yoga, a photographic demonstration

Here we are, before we begin practicing yoga.  There’s a lot of life here.  Lots of good stuff.  Plenty to learn, and room to grow.  But it’s kind of chaotic.  Unorganized.  Wild.beginning

So, we start doing some asana.  By “asana” I mean a series of physical exercises designed to stabilize and strengthen our bodies so that we can function on a higher level and fulfill our obligations without undue stress or pain.  We stabilize what is wobbly, strengthen what is weak, and stretch what is stiff.playing mule

Those exercises can by nature be a bit strenuous.

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asanaBut in the end, we have this.  We are clean.  The question is – what now?clean and green

Something is bound to happen.  Will we return to chaos?  That would be easy.weeds long

Having lived long enough to know that we do not have control over everything that happens in life, we can now consider how to most effectively participate in the co-creation of our world.  If we cannot MAKE something happen, we can at least shape our response to life’s flow.  A good way to engage in this process is through pranayama (breathing exercises).  This work incorporates the bodily strength and flexibility gained in asana (physical exercises) and applies the power of the breath to our internal energetic system.  Breath is powerful stuff.  How we breathe can change how we sleep, how we wake, how we think, and how we feel, to name just a few.  It’s a long term project.  We might feel different after a singular practice, but we will feel VERY different after months, or years, of practice.

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Pranayama leads naturally toward meditation and prayer.  It’s like a yellow brick road, or Hansel’s stones glittering in the moonlight.  The beautiful silent work of meditation, the powerful connectivity of prayer, are amplified by the practice of asana (to make our bodies comfortable) and pranayama (to turn down the static of our mental/emotional states).  Whatever our faith, our path to connect with that which cannot be seen, the deep attentive self-control and focus gained through this integrated yoga practice takes us deeper along the way.strawberry flower

monarch 1susanas9three peeksIt’s a work with no end in sight.  No kidding.  But it’s a good work, and the rewards are abundant beyond measure.robesoncukes and tomatoesglass gem grouptime 5

swarming season

IMGP3669This week, our normally quiet little homestead was all abuzz (literally!) with activity. The honeybees have declared that swarming season is officially now. Five swarms have issued from my two hives in five days. I was able to catch and hive three of them, and the other two were in easy reach but departed so quickly I barely had time to catch my breath after standing in the midst of the spiraling frenzy of thousands of stinging insects.

I have never minded having my beehives swarm as long as the remaining colony is strong and healthy. I may change my tune someday, but to me, swarming gives me hope that the dwindling honeybee populations have a chance to rebound. Even when I don’t catch the swarms, as I watch them take off through the canopy of the forest, I blow them a kiss and wish them strength and health and longevity. I also fantasize they will find a suitable home that is so wild and isolated that no GMO crops are to be found anywhere in their foraging range. (That is a pretty hard bill to fill these days, unfortunately) I have also never particularly tried to stop the swarms from happening in the first place, as I know many beekeepers do (I also don’t make my livelihood from beekeeping), so I guess it is a good thing I don’t really care when it happens. If I had invested time and energy in trying to suppress swarming I suppose I would feel differently!IMGP3674I’m not sure what the difference was this year, but each of the five swarms was accessible to my desiring hands. Last year, to the best of my knowledge and observation, I had four swarms come from the same two hives and every single one of them was at least forty feet up in the air. Two of those were probably upwards of seventy feet. My sweet husband even went so far as to put the extension ladder in the fully extended loader of the tractor, but to no avail… he still couldn’t reach. IMGP3676This year, the kiwi trellis attached to our outdoor kitchen seemed to be the hot spot for the honeybees to congeal after the mass exodus from the hive. Four of this year’s swarms landed there, a mere eight feet off of the ground. Kind of a dream come true!!! But because of the gangly nature of the kiwi vines, and the structure of the trellis, I had to slowly scoop or brush the bees into the hive boxes; I couldn’t just snip a branch and lower the whole mass into their new home. The one remaining swarm was slightly higher in a mulberry tree, and this did require some monkeying around to be able to reach. Oh, but sweet satisfaction in succeeding on that one! I can only guess that the two swarms that I missed left so quickly because it was threatening to rain or they had already scoped out a new home. But I am not a bee, so I will never really know for certain. IMGP3695What I do know is that I have THREE new beehives! And that I need to order or build some new equipment pretty darn quick because I had to piece together hives for the swarms in a hodgepodge fashion and I have no hive bodies remaining when it comes time for expansion! Or, heaven help us, if another swarm comes!!! 

The fact that I was able to witness all but one of these swarms actually happen (and Opal saw the one I didn’t) seems like a very generous gift from the cosmos. Especially since it is spring and there is quite a frenzy of farming and lambing happening right now as well. (More on those next time.) So I will say my thank-yous to the forces that may be, and declare myself even more intrigued by the mysterious honeybee than ever before.  IMGP3717

 

cinderella memorandum

cinderella blog 1Goodness knows I could stand to write about planting potatoes right now, but we’re still shaking off post-production whiplash from Lulah’s fifth performance run with the local high school theater group. We are so proud of her. It was great. The songs are still rolling around in my head all day. The experience of live theater really sticks to my ribs.

The Spring 2016 show was Rodgers and Hammerstein’s Cinderella. I had never heard of it before, but we quickly got up to speed by watching the (rather ancient) movie version starring a very young Julie Andrews as Cinderella. Lulah has had a long-standing aversion to the Disney cartoon Cinderella, even though she’s never seen the movie, so we were relieved to find that the musical version was quite a bit more spunky and fun than the sappy sweet Disney. I was even more pleasantly surprised to find that the Rodgers and Hammerstein version had been “updated” with a new sub-plot involving a political fire-brand who falls in love with one of Ella’s step-sisters and convinces Ella to tell the prince (the charmingly clueless Prince ‘Topher) that his people were being treated unfairly. In the end, Cinderella is not only escorted out of squalor and oppression and into Queen-dom, she also carries her people with her and convinces her true love to establish a democracy. (Wow, right?)cinderella 6cinderella ten minutes ago 2

The kids are so gorgeous. They throw themselves into the show and transport us into a suspended reality. For those hours, we believe them in their characters, in their sincerity, and their hilarity. And then, after the curtain call, we see them return to themselves, but still in fancy costume. They have such wonderful vitality. They are beautiful in so many ways.

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cinderella blog 2Watching the show, night after night, I began to wonder about my own personal sub-plot in the drama of this High School Theater group. Why am I so mesmerized by the activity of the show? Something happens to me when the lights go up on that stage. Seeing those fresh faces, teetering on the brink of adulthood, takes me back.

And the truth is, looking back is not a completely comfortable experience. I remember some of the thrill of BEing where they are now. I remember the small sea of faces in the audience – trying not to be TOO obvious about seeking out my loved ones – letting the months of rehearsal, memorization, repetition, flow through me. I remember the magic of performance as art. And I remember being a contradictory teenage bundle of energy, bravado, and insecurity.

Don’t get me wrong – it was a great time. But in the midst of all that fun stuff, I never believed that I was enough. I wasn’t pretty enough, or smart enough, or strong enough. I didn’t let on about my perceived insufficiencies much, but I held onto them inside. (The way so many of us do.)

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Watching the stage, feeling my heartstrings plucked, it becomes obvious that I was plenty beautiful, smart, and strong, just like they are now. I don’t know if I would have listened to anyone telling me that I really was sufficient, for myself, and for the task ahead of growing up. But I can’t help wishing that I had felt a little more comfortable in my own skin (I had nice skin, but I didn’t know it then.). The past has passed.

There’s always room for greater peace, though, and that’s what washes over me in the aftermath of the show. By opening my heart to these kids – my own, as well as all the others I am fortunate enough to meet in our community – I have the opportunity to make peace with my old demons of insecurity and self-doubt. Watching these young people at play and at work on this show, has helped me remember myself as I was, and extend the affection I feel for the kids towards that (rather grumpy and critical) memory of myself at their age. When I am able to look into my past with greater compassion and affection, I become more capable of loving my life as it IS, right now. What a gift.

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In return, I hope to add my voice to the multifaceted cultural message these young folks are absorbing as they move toward maturity, because the Disney storyline doesn’t work for a lot of us, and it’s good to have options. Here I am, long enough past adolescence and early adulthood to be irrelevant, strange, or maybe a little wise. I guess it’s up to them to decide.

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These days, my voice travels to the next generation primarily in the context to being a mother – mostly, Lulah’s mother. My best bet is to embrace and enjoy my post for all it’s worth. And so I am… Lulah’s mother who doesn’t wear make up and refuses to color over the gray in her hair. Lulah’s mother who drives the muddy car. Lulah’s mother who brings a ball of wool and a crochet hook to rehearsal. Lulah’s mother, who insists that it’s good for you to stand on one foot and breathe. Lulah’s mother, who wants you to touch your toes, drink more water, bend your knees, AND relax. Lulah’s mother who wants you to be yourself, and believe in yourself as much (or more) than the rest of us believe in you. Lulah’s mother may be a little batty, and maybe that’s alright.

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But my aim is true. I want them to experience for themselves that they ARE sufficiently beautiful, strong and smart, that they are just as wonderful as they dream themselves to be, and also that they have so much farther to go. I want them to have confidence to walk into the world around them, not as masters, but as students of LIFE, because the best masters also stay students.

Life is full of foibles. I may not succeed in my heart-felt effort to inspire greater confidence in personal goodness in the next generation, but having seen the possibility for myself, in myself – I have to try.

So, thanks kids, for the great show, for doing some yoga with me, and for being your beautiful selves. Please – carry on. Keep singing. You are on a roll – don’t stop growing!

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May your shoes always fit!cinderella the shoe fits