Monday, June 28, 2010

Hands Across the Sand

On Saturday I was one of thousands standing at beaches around the country and globe, standing against off-shore drilling.  I know it doesn't necessarily directly accomplish anything whatsoever to go and hold hands with friends and strangers.  Still it was a beautiful little moment.  Any time at the beach is always a good time.

Photo credit to Nancy Dionne.

Friday, June 25, 2010

Diving into the Heart of Love

I'm really gearing up now for our upcoming trip to Bali, departure less than three weeks away.  This dream of Bali has been shimmering before me for so long, since late last summer.  It nearly vanished for a bit, as we slogged through Joe's lymphoma and chemo and temporarily lost the ability to see past the end of our noses.  I had completely surrendered to the idea of not going, and then -- boom -- a way was found and here we are 20 days to take-off!  I am so grateful in so many ways that we are going, Joe and I, that we'll be with Laura and Abe and 21 other lovelies for a two-week yoga and bliss extravaganza.

Mostly right now I am dreaming of the water and making plans for a brief post-retreat diving get-away for Joe and me.  I am so happy underwater, especially with Joe by my side, both of us repeatedly filling our masks with water because we're babytalking the fish or laughing with delight. 

Diving just feels like the right way to celebrate the passing-away of the cancer cloud.  Like a way of literally and figuratively diving back in to our happy place.  Yes! 

And how delightful is it that through my random amblings across the interwebs, looking into this hotel and that hotel, this dive operator and that operator, that somehow, as the clock was ticking down, I found Sea Rovers in Pemuteran.  

I'd become obsessed, you see, with diving at Menjangan Island.  One hotel I looked at, and almost booked, was deeeeeluxe and expensive enough to give me pause.  And to make me give up the reservation.  Beautiful, but uncomfortably pricey.  Others were full.  Lots of automated email replies.  Nothing piqued my interest.

Until I emailed Sea Rovers about the possibility of booking hotel + dive with them and received the most surprising, charming email in reply.  

And yes, I know I'm easy: Paul had taken the time to click through and read my blog.  He made a point of telling me that Sea Rovers serves the best coffee of any dive center in Bali.  He taught me "jammy bugger," utterly fabulous.  What? A reader who dives, loves coffee and uses great expressions, and downloaded the new Janelle Monae album just on my say-so?  Sold!  

And that was before his second email, which he signed "Living the dream and preparing yours."  Hook, line and sinker...

Now, the piece de resistance.  I fretted a tiny bit last night about having to pay our deposit through PayPal to Paul's partner's personal PayPal account.  You just hear so much bad about e-transactions, I don't know.  Anyway, I did it, sent my 80 Euros to the account of a stranger in Australia.  

The partner, Kerry, acknowledged receipt by his reply email.  And asked about the yoga retreat, let me know that they also freecycle, and signed off with, "Life is for Living, Loving and Diving."  Bam!  I am feeling deeply enamored with these people across the globe already, feeling that quick pulse of instant friendship and love that I've come to know so well through yoga (and earlier this week, at the vet!).  Love this feeling.

But hang on. Kerry.  Where had I seen that name recently?  Kerry.  And then I found it, on the links page of the Sea Rovers website.  Kerry is also responsible for a delightful project that I came across on-line earlier this week, and which I gobbled up and instantly posted to Francois's Wall -- The Love Wave.  The purpose of the Love Wave is to spread unconditional love around the globe.  You may be rolling your eyes a bit on this one (there she goes with her weird hippie yoga shit), but really, check it out, it's super-sweet and inspiring.  It made me jump around. 

So wait: how does this happen?  How do I, without knowing it ahead of time, manage to find these people, make this connection, hook in so deep like this?  It seems impossible.  With all of the choices available, the number of resources, dive outfitters, hotels, really?  I'm going diving with the Love Wave?

It couldn't be more perfect and we're not even there yet.  I'm already so happy and I don't even have my mask on.  Seriously, at this point the trip is almost gravy.  It'll be beautiful and sweet and great to dive at Menjangan Island, but I already feel like I got it -- already deep, deep in the heart of love. 

So, so happy to be here!

Wednesday, June 23, 2010

Alignment is everything

Moments before this photo was taken, the beautiful, grace-filled Heather walked down this row of mats and lined them up just-so.  It's an Anusara tell-tale, for sure, this desire for the mats not to be staggered, but to be lined up sweetly, front edges clean.

This was at last Saturday's 8:30 class with Laura at Yoga of Sausalito (where the gorgeous new bamboo floor makes the lining-up so much easier!).

We're told this is part of the bigger alignment scheme, to allow the Shakti to flow more smoothly.  That's fine by me. 

I like it because it supports my own OCD need for order, for tidiness. I am profoundly bothered when my own mat is crooked, will pop out of a pose to straighten, then continue, relieved and satisfied.

Another tell-tale is the closeness of the mats, even when not staggered.  I know some people have a hard time with this, and have noticed that in non-Anusara classes people move their mats away from mine after I lay mine down, a little too close for their comfort. 

The closeness is a learned thing for me, definitely.   I used to want more space, before I fell in love with everyone in the kula.  Anyway, we're in class together, we're practicing together, if you wanted to do this on your own, your mat an island, maybe you should have stayed home?  Of course, my own Prana Revolution mat really does put me on a giant biodegradable rubber island of sorts, so much space around me, front, back and sides.  If we lined up mats touching on all sides, there would still be enough room!

I love the big workshops, like when John Friend comes to town and there are a couple hundred of us in the room, and we designated Mat Marsalls have to lay out a grid before the students come, to set the pattern of how the mats should be.

Maybe I'm a weirdo control-freak, but honestly I find this simple physical alignment of the mats so deeply satisfying in so many ways, visually fulfilling.

The real bonus comes when we can fit as many people into the room as possible, open up and receive as many students as possible, and all those voices and bodies move as one in the invocation and the practice itself, reinforcing in this simple way how we're all in this together, maybe on different mats but not separate at all.

Om namah shivaya!

Tuesday, June 22, 2010

Rollercoaster of Love

My furry boy Jasper really dislikes going to the vet. He pants, he paces, he pushes up against me -- he clearly communicates that he wants out at the earliest convenient moment if not sooner.  And all the while behaves beautifully.  Greets each patron, pet, vet tech and vet with big wags.  Stoic.  And cute.

I was dreading today's appointment too.  Since last week I've been noticing that Jasper's left rear leg has not been quite right.  As I wrote earlier today, he can't quite land the back legs when jumping into the car and they slip tragically back to the ground, leaving him looking puzzled with just the front end on the bumper.  He seems to get up with difficulty from a prone position, and walks stiffly the first few steps.  Damn hardwood floors.

Because of the year we had last year -- the seemingly relentless cascade of cancer -- I had a sick belly from the moment I made the appointment.  For Pete's sake, not more cancer, please.  And then I'd breathe and stay present and reel my mind back from its catastrophic wanderings.

So the good news straight off the bat is that it's not cancer.  Phew.  Huge exhalation of relief.  Cancer can kiss my ass.

But what it is is yet undefined.  Upon physical examination, the good Dr. Casey said she thought perhaps it was neurological, that there are two inflamed spots on his spine.  When she moved and observed his hind legs, she saw that he was crossing his back feet as if he wasn't quite sure where to put them.  A cause for concern.  But it could also be arthritis, which would not be uncommon in a creature his age.  If neurological, then we'd have to see a neurologist who could recommend a course of action which could include surgery.  If arthritis, then canine anti-inflammatories should do the trick.

To begin to narrow it down, the good Dr. Casey took some x-rays while I waited.  And waited. 

And while I waited I was entertained by quite a parade of dogs and their people.  I was reminded of how lame and judgmental I am when I made up my mind instantly about a woman sitting across from me (didn't like her clothes, she had that dangerous frontal fat layer, she had an annoying chime on her iPhone announcing every incoming message).  But then they brought out the first of her two pets, an ancient, stout Jack Russell terrier.  At which point her face completely changed.  Words of love poured from her mouth as the tech placed her chubby old dog in her arms.  Then suddenly I loved her.  I felt I actually saw her, the real her, setting aside all of my bullshit focus on her exterior.  

And then I met Cooper, a 13 1/2 year old terrier who had actually lost the use of his hind legs almost completely and yet was the most adorable, coo-ing little creature, making his way across the slippery linoleum-tiled floor by whatever means he could.  He had a neurological disorder, a degenerative disc, and gave me a little window into perhaps what the future might hold for our brave boy should he prove to have the very same thing.  

There was a moment when the waiting room was full of dogs and their people, and there was this steady chatter of baby-talk, of endearments and pet names.  It was hopelessly lovely and brought me to tears in much the same way that the opening credits of "Love Actually" always do, those scenes of people joyfully embracing at the airport, such pure love and bliss.  A big fat constant embrace of words, and I was in it.

The room cleared.  I waited longer, until finally I heard the jangle of Jasper's tag against his collar and there he was.  Such a good boy who only wiggled a little during the x-ray.

Dr. Casey did see arthritis in the hips, more on the left, and some areas on his spine that she's concerned about.  Tomorrow the radiologist will read the films, and I'll get a call letting us know whether they're advising we see a neurologist or simply treat this as arthritis.  Meanwhile he's taking 1/2 tab of liver-flavored Rimadyl (anti-inflammatory) twice a day, with food.  If he responds well to this, then that could well be all that he needs to regain more solid footing.

It's been an emotional 24 hours since the beach but it's all worth it when I consider how much Love I get to have, to see, to give.  Thanks so much to all of my friends who've been with me all day through their own sweet baby-prattle at me on Facebook and through email.  Thanks so much to all of the sweet dog-people today who gave me such a super-blast of Love while we shared the waiting room.  Thanks so much to the compassionate, professional and kind staff of our vet clinic.  

Biggest thanks of all, of course, to Jasper who continues to inspire much bigness of spirit and love by his darling canine example. 


Solstice at the beach: may have been the last time

Inspired by some friends, we drove out to Muir Beach last night after dinner.  It seemed like a fitting way to observe the longest day of the year, but really mostly we went so we could take Jasper, our sweetheart beloved dog who will be 13 on the Fourth of July.  Jassie loves the beach.

Time with Jasper has felt super-precious lately.  Just under the surface is always this painful awareness that his span will necessarily be shorter than ours.  We have loved every change he has gone through, celebrated the turning gray under the chin and around the eyes, the slowing down from his frantic puppy pace.  And still, through all of that, he's been a remarkably fit and energetic dog, often mistaken for a puppy, playful, inquisitive, delightful.

Over the past week and a half we've been noticing something not right about his left rear leg, stiffness when he gets up, some very straight-legged walking about.  Clearly the hips are not what they were.  Poor Mr. Gray Beard.  At least he never stops getting cuter.  May we all be so lucky.

Last night at the beach there were definitely things that were hard for him, places where we worried about his welfare as we never have, knowing that he didn't have the full force of all four legs to get him out of a jam.  He definitely didn't play as long or as hard.  At a certain point we made the decision to leave, even though he probably had more play in him, in the interest of not wearing him out, setting him up for injury.

Back at the car, he missed the jump into the back and had to be lifted in.

Joe is undoubtedly right that this is more painful for us than it is for Jasper Bacon Trelaun.  I have to imagine that Jasper himself is surprised when he misses a jump or his legs slip a little under him, although I doubt he feels sad about it the way we do, as we fast-forward in our imaginations to what we fear comes next.  Nope, he just lays himself down on his big soggy pillow and enjoys the ride.

So much joy in every moment.  Don't fast-forward.  Love what's in front of you.

There is so much to be learned from loving an animal as fiercely as we love Jas.  We truly celebrate all that he has given us and still gives us.

And now, time for a walk.

Friday, June 18, 2010

Burnt at both ends, but can't stop!

It's been a busy week of yoga and social engagements, and this early-bird is feeling bleary but nonetheless awake and ready to do it again.

Since I'm committed to making a beautiful, full life -- perhaps this really is my only true sankalpa -- I seem to regularly put myself on this collision course with the ground, flying, flying, flying, then ultimately a little bit crashing.

I manage this only thanks to the yoga and to the self-perpetuating beauty of my life.  And of course thanks to coffee, without which all of this would be a lot less fun, doom-and-gloom articles on notwithstanding. And no thanks to naps which I appear to be constitutionally largely unable to cultivate as a practice (the perils of pitta, perhaps).

Taking stock of this week, I wouldn't have it any other way:
 - Monday night: awesome yoga with Peggy Orr (shhh, the website is not, we're told, ready for primetime, but so what...).
 - Tuesday night: awesome yoga with Laura Christensen.
 - Wednesday night: delicious dinner at Tartine Afterhours.
 - Last night: delicious dinner at Peggy and Jim's, many laughs and kisses, white wine and fish tacos.

And all of this on school-nights!  Which means not getting to bed at 9, rather after 11, but still, even when tortured with insomnia, eyes open at 5:30.

This morning I'm dragging a bit, but really wouldn't change a thing.  If all I got to do was my silly job all day, then come home and go to bed at the appropriate hour for early birds, how dull would that be?  I gladly trade my sleep for all this fun and time with friends.  The sleep is not my short-term destiny, but I'll catch up soon, in the meantime knowing that the sleeping is long-term destiny for us all.

So yes, a bit singed today, but man, did we laugh last night!  [Martine, if you're reading, you know that I cannot see "singed" and not turn it into "singed," nonsensical and delightful, the mind still turning its punny cartwheels even when rest-deprived.]  And what a special treat: left Peggy's with a stack of 6 books on loan and plans to send my mind down the same imaginary paths she's wandered,  so later we can swap reviews and favorite images and impressions.  Trade that for a good night's sleep?  Never.

I'll sleep sometime this weekend, maybe tonight catch up a bit since I've deliberately scheduled nothing in response to the busy of the weeknights.  But even though I'm tired and longing for my pillow, I feel so happy and full and grateful and inspired and ready for more.


Thursday, June 17, 2010

Tartine Afterhours: Delicious!

Thanks to yoga, Joe and I had such a delicious experience last night: dining at the very special Tartine Afterhours put on by chef Samin Nosrat.  Samin and I met through Anusara, natch -- the source of so many tasty friendships!

Such a treat to attend this small, family-style dinner.  We were seated at a table of 8 -- how fun to slowly break the ice and converse with strangers over dinner and wine.  And really: utterly civilizing to have to make the effort at eye-contact and conversation, all while swooning over the food.

And swoon we did.


The bread in the First Course was seriously the best bread I've ever eaten in my life, sweet and smoky with the taste of the onion, the mie so light in contrast to the crunchy crust.  [Mie is French for the soft, inner part of the bread.  So sad that there is no comparable word in Englarsh.]

And the Shaved summer squash salad?  Ridiculous!  So tasty I swear I could it eat it every day.  I'm so glad to have taken home the menu so that we can remember, when we have the bumper crop of crookneck squash that's on its way, to try our hand at replicating it in our amateur fashion.

At about this point, one of our company pointed out that Michael Pollan was seated at a table across from ours.  Nice!

I am a huge fan of risotto, and the Sweet corn risotto was delighful. I served, conscious with every scoop to ensure that there was enough in our dish for all 8 of us, while Lindsay handled the shrimp and tomato ragu.  I think that was the point at which my conversational skills abandoned me, leaving me with two phrases, "oh my god" and "this is so good."  How grateful we all were when a second dish of each appeared at the table - our mouths were too full of delight to be able to utter big enough Thank You's.

We were eating summer.

Through careful planning, I did manage to leave enough room to comfortably tackle dessert, a delicious roasted peach stuffed with amaretti in a pool of zabaione (yum) with a lovely cherry leaned up against it just-so.  If I could have a little cup of zabaione every day, I think it might work wonders for my constitution and outlook.  Delicious.

Really, at this point, I was reduced to mostly sighing.

It did feel like a distinct privilege to be in that room with that small group of people who jumped at this opportunity, as we did, to eat what Samin cooked for us.  I love this model so much: rather than going to a restaurant and selecting from a wide menu of possibilities, attending a dinner and eating what the chef puts in front of us.  It creates a communal experience, all of us tasting the same squash at the same time, serving each other, passing the butter.

Every mouthful I was conscious that Samin made this food for us with reverence and delight.  It was truly such an honor.  I can't wait til the next one.  It feels like something I don't want to miss, ever.

With so much love and gratitude to Samin and to the good people of Tartine. XX

Wednesday, June 16, 2010

be EVERYTHING that you are

I'm a little nuts about Janelle Monae's album, The ArchAndroid, which I am listening to on repeat today. I know I'm probably so, so late to the party on this, but that Janelle is five-feet of Pure Awesome.  Check out live performance of Tightrope if you can't take my word for it.

Of course I heard about her first from my sister Martine, another five-foot force of nature, who always has whatever's hot in her tiny mitts.

What I'm so crazy about, honestly, is how the album defies genre-ification. I'm listening and thinking about Nina Hagen, Petula Clark, Prince, David Bowie, sometimes Beatles, Parliament, James Brown. There are gorgeous vocals, strings, noodly guitar solos, the funkiest horn section in Metropolis. There are rhythms that go straight inside me, into junior-high-party-me who can't stay off the dance floor, has to wiggle and jump. The record's huge. It’s ridiculous. It has so much that I love, in a combination that delights me.  It has EVERYTHING.

And of course, as with everything that I'm nuts about, it circles inevitably back to yoga. This may seem particularly ridiculous when discussing a gigantic pop album, I am aware, but that's exactly why it feels so spot-on for me.

Something I've been thinking about so much with yoga lately has been how it really facilitates a deep looking at who we really, truly are, at ALL that we are.  And what we are without exception is glorious, miraculous, amazing, inspiring, jump-around fabulous! 

In the weeklong immersion with John in February, I was so struck by one central message: that our task is to be fully ourselves, in every capacity, in all our glory 100%, no holding back, all the time. Unfold, expand, grow, shine out with everything you've got. Don't save your awesome for some other time. Give it up Right Now.

ArchAndroid works for me on the most basic pop music level, emphatically yes, but it also -- with its crazy bigness -- creates a soundtrack for what I really want my life to be and where I’m taking it this year: huge, ridiculous, dance-able, funny, awesome, EVERYTHING.  All of what I love, all the time.

So I’ve got Ms. Monae on repeat today, Snoopy-dancing through this silly work-day, til the moment I can go home and tend the bees with Joe, then rock on into the evening’s dinner at Tartine. Making every moment count, every moment big and delicious no matter where I am.


Monday, June 14, 2010

Monday's all right

The first words in my head this morning were not Om Namah Shivaya.  Nope, instead, they were eeeeeeeew, Monday.

The grumpiness actually began to set in yesterday afternoon when I realized how few free weekend hours remained.  I'd wanted to accomplish so much and yet...

This morning while reading a super-inspiring blog, Love Apple Farm, I remembered that I didn't transplant the veggies yesterday since it was too hot by the time I had time...

What better way to turn that frown upside-down than by some early Monday morning gardening?  So now there are 5 little baby basils in the ground, 8 arugulas and 11 lettuces.  The sprinklers are running, I have dirt under my fingernails and a smile on my face.


Sunday, June 13, 2010

Sunchips bag: Week 1, and an unexpected trip to Wildcare

So the supposedly 100% compostable Sunchips bag has been in the compost for a week.  I turned the compost today, which became more elaborate than I intended, since I ended up screening some finished compost to make space, and combined two half piles into one big pile.

The verdict after one week:

No change.  

It's dirty, for sure, and created kind of a gross anerobic patch right above itself since it's still an impermeable layer.  If you look closely, there are two holes in it, but that's just where I caught it with the pitchfork as I was turning the pile.

The chip bag itself is incredibly noisy, super-scrunchly, which made it easier to locate.

Since for some reason, I really, really want the bag to break down completely as depicted on the package, I made a big production of placing it in the center of what is now a perfect compost pile, nicely-layered.  Ready to cook.

Like this:

Interestingly there were a lot of pine needles and big dry patches in the compost toward the bottom, probably from when Joe was up on the roof a few weeks ago to clean the skylights and cleared the gutters.  And as I was pitching forks-ful of that stuff over into the new pile, lo and behold, I found a tiny little adorable baby vole:

 We are not fans of voles generally, since they're pretty destructive.  But this one was just a baby, so I tucked him into a little spare cage (kept for just this eventuality!) and drove him down to WildCare. Where he became Patient #0733.  When I left, those good people at WildCare were re-hydrating him.  Nice!

While there, picked up the super-cool Laws Pocket Guide, and now know that this gorgeous visitor to our flowers this morning is an Anise Swallowtail.  Oh, what an amazing, beautiful, diverse and exciting place we live in!

Saturday, June 12, 2010

Twenty One Years of Love

On May 26, 1989, Katherine and I went to a party hosted by an old, old friend from the French school whom I'd run into at San Francisco State where I was a graduate student in Russian Language and Literature.  Nicholas lived on Fulton, directly across from the Jefferson Airplane house, in a flat shared with other students.  I picked Katherine up after dropping off Laurent, then 1 ½, at my parents' in the Castro.  I had on a favorite black vintage dress with lace trim at the collar and hips and black Sacha London cowboy booties (still have them).

I was 26.

Katherine and I hung around at this party for a couple of hours.  I remember feeling distinctly wrong in that place, listening to complaints by some guests that their parents were late sending their rent checks.  I was keeping track of time in my head, knowing that I'd soon have to go and pick up Laurent, feeling old as hell, a mother already in a house full of spoiled, entitled kids.

We were dejectedly getting our coats when the front door opened and a group of guys came in.  From where we stood at the end of the corridor, it was as if they were travelling toward us in slow motion.

There was no longer any question of leaving.

We produced cigarettes.  They produced lighters.  We told stories, drank, laughed.  All at once in a rush, we were all standing outside on the sidewalk together in coats and hats.    I was shy and unpracticed and did nothing.  Katherine left with a phone number.

She saw Mike a couple of times following that party.  I kept thinking of the one named Joe.  Finally I did what I knew how to do: I wrote a note which I gave to Katherine which she gave to Mike which he gave to Joe.  I wish I could remember what I said.

Our first date was on June 12th.

I had never been on a date before, actually.  The boyfriends I’d had to that point were all people I knew at least a little,  that I’d gotten to know in a group setting first.  I was super nervous.  I had gone clothes shopping that afternoon, uncomfortably aware that everything I owned was shabby and old.  I had on brand-new underwear.

Joe was early to pick me up.

We had coffee in North Beach.  We walked along the Marina Green.  We window-shopped on Union Street.  We had dinner at Pasand.  We made small talk.  We kept moving.  We had a beer at a place on Haight Street that no longer exists.  Joe knocked over a bottle leaning in for the first kiss.  We laughed.  

The next morning we went to Ocean Beach and I remember looking at Joe, in that remarkable light, and asking myself how such an amazing, beautiful person could be interested in me, me with a baby, me with nothing.  It was as if Joe was from an entirely different world.  I devoured all of the details: his eyes, his clothes, his hair, his ease. 

He was 22.

I knew already at that moment that this was it, that this was huge, that my life was unrolling before me in a way I never could have imagined. 

I was completely struck by love, it was le coup de foudre as we say in French. I lived on cantaloupe and popcorn for two weeks, unable to eat, really, truly, blissfully out of my mind.

And now it’s been 21 years.  I love Joe more now than I ever have, every day the love increasing.  Absurdly we both still get a little tongue-tied and goofy when we see each other out of context, when we rendez-vous somewhere for lunch or an errand.  I am still dazzled.

People have asked me today what is the secret to this love longevity, this love-gevity.  I have theories about what worked for us, but I don't really know.   All I know for sure is that this great big lightning bolt love happened to us, and that we've managed to feed and sustain its blaze for a good long time.  I am still grateful every day for the places this love has taken us both, for the life we've made in it.

Here's to twenty-one more and beyond!  

Thursday, June 10, 2010

Start your engines: 5 weeks to Bali

Five weeks from today exactly, Joe and I fly to Bali.  Oh, what great pleasure it gave me last week to mark the days on my work calendar, blocking out two weeks plus, making it visual after so much planning and dreaming and scheming to make it happen.

There was a long stretch when I thought we wouldn't make it, wouldn't be able to go.  Joe's lymphoma really screwed things up for us in the fall; the economy didn't help, either.  There was so much uncertainty about where we'd be physically and financially that I had tearfully given up on it completely.  And at that precise moment of surrender, bam, everything lined up to make it possible.  After the year we had, all that we went through in 2009, my deep and joyful reaction to going, and going together, is Fuck Yeah, we so need this!

Cancer really changed things.  Before, I wouldn't have given it a second thought that of course I was leaving on retreat to an exotic location with my teacher Laura Christensen.  That's what happened in July of 08 when I heard about her retreat to Careyes, Mexico in April 09.  I sent in my deposit, got my plane ticket, and then told Joe.  It's nothing scandalous - it's just that since we have our own stuff that we're into, me yoga, him bikes, it's just how we roll.

How we rolled, I mean.  Since the cancer, I can't imagine being away from Joe for any length of time without asking permission first.  And permission is something I never asked for before. I just Did.  It's different, but it feels good, and I'm so happy that we'll be there together this time around.

It's going to be an amazing adventure.  I'm so glad to have been asked to assist with planning and logistics, two things which I adore about traveling, but mostly so excited to be there, to see it, taste it, smell it, all in the company of my beloved and my teacher and my friends.

Here's to not having to choose between.  Here's to Bali in 5 weeks.

Wednesday, June 9, 2010

Suck it, little voices!

I was awake for a couple of hours in the middle of the night, something that was a regular habit curse throughout most of Terrible 2009 but which I've mostly kicked this year.  Anyway, in that awake-time in the middle of the night, my mind got up to its old tricks of making lists of all the things I haven't done, all the commitments I've made on which I'm potentially falling short, cranking out its Grinchy kill-joy anxiety.  Eww, so don't want that.  I tried to shake it off, by turning on the bedside light (causing Joe a minor heart-attack) and reading for a while, but I think I still have a belly full of failure this morning.

It doesn't help matters (or actually, it probably really does!) that I keep signing myself up for stuff, creating rules that then I have to keep.  Such as:

- freecycling one thing for every day in June.  So far I'm keeping up, and I'm glad about that, but I made up that commitment and can't imagine not keeping it, so I better keep scouring the cabinets and nooks and crannies.  The garage, of course, is a freaking gold-mine of stuff to pass on to others, but I dread going out there a little.  Which means I really need to do it.

- practicing 5 days a week and producing 800 words of writing a day for 21 days, something I just signed on to at 6am yesterday.  Yes, I know that's a really good target for me since it represents some stretch, but it did come up in the middle of the night as another source of pressure, albeit self-imposed.  I meant to go to class last night but then got hit with a wave of homesickness so powerful at about 4:30 that I needed to head home, be with my kid and dog for those hours, see my house and garden by light of day.  So I definitely spent insomniac time plotting out when I was going to practice, and kind of kicking myself for not practicing enough.

- blogging for, which is supposedly a weekly or so commitment, but which is also stressing me out a bit now since I'm having some difficulty with their general tone and discerning what is for my blog, what is suitable for theirs.  And resisting the changes I'd have to make for my stuff to work over there.  For example, the piece I wrote about my oiled-pelican fueled misery (What Are We Doing?), I think I'd have to re-title "Hot! Oil! Wrestling!" in order to get any click-throughs.  Which is not terrible, but also not my favorite.

- taking the bus to work twice a week.  Also something I really, really want to do, but hard to incorporate when there are errands and yoga, etc., to fold into the mix.

- not driving one day of every weekend.  This means riding bikes to the Fairfax Festival on Saturday (for which I will miss yoga, boo, but all in the interest of friendship and companionship, oh and it's our anniversary that day and it's what Joe really wants to do, so I'm more than game).

What I'm reminding myself of this morning as I write this is that all of the above are things I WANT to do, things that matter to me, things with the potential to produce the shifts in my life that are ultimately the entire goal of this year.  In keeping those commitments, I know I am creating the groundwork for something major and delicious.  And every commitment I keep makes me stronger, makes me able to take on the next challenge with more courage and certainty of a successful outcome.

But sometimes I just feel tired.  Which is to be expected when I've spent the hours of 2 - 4am engaged in a pitched battle against my own resolve, all those nasty little defeatist voices having their say.  Enough, I say to you silly little bastard voices.  I'm on this and you can't stop me.

Making a great life is a lot of work.  But honestly, it's the only work that matters.

[And that's 700 words so Suck It, little voices!!]

Tuesday, June 8, 2010

Yoga Writers Posse

As it's June and we're nearing the midway point of the year, I have been reflecting back on the intentions I set for the year, all two pages of them, and considering my own progress on the path.  I am really happy with where I am, with what I've done so far, although there is definitely still lots to do, lots to keep me engaged for at least the next 6 months.

One thing I haven't been doing as much of lately is documenting my own studies of yogic discipline, which is really where I started the year -- diligently applying what we were learning in class outside of the studio, at work, where I need it most, where it most certainly matters most.

That's not to say that I haven't been working it. I made my way though two of Gurumayi's books, and am waiting for a third (Courage and Contentment) to appear courtesy of used sales on  I have been blogging almost daily, but more generally lately about other subjects, especially lately the oil spill which is really rocking my entire universe.

I'm still going to class and pouring every bit of expression and meaning I can into every single pose.  Laura continues to amaze and dazzle in her teaching, and I feel stronger than ever on my mat, even though truth be told, I haven't practiced quite as much in the past month as in the 4 prior.  But that's OK.  I've been outside a lot, in the garden, reveling in growing lots of food this year and dreaming up the urban farm I want to start next spring.

At the almost-halfway point, I'm feeling good about the path and yet needing a little something.  I know my thyroid is low right now and I'm a bit mixed about giving up sugar, and I'm still under-slept, and I'm sad about The Fucking Oil Spill, so in general casting about a little sleepily.

And into my lap falls Bindu Wiles' 21.5.800 Project, thanks to and several friends who emailed me about it. For 21 days, making the commitment to write 800 words a day and practice 5 days out of 7, even if one of those days is a 40-minute savasana in my home studio.  SWEET! Just what I needed!  A little e-community to spur me on, how wonderful!

So, get ready: that's what I'm doing.  Not sure I can manage 800 words on the blog all in one go, in the mornings before work, so there may be two posts daily, we'll see.  And practicing 5 on 7 days: that I can do, starting tonight at 6:30 at YogaWorks SF with the brilliant LC.

Yay, so happy to have this organizing principle to guide the next little period.  Here we go!

Sunday, June 6, 2010

Adventures in Composting: 100% compostable chip bag? We'll see about that.

We've been composting a long time now, way back to when I was certified as a Master Composter in the early 90s.  As part of Marin's efforts to reduce the waste stream, the County created the program, patterned on the Master Gardeners, to train compost educators and activists.  For a couple of years I gave compost classes around Marin on the weekends, teaching people how, and how to love worms.

In terms of our own operation, we started small at our old house, two big yard-waste bins out back and a worm-box in the kitchen.  I know that might not sound small, especially to those who don't have a yard, but it felt small. And certainly part of what we looked for when we moved was both garden and compost space.  So at this house, we graduated to a three-bin active yard-waste system, a passive two-bin in the very back of the yard for woody stuff that needed to sit longer, and a worm bin for our food scraps.  We've been composting such a long time that it's just a normal part of our little suburban farmer routine.  But I do love it and can still get worked up about how cool it is (July 08, and more recently January 10).

Over the past five years, we've taken to throwing into our compost items which we're told are biodegradable: the corn-starch ice cream spoons from the Scoop in Fairfax, potato-starch spoons from Three Twins.  The spoons have been re-surfacing regularly for five years, no change at all.  And our compost cooks.  I haven't stuck a thermometer in there lately, but judging from how quickly we go from a three-foot pile of clippings, coffee grounds and mown grass to a 1 foot pile of glorious, sweet-smelling compost, it's hot in there.  Transformation, of all but spoons, is happening.

So, naturally, when I saw this 100% compostable Sun Chips bag, I had to buy it.  I admit to a weakness for Sun Chips so that was a no-brainer.  And now that I've finished the entire bag of chips, we get to test the veracity of their claim.  Which is that in a hot home compost pile this bag will go from how it appears at left to nothing in 13 weeks.

  Really, who could resist the opportunity to green the world one bag of chips at a time?

I placed the empty bag in the middle of a pile of compost, then set about methodically layering that cake: dry stuff, green nitrogen-rich clippings, water, partially decomposed stuff from the next bin over, until that bag was buried good. My plan is to look for it whenever we turn the compost over the next 13 weeks, and take pictures of it every time, to see whether it really does break down as they say it will.

Here's where the Sun Chips bag is living for the moment, three-feet of organic matter.

Fingers crossed that this works. If it really does, great and then perhaps they'll use that plant-based material for other applications.  Yay.  But it doesn't work, then I suppose the bag can keep those bomb-proof ice cream spoons company.

What are we doing? The damn oil spill...

There have been so many natural disasters recently, the earthquakes in Haiti and Chile and the volcano in Iceland. I cared deeply about the people affected in all of those places, but honestly I am so much more devastated by the man-made Deepwater Horizon oil disaster in the Gulf.

This problem that we caused ourselves is genuinely making me sick, making me re-consider everything, making me so sad and so angry at the same time.  I really can't look at more images of oil-covered pelicans or dead dolphins on beaches as much as I know it's necessary for them to keep re-circulating, for as many people as possible to see them, get enraged, do something about it.  [If you need pictures, check these out.]

I am bouncing between despair and anger, feeling helpless.  I want to never drive my car again.

What if all the manatees are wiped out?

At the precise moment that question crosses my mind, I realize that I'm sliding from EcoWarrior to EcoWorrier.  And worrying doesn't accomplish a god damn thing.

So since last night when I hit a low point of despair and worry about the oil spill, I've been reading, connecting, looking for resources on what to do with this Angry.  Really what I wish I could do is go help clean oil-soaked birds, but since I lack the know-how, that's out.  Instead here's what I'm doing to try and channel my rage:

- Spreading the word about National Wildlife Federation's efforts to help wildlife affected by the spill by sharing their website, joining their Cause on Facebook, posting their graphic upper right and texting them my $10.

- Following efforts by Wildcare, local awesome wildlife rehabilitation facility, to support efforts in the Gulf, standing by to help with supplies, cash, volunteer hours if they ask for them.

- Reading about a local group, Post Peak Living, mentioned in Imagining Life Without Oil in today's New York Times.  Their whole point appears to be that yeah, we need to be prepared for a world without this availability of oil we've grown accustomed to -- meaning that we need to develop the skills to be more self-sustaining.  It's def a bit Y2K for me, but still, I'm reading and pondering.  Of course this is in Marin!

- Checking out's Oil Spill Vigil taking place on Election Night.

- And I really am going to drive less.  I'm not driving to the studio today for class, for example.  Instead I'm going to go spend two hours in the woods with Jasper before it gets too hot, replacing despair and rage with the sight of trees and my dog's prancing 13-year-old form.  And then stay home, practice some handstands, work in the garden, plant more food.

Yes, our stupid reliance on oil has got to change.  The good thing about those oil-soaked images that live on in my mind is that I will see them whenever I climb in my car now, so I can ask myself, "Is it worth it? Would I trade dolphins, turtles, manatees, birds, coral and fish for this?"

Don't worry.  Be active!

Friday, June 4, 2010

Happy 100th Birthday, Jacques Cousteau!

We went to Nightlife at the Academy of Sciences last night, for the debut of Ocean Voices and to observe the 100th anniversary of Jacques Cousteau's birth.  When I read about this event on-line and that two Cousteau grand-kids (Fabien and Celine) would be on hand to introduce the special show in the Planetarium, it was a done deal.  I know I'm not alone:  I can only imagine that my generation of kids -- those of us who grew up in the 60s and 70s -- was pretty universally glued to Cousteau specials on television, grew up wanting to be him.  He is definitely a hero of mine from early childhood, so it felt like a necessity to be there, particularly in light of this madness with the oil spill and following on the heels of our dreamy morning tidepooling at Duxbury Reef last weekend.

Having been to Nightlife a few times now, I feel like I have the system down.  My timing was pretty perfect in arriving.  We were first in the Members line.  I know that's utterly meaningless, really, but I enjoyed knowing that  my feet would be the first in the door, guaranteeing that I'd be able to snap up tickets to Ocean Voices (done), then head downstairs champagne in hand, to enjoy the quiet, empty Aquarium.

And dream come true: the giant Pacific octopus was on the side of her tank, eye-level, in all her glory.  This tank is my first stop *every* time I visit, the sight I most crave. To be able to stand in that dim room, just Joe and me, and look at her eye, watch her breath, observe the tip of one tentacled leg slowly curling and unfolding, was such a treat.  And moments later, we were joined by someone in an orange Academy coat who regaled us with info about this particular animal and her kind generally.  Oh, other than being underwater, that is so my favorite!

So many of the creatures we saw in the Aquarium last night seemed so much more active than usual, or than I've ever seen there before.  The flounders were cruising around, eels, too.

I've decided that I'm not the target audience for Nightlife.  I do appreciate the lack of children and strollers --that's Genius, really.  I like having an experience of the Academy that is not about it being a playground.  And there's something wonderful about looking into brilliantly-colored displays with a drink in your hand, especially before it gets crowded.  But Nightlife is its own form of playground, for grown-ups, and I'm not sure it's the experience I really want to have, either.  I wonder whether there needs to be so much going on at once in one night: really, do we have to have two DJs and the Crucible with their fire stuff happening outside and in the center area and the usual theme-based tabling, not to mention all of the regular Academy happenings, the volunteers pushing around carts of skulls or bacula?  I'd be happy with just one thing, and maybe a jazz trio for example.  Maybe a quieter version of Nightlife, just once, so that I could avoid the feeling I had in the Extreme Mammals exhibit last night, around 9pm, that I was back in high school surrounded by tipsy idiot girls in party dresses.

But, no matter what, I was so glad to be there, to be in the same room with Cousteaus, to dedicate the great excitement that I feel when I see marine creatures back to the person who first unveiled this universe to my eyes: back to the original Zissou, Jacques Cousteau.  Long may we honor all that you gave us!

Wednesday, June 2, 2010

I [heart] David Attenborough

We've been watching the utterly remarkable Life of Mammals series (full episodes available via the link, hosted on youtube).  I have loved and revered David Attenborough since I saw him on some PBS show years ago, on hands and knees, intrepidly digging for eggs in a crocodile nest.  The Life of Birds changed my life.

The Life of Mammals series only strengthens my long-held desire to be David Attenborough when  I grow up.  I can't imagine a fuller, better life than the one he leads, roaming around, talking to animals.  There is simply something so exuberant about him.  I am always inspired by his example, cheered by his choice of words, deeply moved by his narration.  I am grateful to still be learning something new every day, especially when David Attenborough is the teacher!

And what great preparation for the introductory mammalogy class I'm signed up for in the Fall.

Here's the first episode in its entirety for those so inclined.  Echidna and platypus: enjoy!

Tuesday, June 1, 2010

It's little, but still: it's *something*

Any work-day that follows a blissful four-day weekend is bound to be a let-down.  Today was sucky enough just by virtue of comparison to the freedom and fun of what had gone immediately before, and then made worse by an absurd payroll-service problem that resulted in a gross error on my boss's paycheck.  She emailed me from Italy to ask if there had been a mistake, unaccustomed as she is to being paid $12K net every two weeks.  Uh yeah, unaccountable error on the payroll-service's part that ate up most of my afternoon.  But I fixed it.

I was delighted to get home to my clean house and darling dog.  Since it's Tuesday night and Joe is out with his team, this is a night that I love since I have the house to myself for a while.

I made myself something simple to eat and started flipping through the local paper.  I started reading something that sounded familiar, then realized that it was a piece I'd sent to the Marin IJ in late April.  I'd received an automated reply, but nothing else, and had frankly totally forgotten about it.  I squeaked, "heeeeeeey!," and jumped out of my chair for a second.  Surprised and delighted.  Then read it and wished I'd edited it better.  But still, delighted.

It's a really small thing.  It's just the local paper, which generally I bitingly criticize for reporting all major news 48 hours late and for devoting way too much space to the Grateful Dead.  [Side note: I keep forgetting to start my project of counting the number of days between mentions of Jerry or Phil so that I can prove that no more than 14 days can ever go by without their appearance, front page and above the fold, but until then, it's pure conjecture on my part.  Educated conjecture, but conjecture nonetheless.]

But still, though a small thing, being published in our local rag represents something bigger to me: that I'm really serious about this direction I'm taking, that I think it's working, that through constant attention and commitment, one foot after another, I will most definitely make this change I crave.

I'm doing it, dang it.  And so glad!