Yellow croci

On a walk home from a student’s house the other day, these intrepid croci caught my eye.

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Yellow! Spring is on its way.

Yellow! The color of energy.

I remembered this poem from Turtle Island Quarterly.

Axons & Dendrites

Yellow the color of sun. It comes from the solar plexus
under the rib cage opposite the cockeyed kidneys that purify

our blood. Above, heart green, throat blue. This rainbow within
each body is not an accident. The spine’s spectrum marvelous as a light beam

of refracted rainbow bent by a child lifting a plastic pyramid to a ray
shined through her third-story window by the chary eye of the sky.

From My Diary, July 1914

Amid the world’s insistent troubles, and any of your daily own, may you find in July 2015 some moments of beauty, kindness, goodness, love, joy and light.

From My Diary, July 1914

Leaves
Murmuring by myriads in the shimmering trees.
Lives
Wakening with wonder in the Pyrenees.
Birds
Cheerily chirping in the early day.
Bards
Singing of summer scything thro’ the hay.
Bees
Shaking the heavy dews from bloom and frond.
Boys
Bursting the surface of the ebony pond.
Flashes
Of swimmers carving thro’ the sparkling cold.
Fleshes
Gleaming with wetness to the morning gold.
A mead
Bordered about with warbling water brooks.
A maid
Laughing the love-laugh with me; proud of her looks.
The heat
Throbbing between the upland and the peak.
Her heart
Quivering with passion to my pressed cheek.
Braiding
Of floating flames across the mountain brow.
Brooding
Of stillness; and a sighing of the bough.
Stirs
Of leaflets in the gloom; soft petal-showers;
Stars
Expanding with the starr’d nocturnal flowers.

– Wilfred Owen

Sunday Morning

A Sunday morning poem from Robert Webster of YogiCycle. Last year, Robert and I worked one-on-one for five sessions to develop his voice in his teaching and his poems.

No one needs to find his voice: it’s a matter of unfurling it.

The way it takes another set of hands for two people to spread a picnic cloth, it takes another set of eyes and ears to unfold a voice from where it’s been stored until it is ready and needed. My students never cease to amaze me. Like Whitman, they contain multitudes.

As a private yoga and poetry teacher, I have the best job in the world–helping people recognize ease in their bodies and peace in their minds; witnessing the beauty of creativity in action, listening to words arising from hearts.

Please enjoy Robert’s poem, check out his site and visit his classes when you’re in Sacramento. Happy May!

Sunday Morning

6:30 a.m. and I’m on my way to meet a friend for a bike ride.

 

The tangerine-tinged sun pokes up over the horizon

Coloring the low sky and clouds the shade that sailors were warned about.

 

In the distance, three contrails streak the higher blue sky like comet triplets.

 

 

Third Spaces

Third Spaces (ThS) are places that are neither home nor work environments and that we go to for companionship, to learn and to have fun. Most television shows feature a Third Space; many are set in them, often a pub. For yoga folk, the ThS is usually a studio.

Before It’s All Yoga was my workplace, it was my ThS, and so it always remained in some ways for me. When I took a colleague’s class, the gold and sage green room metaphorically held both desk and bar stool as I learned and laughed and sometimes cried under the guidance of another. When teaching a class, the space served as exploratorium, the narrow foyer funneling in students curious about what could happen in an hour.

My job: prep, facilitate and let change occur.

A ThS can be as simple as the square card tables my Meditation, Movement and Verse students gathered around. It can be the all-purpose room at an assisted living facility, chairs lined up for seated yoga, or a conference room transformed into practice space, lights dimmed, gym towels spread on the carpet.

We find our Third Spaces and they find us. 

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A favorite space: the American River.

Are you at home or at work right now? Can you picture your Third Space? Or are you in it?

I urge you to take a moment to acknowledge that space and the people, as well as any non-human animals, who make that space available. Maybe your favorite hiking spot, the public pool, your journal or sketchpad, a friend’s back patio? Define it for yourself. Then pull it out for a moment from the hubbub of life, hold it like a jewel in the light. Appreciate.

And if you ever have to say farewell to your ThS, don’t despair.

It’s better to have loved and lost a Third Space than never to have loved one at all.

Receive and release. Receive and release. This is a tidal rhythm of life.

During my transition from Sacramento to Washington, DC, lines from the Judy Halebsky poem “The Ohno Studio” have kept me company.

in this studio

I have laid down my fears

I have been easily hurt

snow melts, flowers bloom

there is getting up off the floor

the third pine

the ground, the sky, the space between

this is where I have danced

this is where I leave you from

After I taught my final class at It’s All Yoga, and the last hugs were distributed to students returning to their homes and work, I stood in the middle of the studio to whisper, “Thank you” from the very bottom of my heart.

And in that final class was a student new to the studio. When she learned that I was moving, she asked a friend from DC to recommend studios then sent me an email with those recs and a well wish. I’d never met her before that night and may not see her again. What was my ThS is her ThS now. This is how it happens.

I will live my life

In a few weeks, around the time of April’s new moon, I’ll be crossing the country, relocating from Sacramento to Washington, DC. I grew up in the city so it’s a homecoming.

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Essentials: doggie & truck. Matt snapped the pic last fall while I was teaching a Day Poems workshop at American River Conservancy.

When I needed to stretch my legs a long way from what I knew, California adopted me. I am grateful. In nearly 30 years in the Golden State, I’ve made and lost friends and made some more, earned degrees, taught scores of students, loved and buried two wonderful dogs and a cat, befriended a third dog, and met and married my husband. As I begin this next phase of life, I’ll try to accept what waxes and wanes with the grace of Bly’s new moon, establishing a rhythm beneath a different patch of the same sky.

As always, I’ll teach yoga, write, coach writers, and lead an occasional poetry workshop. Maybe I will see you or work with you, or someone you know.

We do not need to travel far to begin our privacy over. The moon’s pattern is to orbit the earth. We find our patterns in other places, in a poem, through an asana practice, in the routes we walk, the stores and cafes where we are recognized. Every moment is an opportunity to notice something, to sit together with it. Every day an opportunity to live life.

 

Like The New Moon I Will Live My Life

When your privacy is beginning over,
how beautiful the things are that you did not notice before!
A few sweetclover plants
along the road to Bellingham,
culvert ends poking out of driveways, no one rushes towards or shouts about,
what lives like the new moon,
and the wind
blowing against the rumps of grazing cows.

Telephone wires stretched across water.
a drowning sailor standing at the foot of his mother’s bed,
grandfathers and grandsons sitting together.

 

Note: Poem to be published in Like the New Moon I Will Live My Life, click this link (by April 9, 2015) to support the Indiegogo campaign to published the book; poem used by permission of White Pine Press.

 

Edward Thomas’s Spring

In springtime, I  think of Edward Thomas, born March 3, 1878 and killed April 9, 1917 by a shell blast. Signs of the season on a Sacramento walk: a sparrow paused on the fence of a downtown preschool with a scrap of purple ribbon in its beak, tiny ginkgo leaves, miniatures of their later selves, exact as young praying mantes, scent of orange blossoms, the trees tirelessly gearing up for another round of fruiting. In California, we realize that in many places “winter’s not gone.” And we are wondering if rains will yet come with life-nourishing water to carry rivers, mountains, meadows, deserts, fields and orchards through the year.

But These Things Also

But these things also are Spring’s –
On banks by the roadside the grass
Long-dead that is greyer now
Than all the Winter it was;

The shell of a little snail bleached
In the grass; chip of flint, and mite
Of chalk; and the small birds’ dung
In splashes of purest white:

All the white things a man mistakes
For earliest violets
Who seeks through Winter’s ruins
Something to pay Winter’s debts,

While the North blows, and starling flocks
By chattering on and on
Keep their spirits up in the mist,
And Spring’s here, Winter’s not gone.

– Edward Thomas

“pitcher of morning light”

“Suddenly I realize/That if I stepped out of my body I would break/Into blossom,”

– James Wright in A Blessing

In a Meditation, Movement and Verse class, we read Wright’s poem and moved through it, identifying the verbs and embodying them, step, ripple, bow. 

canna lily
Canna by Jennifer O’Neill Pickering

After stilling and breathing for a few minutes, I showed students how to identify the heart center as a metaphorical and geographic home in the body and guided them through exploring that center as a pivot point. With a simple flow of the arms, we established the relationship of heart center to shoulders and arms, how hands do the work of the heart in the world.

Prompt: Take a variation of the title and write about a blessing of your own. Or, begin a poem with “Suddenly I realize.”

Jennifer O’Neill Pickering shares her poem below. Thank you, Jennifer!

Blessed

Blessed with a blossoming heart
with summer flowers seeded in spring
in this garden of wild, native, exotic, and tame;
blessed with this pitcher of morning light
poured on the wooden planks and the Canna’s lily leaves;
blessed with the walnut’s basket of nuts
the squirrels steady harvest
the Mandalas of Black-eyed Susans
fringed in luminescence;
blessed with sparrows’ passion to sing,
humming birds’ endurance, inquisitive jays,
afternoon baptisms their quiver of wings
release of sorrow opening space where joy cultivates;
blessed with feelings turned over making amends;
the yin yang of sadness and joy different and the same–
the sycamore and the breeze linked in song.

– Jennifer O’Neill Pickering

Old Griefs

Gently squeezing a snapdragon between fingers to hinge the blossoms’ jaws open and close guarantees a smile. Pleased to have my poem “Old Griefs” appear today in the inaugural issue of the journal Snapdragon this almost-spring day. In Sacramento, scented jasmine is spilling from garden walls; below, the poem’s spilling off the page. I just decided to let it go….

 

Old Griefs

Fallen into a well of sorrows born 
	at an earlier age, my violet eye emits 
		light enough to brighten stale tears. 

			Pain coils; 
				love does
			the opposite. 

		Open, unfasten, unfurl until all within is without, 
	until the volume of these disclosures propels me
to the surface of the grim borehole.

Enough is enough

Asteya, the third yama of yoga’s ethical guidelines, translates as “non-stealing.” We’re taught from a young age to not take what does not belong to us. That’s clear. In our crowded 21st-century world we who have excess are also learning to not take more than we need, be it water, fuel, food or someone else’s precious time. We conserve at the faucet and gas pump, show restraint when ordering at the restaurant and employ responsible use of technology to increase efficiency.

The practice of yoga teaches us that desire drives greed and can lead to careless actions. One day, full of ego’s ambition, eager to jam myself into a deep backbend, I ended up with a crick in my neck for months. A pose that in its truest form would be a heart opener resulted in body and mind slamming shut with frustration. Gentle, slow, movement, rest and breath gradually led to the ability to move into camel pose, ustrasana…when I was ready. But by rushing literally headlong into injury I had cheated myself and the tradition of yoga itself, which is not founded on haste. Equipped by my error, I teach ustrasana slowly and systematically. The approach is not of “getting” into a pose, it’s making a shape.

meditation seat
The best way I know of to literally take my mind off of what Wordsworth calls “getting and spending”–sit outside and breathe.

Non-stealing boils down to not rushing. Taking, stealing, thieving, nicking, are actions designed to beat the clock, to not get caught. Generosity is spacious and can be quite slow. Think of sweet time passing as a planted apple seed transforms to a fully fruiting tree.

Living in Bakersfield years ago, I’d sit on my front porch to watch the sunrise. This untitled poem prefaces We Have Trees (Swim Press, 2005).

Beg belongs in beginning
the place I began.
Into the world born full
with empty hands.
And beginning each day
before sunrise.
Even dreams hold requests,
goodbyes ask for promises.
I beg of you to keep my arms
empty until they are full,
to beg of you only
that which you have to give
and to begin anew
at the moment
of each invitation.

– Alexa Mergen

 

 

Intimacy, voice, community

We talked this morning about intimacy, voice and community in the final meeting of the inaugural series of Meditation, Movement and Verse. My thanks to the students who brought ideas, memories, rhythm, words, breath and bodies to seven months of weekly meetings. Wow, is all I can say. Your insights and poems confirm that intimacy, if anything, will save the world. Thank you for making yourselves known.

Be brave. Stop bullies.

This poem was begun several years ago when I first started thinking about how intimacy closes the gap between human and non-human animals, one human and another.

A World of Constant Motion

It starts with interrogate,
ends with preserve.

Between, answers
to why we let other species

dwindle. Do we sit ourselves
down on a straight chair

under bare bulbs of what’s left
to question—

When did battle take precedence
over beauty? When did what was

get displaced by now and next?
Preserve means to set aside

acres of jars shelved bright
with tomatoes and peaches picked

in warmer days for cold ones.
“In wildness is preservation”

Thoreau said. I say
intimacy saves the world—

creatures in burrows, beneath waves,
flowers fruiting without witness,

my back against yours as we breathe,
what we love named, and who.

– Alexa Mergen