Friday, 27 September 2013

Time Travel

I've had the fortune to be asked by a friend from freshman year of college to give an Alexander Technique presentation to his high school choir students. Visiting (any) high school is such a trip, isn't it?? I spent a half hour scoping the classroom and the kids before excusing myself to lay in the field and process all that such a visit foments (and to recover from an early morning's drive to Charlotte, NC). This friend and his wife are a high school music teacher and a manager for Verizon Wireless. I think back to other friends I knew from freshman year: an investment advisor, an engineer, an emergency room physician. I muse on the career paths I didn't take, wondering what led them their ways - and me, mine. What would an advisor have said to me at age 18? What was I good at, inclined toward, what sort of prospects did my parents and elders see for me? I didn't have a clue. I can understand why parents are often the ones who choose a mate and a career for their child... Hopefully they have a broader vision that allows them to offer helpful guidance. What might the Now me have said to that young me, in the way of advice or reassurance?

I guess I can kinda see some sense in the path I've taken (thus far!). I can understand how and why I was drawn to making pottery - I always enjoyed being crafty. I went above and beyond in Home Ec, buying additional project kits and sewing them by hand on the weekend. And delving into the world of craft, art, and technique led me to consider deeply the question of what Self to express; what showed up as important to me? What did I want to say, convey, contribute to the world? And then, of course, that led me to the How of all that, which is a graceful segue right into the work that enthralls me now, Alexander Technique.

As I sit outside my friend's suburban-development home, with tidy yards encircling a half-block long mowed grass commons, I imagine showing my 18-year-old self the details of her life at 40. This is the car you drive (old! quirky! loud! kinda cool!), the house you live in (what's with that crazy wild garden? Only one story?) here's the lineup of lovers you've had (no comment). What would she think of me? If anything I hope she'd find me calm, at peace with the choices I've made, though I imagine and can feel her confusion and apprehension.

Yet.... There's one aspect of me now I think she'd be astonished and thrilled about:

I dance.

Look through the eyes of this awkward, uncertain teenager. Years of being bookish have left her slumped and bespectacled. She hears she's "cute" but can't imagine hearing "hot." And then, she sees me dancing...

Tango! Swing! Balboa! Blues! For gods sake, is that striptease?!?

That's someone I can be excited to be. In the face of those concerns that I've somehow missed out on having the suburban lifestyle, the kids, the 9 to 5 routine, the apparent assurance of it all... The only thing I know for sure is, I'm going dancing.


Thursday, 19 September 2013

A Season for Grieving

Pocono Pines

Thursday was the Harvest Moon. It was also my deceased stepfather's birthday, and today is the year anniversary of my father's passing. A few days ago I visited the Highland Lake Inn, outside of Flat Rock. The early morning mist, the sky above the lake, the edge of autumn in the air reminded me so poignantly of this very time last year, when I was in the Poconos at my father's bedside. He picked a beautiful time to die. The day after he left I spent from dawn until dusk outside, walking the quiet neighborhoods and shuttered golf course near my brother's home, appreciating the incredible beauty of leaves changing, determined breezes tempered by still-warm sun. My dad spent his own youth visiting that area, later telling us stories of "Lutherland"* and showing us the remains of foundations from old buildings. The Pocono Mountains of Pennsylvania are a more northern part of the mountain chain that frames my home in Asheville, NC. Perhaps the soothing I receive now from them comes from having spent my summers as a youth embraced by the northern brethren of pines, lakes, moss, and berry bushes.

Pinecrest Lake, Pocono Pines

The seasons this year have felt significantly different to me; I didn't mind a cool and overcast spring, and summer's end doesn't fill me with a familiar, yearning despair. I'm beginning to see the beauty in things ending, appreciating that final hurrah of brilliant color, strong sun, the apparent freshness of cooling air before it becomes downright cold.

Apple galette

That doesn't mean that sadness is a stranger to me. If anything it's flowing with more emphasis, but through a clearer channel. I wonder, dad and stepdad, what do you see? What would (do) you say to me? I am saying, I miss you. In honor of my dad I am making pies as I hold vigil; one of his last phone calls to me expressed his wish that I win first prize at a friend's annual pie contest. One of the last things he said to me was how much he loved my bread.

My dad, Andre

Funny how grief comes... and goes. Thank you crickets, for singing me to sleep; thank you sun, for rising without fail. To everything there is a season, and this one is for savoring ends.

My stepdad, Ted