My husband and I have recently been transported to Victoria, BC, to spend some time with family established here. Notably, we have been able to hug our 13 month old grandson for the first time! Our first grandbaby… one of the special sweetnesses of life…!
I have fallen into a time warp of sorts here, oblivious of what day it is, or even the precise time of the day… When there is a little one, everything naturally starts to organize around his/her rhythm. It’s been a delight. After breakfast and a bit of yogāsana practice, I have been taking my grandson to a nearby park/playground. As I push his stroller to the park, I sing him two French folksongs. And sometimes he seems to hum along. I shadow him on the play structures and marvel at the things he learns to do every day. There have been some lovely, if brief, moments of connection with other grandparents grandparenting. I watch him closely for signs of fatigue so that I can offer him a snack and a ride home before he gets too strung out. On the way home he invariably falls asleep. Once home I park his stroller near the kitchen door and tuck my sweater around him. Then I brew some tea and keep an ear open for the sounds of him awakening.
It is such magic to be welcomed into our grandson’s home. My son and daughter-in-law have created something so beautiful here. Love and creativity overflow everywhere! There are apple trees, a big garden, four ducks, a stand of evergreens, fresh flower arrangements… apple crisp, spicy milky black tea… and love.
Today I went with some friends to Beyond Van Gogh: An Immersive Experience. It was amazing! Flowers from his paintings flying around the walls of the room. Famous Van Gogh canvases being sketched, painted, and dissolving on the walls, on the floor… I was inside his art and wanted to run and twirl (I held myself back but did manage some sweeping arm gestures, as I walked around and around the room, drinking it in).
After we exited from the experience I walked with one friend back to her home where she served tea and treats. We sipped our tea on her patio. I watched birds alight on her new bird bath, dipping their beaks in for refreshment. The resident backyard bunny was enjoying a meal of clover. A wasp wandered over to see if it could share any of our treats.
And it struck me forcibly: LIFE IS THE ULTIMATE IMMERSIVE EXPERIENCE.
Van Gogh was profoundly immersed in life. He took his experience and found colour, shape, and texture to share his bliss. And here, in our time, his experience, expressed on his canvases, was projected onto the walls of the room taking me into an immersive experience. It in turn pushed me into seeing the actual flow of life surrounding me as the ultimate immersive experience.
Talk about circularity!
Back home, I found a dharma talk in my inbox from Richard Rohr . The following lines summed up the experience I was attempting to integrate:
Beholding happens when we stop trying to “hold” and allow ourselves to “be held” … We are completely enchanted by something outside and beyond ourselves. (Richard Rohr)
The Infinite Love that holds everything in being: it as intimate as the breath you are taking right now.
my Sanskrit and Vedic chanting guru: Marcia Solomon of Boulder, Colorado
my Bharatanatyam guru: Supratim Talukder of Kolkata, West Bengal.
I am so very blessed to have these souls in my life. Thank you both for all you give to me with your wonderful teaching. I can truly say that my life has been transformed, and continues to be transformed, by your compassionate and generous guidance which extends beyond technical training to helping me along the path of life.
The magic of connection – from one side of the planet to the other – through 9 yards of fabric.
As you know if you’ve been following my blog, I have begun studying Bharatanatyam with Supratim Talukder, a teacher in Kolkata. Santasree Sasmal, a friend of my teacher and an accomplished performer and teacher as well, agreed to teach this awkward westerner the intricacies of draping a saree for dance.
So, today, as my day was beginning and her day ending, we met online.
The 9 yards of a saree hold incredible potential. In expert hands (like Santasree’s), it can shape-shift from a half-saree or dhoti-style drape for dance, to an elegant full saree with exquisite variations for every occasion. In hands like mine, however, more often than not, something is created that resembles a floppy mess.
My first stumbling block: I was convinced that my left side was my right, and asserted this falsity with conviction… until I realized my error, and continued with a little more humility. But every time I encountered a difficulty, Santasree, exhibiting an abundance of patience and good humour, found a novel approach that resolved the issue. You don’t have a cord to tie around your waist? – no problem, just tie the saree to itself. No half saree – ? Aha. Let’s fold the top third of the width down… When I was dismayed by my complete inability to create pleats with Santasree’s one-handed lightning accuracy, she showed me how I could lay the pallu on the floor and do better.
Many thanks to this wonderful performer and teacher who took the time today to reach halfway across the planet and connect with me, through 9 yards of fabric!
My Bharatanatyam teacher, Supratim Talukder of Kolkata, is teaching me the steps in Ananda Natamaduvar Thillai, choreographed by Srimat Vanda Alase Hazra.
To be clear, I am only discovering the beauty of Bharatanatyam belatedly in this lifetime, and realistically, I will likely never take my expression of this particular piece anywhere beyond the walls of my own practice space.
This is enough.
I have watched my teacher’s video recording of this piece so many times. It explores some of the rich mythology and iconography of Lord Śiva. To be able to get inside of these images takes my appreciation of the piece to another level. It is embodied prayer.
I am beginning to grasp the idea that a dancer does not pretend, in the dance, to be a devotee, god, or goddess… The dancer enters a state where he or she experiences this as a dimension of reality. And when one watches this, that experience is like a lightning bolt straight to the heart. The viewer too drinks in the experience. The viewer too becomes...
To have this possibility of experience – both as rasika (viewer or, literally, taster) and as dancer – is a gift beyond what I imagined possible when I embarked on the journey of Bharatanatyam study.
The water-sucking, green carpet front lawn paradigm needs to be re-thought.
A neighbour’s enthusiasm for creating a more insect-friendly environment by letting our lawns grow inspired me to experiment. I’ve mowed the grass 3 times so far this summer, and on the highest setting (about 4 inches). Also, I’ve established a no-mow zone about 10 feet by 12 feet in an oval around some little birch trees. I keep an eye out for noxious-type weeds, but have been letting other little things fly in and take root.
Today I found ripe wild strawberries in a little patch. I ate the tiny tasty fruit, remembering foraging for these as a kid in a nearby field. Remembering the sweet sun-warmed tiny treasures – just there, free for the taking. After 50 years of remembering, I knelt down close to the earth and foraged again. Tasting the wild sweetness of summer…
And other discoveries too! Different wildflowers are flying in. My lawn mowing must look quite comical as I swerve around in crazy patterns so as not to disturb the beauty.
The intense unexpected beauty just waiting to take root in our lives.
– and fun and frenetic and FOOD and – farewells. (Those will happen far too soon.)
The holidays have been a delightful dance of train and airport pickups and drop offs. With three out of four children living at a considerable distance from the family home, these times of confluence are beyond precious.
As we each create our unique choreographies in our own home bases, there is always a little period of adjustment when we come together once again, and find out how to dance together now.
(As a little writing challenge, I have decided to create a lexicon of musings… This is the first instalment.)
Today I listened to a radio recording of Stuart McLean’s Christmas special.
Stuart worked in various capacities for CBC radio over 40 years. The Vinyl Café was a much-loved show that focused around his heart-warming story-telling. This broadcast was recorded live last year, just before he took a leave of absence for cancer treatments. His last words on the show:
See you next year!
But that was not to be. He passed away some time after that recording. Today’s broadcast was poignant – a celebration of his warm-hearted presence on the airwaves, and in people’s hearts, for all those years.
Hearing his voice today I acknowledged his presence, and felt his absence.
If you read the previous post, you will already know the first part of this story. So… next day scenario! Today I am scheduled to take my car (with a flat tire) into the garage: in addition to fixing the flat, the winter tires will be put on. But since the tire is flat, I call roadside assistance to put a spare tire on so that I can drive to the garage.
Service truck arrives. I have to back the car up a few feet so that J.T. can access the tire. I look at the tire pressure indicator, expecting it to be very low…but it’s showing 176 KP (190 is normal). Walking out to VIEW the tire – it hardly appears to be flat at all! It had been parked in a dip in the pavement and it looked really flat… especially since I had expected it to be flat (for the record, my husband had the same reaction).
I apologize to J.T. about the call, which proved unnecessary. He generously regales me with a story about another unnecessary call he had made, which was even more amusing. He creates a moment of human connection. Grace.
Since I have a little bit of time before the service appointment, I decide to take a little walk and run into my neighbour – the recipient of yesterday’s soup. Another happy connection. Grace.
Off to the car dealership/garage where I have agreed to meet with a salesperson who is to do an estimate on the car just in case we want to trade it in. In our meeting it comes out that he has been in a car accident the night before… and our conversation turns to the impact of this trauma, the inherent kindness of certain individuals who appear when this type of event occurs, and life’s higher purpose. We make a meaningful connection. Grace.
Then it turned out that the shuttle driver recognizes me from a tai chi class that he had tried out last year. He shares about chronic pain he has had to endure, his wistful remembrances of being strong and fit, and his attempts to quiet his perturbed mind through sitting meditation practice. No small talk here: we find connection in the deep challenges of life. Grace.
So this is my little story of how an almost, but not quite, flat tire led me into a day of connection and grace.
As I look around, I have so many things that one would naturally call blessings, to be deeply thankful for: a loving family, health, a cozy home…
But there are also, and more importantly, the difficulties that life presents. These are even greater blessings because they provide the impetus and opportunity for growth. An injury that temporarily blocks energy, opens up a much deeper understanding of natural alignment and energy flow. Illness or bereavement connects us more deeply to others who are also learning to deal with these challenges.
So, Holy Mystery, thank you for the obvious blessings, but especially for the blessings-in-disguise…