• Tag Archives Tai Chi
  • Finishing the First Third

    Lughnasa                                       New Harvest Moon

    Tai Chi.  We have now officially learned the first third of the short form.  6 months.  Wonder how long the long form would take?  We went through the first third three times tonight, an amount of time equivalent to the whole short form.

    We ended with a toe (turned all the way to the east while facing north) into the second third.

    Learning has been slow, especially for us who don’t take easily to the physical but even my form looked better tonight.  Cheryl said so.

    The first third, those who’ve studied a long while, say, is a milestone.  If you make it to learning the first third, the probability that you’ll finish is high.

    Cheryl told us tonight that until Professor Cheng Man Ch’Ing, a Chinese scholar, physician of Chinese medicine, calligraphy, traditional painter and tai chi master, tai chi was only taught within an extended family.  In this situation the Yang family tradition, which my classmates and I are now learning, would never be available to any who was not only Chinese but of Yang lineage.

    Professor Cheng learned the Yang style though he was not of the family and, after being invited to teach tai chi in New York to Chinese business men, made the heretical step of teaching anyone who would come.

    He came to New York City in the 60’s and his first students were dope-smokin’ hippies, probably friends of mine.  This did not endear him to the local Chinese business folks who had invited him.  Nonetheless he persevered and Tai Chi is now taught by those who studied with him and, also, those, like Cheryl, who studied with one of his students.

    My classmates and I are the third generation.

  • Degree of Difficulty

    Lughnasa                                                                                    Waning Honey Extraction Moon

    I have grasped the swallow’s tail, offered a shoulder strike, wielded a single whip, pushed and pulled, brushed the leg, deflected, parried and thrust.  All moves in Tai Chi.  I have made real progress over the last 20 weeks, nearing the real end of the first third of the form.  Once I finish the first third, I can practice it three times in a row and will have a feel for the time it takes to do the entire form.

    At some point I will have the entire form under my belt, perhaps in the next year, though I will have a month and a half hiatus while rounding South America.  Then, I can continue the form as a means of meditation, relaxation and conditioning.

    With the single exception of some modern dance I did while in college, this has been the most difficult, by far, physical work I’ve ever done.  Not difficult as in strenuous, but difficult in the care and precision needed, the execution of movements which do not come naturally to me.  The degree of difficulty has surprised me, but only because I was so ignorant of Tai Chi.

    Mastering a difficult physical project has been satisfying for me, satisfying in direct proportion to its difficulty.  I tried piano for quite a while about ten years ago, but I just didn’t have the skill or the real interest.  This I can and am doing.  New for me.

  • A Beautiful Moon

    Lughnasa                                                                 Full Honey Extraction Moon

    The moon.  Tonight.  A darkening sky, blue behind the openings in the clouds and peeking out from behind a modest veil, a full Honey Extraction Moon, its color a silvered gold, honey-like and mysterious.  I love the surprise of a beautiful moon in the sky, looking out on a familiar horizon to see it transformed by the ordinary extraordinary moon.  The moons from now through the end of the year often have a wow factor.  The Harvest Moon.  The Thanksgiving moon rising over stubbled fields coated with snow.  The Winter Solstice moon, sending lambent light onto the snow, casting faint shadows of trees, houses, people.

    This moon shone in the eastern sky as I returned from Tai Chi.  This was the 20th week and the teacher, Cheryl, announced, again, that we were close to a third of the way through the form.  “It’s a milestone,” said Cliff, a 13 year practitioner.  A third of the way through.  20 weeks.  At this pace it will be a year before we have worked our way through the whole form.  Being patient with myself.  Learning that in this class.

    At points now I feel a grace coming into my motions, a fluidity beyond learning the choreography, beginning to make it mine, to work from the inside out rather than the outside only.  Not often.  But I have felt it.

    Thought about Cliff, a younger guy, maybe in his forties, having practiced 13 years.  Realized I’ll be 77 by the time I hit 13 years.  Whoa.

  • See You In September

    Lughnasa                                                            Waxing Honey Extraction Moon

    The end of the day.  The time when the season turns on a pivot toward fall and away from the Solstice.  My mood has shifted to melancholic.  Not sure why.  Maybe the end of the day, the time of year.  It is around this time in the year when I turn melancholy, a sort of seasonal affective disorder, perhaps more related, to the nearness of the school year.

    No, not because of any negative associations with school.  No, maybe because I’m not going back to school.  Not anymore.  School was good to me.  I got lots of strokes from lots of folks, school was feel good time for me.  Yes, I had some troubles that happened during school, but they were extra curricular, the school part, that always grooved.

    Well, not quite always.  That first year at Wabash I encountered German.  German and I did not get along.  I found myself near mid-semester and staring at a D.  A D!  I graduated at the top of my high school class.  I didn’t get D’s.  But I was about to get one.  So, I dropped it.  Not my finest hour academically, but it did save my bacon.  Why was I taking German?  I wanted to read philosophers in their own languages and German seemed like a good place to start.

    Other than that first semester at Wabash, school was fun.  I enjoyed learning, studying, taking tests, writing papers.  Weird, huh?  Now when See You In September begins to play on the oldy stations, my nostalgia meter hits a high.

    Hmmm.  Just occurred to me.  This may be the way successful athletes feel when the school year starts, in those day after their career has ended.  Those were the best years of my life.  That sort of feeling.

    No.  That’s not it.  Those weren’t the best years of my life.  These are the best years. Right now.

    It may explain why I keep throwing myself into things like the docent program, learning Latin, Tai Chi, always going for the burn that comes from conquering a learning curve.  That life long education idea really took hold in me.  I believe in it, body and soul.

    Though I do, each year when the evening’s cool, the leaves begin to change and parents start packing their kids up to take them off to college, I wish, a part of me wishes, I could go along with them.

    Here’s something a bit strange.  The song that always comes to mind for me at this time of year is See You In September by the Happenings.  Here’s a youtube version filmed on Lake Calhoun.

  • Ancientrails in Exile

    Ancientrails in exile (I crashed my own website.  Geez.  Wrote this while it was down.  Thanks againn to Bill S. who undid whatever I did.)

    August 7th, 2011  5:05pm

    Lughnasa                                                   Waxing Honey Extraction Moon

    Got a passport photo for my Brazilian visa.  Looks like a booking photo.  You can’t smile during these sessions.  Why?  Facial recognition software struggles with recognizing faces anyhow and anything that distorts the face makes their task even harder.  A great article in Wired talks about this problem and argues that the solution (if we want one) lies in the work of the caricaturist, who emphasizes the unique aspects of a person’s face.  This is the way our brain recognizes faces, but is very difficult for algorithms to master.

    Now.  If you’re a terrorist, please don’t smile for your passport photo because we may not be able to recognize you.  Gives you confidence, doesn’t it?

    Last night I made an attempt to increase my computer literacy by upgrading my WordPress software on my own.  Note to self.  Don’t do that again.  The result has been a database connection error.  As near as I can tell, I’ve succeeded in taking down my own website.

    Mark and I have been rereading the Go handbook.  It’s a bit confusing, at least to me, but we’re going to get to playing anyhow.  This is a sophisticated, yet simple seeming game.

    On to Tai Chi tonight.  I feel like I’ve made real progress over the last week.  Slow.  But progress.


    August 7, 2011 10:30 pm

    Lughnasa                                                 Waning Honey Extraction Moon

    We learned a new move tonight.  The instructor, Cheryl, said I had the basics of it after our first independent practice.  “Gotta be a first time.” I told her.

    It felt good to get something other than correction.  It’s been a tough slog so far, but I’m gradually pulling myself into the physical world, uniting mind and body.  At some point I want to learn the Taoist thought behind it all.  But not quite yet.

    Not having ancientrails to post in feels pretty weird to me.  I miss the familiarity of it.  Posting on the blog remains one of the more steady tasks I have in my life.  Fortunately, I don’t need the program to keep writing.



    August 8  2011   1:55 pm

    Ancientrails is still down though the error message has changed.  That must mean Bill Schmidt, good friend and cybermage, has made some progress.

    China scolded the US for “gigantic military spending and bloated social programs.”  That roused a patriotic wait just a minute reaction.  On several levels.  The military spending is high, but it has been high for some time as the US, the current and still reigning world hegemon, has many enemies and self-interest spread over the globe.  No matter what those of us who prefer peace or other foreign governments like China might want, the military spending reflects our status as the only ever global hegemon.

    Bloated social programs.  Only if you’re not poor, old, disabled, a veteran or a person who wants at least some security in old age.  Bloated is the wrong word, a Chinese mimicry of our own Tea Party.  How ironic is that?  The Chinese Communist Party lining up alongside the Michelle Bachmanns and Ron Pauls of American politics.

    Do they need reform?  Oh, yes.  Will it happen anytime soon?  I hope so, even though the result might negatively affect Kate and me.

    What the Chinese could have scolded us for, what would have bit harder than hackneyed bumper sticker critiques, would have been questions about our love of democracy.  Democracy as it exists in this country today no longer solves problems.  It creates them.  Why does the nation of Madison, Monroe, Adams, Jefferson and Hamilton find itself broken down into the politics of faction?  Military spending and misshapen social programs are the not cause, they are the symptom of a nation no longer able to make its own form of government work.

    Now, there’s a critique.


  • 9 Pins

    Lughnasa                                                                                   Waxing Honey Extraction Moon

    Woke up this first day of Lughnasa to Knickerbockers playing 9 pins and throwing strike after strike after strike.  A nap on a thundery summer day has a luxurious feel, velvet, cushy.  Gertie spent the nap at the foot of our bed.  Both she and Rigel have mild ceraunophobia, shrinking when the lightning tears a hole in the sky and air spills into the vacuum.

    This morning I translated, sort of, an entire verse of Pentheus’ story.  When I say sort of, I mean I’m reasonably sure about the translation in terms of Latin grammar, but not sure what it means.  Greg will help me clear that up on Friday.  I’ve taken almost three weeks off and it showed.  The work went like slogging threw a marsh, progress, but with a lot of effort.

    Speaking of effort, I’m now practicing Tai Chi with more regularity, something I’d also let slide over the last month or so.  Tai Chi requires muscle memory so the practitioner can concentrate on the form, then become relaxed, totally part of the movement.  Some parts have gotten laid down in my neuronal pathways, but, so too have some errors.  Sigh.  Yesterday’s practice, done in the same dance studio over the former Burch Pharmacy had characteristics of Birkam Yoga.  Hot and sweaty.

    Got a call from Carlson Toyota this morning.  Our Rav4 will have to take a drive of 400 miles to get here, but it will be here tomorrow.  The color, white, and the interior, beige, were not what Kate wanted, but they were available.  The Tundra, Kate’s faithful companion for 11 years + will get sold to a scrapyard for $500.  An undignified end for such a good friend, like the glue factory.

  • Progress In Tai Chi

    Mid-Summer                                                              New Honey Extraction Moon

    Tai chi.  Finally, I made some progress.  Slow, but sure.  Be patient with yourself they told us at the first meeting.  I’m glad they said that.  I’ve needed it and still get upset, want to quit, but keep coming back.  This is a commitment to a new way of being in the world, a more physical, graceful way.  A way I don’t often associate with myself.

    Mark starts work tomorrow, an 8-hour day devoted to looking for work.  We’ll pay him minimum wage for a devoted effort, an effort which can include looking at graduate programs, looking for work far away as well as for work close to hand.

    Another hot, sticky day.

  • To Bee, To Do

    Mid-Summer                                                             Waning Honey Flow Moon

    Out to the bees in just a few minutes to slap on two more honey supers each, the six I finished varnishing yesterday while Mark put foundations in the frames.  This will find six honey supers on colonies 2 & 3, while colony 1, the parent colony for next year’s only divide, will have four.  Not sure if I’ll need more than these.  I’m having to do this in the early morning, not the best time, but the only time I’ve got today.

    At 9:15 Kate and I take off in separate cars for the Northern Clay Center.  Our clay intensive starts this week, 10:00 to 4:30.  I hope to learn how to make Japanese style tea cups and salad sized plates.  Like tai chi working clay puts a premium on hand-eye co-ordination and sense of touch as well overall design skills.

    A good while ago my spiritual journey had gone stale in the reading, meditation, contemplative modes I knew best. The next stage of my spiritual practice became gardening, working with the rhythm of flowers, soil, spades and trowels.

    That practice went on for many years when Kate and I decided to add vegetables and the orchard with permaculture principles in mind.  That added a good deal of oomph to the tactile spirituality, deciding to keep bees put animal husbandry into the mix.  At this point my spirituality has become more and more attuned to the rhythms of growing seasons, plants and bees, all within the context of the Celtic Great Wheel.

    With tai chi and clay my spiritual practice comes closer in again, my hands, my feet, my hips, my arms.  Both clay and tai chi are paths on this nature focused ancientrail, though for me they are quite a bit harder.  But that’s the push I need to grow.

    After our first day at Northern Clay, I have my Woolly meeting tonight at Highpoint Print co-operative where we will make prints.  One more step down the ancientrail of the mind/body link.

  • Sunday, Sunday

    Mid-Summer                                                                            Full Honey Flow Moon

    More fun with the alarm system.  Back and forth with ADT.  On the phone, pushing buttons.  Still the chirping.  Service call.

    Business meeting.  Scheduling a Denver trip for sometime in September.  Looking at buying some more mulch for the vegetable garden.

    Practice tai-chi.  Sand and varnish for coat number three six honey supers.  They need to go on tomorrow morning.  Mark put foundations in the frames today, so we’re ready to go.

    Out to tai-chi.  I’m still the slow student in class, but I’m learning.  Slowly.  A challenge for this guy to connect body and mind, but a challenge worth keeping after.

  • It’s Illegal

    Mid-Summer                                                                                             Waxing Honey Flow Moon

    In to see Kate this morning after making some soup and killing potato pests by hand and soapy water.  Integrated pest management  suggests hands-on management for small crops.  It’s actually pretty straight-forward to keep pests in check if you inspect regularly.  Like the plastic bags for the apples.  The concept also allows that some leaves will get eaten, some plants will get lost, but that if you plan for these and don’t excited, you can keep pesticide use to a minimum.  I haven’t used any for years.

    Companion plantings helps.  Crop rotation helps.  Regular surveillance helps. Replenishing soil nutrients helps. Every bit of positive input reduces the hold insects pests can get on your veggies.

    Kate’s color looked normal this morning even though her hemoglobin is still a little low.  She’s ready to come home.  Her nurse yesterday tried to get her to wear little footies with a sticky pattern on the bottom.  Kate doesn’t like things on her feet.  “You don’t want to wear them even though it’s illegal?”  I knew who would win this contest.

    Back home for a nap, read a little, then got ready for Tai Chi.  Kona had been injured in the morning, but I couldn’t find the problem.  She held up her right front foot, which I checked carefully, finding nothing.  Mark found the wound.  It was a tear in her side just above the right shoulder.

    Uh oh.  This is the kind of stuff Kate makes easy. So. I called her and asked her if she could come home.  Nope.  Well, I figured.  Her advice though helped a lot.

    After a snappy, biting 10 minutes or so, I figured out how to do what needed to be done, Kona stood quietly and let me put a gauze pad on the wound and wrap it on with a sticky bandage.

    I missed the first hour of Tai Chi, but I made it for my class.  Be patient with yourself.  Relax.  Trust the process.  Cheryl, the teacher, is a calming influence in a learning curve that can be difficult.

    By the time I headed home I needed some comfort food.  A peanut buster parfait later, I felt calmer myself.