Be Patient With Yourself

Beltane                                               Waning Last Frost Moon

An afternoon of thunder, swirling clouds, torrential rains.  Another episode in the missing spring of 2011.  We sat huddled in the basement amongst our workout equipment, watching the downstairs tvs with green rectangles and red rectangles.  Occasionally, the EAS, Emergency Alert System, would blare its attention getting noise giving us notice that the national weather service had released a tornado warning for our area.

As we sat down here, I reconsidered my smug comments about those people that live near:  the ocean (sea level rise), in earthquake zones, beneath volcanoes, where hurricanes play.  Someone out there, watching the TV and pictures of damage in north Minneapolis, just said, “God.  How can those people live there when they know tornadoes come along all summer?”  Good question.

The first 12 Tai Chi classes have ended.  Next time, starting June 5th, I can go to the 6:00 pm class and practice the first few moves, then move on to the 7:00 pm class and learn the next moves in the form.  My learning curve here remains steep though I have seen progress.  I read it in Monkey’s Journey to the West, and our Tai Chi instructors have said many times, “Be patient with yourself while training.”  Very useful to me.  Very.

On Monkey’s Journey to the West.  This is a delightful story.  I’m a bit over 30% through it, I imagine it will be June before I’m done, maybe into July.  It’s so different from the Romance of the Three Kingdoms.  Romance is a military and political epic; Journey is part fantasy, part religious and cultural instruction manual, part adventure.  I see Ai Weiwei as a Monkey King figure.

That Old Achievement Bugaboo

Beltane                                                                Waxing Last Frost Moon

Deciding to take a gamble on the weather, with the aid of the forecasters, Kate planted some frost sensitive plants today:  coleus, especially.  She also planted artemisia, Jacob’s Ladder, alyssum and purple wave petunias.  Mark weeded.  Meanwhile I was in St. Paul doing my next to last session with Leslie.

Tonight was Tai Chi.  When I arrived, there was no one else there except the first teacher I encountered and an advanced student.  Nobody else showed up, presumably due to mother’s day.  That meant I had a personal class with two teachers.  It was a revelation.  This teacher, the one I met the first night of class, has a style that connects with me.

She spoke about learning Chinese, listening to the words at night before she went to bed and in the morning before class and recommended, again, since she had done the same thing at the one class she taught, that I practice morning and night.  Just immerse yourself, she said.  We come to these things with such an achievement orientation and we have to jettison it, let go of mistakes, think of them as occurrences, concentrate on the process.

Tai Chi has 13 different moves, a vocabulary of movement, a style of movement rooted in another culture.  I’ve learned 5 of them so far.  Well, sort of learned them.

It was a good class. What I needed at this point.

Uh-Oh

Beltane                                                           Sliver Bee Hiving Moon

Bees check this morning.  Colony 1 is queenright.  Colonies 2 and 3 were not queenright because I had improperly handled the indirect release.  The queens were in the cage still, being tended to by the colony so I direct released both of them.  At the next hive inspection, I imagine they will be queenright, too.  Pollen patties were not depleted, nor even used for that matter.  There was still honey in the frames from last year’s hives, so all looks good right now.   The bees were calm.

Had a last hurrah with the Titian show, docent colleagues who’d toured it showed up.  We discussed how we’d handled certain paintings, noticed things we hadn’t seen before, fun to rehash.  Afterward we went over to Rinata’s and had their $20 Sunday evening meal.  Tasty.

After that, tai chi, just down Hennepin five blocks.  Was I not ready for what happened tonight.  I positioned myself on the end of the line and, being alone, totally lost my place, forgot moves I knew well.  I’d practiced and practiced this week.

Dropping the moves out of my consciousness created a sense of panic, one I know well.  My brain tells me:  leave, leave, leave.  It’s a sort of red klaxon at work.  A tight chest.  I don’t like to fail.  At anything.  And this is for stress relief?  Well, not for me.  Not tonight.  I calmed myself down, changed positions and tried to keep my head in the class.  It was hard.

Afterward I talked with teacher.  She reassured me.  Told me chaos often proceeds a break through.  Told me that she was totally confused in her first ten weeks.  That she’d get me confident.  I felt flushed and embarrassed when she told me I had to concentrate on keeping my hips together.  I though I had been.  Again, I don’t like to be doing something poorly.  There is of course motivation here, yes, but there’s also fear and avoidance.

On the drive back I just drove, listening to Wolf Hall, a very good novel about Henry the VIII, Cardinal Wolsey and Thomas Cromwell.

Impish and Knowing

Spring                                                               Waning Bee Hiving Moon

Talked to the grandkids on Skype.  Gabe’s linguistics have made a jump and Ruthie seems to have rocketed past the early years of childhood and landed in an elementary school body.  2011-04-01_0742

Jen went to crossfit this morning.  If you’re not familiar with this gonzo approach to fitness, click on the link.  She’s gonna be tired.

Skype has increased the quality of long distance communication with kids by a geometric factor.  We tickled Gabe, watched Ruth move gracefully through the house.  We saw the expression on Ruth’s face as she dumped out a box of soft building blocks.  It was impish and knowing.  We saw Gabe do his mad face and his happy face.  Wonderful.

I decided the other day that the only way I’m going to get good at Tai Chi is to practice, practice, practice.  I go through the form several times, all the way through the single whip, the last and most complicated move we’ve learned.  Doing it in the morning, as a moving meditation and a general loosening up of the body for the day is where I’m headed.  Right now, though, I’m doing it before I do my aerobics.

The daffodils outside have finally begun to approach the image I had in my head all those years ago when I began to plant bulbs.  My first and most memorable bulb planting event was on Edgcumbe Road in St. Paul.  I began putting them in sometime in the mid-to-late afternoon, just as the snow began to fall.  This turned out to be the Halloween snow storm which eventually dumped 2 feet of snow on the Twin Cities.  I got the message.

Kate made me a quilted piece with a bee and the words Artemis Hives on the side.  I’m going to staple it up in the shed where I store the bee equipment.

I Roll Over On My Belly

Spring                                              Full Bee Hiving Moon

OK.  Enough.  Uncle.  I give.  I yield.  I roll over on my belly.  Please let us have spring.  Snow?  More snow?  Just when the Himalayan inspired mounds of soot black snow have begun their glacial retreat?  This is not insult to injury, but insult to insult.  Well, all right.  If it’s coming anyhow, but could this be the last one for this season?  Please.  I have plants that need to get back to growing.

T’ai C’hi.  Coming along.  I am within one move of learning how to grasp the sparrow’s tail, then one more, the long whip, of having the basic moves in some sort of order and execution.  My teacher says, insists, promises it will all get easier.  But, it took her, she also says, 30 years to get her form to its current level.  Wait.  I’m not sure I have 30 years of T’ai C’hi practice in me.  On the other hand, maybe with T’ai C’hi…

T’ai C’hi feels like Latin for the body.  It’s taking all of my concentration to stay with it when I practice and the learning is slow.

Then there’s that radiation problem in Japan.  Good news on it.  The power company says it can have things cleaned up in 6-9 months.  6-9 months?  We’ll see.

This is the time to move the bees.  Bee colonies do not like to have their homes moved once they’ve learned where they are.  Even a move of 2 feet can be too much for them.  If you want to move existing colonies, you have to do it in slow, incremental steps.  Right now, since I have no bees, I can put the hive boxes wherever I want.  Still mulling.  I want to put them in the orchard, but that will entail switching out the gear from the front garden shed to the back shed where I currently have all the bee equipment.

A Night I Needed Friends. And They Were There.

Spring                                                      Waxing Bee Hiving Moon

On the way back from the Red Stag, the Woolly Monday night meeting, the moon hung in the western sky, a thin crescent, a slice, almost too faint to see, a shy moon against a dark blue backdrop.

Warren and Mark were there tonight.  We had a couple of laughs over hearing as we each turned our heads to hear what the other had said.  Aging men, old ears.  We talked about nuclear power, the Republican health and human services budget which Warren covers for the Star-Tribune.  Mark told me he and Elizabeth had learned Tai Chi from a Chinese teacher in Shanghai.  The instructor spoke no English.  We’re going to practice together at the next Woolly meeting.

We spoke a bit about Mark (brother) and his coming to America.  Mark (Woolly) met some of the ex-pat community in Thailand.  He said they’re a bit edgy, a different group than other places.

We each had one of Red Stag’s local food dishes.  I had a Kale gratin that was wonderful with a Limousin hamburger.

This was a night I needed to talk to friends and I’m glad they were there.

So, life will change, again.  As it always does.

In Spring A Man’s Heart Turns to…Yard Work

Spring                                                             Waxing Bee Hive Moon

The weather has turned gray, inclement, wet.  The snow continues to melt, but not wholly disappear, as if it has gotten used to the yard and wants to stay as long as possible.  Where the snow has melted, there is mud.  Mud that tracks it on little dog’s feet.  And big one’s, too.  The spring cleaning season has begun.

This morning I look outside and see only work:  the trees to repair, various objects that need to get picked up and burned or trashed, the bee hives I need to move, old plastic that has to come so we can plant underneath it.  This last is a method for killing weeds without herbicides.  Leave the plastic in place for a couple of years and seeds germinate but die for lack of sun.  Works pretty well.

Of course, there’s the garden that will need planting, too.  Perennials left in for winter interest must come out now to make for their 2011 versions.

Tomorrow I plan to have a meal of greens from the hydroponics and next Monday I’ll use the basil grown there for a caprese salad for an afternoon meal with my docent friends.

Mark, my brother, e-mailed me and says his flight comes in on Saturday at 1 pm.  I’ll be there.

Have to practice my Tai Chi.

Feeling the Burn

Spring                                                        New Bee Hiving Moon

As the day draws to a close, many of the matters seem to have come to some resolution.  My brother will be coming here to live with us for awhile.  We’ll see what he needs when he gets here.

I’ve figured out a way to calm the doggy waters with crating two dogs, letting the others in or out, then crating the others.  Sort of a shell game, but it does the trick and has prevented any more teeth baring episodes.  We’ll see how it works tomorrow.

After the episode where I got bit, my adrenalin was so high I had to sit for a while to calm my body back down.  I haven’t been that far into fight or flight for a long time.

Tai Chi has begun to burn.  My thighs.  The lesson tonight, Guard Left, involves co-ordinating several parts of the body and some of my body parts resisted the lesson.  I’ll get it eventually.  I’ve needed, for some time, a physical discipline, one beyond the resistance and aerobic work I do just to stay healthy.  Tai Chi will teach me, I can see now, better balance, flexibility, body awareness and grace.

The old Burch pharmacy at Hennepin and Franklin in Minneapolis is empty now with Art Smart art work by kids and adults hanging in the windows that used to advertise drugs and cosmetics.  Over the pharmacy is a warren of rooms, offices for the Nancy Hauser Dance Studio, another for another dance company, an odd shaped room with various couches and chairs, some comfy, some designy, a threadbare carpet, windows with no blinds and a small digital sign overlooking Hennepin.

There is a dance floor, made of a composite material screwed to the floor in 4 X 8 panels.  It has a pinkish pastel pearl cast and serves the two dance groups, a Karate club and the The Great River Tai Chi school.  Tonight as we practiced a dance rehearsal was underway across the hall, so music with a big beat kept intervening with my Taoist serenity.

This is the city at its finest.  A decrepit building put to good use, providing creative space and space for strangers to meet and try out new activities.  I’m reading a book about cities now and it wants, so far, to celebrate cities for just this, people jostling up against one another, offering their passions to others, ideas sparking and new institutions being born as old ones die.

When I walked out past the Lowry Hill Liquor store and saw the lights of downtown and felt the Walker just blocks away, I agreed.

Path of Most Resistance

Spring                                         Waning Bloodroot Moon

I have a new round of resistance work underway in addition to the Tai Chi.  This work I got from Brad at the Y.  It involves squatting on a balance board while doing curls, then shoulders followed by a second round, also squatting, focusing on the chest and triceps.  Every other day I do crunches, too.  That plus the aerobics and the Tai Chi, plus the Body Flow I attend with Kate should be quite enough for now.  My goal with the Tai Chi is to learn it well enough to practice it while on the cruise.

(in case you couldn’t tell, this is not me.)

As to the cruise, I’m buying books, reading, talking to friends who’ve been to various spots, trying to figure out the logistical possibilities for trips other than the usual shore excursions.  At Stefan’s suggestion I’m going to look into a day flight to one of the Galapagos Islands as well as the potential trip to Aerquipa.  Part of travel’s allure for me lies in this preparation, the ingestion of different places, cultures and histories, different natural and environmental histories, different literature and art.

Meanwhile we work at the legislature, the Sierra Club and the committee for which I am responsible, the folks keep coming to the MIA, the Woolly’s meet and talk, the Latin continues to flow and Kate and I learn more and more about retirement.  The novel?  Well…  Not so much right now.  You see, there’s the garden, too, and next will be the bees.

Mind/Body

Spring                                                                Waning Bloodroot Moon

The yard!  The yard!  If Tattoo had been here this winter, he’d have gotten pretty excited about this dreary muddy mess now more visible than not.  The mountain of snow over which I could not see as I degaraged my Celica has melted to foothill levels, allowing me sights not seen for two + months.  Yippee.

Business meeting this morning and we acknowledged both the new tax burden and our wisdom in saving adequately to deal with it.  This transition year into the retired life has had surprises, mostly pleasant ones, but this one caught us up short, at least at first.  We have enough money to pay the taxes and still go on with our cruise.  I’m glad because I’ve already got that Panama hat picked out.

I’ve entered a new phase of physical activity, one with not only aerobic and resistance work, but also with body movement exercise like the Tai Chi and the Body Flow class at the Y.  It feels different, maybe better.  The better aspect comes with the more body friendly Tai Chi, yoga and pilates.  Aerobic and resistance are necessary to retain muscle mass and heart/circulatory system health, but the others work the body in a way designed to calm, loosen, stretch.  The Tai Chi, too, has a strong element, as does yoga, of the Eastern mystical.  Yoga as taught here has lost much of that, but the Tai Chi world remains rooted in the ancient Taoist traditions of China.