, agility, flexibility, speed, and stability; collected artfully in the moving sculpture of your own making.
It's true, that sometimes I love and need the power and strength of running, the independence of the trail, the unending road. The sheer simplicity of a solo run. Sometimes I need the calming beauty of the forest, or the daunting challenge of the mountain terrain; the uninterrupted eagle view always your reward, as well as the camaraderie of fellow hikers.
At other times, I need quiet. Rest. Stillness. Healing from various emotional and physical ailments I have often turned to chi gong, yin yoga or Tai chi; for the wisdom, gentleness and grace that comes with slowing down.
Rather contrary to this quiet, centred wisdom then, there are also the POWER fantasies of being an unstoppable gymnast/martialartsesque 'time and space bender' with parkour moves; crouching tiger, hidden dragon style, feeling 100 ft tall and IMMORTAL. (I know you can relate!!) But alas, that I have never mastered this level of adeptness and athleticism goes without saying.
It is truly the celebration of movement of any kind, that I feel called to share.
The strength and power one feels lifting weights, or the supple, toned and stretched results of pilates. The peace and beauty of kayaking under a full moon, and the utter relaxation after a swim in the pool. The crazy fRusTRatinG learning Curve of surfing or the thrill of down hill skiing. There is also the kick butt, sweat generating, 'heat up a winter day' on cross country skis (or snow shoes) kinda workout. The array of gifts and experiences movement brings is rather infinite and astounding. The JOY, the friends, the community spirit when you join a race or a fund-raising walk; sometimes even the pain, setbacks, soreness, the sprained ankles and wrists from basketball, The fear of ''not being good enough'', but the growing confidence and opportunity to test these things and trust trying is enough, winning is fun, but showing up is what counts! The tension of relay races and people counting on you, the excitement of shooting out of the blocks when you hear the gun.
Tripping your partner in three legged races, families cheering at summer camp picnics. I cannot emphasize enough, the joy being in this mechanically brilliant body has afforded me.
To say nothing of the sensual pleasures.......
How can you not give back and take exquisite care of your temple that breathes all day long to fuel your thoughts, your activities, your work, your entire miraculous moving life?
It is the vessel through which we experience our very existence.
Yes, it's true, you caught me. I do get caught up in the petty complaints, the years agonizing over big arms or bumpy thighs, a few extra pounds, motivating oneself to get out the door, tripping over big feet and the sometimes indignities of say, mmm....a bout of food poisoning. Sometimes just sheer fatigue and being overwhelmed weighs us down. Cycles of chronic pain can interrupt good intentions.
Meanwhile, the fuller reality is still that the human body is just phenomenal and gives us so much while asking so little in return. The empowerment of movement never ceases to amaze me and raise me up! You don't have to be an Olympian, just shake your booty, because even small movements are fun and energizing
Just take a good long look at that amazing mechanism at the end of your arm called the hand, and thank it for all it does for you day in and day out; writing, holding a cup of coffee, typing...these are movements. If you don't Love to move then learn to move. Just Shake it off. And I promise you, if you pay attention, you will fall in love with your ability to move, over and over again.
Even the frail elderly, declining and vulnerable will come to life with music; keeping the beat, swaying heads and snapping those digits. We, all of us, (even those that haven't figured it out yet) love to move. The body was built for it. The brain requires it. Movement juices your brain, energy and mood in such a vital way that AHA! Moments become more frequent, problems find solutions, and creative ideas F L O W.
Walking is famous as a method for blasting creative blocks throughout the centuries. Composers, artists, writers, and inventors have used it as a natural balm since the dawn of time. Aristotle, Edison, Brahms, Beethoven, Monet, Dickens, O'Keefe are all fine examples. Julia Cameron speaks of walking as a spiritual rite of passage into a deeper creative life in her well loved tome, 'the Artist's Way'.
Francine Shapiro, an American psychologist, discovered the portal to her groundbreaking trauma tool EMDR, by taking long walks in the woods when she was upset and observing changes that occurred in her well being and processing.
Walking is our birthright.
It's just plain good for us.
And really, pretty darn cool when you spend some time truly honouring the mechanics of the body and it's elegant design. The fuelling system, alignment of 206 bones and 640 skeletal muscles; our motor, speed and cadence that quietly coordinates itself for us during an afternoon summer stroll for ice cream!!
Even when ill in bed, circle those ankles, stretch out your arms, or focus on deepening your breath. Just do your best, from where you're at, to keep moving. Honour your body.
If you were perhaps plagued growing up by clumsiness, oversize, illness, general awkwardness, thick glasses, bad balance and felt all of this has ruined your connection with movement forever...... I encourage you to try again.
Try differently. Try inwardly.
You are amazing! OF this I am certain.
Whatever your circumstance. Whatever your shape or skill or fitness level. IF you have never fostered a healthy or loving relationship with exercise, due to bullying yourself through self loathing or at the hand of others;
Lest I say again, just Shake. It. Off.
(insert Taylor Swift dance video here for inspiration).
Shift into loving, gentle moves. (It's sooooooo much less arduous). Scrap the idea of exercise and fall in love with the miracle of movement. It is one of the greatest gifts you can give yourself.
We have perhaps become too banal about the miraculous. A side effect of our times brought on by constant inundation with knowledge, advancement and over exposure to, well, everything. Adults often have the bad habit of lulling themselves to sleep on autopilot. Wake up the W O W factor.
Back to basics.
The slow movement from Italy, the sexy resurgence of minimalism; reduce, reuse, recycle...these all hold the same core value of do it yourself with less gadgetry and fuss. Nike was on to something big when they came up with their tag line, 'Just do it. '
I remember many sublime moments of inspiration in my own life afforded by my body in motion. A remote canoe trip in my 20's in the beautiful lake of the woods region, complete with the challenge of portaging, the splendour of encountering owls, a near miss with a mama bear and cubs, an otherworldly full moon, a huge turtle and birds I had never seen or heard. These things, these beauties and connections I would never have known or touched without the capabilities of my body. I have mountain biked up remote trails in beautiful Deutschland, in search of Ein Schloss, and jumped for joy upon the newly toppled Berlin wall in 1990, as well as many nights danced away until dawn, one of the few, rare ways I witness sunrises.
What are your top 5 experiences your body moved you too? Needless to say it is remarkable to tally your exquisite experiences brought by the joy and sensations of movement. And oh yes, sex most certainly counts.
Do something. You don't have to look good doing it, you don't even have to know what to call it, just wiggle those toes. They are anxious to lead you out the door to a new version of you in motion. Use some elbow grease baking that cake, leave your mixer behind, remind your body of the muscle and coordination of beating a meringue that has all but been completely erased from your modernized, techno gadgety mind.
Stretch the parameters of your cramped, tense animal body.... r - e - a - c - h and see the rewards and magic manifest. Joy is to be had by the simple pleasure of tapping your foot in a cafe to tunes.
If you are feeling stuck, and you're reading this and still distracted by an internal discouraging voice, start small. Flutter those eyelashes, loosen your jaw, take a deep breath.
Then take ten steps. Be creative. Be playful. Tiny Tippy Toes....then giant, exagerated steps.
Break it down. Start small. Build from there. You, yes you, not just that cute guy over there or that svelte young thing, are an amazing body. We are all powerful beyond measure and frankly, we are sheer genius in motion.
It is after all a dialogue with your body to be nurtured; a relationship that needs attention as any does. It is communicating in sacred simplicity with the cells of your body to honour your life force. Your personal divine poetry.
Just show up, WAKE UP and r I S E UP!
THANK YOU for being here with me. nh.
(If this blog interested you, you may also enjoy 'the art of listening' (April 2015) about awakening the senses.)