Moving through J.’s vinyasa sequences again. The post-Covid restrictions class is full but it’s also permitted to use the space at full capacity, so it isn’t a race to get a spot anymore. I have this odd sense that things are falling into place again. I recognize this moving body. This tight-tight hamstring. This good balance and grounding on the right leg.

Getting some self-confidence back. Headstands and bridges. Running. Though everything requires a push now. Every run or class or yoga session is still prefaced by an argument with myself. A frantic little search for good excuses not to.

Extended side angle and J. comes behind me and gently adjusts my ribcage, fingers, head. Somehow even in the hot room, sweating, her touch is like being nudged softly through pillows. A touch that is barely a touch, but full of connection. I think that is what makes us all fall in love with her. We love her like we love Mary Poppins. If Mary Poppins escaped from her sharp exoskeleton.

I do a half-bridge, and she sits behind my head, feet on my shoulders, and guides my ribcage upward.

I miss my morning flows. Alone. And have no good reason to not be doing them. These mornings, though, I am so aware of time. The time I have – and don’t have – all to myself. From four to seven. Yet every day I find it’s not enough.

R.’s best friend died last night. The man he has called his brother, whose parents will bury their child. Young is relative. But he was young in the “natural order” of things. I look at the calendar and am surprised to see we are halfway into March. More than halfway. And I think about B. The week of chemo she’s been through. The next one she has coming. Not that there is hope for a cure, only hope for more time. Weeks. Months. Days.

It’s never going to be enough.

I feel both greedy and wasteful. And maybe this is all the more reason to get on my mat every morning. J. asks us what we dedicate each practice session to. At the beginning and then again just before heart-openers. Is it narcissistic to dedicated it to doing the best I can? To yoking all of the aspects of the physical reality of my being in this world, to make it work somehow for the best I can do in the world, for the world?

All those platitudes: fill your cup so you can fill another’s cup. I am self-conscious of the triteness. But I keep asking my students: are we done with the irony, the sardonic attitude of post-modernism now? Can we finally be earnest again?

Maybe we need to be?

Pirandello said life is so painful we have only to laugh at it. Maybe he was wrong. Maybe life reaches a level of pain where we break through the l’umorismo and stop laughing. Where we take off the exoskeletons and are soft with one another.

on the morning that will lead to Christmas Eve. I’m surprised to wake to a white world this morning, after last night’s walk under a clear and starry sky. Something moved through while we slept, and maybe took with it some of the heaviness and left the rough chattering of the magpies.

We have yet to put up the tree and wrap the last gifts. But weirdly all I want to do is make something beautiful. And, as always, desire outstrips both ability and talent. Maybe it is appropriate that Amadeus is a Christmas film in my mind. Certainly a film for the winter season. Maybe the threat of wasted mediocrity can be a drive in-and-of-itself? Maybe some of us need a patron saint of Effort? We need to know less-than-excellence is still worthwhile.

A humble, worn begging bowl is a thing of unique beauty, isn’t it?

This year has been stitched together at points of pain. Losses. Abrupt and imperfect endings. And I suppose beginnings that are easy to overlook if one isn’t attentive to possibilities. I’ve been wondering if there is no such thing as a false start. In the same way that there is no such thing as a “failed” marriage, if one approaches life as growth and change and experience, rather than a map of set mileposts toward an obituary: this is supposed to be your wonderful life. Yeah. That Christmas movie that’s all about shirking your fate if you can’t suck it up through the hard times, give into your circumstances, and trust bow-tied, bushy-browed old men who claim to be angels.

It strikes me as ironic that all of us are storytellers. Ourselves as the heroes in everyday encounters. And yet I can’t seem to write a story. My character isn’t woven into given circumstances, and I can’t seem to plot a satisfying arc.

Maybe there is no arc, though there are arbitrary meeting points that matter very much. It seems to me that waiting for them, letting them come, and having faith in their covert significance is our obligation.

I guess that is why I feel pulled toward poetry. These knots of drama and of peace. Pearls on a string. Life as a room full pre-Islamic “hanged poems”* written by individual ghosts: each of arbitrary length, representing arbitrary lifespans. Each with a qasidah’s lack of plot or narrative.

Here is my search for an artistic home to that inevitably leads me to misunderstandings, accusations, and a keener sense of alienation.

In theatre history class I facilitate discussions on appropriation. But in movement class, I teach square breathing: the alternating states of movement and stillness, and the recognition that there is also life in stillness. In the waiting. I try to explain to my students: just wait. Don’t engage the glottal stop, don’t bear down in your throat, just stay open… and wait.

It’s not even a metaphor for life. It is life.


The snow absorbs sound waves. But the magpie’s bellies chatter like shakers in an improvised concert. The front yard is filled with tension. A drama without narrative.

The magpies are quiet now.

Wait.

They will begin again. Like barren Shakers, they’ll gather and make something beautiful.

Then they’ll be gone. Again.

Just wait.


*It is interesting that the phrase I found today was “hanged poems”, when I have been taught that the past tense of hang is hung and that the only thing hanged are people. The more common term is “The hanging poems”, which of course is immediate and… haunting.