Thursday, 23 December 2010

Farewell to my first yoga teacher

My first yoga teacher, Lyn Dorfling, died in South Africa on Sunday.

Lyn was a yoga pioneer in South Africa and by the time I met her in 1964 she had already studied with BKS Iyengar in India and, I think, had been initiated by him. She visited us in the Hwange Game Reserve where Roland (her nephew) was working as a ranger. Although she was his aunt, she was only five or six years older than him. Roland and I had only been married for a few weeks and I had not met many of his relatives. Lyn was married to Desmond at that time but they later divorced and she remarried. We lost touch and I believe she was widowed or perhaps divorced again. It seems she was teaching yoga right up to the end as there are classes listed for her in the studio where she worked near Johannesburg. Searching through the Internet I came across this article on pranayama written by Lyn.

Living in the wilds of Africa as we did, yoga wasn't really on the radar so when Lyn and Des plus their daughter and her boyfriend lobbed up to Main Camp - in an ancient Renault towing a fair-sized caravan - I was intrigued to meet her. Until Lyn took me through the first steps I don't recollect ever having heard about yoga.

Lyn asked me if I'd like to try something interesting so of course I said "Yes" and she said it was called "Yoga". We worked on the Sun Salutation Suraya Namaskar and then she took me through Yoga Nidra. That is when I got hooked on yoga! The family stayed for a few days and Roland showed them around the Game Reserve so they got to see elephants, lions, buffalo, giraffe - most of the bigger animals. When they left to return to South Africa, Lyn gave me a roneoed booklet with Suraya Namaskar and some other asanas. The booklet was illustrated by hand and had a green cover and it was my only text until it eventually fell to pieces from being used all the time! After Lyn and Des left Main Camp I did not have another lesson until we migrated to Australia 20 years later.

From Lyn's booklet, I moved on to Richard Hittleman and from there I slowly developed a love for the philosophy and literature of yoga as well as the asana practice. Currently, I'm studying with Georg Feuerstein and finding that fulfilling indeed.

So farewell Lyn, I am grateful that you introduced me to Yoga; it has been a constant in my life since that freezing cold day in July 1964 when I lay on the cement floor and you took me through my first Yoga Nidra.

Monday, 6 December 2010

Leonard Cohen, THE DARKNESS, New song, Nashville TPAC, Nov 5, 2009

The Darkness - Leonard Cohen
The first time I heard this amazing song was at the concert on 24th November 2010 and it is my new favourite!
The whole concert was magical. Leonard Cohen in top form but he must have been tired - it was the last concert of the tour and goodness knows how many timezones he's crossed in the last few months. Sharon Robinson was absent from the line up and that was a pity. The Webb Sisters (Charley & Hattie) were there with their wonderful harmonies (and the odd synchronised cart-wheel). Roscoe Beck (musical director, electric bass, stand-up bass), Rafael Gayol (drums & percussion) Neil Larsen (keyboard) Dino Soldo (master of the wind) Javier Mas (binduria, laud, archilaud & 12 string guitar - what a legend) Bob Metzger (lead guitar etc.) The support act, Clare Bowditch, was also excellent. She told a couple of funny stories about the tour and also how much she had benefited being in the show with L. C. I remember last year that Paul Kelly said something similar. Clare sang her "I thought you were god" and dedicated it to L.C.

Something that always impresses me is the respect Leonard Cohen shows for his band and vice versa. He has a huge generosity of spirit and never ever hogs the limelight. Occasionally he was alone on the stage; he is so tiny but he filled the space.

The four of us who went to the concert were mesmerised and the 3+ hours went by so quickly. One of my friends was not that familiar with L.C. but by the end of the concert she was a big fan! I wonder if he will tour down here in Australia again. He is 76 now so it is doubtful but if he does I'll be there! At the beginning of the concert he said, "Friends, I don't know when we'll pass this way again, but tonight we're going to give you everything we've got."
The review (by Ray Purvis) of the concert in The West Australian is worth reading. He mentions how L.C. "inhabits the songs".

Tuesday, 30 November 2010

Writing a novel in 30 days!

November 2010 is done and dusted and of course that signals the end of 2010. This has been a fruitful month for me, thanks to a friend of mine (you know who you are) who encouraged me to enter the National November Writing Month aka NaNoWriMo. The point of the exercise is to complete 50,000 words towards a novel in the 30 days of November. For some writers that IS a novel. For me, well I got as far as 33,000 odd and then … suddenly … it was 30 November and I was nowhere near the end of my story.

The process: I have had a book (historical fiction) in my mind for a long time; I've written the first paragraph countless times, but only in my head. I could not let this opportunity to give it breath pass me by. I return to my notions of history and life as a tapestry - the picture on the front and the knots, tangles and loops at the back - holding it all together. The little things that make us who we are. The interlocking threads that appear and disappear, sometimes for good. In my mind I see the Fates weaving and cutting the threads without warning. I find it so magical that I can work with these amazing ideas for pleasure!

I began a week late because we were away on holiday but I did make some notes in longhand - which, in the event, I didn't use. However, once we got home and I got started in earnest the words began to flow; the characters made themselves known to me and it felt wonderful! Some of the characters I had thought of but others put on a surprise appearance. Sitting at my computer each day letting the process take its course is entirely different to writing a thesis or dissertation. For example, my doctoral thesis took nigh on seven years before I submitted it! This time my significant other and the LBD (little black dog) did not have to beg for my attention and sandwiches were not the staple food in the home.

Procrastination and writer's block have not been the problems I thought they might be. The most time consuming part of the exercise has been research. With my academic background I admit to being a stickler for accuracy. I've read books that I've enjoyed up until there is a completely inaccurate statement. One of these is in The Poisonwood Bible (although I still think it is one of my favourite books) where Barbara Kingsolver misplaces Johannesburg from the hinterland to the coast. I think that is poor research and poor editing. For me, sometimes I could not proceed until I had the facts right. Imagine if I wrote about the Boer Wars and erred about the dates (there were two wars, which one did I mean?). I had to check, was the Suez Canal open in 1875? When were the slaves in South Africa freed from bondage? Which ports in Australia and New Zealand were deep enough to take a large Clipper ship? How far south did the ships sail? All of these and more! I love the research but it is also important not to make the story too … academic. Honing my writing skills in this way has been brilliant for me, it has liberated my style hugely.

50,000 words does not sound like much and I know that it will not be the complete novel; my characters would like more of their stories told.

Keeping a file of the bits and pieces that I have edited out (naughty to edit when writing under pressure but never mind) means more treasures for my long drawer.

If the book should see the light of day I'll let you know but there is a lot of work still to be done.

Sunday, 21 November 2010

short post

A short post - just because I haven't written here for ages - I'm working on a novel for the NaNoWriMo. That means 50,000 words in November. Well, I'm just over half way and November is more than half way finished! Anyway, even if I don't finish it in time I've made a huge inroad to this novel that has been in my mind for a long, long time.

This week is going to be full on.

Among the exciting events the biggest is the Leonard Cohen concert on Wednesday. I am already starting to hyperventilate.

The other events are good but Leonard Cohen is the main man at the moment in my focus.

Monday, 8 November 2010

Yoga and Birds

I wonder if other people who blog with google have the same problems of a disobedient blog? How long does it take you to get the darn thing to do what YOU want it to do?

Anyway, that is not why I'm here. I want to tell you about the magpie and the wattle bird who are friends and who, every morning while I'm out on the patio working through my asana, fly down and watch me. The magpie in particular is very quizzy and not a little critical. The wattle bird sits next to him in the Norfolk Pine but only for a few minutes. He soon flies down to the woolly bush next to the pond and screeches loudly at me - and at the LBD - the Little Black Dog. Maggie usually swoops LBD for some light entertainment and goes to the birdbath for a drink. All the while I am focussing on my asana and avoiding the mosquitoes who seem to think I am the smorgasbord they've been waiting for all night long.

For my morning asana practice, facing the rising sun, I begin with three or four rounds of the Salute to the Sun - Suraya Namaskar. I like to follow with Prithvi Namaskar - the salute to Mother Earth that I learned from the Dru Yogis. One of my yoga teachers (I have numerous teachers) Louise Wiggins teaches  beautiful sequences and when asked for the 'plan' says, "Do what you can and make it your own!"So, taking this to heart, my Prithvi Namaskar is probably more me than the Dru sequence from whence it came.

Once my body is moving freely, I begin the first of the Five Tibetans interspersed with Trikonasana and twists. Usually I add some free form dancing to keep the rythm of life pumping. The magpie is very impressed by my dancing, to be sure. At risk of anthromorphisising, what could be more entertaining to a wild bird than an elderly woman, in her pyjamas, cavorting around under the Norfolk Pine.

Life gets better every day. Namaste.

Thursday, 28 October 2010

I can't just wait for the muse ...

I can't just wait for the muse, I have to do something about it.

In our house we have this choice for the main meal: take it or leave it.

The lemon I cooked with last night almost ruined the fish - especially as I poured the lemon butter over the rice so the whole dish was sour. Luckily the broccoli salad was OK, the balsamic vinegar didn't bully it into submission. How come sometimes I am so heavy handed with seasoning and at others I get it just right? I can't remember which celebrity chef or cook called balsamic vinegar "the kitchen bully". I like that, it makes sense and if I remember in time, I don't use as much.

Apropos of nothing that has gone before, here are some notes I jotted down in the dim and distant past to clarify various concepts for students.

Be suspicious of claims of absolute truth.
Relative truths are another matter.
You cannot assume that your worldview is the same as anyone else’s.
Rationality is usually with people who share the same rules (ideology) that you do. That is why rationality does not always work—consider, for example, the situation in Israel and Palestine.
Claims of absolute truth terminate the argument and close down social enquiry.

We seldom say exactly what we mean and we seldom mean exactly what we say and, in some instances, this is used to manipulate.

What is ideology?

Ideology is identifiable by its systematic nature and models of belief.
Ideology offers a general account of the world.
Ideology has an essentialist theory of the nature of humanity.
Ideology will diagnose what is wrong and give a prescription to address the wrong. This agenda is often vague and has an unspecified timeframe.

Ideology is maintained by presenting a normative theory that appeals to implied standards of a social order as if it were part of the natural world.

Ideology is held dogmatically and is a ‘closed’ system – no evidence is allowed to count against it and it answers criticism using its own theoretical concepts and by analysing the critic’s motives.

Wednesday, 13 October 2010

Books, dreams and yoga

I'm reading Tinkers by Paul Harding which, incidentally, won the Pulitzer Prize for fiction and that is quite an interesting story in itself. Why I'm blogging this is because the book is affecting my dreams. Ever since I started reading it, my dreams have become more and more vivid. The novel is less than 200 pages and normally I would have read it in an afternoon. This isn't going to happen, I have to stop and digest the words, really, I mean that ... visceral.

Wikipedia tell us that The New York Times failed to review the novel before the Pulitzer Prize announcement, noting that it was the first novel since A Confederacy of Dunces in 1981 to come from a small publisher and win that award. The NY Times called it "The One that Got Away" - worth having a look at their apology!

Anyway, back to why is this book affecting my dreams? In a sense my dreams are becoming more lucid, I know when I'm dreaming and can actually change things that are happening. For somebody who tends to have fairly strong dreams, this is a breakthrough. Dreams of the ocean, clear and I can see through the waves to the sandy bottom. I can be high above or on the rocky shore. And then I dreamed I was in my mother's house and the window was open. My mother wasn't there but I could feel her presence.

However, the cat that visits me is not visible and not to be changed. I have a feeling that it is not a dream but an entity. It visits not every night, but occasionally, I feel it on the bed, cuddling up on my body but when I try and shift it, it digs its claws into me and that wakes me up to find there is nothing there.

Tinkers does have a dream-like quality although the characters are extraordinarily intense. As the book unfolds, the son, the father and the grandfather merge, or so it seems to me. Maybe it is their lives that merge?

I stood on my head yesterday and that is something I'm not really meant to do anymore, as osteoporosis limits such yoga asanas. It felt really good but I didn't stay there for long. I may do it again soon. I didn't go into a full headstand (Sirshasana) but my preferred headstand 'little bird' where the crown of the head rests on the floor, between the hands - also flat on the floor, and the knees are on the elbow bones - I can only find it listed as 'The Elbows-Knees Headstand'. The similar 'Patient Crane' (Baka dhyansana) where the head is lifted is beyond me as it entails more strength in the arms and also a finer sense of balance than that which I am capable.

Monday, 27 September 2010

worlds most boring blog

I can't believe how boring my posts have become.
They are not witty, amusing, serious or intelligent, just boring.
I need to go away and think about things.

I saw a quote recently, "Blessed are the cracked for they shall let in the light" (Groucho Marx). I think that is profound. I think Leonard Cohen must know that quote because in Anthem he sings,

Ring the bells that still can ring
Forget your perfect offering
There is a crack, a crack in everything
That's how the light gets in.
That's how the light gets in.
That's how the light gets in.

Friday, 24 September 2010

Listening to learn

I returned from the IYTA World Yoga Convention 'Re-Union in Yoga' after a full three days devoted to Yoga - starting at 6.45AM. Each day began with asana practice - and I learned some fabulous yoga asana to pass on to my students.

Most of the day was taken up with lectures given by the keynote speaker, Yogacharya Dr. Ananda Balayogi. Hearing the teachings once again brings a greater understanding. I find it fascinating that, each time I am exposed to this philosophy, my insights are different, possibly deeper? I believe that life experience is the catalyst to grasping the meanings. Topics included, Prana, the catalyst of re-union, Mantras, Integrative aspects of Yoga practice and many more.

Swami Gitananda Giri
Yogacharya Dr. Ananda Balayogi Bhavanani is a medical doctor as was his father, Swami Gitananda Giri aka The Lion of Pondicherry.
Dr. Swami Gitandanda was placed in his samadhi shrine at Sri Kambliswamy Madam, Pondicherry, on December 30th, 1993 age 87.  I love it that his mother was Irish!

Accompanying Dr. Ananda, his wife, Yogacharini Meenakshi Devi Bhavanani, participated in the convention.  At the banquet, Yogacharini Meenakshi Devi Bhavanani danced and Dr. Ananda sang. This was a special Carnatic concert. I had never heard Carnatic music before and was mesmerised, or should I say, the music is mesmerising.

Where does this place me now?  I'm working on committing to a schedule to write more frequently (not necessarily on this blog) and spend more time on the TYS course - without which background I feel I would have struggled with some of the concepts presented at the convention. I realised that my approach to the TYS course has probably been too academic and I need to bring myself in more consciously - difficult for me as the academy is so entrenched. I believe it is important to take the time to immerse in yoga, in as many of the 'limbs' as possible. Although I returned with a shocking cold, I felt cleared and recharged.

Finally, I have to include this photo of my dear friend and yoga colleague, Gail M. I took it at the banquet - by lucky chance!

Sunday, 5 September 2010

A visit to the musuem

A Day in Pompeii is just about coming to an end at the Western Australian Museum. I ventured into the city centre to view the exhibition. I decided to catch the bus and then the train so I didn't have to worry about parking.

I'm not good in crowds at the best of times and the exhibition was packed - mainly unruly school children - youths. The teachers in charge were yelling to the point of hoarseness and eventually most of the kids settled down.

The exhibition space was darkened and cave-like, all of which fed my claustrophobic tendencies. Nevertheless, I moved through and inspected the exhibits, dodging large school-boys who seemed to be intent on smashing something, anything. As a result, I didn't spend as long in the exhibition as I would've liked.

The sunlight was bright outside and I was happy to go to the Art Gallery Cafe for coffee and lunch. I used to work at the gallery and it was a good feeling to revisit and reconnect.

The trip home was going really well until the bus detoured to pick up school children from the local high school. I must've had my 'school-kid' attracting perfume on! It seemed I couldn't avoid loud, rude, cheeky youths (male and female). In the event, the bus driver had to stop the bus and scold the main trouble makers. "I'll report you!" he said. To which they replied, "to whom!" So that was a bit of wasted effort. Imagine being a bus driver and drawing the short-straw of the school run!

I got out of the bus well before my stop and forgot to swipe my token, so happy was I to get out and into the quiet streets of our area. I may venture into the city again when I'm feeling brave - and I see there is a fascinating art exhibition coming up at the Art Gallery in October, Peggy Guggenheim, A Collection in Venice, but I'll make sure I don't come home when school is due out!

Friday, 20 August 2010

The Little Black Dog

I'm not sure that I like some dogs. There is a huge creature that lives near us and I dread meeting it when I walk the LBD. The owner seems to be responsible and the mastiff-shaped dog is always muzzled. Even so, I reckon it would really hurt my old girl if it broke the hold the human has on it. This arvo, when I 'met' them (through really bad planning on my part - I thought they wouldn't be home yet), I had a good look at the dog. I think he might be a pit-bull or similar.

Stella doesn't seem to care one way or the other, she trots along next to me and greets the dogs that she feels like talking to, or those that are smaller; then she can show her superiority by sort of towering over them. However, I notice that she doesn't leave her mark anywhere on that particular route. Usually she marks her territory like a male dog and even lifts her leg, then scratches back the sand. Sometimes she lifts both back legs and does the doggy equivalent of a handstand! Now that she is older she has some tricks to slow down the walk: she'll start limping so that I can stop and inspect her paw, many pee stops are another ruse. I told Roland that I don't take her for a walk, I take her for a pause. Pretty poor pun but it makes me smile.

When Rosie was born, the LBD took it upon herself to be the nanny. LBD wasn't quite so maternal with Lily. Both the girls love the little black dog and lots of cuddles are exchanged ('no kissing' is the one rule I've imposed). For a long time, before Lily was born, Rosie was convinced that Stella was her sister, after all they had the same kind of hair - lots of curls. I reminded Rosie about that the other day and she looked at me with disbelief. "Granny" she said, "Stella is a DOG!"

Thursday, 12 August 2010

Life is a story

Carl Jung
In  Memories, Dreams, Reflections, Jung tells of his life as a story having no beginning and no end. That it was an historical fragment, an excerpt. He said, “My life seemed to have been snipped out of a long chain of events, and many questions had remained unanswered”. How does this philosophy correspond to the way I see my own life? So many things occur during life, it can be seen as a chain of events.

Looking at life as a chain, positive thoughts of links and connections arise - but also thoughts of restrictions, fetters and shackles. Who chains the shackles on us? I have a suspicion that, much of the time, we do that all by ourselves! How do we cast off the chains? Once again, we need to do that all by ourselves. In the event there are connections and shackles, links and restrictions; the unanswered questions persist and the mystery is profound.

Friday, 23 July 2010

How a Diaspora may happen

This blog takes me back to when I researched and wrote my Honours dissertation. I have reworked the introduction to make it relevant for the blog. The material is self-reflective and, at the time, it worked as a catharsis for me, helping me understand my own identity and my own place in the world. The dissertation also gave me the opportunity to begin (and eventually complete) my doctorate. The dissertation is called ‘When “Back Home” isn’t England: making visible the memories, lives and experiences of some white women in Rhodesia’. I was awarded First Class Honours although there was some dispute regarding my work and a third examiner had to be appointed. I had a similar experience with my doctoral thesis so it seems to me that my writing has the effect of polarising readers. I have included some excerpts from the journal I kept on my trip which serve to illustrate the thoughts and feelings in my mind and heart at the time.

So, here goes:
I remember an incident that makes me reflect on my place, as a white woman and a member of a minority ethnic group, in Rhodesia. This is in 1976 on a tourist bus in Greece - somewhere between Athens and Delphi. An Austrian man, sitting next to me on the bus, is highly sceptical that any white people who are not British, or of British descent, are settled in Rhodesia. I feel affronted and defensive that this stranger can, so arbitrarily, dismiss my background. This bewildering sense of being unseen, feeling unseen, is an experience Adrienne Rich expresses as psychic disequilibrium: ‘When someone ... describes the world and you are not in it, there is a moment of psychic disequilibrium, as if you looked into a mirror and saw nothing’. I understand that this is my experience. 

In November 1996 I decided to go home to Zimbabwe. I was feeling homesick and missed my family (most of whom were still living there in 1996). This, in retrospect, is when I realised that the awareness of ‘difference’ had been simmering in the background of my life - not only since the bus trip in Greece, but since I was a young girl, questioning my ‘otherness’ in school and in the Rhodesian society. I realised that this is the haunting space into which I seldom looked, the moments of ‘psychic disequilibrium’.

Zimbabwe Journal:
30/11/96: Ever since we migrated to Australia, I’ve thought of my paternal grandmother, leaving her home country, with a young child, and going to ‘darkest Africa’ - with no idea of what lay ahead (do we ever?) Following what? A dream? Freedom?

According to Barry Schutz, white Rhodesia’s most extensive social alteration occurred between 1896-1921 when, as demographic data shows, white settlers in Rhodesia ‘were transformed from a fortune hunter’s frontier into a fundamentally stable, family-oriented society’. My grandparents arrived in Rhodesia from Russia in 1908/1909 less than 20 years after Cecil John Rhodes’ Pioneer Column in 1890. Together they established their family, most of whom remained through the subsequent history of the white people in Rhodesia (renamed Zimbabwe in 1980 after black majority rule). Now, today, not one of the family remains in Zimbabwe. The mini-diaspora of the family is scattered from Australia to the United Kingdom to North America.

To be continued, or not - depending on how I feel.

Saturday, 3 July 2010

Funny Hats work well

A funny hat is a tonic.
A funny hat keeps the little ones concentrating on YOU!
This is important when teaching yoga to children; something that I've given up doing as it is truly one of the most exhausting occupations I've ever, ever done. Which is why I no longer do it. In fact, when I did my practical exam, I told Cathy (my instructor) that the class would last 40-45 minutes. I planned for 40-45 minutes. In the event, 35 minutes and the class was over. It took me two days to recover! I guess one solution is not to have one's own grandchild and great-niece in the class.

What do you find teaching yoga to kids? Small bodies rolling themselves up in the yoga mat. Random legs and arms making quite fierce (albeit 'accidental') contact with the body on the neighbouring mat. Small bodies making really rude sound effects for various asana.
And these are just the beginning. Kids are not like adults, they don't follow instructions unless they feel like it and it is essential to add sound effects, always. Roar like a lion, bark like a dog, meow like a cat and make camel noises that resemble breaking wind, loudly.

"Close your eyes" is generally translated as "open your eyes wide" and "open your eyes" is also translated as "open your eyes".

One thing I learned is not to ask rhetorical questions in a class because you'll always get an answer, and it won't be an answer your anticipated. Another thing I learned is that five children in a class is good, anything over that and you're treading on thin ice - call it critical mass - and it does vary.

Class is a wonderful time to extend adventures into reality - Treasure Island, Jungle escapades and a Circus outing - all with actions and sound effects!

Although you can't see it in the photograph, there is a small button on the top of my funny, shiny hat and that is the magic button. That magic button saved my bacon on more than one occasion ... focus on the magic button draws the attention back to the practice and (sometimes) order reigns.

And then you get the feedback - "I want to do yoga everyday"
"I think yoga is my best friend"
"I feel happy when I'm in yoga class". Does this make it worthwhile? Yes, if you have the strength and stamina to keep on teaching. For me the feedback was wonderful but my health couldn't stand the pace!

Yoga for children is a course for would-be teachers and covers a great deal of territory. Much of the material is useful for adult classes and now that I have given up teaching children I still use many of the techniques I learned while participating in the course.

Peace and love to all and especially to those brave enough to take up teaching yoga to children.

Friday, 11 June 2010

Shoes and weddings

Somewhere between Walpole and Mandurah I have lost my best 'going out' boots and my Sunday-go-to-meetings shoes. Roland says he thinks I gave them to the Op Shop in Walpole but I don't think I did! Why would I do that - apart from the fact that both pairs were amazingly uncomfortable! I have searched high and low to the extent that the LBD has become quite neurotic and follows me around like a little shadow. I heard the expression 'velcro dog' and that suits her admirably.

I only need the shoes (or one pair) now because I haven't got any smart shoes to wear to Cath's wedding. My worst wedding-shoes faux pas was when my brother got married and in my haste to get from the farm to the church (with my 9 month old baby in tow) I forgot to change from my down-at-heel and exceptionally scruffy sandals into the smart shoes especially purchased for the occasion. Nobody would have ever known except that  one photograph taken in the church managed to get a really good view of my feet. Neither of my brothers have ever let me forget it and I still feel teary to this day when they mention it. 

My mother used to tell us (my sisters and I) about when she got married and couldn't find shoes to fit her tiny little feet. She eventually found a pair of white Chinese slippers and wore those! She was so petite. I wanted to wear her wedding dress when Roland and I got married but when I went to try it on it was too small by far! I could get it on but it was 'vampy' tight! I was small myself, barely 100 lbs. My wedding dress is also tiny and many years later, when I showed it to a friend of mine here in Oz, she said, "What a sweet little Christening robe!" I was mortified!

Anyway, Roland and I have just celebrated our 46th Wedding Anniversary - I find it hard to believe as I didn't think I was 46 yet but I must be. So, if I can lose 20 years, why not a couple of pairs of shoes?

Monday, 10 May 2010

Birthday ruminations

Saturday was my birthday, something I love to celebrate. Each year I plan to be surrounded by friends and/or family (preferably both) so that I may drink deeply from the love and sense of community that is present. This year the group numbered about 22 loved ones.

Here we are under the vines enjoying the beautiful afternoon. Catering was no problem as my guests all brought a plate of delicious food - much better than anything I could've produced! We had a real feast.

My grand daughter played 'Happy Birthday' for me on her guitar and my cup was full. On the encore, my great-niece sang along but forgot the words!

My big sister, Win, couldn't be with us as she lives in South Africa and we missed her terribly (Win, if you read this, we missed you so much - you would have loved the ambiance). One of my nieces joined us with her lovely daughter and I had messages from Tina, Cath and Lara and heaps of other friends and family so I knew they were thinking of us.

Roland was my rock! He and Dean managed the BBQ and the drinks.
Simon brought me portraits of my grand daughters, beautiful photographs, framed and just perfect. In the invitation I said 'no gifts' nevertheless I received some beautiful presents.

So, what does a birthday mean when you are older? I guess it is different for each of us. For me, it is my own New Year, this is when I make my resolutions (such as they are).  As I've got older, it is natural that the awareness that I am nearer the end than the beginning is present. How exciting to make the most of this time!

I have recently begun a 3 year course in Traditional Yoga Studies 'The History, Literature, and Philosophy of Yoga' run by Georg and Brenda Feuerstein. Working at this level after a few years break is proving a challenge; not least because both Roland and I are retired and making the space to study can be difficult.

On my agenda for this year are 2 classes a week at the Beacon Yoga Centre where I will be filling in for a couple of my friends who are taking a well earned break.

So, there we have it! Updates will follow, Goddess willing.

Monday, 5 April 2010

Things I know now.

Things I didn't know I knew but do know now.

I didn't know how gorgeous I was until I was older - much, much older.

My family is important, and becomes more so as I grow older. Grandchildren are the most wonderful people in the world. My grandchildren are my heart.

Life is sweet, but not that sweet.

The worst thing about getting older is falling to pieces.
The best thing about aging is not caring what other people think of my looks, dress sense, taste etc. etc. Being grumpy is acceptable (probably expected of me).

I still miss my mum and dad.

Africa is in my blood and is still my axis mundi

I love reading and it is good to be able to read 'ordinary' books again without finding it necessary to critique every sentence on every page (and it is ok to detest boring, self-important writing that is designed to impress and exclude). Not many of the authors that were important in researching my doctorate have made the cut!

Moving sucks, it is so stressful and I lose things, including bits of myself (like my mind).

Animals (pets) are a huge responsibility and it is awful when they die - which they usually do before you're ready for them to go.

Friendship is important but needs to be nurtured. Paths diverge sometimes.

Purpose in life keeps me from going completely nuts. Retirement isn't all it is made out to be.
Yoga is something I can 'do' everyday and 'live' everyday.

It is important to be kind.

Regrets sometimes keep me awake at night.

Sunday, 14 February 2010

On Falling

Last Wednesday, I fell, clipping my left foot on a metal manhole cover I was abruptly airborne. Time stood still; yet it was all over in seconds. In slow motion my left heel connected with the obstruction, I stepped forward on my right foot and then the realisation that I was falling, that my balance was gone, lost. In these moments I could see clearly the black tape on the grimy shop window next to me, the stoney pavement beneath me, Kath's expression of horror and surprise and Lily in her stroller. I seemed to fly two or three metres from the manhole cover - I was airborne. Did my yoga brain take over and let me find a way to come down to earth without too much damage?

I landed on my left knee, and right wrist and hand. My body came down in such a way that there was not a mark on my clothes. Not so for my knee and wrist, both bruised and the knee grazed. Lying sprawled on the pavement, I howled like a baby; great, heaving sobs almost uncontrollable. What went through my mind before I struggled to my feet and Kath held me and comforted me? She wanted me to stop crying and I wanted to cry more.

These are some of the thoughts: osteoporosis - a broken hip or arm, can I walk? Christ almighty, I have to pack up and move house next month, how can I, if my arm/leg is in a cast or I'm in hospital with a broken hip? How will I do yoga? Kath thinks I'm a clumsy old fool. Other people fall, not me. What did I trip over, I can't see anything, maybe it was my own feet. Can I get up? I'm numb, not in pain, when will the pain cut in? And so on and so forth. How can so many thoughts fit in such a short space of time? No wonder meditation is difficult.

Why didn't I break any bones? Strange, seeing as I have been diagnosed with osteoporosis. But it was the shock, the recognition of my vulnerability, that has been the hardest to accept. The feeling of being disoriented, bewildered, not in control of this amazing body that has held up so well for the more than 65 years. Now I wonder, have I ever been in control? How deluded, how arrogant.

Kath said I made an amazing landing, a "good save" or words to that effect. My doctor (Yuti) checked my wrists and elbows for fractures. I went to see her for a safety check (to back up the report I wrote to the Fremantle Council's Occ Safety and Health Officer - should I need it in the future).

I was diagnosed with osteoporosis about five years ago. The diagnosis has not bothered me particularly; I am strong thanks to regular yoga practice that includes the Five Tibetans. My flexibility is good and I incorporate weight-bearing and balance asana in my daily practice. Is this what saved me from fracturing my bones?

Monday, 25 January 2010

The Long Drawer

The value of the Bakhtinian notion of the “long drawer”.

I have been a researcher since childhood. I have discovered that my researcher persona seldom takes a holiday. Conversations I have—and have had (or overheard), the books I read and have read, the events I participate in or observe become intrinsic to my life. The garnered information is stored, often in a journal, sometimes in memory, sometimes on tape or in pictures, sometimes consciously, sometimes unconsciously, but is there to be “drawn” on when I need it!

Connecting my familiar to what is, at first, strange carries it with me into my writing. Remembering stories and myths allows me, indeed provokes me, as author, to use my ‘long drawer’. A colleague mentioned (in passing) ‘the long drawer’. He was speaking about Bakhtin’s custom of ‘drawing’ on material that he had written many years earlier. The play on the word ‘drawer’ (I imagine the material was kept in a bureau of some sort) and ‘drawing’ upon it, befits the way I work and research and remember. These things I keep: letters, essays, and notes; I write down dreams, conversations and memories of conversations; I eavesdrop and take notes. I keep journals, diaries, taped interviews, lists, and newspaper clippings—many of which I draw on at various stages in my work.

When the dreaded block happens, I plunge my hand into one of the various boxes that serves to house the bits and pieces. I find in my ‘long drawer’ journals and diaries that go back forty years or more; scraps of paper with notes are even older. I remember the journals and letters I destroyed when I left Africa and regret that I was so imprudent and impulsive in burning them. The papers and letters I did keep take on a meaningfulness that makes me realise I was an historian, an ethnographer, an anthropologist, before I knew what the words meant. Among the treasures that remain in the cache, my ‘long drawer’, are my father’s handwritten notes of the eulogy he gave at his mother’s funeral in 1967—the year my daughter was born—and just by seeing his handwriting I feel and savour the threads that link the generations: I remember the fountain pen he used, I remember my grandmother’s funeral, and most of all, I remember my father.

The correspondence and conversations with friends, relatives, Australians, Zimbabweans, and expatriate Rhodesians is evident and the anonymous others whose words and conversations, overheard, are stored for retrieval when I need them. In the long drawer, past impacts on the present and the present on the past and traces of autobiography are spoor to draw in the reader.

This post is now part of my long drawer and in it I have drawn on my doctoral thesis, emails to friends and other hoarded sources.

Mikhail Bakhtin (1895-1975)

Monday, 11 January 2010

light on the eucalypts

light on the eucalypts
Originally uploaded by Eleanor V
The forest giants at the end of the road where I live. There are a pair of ospreys that nest in one of the trees in the grove. Occasionally we see one of them, probably the male because of it being nesting season, soar overhead with a fish or a snake in his talons. I think of the story of Aeschylus who was killed (so the story goes) when an eagle dropped a tortoise on his bald head, mistaking it for a rock! Perhaps I'd die of fright if an osprey dropped a tiger snake on my head!

Sunday, 10 January 2010

Yoga in the Tingles

Truly magical yoga at Valley of the Giants last night. Quokkas, birds and the clearest sky. I invented a 'salute to the Tingles' and ended with Tree of Life meditation. At the finish we all just sat there and gazed into the forest, nobody wanted to move. Thank you to the students who came along, it was an experience that will remain with me for a long, long time.

Friday, 8 January 2010

Now that the silly season is over.

Now that the silly season is over and things are settling down again, I find time to catch up on writing here in my blog.

I had to take my car to the smash repair shop after the close encounter with the steel roo bar on an old 4X4 ute (that happened to be stationary at the time) thereby wiping out the rear lights on my trusty Toyota. Why do people need massive roo bars in the city? Well, I returned to Walpole and after discussion with the insurance company, took my car along to Walpole smash repairs. Check out the track to the panel shop! Taken slowly it is OK but a few bumps and bounces ... the standard of work is excellent and the colour matched up perfectly.

25 December was warm and our menu was fairly banal - fresh caught tuna cooked on the BBQ and salads. There was far too much for the two of us so we ate tuna for a couple of days afterwards! So, that was much the same as usual - big fish, small appetites.

New Year was fun. My grand daughters were here and the youngest has at last found her feet and is up and running! She is so tall she can reach far so very little is safe from her curiosity. The flies and ants made life somewhat difficult but a good time was had by all. I, for one, didn't make it to midnight and looking at the photos taken by Dean, I can see why! Red wine tends to leave a neat little moustache on my face! I've managed to delete most of them but this one, where I appear to be addressing a potato crisp (and probably was) escaped!

I went with the family to Yallingup for a few days. Heaps of sun, sea, sand and zillions of flies. One of the highlights was a visit to Simmo's Icecreamery; a great selection of icecreams although, in my usual conservative fashion, I stuck with vanilla! The gardens are a delight and the girls had a great time. On the way home to Walpole I got horribly lost, the Busselton bypass is confusing and to get on the Nannup road took me a couple of false turns. The courteous service staff at the Vasse general store eventually put me on track! Then, I missed the shortcut turnoff after Northcliffe and took the tourist route instead. The 3-hour trip turned into a bit of a marathon and I arrived home hot, hungry and not a little grumpy. Heaps of road kill on the roads, mainly roos but also some small unidentifiable animals and many reptiles: snakes, goannas and so forth.

So, back to what we consider normal down here in the south west. Next week up to Perth for my brother's 70th birthday, that's a milestone if ever there was one!

Resolutions for 2010? Learn to be kinder and more tolerant.