Tuesday, January 31, 2017

Surrender, Dorothy

This morning I finished a 31-day yoga challenge lead by the lovely, funny Adriene of Yoga with Adriene. She calls this series Revolution. For this final practice, she turned off her microphone and simply did the yoga, accompanied by some rather wonderful music and occasionally, her dog Benji. 

As she raised her arms towards the sun, I felt quiet in my certainty of what was next. But as the practice advanced into unscripted territory, tiny squeaks of panic starting popping in my chest, those along the variety of, "Wait, no one is going to tell me what to do?" I tried to match her as best as I could. My neck started to ache as I strained to find her movements on my computer screen, even though I knew instinctively that was going against the grain of what yoga is all about. But that old voice, that is so strong as to be a thrumming drive, kept pushing me on to "do it right." Follow. And perfectly.

It took a lightening like twinge near my spine punctuated by a short gasp for me to realize what I was putting myself through. I had to stop doing her yoga and start doing my own. It didn't matter in the least if we were doing the same thing. It was up to me to trust in myself now. That was the final gift of this particular revolution.

I let go. 

My breath returned because it is faithful. It is a patient teacher, offering lessons...about impermanence, attachment, grasping or when I am caught in a trance...if only I listen. My body followed instinctively. In the midst of the two reuniting, tears arose. There is still much sadness in me over recent and current events. 

I let them fall and kept going, letting every moment be exactly what it needed to without trying to mold or shape it beyond what the form of the poses required. Some of them, such as Downward-Facing Dog, I have been doing since I was about my five, as my Mom, then a hippie yoga teacher, stood above me on the lawn, smiling. My body remembers, it knows the truth, except when I lie to it repeatedly or get it drunk on fear. I got out of my way. I let it move.

At the end of the practice, vibrating with energy, I bowed my head in Namaste...the light in me honors the light in you...and I had a glimpse of a certain understanding. 

The word "surrender" has been following me around for the past two weeks or so, popping up unexpectedly and insistently. I have been chewing on it, nervously. What could it possibly really mean? It is a word that sounds so passive at best and so denigrating in its extremes. 

But what if I choose to surrender to what is truest in me? Then the word becomes very active as I turn away, past the noise and dive in and in. This is what we are doing now, many of us. We are being guided by our Highest Self and that my friends, is Love. 

Last week I was so ashamed. That was an old surrender, wasn't it? This week I am grateful and am growing in determination. That, I know with a big inhale and exhale, is the new. On we go, finding our own direction as watching, then copying, will not work anymore. Heart, body and minds together.

"Picture a tree in a storm. At the top of the tree, the small branches and leaves are swaying violently in the wind. The tree looks vulnerable, quite fragile - it seems it can break at any time. But if you look at the trunk, you will see that the tree is solid; and if you look down to its root structure, you will know that the tree is deeply and firmly rooted in the soil. The tree is quite strong. It can resist the storm."

Saturday, January 28, 2017

The delightful market of Dolceacqua - Italy

I think that we could all use a little comfort food right about now. Not enough to lull us to sleep, no, but just to a pleasant hum.

That was certainly what my hosts' intention was for my stay in Menton over Christmas, to soothe and delight. So when Madame J, who has trained at the Cordon Bleu (that is the tip of her culinary iceberg) and has won many a competition when it comes to marmalades or pickled veggies, said that she really wanted me to discover the market at Dolceacqua, my horse ears pricked and my inner radar pinged. 

Up and over the coast, the frontier passed then quickly forgotten and into Liguria, we parked and walked along the flowing Nervia River. The town's "sweet waters" namesake. The sun skipped, we bubbled along the banks, content to be on adventure on a winning morning.

J was already suspicious that the streets were so quiet and her pipping instincts were confirmed as we arrived to the market square. Many vendors had decided to stay home with their families on Boxing Day rather than be out selling their wares. And yet, as I know all too well after ten years of jogging through the Arles market, bigger is not always better. Everything was accessible, there were no lines or bumping baskets and what I could see...delighted me.

For instead of mountains of out of season (save in Morocco) melons, there were tables laid with homemade goods and delicacies. So many of them! Most were presided over by a no nonsense nonna who had made the tarts or the jam or pizza herself. An elderly gentleman seemed non-plussed that he had only a few pieces of wobbly mystery fruit and drapey stalks of leeks to sell. Nearly everything on offer was organic, with many sellers proudly displaying handmade signs of information detailing the wheres and hows (the why was evidently superfluous). 

This, to me, is what shopping at a market should be.

Although the border was still nearly in eyesight, we had passed into another world of Italian friendliness. I could and did talk to nearly everyone despite language barriers, something that took years of courage-gathering to do in Arles, in order to bypass the raised eyebrows or blatant "I don't see you, American person" glares of the market dwellers. And so I ended up buying an heirloom blueberry jelly, grown at high altitude, because a young man with astonishing green eyes convinced me (I think I would have bought anything from him, actually) that it was more interesting than the chartreuse pear medley I had been eyeing. 

But my favorite experience by far was with the wonderful woman, who constantly bit the smile between her lips, as she decided to give us a tasting of all the cheeses that she had on offer that tempted us. That would be ten. Ten different cheeses and my friends wisely bought six of them, each so different from the last even if the only due to few months date. I dream of those cheeses, still (yes, dietary guidelines were blurred for a day in Italy). And I am shuffling apologetic to keep making the comparison, but in ten years of shopping not only the Arles markets but many throughout la belle Provence, I have never, ever had anyone extend such generosity my way, let alone as a matter of course.

All was done with a light-heartedness that charmed me thoroughly. As the noon day bells rung, various producers would abandon their stands temporarily to buy a steaming plate of polenta ladled with ragù that was being sold for 4 Euros. Change was demanded between booths and a sense of camaraderie was as calmingly present as the Nervia flowing below. 

Purchases made and photographs angled, we traversed the winding cobbled streets to those that mysteriously dive below ground. Back up to the light, we passed under the protective stones of the 12th century fortress, across the medieval bridge to settle into our outdoor seats at a café. My face turned towards the sun, I sipped the amaro that my host had chosen for me, ice clinking against my teeth with a smile also bitten to not be overly obvious about a willing adoption of this wonderful life, Dolceacqua style.

To learn more about this gem of a town, please click here.

And if you are in need of a bit of beautiful music instead, then by all means, please click here. 

Thank you everyone for all of the heartfelt comments after my previous post. 

Ok, big breath. And have a wonderful rest of your weekend,

Saturday, January 21, 2017

Out to sea

*** Just a head's up that the following is politically and social activism oriented. If that is not your cup of tea, I hope that you will enjoy the photography and return next week. - H ***

Yesterday, I was sorely tempted to simply hit "publish" and let the title of this post speak for itself. I am glad that I didn't.

For while I woke up today with that feeling of being lost again, my eyes aching from last nights tears of disappointment, I remembered another series of mornings, not long ago. When I was staying with my friends in Menton, I would start each day by pulling back the curtains and standing before an open window to face the sea. My gaze would soften as I tried to focus on what was beyond fixation, out to the line and beyond, into unkowing. And how strong that felt to me then, the possibility present, thumping, alive.

My Mother and my Sister are attending their local version of the Women's March in Ann Arbor, Michigan. My American friend C is training up to Paris from this tiny village to participate. How proud I am and what hope this instills.

For while there is leisure lulling on the beaches (a constant echo back to other times, memories that seem all the richer for their distance), out on the waves, we can make our voices heard. After having lived in France for fifteen years, where the people are not afraid of contestation, I know the power that we yield, still.

There are many facets to Peace.

We can resist, we can write our future in action and response. To find and be found, again and again; awake, as a sea of possibility. With a societal shift that I am quite certain reaches beyond politics, this is our tide now.

I don't feel at all qualified to be writing this post; I feel awkward and am not sure of what I am doing. The "Who do you think you are?"'s are rolling through my throat, wishing to stifle thoughts, even half-formed but well-intentioned, into silence...but of course not. We are all qualified just by the nature of our being human and our innate connection with each other...so let's wade into the waters, even if we are just learning to swim.

"Every new beginning comes from some other beginning's end." - Seneca

Are any of you joining the Women's March? If you are curious about taking part in this international movement, you can find more information about it here and a listing of locations in the United States and around the globe, here.

So far, it is estimated that there are over two million marches that will occur, including one that is happening in the Vieux Port of Marseille as I type.

This has always been a very respectful community and I don't wish to make anyone ill at ease but I would love to hear how you are feeling in response to yesterday's inauguration in the comments below, no matter where you are reading from on our beautiful planet. This concerns us all, as you are already well aware. 

Thank you for being here,
With Love and Gratitude,

Thursday, January 12, 2017

Beyond the pale - Menton

Let's not be fooled by a calendar date or the "onslaught" of a season into forgetting. That there is a light within us, at the very center, beyond personalities and temporary concerns, that pumps our life, in and out, through the valves of our heart to the extremities of our ears, our toes. We breathe it. That light. 

And yet, at this time of year - a beginning, no less! - so many of us focus away, towards what they want to change, what they promise will happen within them this year as if there was something that was, fundamentally, wrong. There isn't. 

No promises then, nor resolutions. Not for me. More likely I feel and certainly did under the kind glow of last nights motherly moon, that it is time to remember. I have light - call it love if your prefer - and I want to live it. It is time to move beyond the pale and appreciate all the good that resides within, even when it lies unbeckoned from sallying forth.

And so a celebration is in order, the likes of which are buoyantly sprayed across Menton's walls, because its residents chose to paint it so. Let's do the same.

So maybe you can sing again even though you were once told that you do so too loudly (or off-key), maybe you can dare to trust in connecting with another, even if you were called needy or strange. Our so-called weaknesses are our strengths, I am sure of it, and only in disguise because we think that they ought to be. 

I want to be me, now. Turning in, I want to turn up the lights.

These photos were taken on a truly happy day...and I gleefully surrendered to it! 

I hope that they bring you a bit of that feeling too. My friends, you have overwhelmed me once again with your unbelievable kindness in regards to my previous post. I was so moved - my family and friends have remarked upon how amazing you all are - and was unable to keep up in responding, as I usually like to do. For that I apologize, but I most certainly took it in and will return to your good wishes and faith when needed. Thank you, yet once again, from my sensitive yet strongly beating heart.

With much Love and Gratitude as we dive into the big blue of 2017 together,

PS. You can see my previous posts on Menton here and here. They are quite different aren't they? Eh oui, that is the power of light. ;) I shot like a madwoman this trip so hopefully there is more to come...