For many people scent evokes memories and brings them back in time. For me, it’s touch. I can close my eyes and “feel” the soft skin of babies bellies, the fur of the horse I lost many years ago and the feel of an unshaven lovers cheek. My hands hold memories for me. Folding the pages of a book, poetry that with complicated imagery evokes the pain and joy of love, and pages that tell tales. Right now as I write this, Unchained Melody is playing and my hands tell me that they were once touching skin to skin. I’m physically able to remember the feel and textures of places and people in my life. I both remember and feel the weight of a wine glass in my hand, and I can see the beautiful view of a Valley through the glass, it is late afternoon and I’m in a magical setting. A view before me and cutlery on the table, heavy with anticipation of a perfect meal. Of all the senses, touch is the one I respond to. Yes of course, talk to me and by all means appeal to my cerebral side, but more than anything let me feel the moment. Really. Feel. The. Moment.
I bake, kneading dough while opera is playing in the background. My fingers sticky with the combination of liquids and solids that make our daily bread possible. As I knead the dough I feel connected to every baker before me, every hand that rolled and patted and shaped the stuff of sweet smelling kitchens. In a different life I would have been a baker or a chef. I touch the dough and it talks to me, I can feel if I need to add more liquids or flour. I can feel if I have kneaded enough and the dough needs to rest.
Then once the bread is made, I touch the warm loaf and feel connected to the generations of bakers before me. Humanity discovered the magic of fermentation and yeast, and ever since , hands just like mine have kneaded and shaped, patted and rolled to make the most basic of nourishments.
My hands are the happiest when they are creating something. Baking, cooking, knitting, caressing and holding. Life is better shared, and our hands are what we use to give the gifts of touch, and love. Homemade bread says I love you. A back rub or touching a favorite body part says I love you. My hands express the essence of what I am always fumbling to say. I love you.
Yoga and my life
On the mat, life is simple. Breathe in, exhale. Mind and body are connected, moving as one through the poses. Off the mat, life is far more complicated. Yoga has seen me though some tough times lately. Gratitude and forgiveness have been recurring themes that I have struggled with. Forgiving others can be a challenge, and forgiving myself seems an epic task. Melting into my mat, dripping with sweat after a practice and letting my mind come to a place of acceptance has been healing. Many times in life I have had goals that were physical, drop a few pounds or run a 5K, or become a better athlete in a given sport. This time, while still in my early infatuated yoga romance, my goals are more spiritual. To really be present in my practice. To commit to my awareness and focus on the now. To listen to my body as we become fluid and move as one, because we are. Our bodies are not a remote and separate entity we control or manipulate into whatever size, shape or form we desire but rather a physical expression of our spiritual selves. I have, as most women have, focused on my weight as if a number could define me. I have never been significantly overweight, always stayed slim, because to be fat in our society seems to be the most heinous crime. Now, I’m in a love affair with yoga and how it is changing my body and my mind. A number on the scale that would have thrilled me a few years ago, I simply view as a product of hours spent connecting with my true self. Perhaps most successes in life share this. Fame, money, all the things society views as the peak of the human experience, once there I would imagine that it is the journey that is significant. Hubris melts away, and gratitude takes its place. For all we have is breath, it is the first thing we do after being born, and the last as we depart this life. So focusing on this essential piece of being a spiritual being having a physical experience, let’s me know that while I struggle with life off the mat, the insights and the connectedness I feel while embracing the physical struggle of mastering the poses, will help guide me to embrace the journey that is my life.
One stage of life can abruptly segue into another. It can also be a drawn out slow sequence of small events, each one adding a thimble full of bitterness to an already overflowing container of injustices. Mine was both, the end of my marriage happened quickly but in fact had been an ongoing demise with the usual suspects of our time. Emails and texts were not so much evidence of wrongdoings as proof that the chasm between husband and wife was now on an interplanetary scale. So what to do next? The route is shadowy and unclear, the journey has taken such a sharp turn that the path can no longer be seen. As a woman of a certain age, a divorcee, I am thrust into the age of reinvention. I am no longer the young bride, naive and filled with illusions that somehow I am immune to facing the jagged edge of the divorce statistics. Forming a union can happen so quickly, some lust, a few shared goals and a dash of passion and away we go. A dress and some cake will surely form the pillars of our life, gravity we believe will fail sooner than our vows. So when we are thrust into a new age, my naked left hand glaring and seeming to shout to the world that what was two is now one, where to find solace?
The sting of seawater goes a long way in reminding me that this too shall pass. The beaches I have been blessed to visit are my church. Digging my toes into sand and watching uncaring waves crash to shore is healing. So is the thought that I could just enter those waves and swim and swim until I could swim no more. Allowing that thought room, letting it have a very small corner of my mind is liberating. It affirms that I won’t. All the absolutes in my life have been unceremoniously tossed aside. Now there are only shades of grey. And saying always or never seems a throwback to a time before I realized the impermanence of those words. So I let the dark thoughts have a bit of my mind, but not too much. For there is far more to the strength and magnificence of the ocean than that. Taking life is easy. Hardly a challenge for the ocean, a small wave, a few inches of water, ice that cools our body. We are small fragile beings and being reminded of this fact by the ocean is good. The bigger task at hand is healing. It involves much more than keeping a heart beating. It takes time. But the ocean knows all about time. Ocean currents that circle the earth and see the shores where many a heartbroken human has sat on the beach pondering the meaning of it all. We only need to open up our minds to the possibility that our senses cannot tell us all there is. I can taste the saltwater, feel the small grains of sand sharp between my toes and hear the rhythmical music the waves entice me with. I see the light dance on the water, caress it gently and show me an ever changing palette of shades of blue we have yet to name. Waves will keep coming to the shore and retreating long after the scars on my heart have faded. That thought comforts me.
The time spent in an airplane seat is a unique bit of time. We are liberated from decisions, and simply being is enough for a little while. Freed from mundane demands, it’s common to hear that creativity seems to happen simply and with ease on flights. Perhaps it’s from the changing geographical locations, or the liberation from gravity for a few hours. Or perhaps the wonderful random serendipitous events that seem to occur with unexpected frequency. I know that I am more often than not seated next to the loveliest and most interesting people on flights. Luck perhaps? Or does my expectation of pleasant conversation with a perfect stranger play a part? It’s true, I am an optimist at heart, and I approach a trip still, after many years of traveling with the excitement of a child. Glasgow? Why not? Oslo? Why yes! When traveling our day is not broken up into the usual sequence of events, our routines are disrupted as they darn well should be! For when we change our patterns, our rhythms, we change a bit ourselves. We become more open to the experiences of traveling. The joys and frustrations both. And that is the whole point my Dears! Trying new things, looking at views and truly seeing them, not just with your eyes but with your heart. Life is short, a cliche worth pondering daily. So when faced with the chance to chat up the neighbor in seat 7B, or visit Mykonos because there was a terrific last minute deal, do it! And when sitting with a view of the clouds below, let the wonder of the aviation age fill you. As accustomed as we are now to flying, there is still magic to be found in it if we allow ourselves to think about it. Wow. I was in one city a few hours ago, and soon I will be hundreds if not thousands of miles away in another. In the span of human kinds existence, miles were covered excruciatingly slowly, painstaking progress measured in days and weeks. So as I’m sitting in a seat, waiting for my ubiquitous peanuts and a drink, I’m going to smile and savor the brief interlude that is flying.
I confess, I have favorite words. I know, I know as someone who writes I should love them all, but who can resist mellifluous? Not I. English is my second language, not my mother tongue, but I humbly claim fluency after many years of being in a love affair with this extraordinary language. I keep finding little treasures, rarely used forms of expression that recall a gentler time. Now we are so very blunt. Whatever happened to a bit of irony? A slightly sarcastic wit that reaches closer to the target of being humorous, than simply mean? There is no need for a two by four and a hard whack where a properly placed innuendo will suffice. One of the loveliest words, and a top contender for favorite word of all time is….wait for it…..Perspective! The casual definition is that things appear different depending on our viewpoint. What a perfect metaphor for life! My perspective continues to evolve as I transition through all the changes that life sees fit to throw my way. When I encounter others whose views are starkly different than mine I try to keep in mind that they are on a different point in their journey and from their “perspective” things may appear differently. But then again , sometimes one does wish for a two by four……
We are all given a little while here on the planet, some get longer than others. For most, there is enough time to grow up, work, love and hopefully gain a little insight along the way. I am about halfway along in my journey and while a few things have gone according to plan, many have not. This is the case for most of us. By sharing my journey, the hard earned wisdom and perspective that only comes after a few humbling decades,( and aren’t they all?) I want to show that change is inevitable. Transitions to new stages in life can be good and that traveling connects us all. Taking our bodies to new places awakens our senses, we are forced out of our comfort zones and so the discoveries begin. A new flavor on our tongue, a different note animating our feet, and a scent that will stay with us and forever have the power to take us back in time. Change begets change. External relocation can trigger internal earthquakes. Our perspectives change and usually for the better when we meet fellow citizens of this planet, each of struggling with our own complex issue that modern life is so generous at dispensing. A few constants are recurring themes in my journeys. The ocean. She is everywhere and always ready to remind us of how very fragile we are. People, young, old, funny, sad and always interesting. The mosaic of humanity fascinates me. I am an observer of people and places, and of how our behavior is intimately connected to where we are and whom we are with. Our time here together is finite, let us lift each other up in a written form that shows we can transcend borders and oceans to connect globally.