Copyright © 2004 New Moon
Strange day. Even t'ai chi couldn't quite put me in the groove...
And so Denny will go with us to t'ai chi. He spoke to David on the phone and probably told him everything. (Denny is a talker!) Denny said David as much as told him he didn't know what to expect.
Again, I find myself wishing I could find a way to connect with David. Much as I like him, I do not understand him. And we haven't, either of us, really spoken since that unfortunate email exchange.
It feels as if I ought to be able to communicate with him, but...sometimes it seems as if he's deliberately teasing me, as if he's waiting for me to call him out on his uncommunicativeness. I'm puzzled. And it's frustrating. But... it's an interesting puzzle...
Maybe he's waiting for me to say something. But I don't know what to say.
It occurred to me today that Mr. T. has been "speaking" to me all along, but I just didn't "hear" him. We communicate well on subliminal and physical levels. When it's t'ai chi and he standing there in front of me, I know exactly what he's "saying." We are of the same mind about t'ai chi. It's only when we try too hard to use word to communicate that we get all crossed up.
I hope we can get this misunderstanding cleared up. I hope Mr. T. cares enough to try, too, cuz I think he's going to have to make the next move.
I've been reconsidering my nails. I kept them groomed and painted for the last five years. For the first two years they were painted Chinese Red; for the past three, shades of green. I kept them nicely and without much trouble, never worrying about breaking them or whatever, and very seldom did I have to make repairs or concessions; even though I've done all sorts of manual labor, they've remained intact. And I liked the way my hands looked.
But recently, I've been reconsidering. A few weeks ago, I thought I detected a derogatory sneer at them from David. What objection could he possibly have to my nails? I expect I imagnined it. But since then, I've been considering whether my nails really suit me.
Today I cut the nails, removed every speck of polish, and now I'm getting used to the look of my plain hands. They seem to belong to someone else. Still, they are nice hands, and talented, too.
I really ought to be in bed, but what a gorgeous night! Deep, clear, midnight blue sky with a near-full moon... chilly, but mild enough to leave the back door open, and you can hear the crickets... I should go for a nice long walk in the moonlight no, I need to write a bit. And I can do a few passes of taijiquan in the moonlight before I turn in.
The taijiquan is still going well. I was a bit worried starting this new set of lessons. You see, there are a lot of beginners in this class including my friend Denny and I thought I might get a bit bored, there being no "advanced" class offered, and me having to go to this one anyway because I have to chauffer Ma and Denny.
Going over the basics is a little boring, but not very boring. It's good practice, really, and I don't mind that. And there's a bit of fun to be had, too. F'instance, David will tell us to "freeze" at the halfway point in a form so he can go around checking and correcting everyone, especially the beginners. While he's doing that, us "old pros" stay frozen. It's called practicing "still form." I do it sometimes when I'm practicing by myself. It's easy, really, easier than playing statues when you were a kid, because, in this, you're balanced and all you have to do is stand there quietly. The other night I stayed "frozen" for I don't know how long. I couldn't see the clock. David went around checking everyone (there are ten or eleven in the class), and, since I was near the front, he checked me out first, corrected me slightly, and then went on to the others. I stayed "frozen." Stayed until he finally finished with everyone else and went back to the front of the class and noticed that I was still standing there and laughed and told me to stop. (He hasn't said anything, so I guess he can't be too ticked at me.)
I do miss getting to do all the forms all the way through and working on taking it to a higher level, though. And I really wish there were an "advanced" class. It would be nice to be able to work with other, more advanced students, and get instruction on more of the finer points, on the martial arts aspects, on the push-hands, and the quigong... all of it. It's like acting, you know. Got to be. When you get a chance to play a scene with a really good actor, it sets you flying. You perform better than you ever thought you could, you learn more than you ever dreamed... Synergy happens, and the whole is greater than the sum of the parts.
I know the taijiquan will be just the same at that higher level. And I am impatient. But I'll get there... and someday I'll learn Sword Form, too (Talk about cool!)... Someday.
Tonight, I took myself to the movies. On the recommendation of Jennifer (one of the truly fine folk found at the JCBL-- boy! did I ever luck out when I found that job!), I went down to the Cable Car in Providence and saw The Tao of Steve. I haven't been to the Cable Car in years, but it's still the same. Couches on the right; seats on the left. Fine snacks and ice cream and an outdoor cafe. Live entertainment before the show. I arrived early and got to be, for a while, Elliot Shorer's sole auditor. He sang and played a fine acousitc guitar. Very simple, very mellow. He had a nice arrangement of Sleepytime Gal. I tapped my foot and enjoyed the show. It's been a long time since I heard anyone play the guitar like that. A long time since I played... when Elliot came by with the "hat" I made sure to tell him how much I enjoyed his playing.
The movie was excellent. Very, very enjoyable. I heartily endorse Jennifer's recommendation. Go see this movie, if you can. Take a friend. (I tried, but everyone I know is either an old poop (Ma), an early-bird (Peter, Janice), inaccessible on short notice (Sandra, Sue) or put off by the title (Lew). Ah, well. Their loss.)
And now I have to get to bed or to t'ai chi. Tonight I start Reiki training. I'm already aces at massage, and now I'm going to see what I can do about learning to manipulate chi. I think I'll be pretty good at it.
I've been meaning to do this for years, but... the Reiki Master I'm learning from is an old friend I've recently become reacquianted with, Jo-Ann. She used to ride years ago, and so did I, after a fashion. She became a Horse Master, and was teaching me Dressage for a while. Nowadays she owns a herb shop, and has studied taijiquan, but her main thing is her exploration of her Native American heritage and culture she's even got a sweat lodge out back. I ran into her a couple of weeks ago at the stand matter of fact, she came bounding in that night I was talking to Norman, the Honey Guy, because she knows him, too, on account of he keeps hives at her farm and I went down to visit her a couple of days later. We went for a long walk, and got to talking and picking up the threads, and found out we've been on parallel paths all these years. We're even talking about going to study Reflexology Therapy together this winter... This should be an interesting winter...
I'm off to do a bit of t'ai chi...
Tonight I did my t'ai chi by the light of the light of the full moon, savoring the beauty of each movement, each moment...
13 October 2000
High clouds today. The sunlight seems quite pale, but it's still warm and the leaves are bright with colors.
Last night I went for a walk up Mowry Street. Beautiful night: midnight blue sky... clear, warm... brilliant moonlight. It was around one in the morning... I needed to see the world in the night.
There was a light visible at David's house. One light, deep in the trees. It looked blue, and as I shifted back and forth from my vantage point in the road making sure I actually saw it, I seemed to detect other colors as I shifted back and forth... I wondered if there is a stained glass window... I wondered if it was the TV...
I didn't investigate. I haven't been invited. And it was certainly no time to go calling, anyway.
When I got home, I checked my web site and I had a posting on my message board from Amarlis, a friend of David's whom I met through a link from his web site. She had read the entry where I talked about being able to see David's chi so clearly. She told me she's a black belt in jujitsu and can appreciate the experience and that she wished she'd been there to see it. I wish she had, too. I would like to have had someone to discuss it with.
I've been thinking about how skewed the picture people get of me from my Madwoman's Journal web site must be. Very, I'm thinking. [Remember: This site didn't come into existence until 2001.] I know David has read the Journal. I wonder if he thinks I am a madwoman. People who know me personally at least have a context for judging. But David doesn't know me at all.
My hands are a mess. I became very aware of that tonight when David was showing me the proper stance for willow branches blowing in the wind. He was supporting my hands on his and I kept thinking how terrible my hands look. Ragged nails... rough, torn cuticles... torn up thumbs...
Perhaps he didn't notice. But I did. I was embarassed...
17 October 2000
The floor in the cafetorium at Levy School creaks. That's where we have t'ai chi lessons now. I noticed it last week. We were all practicing the basic "walk," which requires a rhythmic rocking and shifting of weight from one foot to the other as you go. The whole class was practicing, rocking back and forth to the same rhythm, when I noticed that the floor was creaking with us. It sounded like we were on a ship. I didn't say anything, but I wondered if anyone else noticed it. Then last night, we were doing the walk again, and after a bit, David said, "It sounds like we're on a ship, doesn't it?" Yes, it does. It's kinda neat. (I just hope the floor isn't going to collapse under us!)
The light in the cafetorium is a bit odd, too. I suppose it's a bit inadequate; there are lots of shadows. It wasn't designed for use at night, I guess. Still, I think I prefer that to a harsh daylight glare. At least for t'ai chi practice.
Anyway, at the end of the lesson, we were all in a circle doing QiGong to cool down, and David noticed something else that was very neat. In one exercise, you raise your hands, palms up, fingertips almost touching, in front of you to shoulder height, gathering the chi, then you press you hands outwards to the sides and then lower them and repeat the circle upwards. In another exercise, you raise raise your hands out to your sides, palms down (the chi from the earth is pressing them upwards), and then when your hands reach shoulder height, you turn your palms upwards and press your hands together gathering the heavenly chi and combining it with the earthly chi, and you press it together between your palms and deliver it to your Tantien (pronounced "don-chen") which is below your navel, and then you repeat the circle, lifting your arms... It's all very rhythmic, very relaxing... graceful.
As I say, we were all in a circle, raising and lowering our arms rhythmically in the exercise, when David said, "If you look into the corners of the room, the shadows we're making look like a lotus flower blooming." And so they did.
It's nice to know someone else is noticing things, too, and sharing it
Rats. I suppose it's too much to hope that he didn't notice my hands.
I still wish David and I could really talk. Really talk. I wonder what's inside that man.
Sometimes I lose my Way, The Way, the Tao. Like today. I can't remember who I am or what I am or what I'm supposed to be doing. Sometimes I can go through the motions; sometimes not. Some days are like that.
I have a lot of books. A lot. Fiction and non-fiction, they are almost all excellent resources. That's why I keep them. But, some books are more useful than others. When I lose the Way, I have two books I keep handy to help me find myself again. One is Tao te Ching translated by Stephen Mitchell, the other is Zen Guitar by Philip Toshio Sudo.
The Tao te Ching is excellent, but it is the essence, not the substance to me. For substance, I read Zen Guitar. Here is an excerpt:
"... Those who wish to earn the black belt here should accept, at minimum, five responsibilities:
The thing about the book Zen Guitar is this: you can substitute any word for "guitar" and the book reads just as true. Life. Writing. Art. Teaching. Programming. Selling. Housework. Knitting. Car Repair. You get the idea. It's an amazing book. I highly recommend it to you.
A responsibility to yourself-- apply yourself and develop your talent to the fullest capacity.
A responsibility to your talent-- put your talent to good use, not bad, in the service of something outside yourself, and do nothing to waste it.
A responsibility to your art-- express your song truthfully, in the face of all opposition.
A responsibility to your audience-- respect those who come to you with open ears and foster a sense of community.
A responsibility to the Way-- act as sensei to those who sincerely seek to find their own path, and share with them what you know to be true. The Way is for everyone.
...Through the frustrations of learning a new skill, we learn humility-- how much we don't know.
Through the exploration of knowledge, we learn openness-- a willingness to try new things, to see things from another person's perspective.
Through playing with others, we learn generosity-- how to share and contribute to the good of the group.
The path to a black belt is not through becoming the best player, but the best person. Raise your living to the level of an art form, and your playing will reflect it. That is the Way of Zen Guitar."
The Zen Guitar Philosophy.
The mist is billowing off the water down at the dam and the bridge is wet with it. You can see it rising above the trees, into the clear sky from my house. On the way home from Ma's I watched the bright stars twinkle and tried to blow smoke rings with my breath. Can't do it.
Today I began learning a new story, The Magic of Spider Woman. It's a Navajo story, a teaching. It begins like this: "This is the story of Wandering Girl, who became Weaving Woman, and of the terrible thing that happened to her when she broke her promise to Spider Woman..."
This morning I read the story aloud to begin finding my voice, but it's been so long since I performed that I forgot to use my tantien, what in drama school they used to call the diaphragm, and all the words were catching in my throat and had no power, and it was a strain to make myself heard and I stumbled over the words.
Voice support. How many times was I reminded by my drama teachers to "Support your voice! Breathe from your diaphragm!" I used to be good at it once. I used to do it without thinking. And, you know, it's true, when you support your voice from your tantien, you can make yourself heard throughout a noisy room, even if you whisper. I'll have to practice. It ought to be even easier now, what with all my T'ai Chi and QiGong practice.
I'm looking forward to performing again, but I'm scared, too. I haven't been on stage in a long time, and now, I won't exactly be on stage, I'll be telling stories to people who are right beside me. I hope I can pull it off. I've wanted to do this for a long time.
22 October 2000
I worry about lessons continuing. David never seems quite sure. If I weren't chicken, I could ask him about it. I could also ask him a few questions about t'ai chi...
Snake Creeps Down has me puzzled. And the qigong exercises I found in the library book really have me wondering... What I'd really like is to watch David perform the whole 24 sequence while I watch. It's much easier to learn if you know what it's supposed to look like.
I really wish I hadn't been so stupid with him. But I was.
Of course, if I'd been dealing with a sane and grownup person, it probably wouldn't have gotten screwed up. I do well to remember that. A rational man would have responded, tried to meet me half way, been honest.
Yesterday, Michael John Carter Brown Library Michael was giving me a hard time teasing me about the t'ai chi. He'd seen me out on the Brown [University] Green practicing, and I think he was a little envious...
My heart is feeling heavier by the day. The joy is missing. I want it back. How do I do that?
My birthday. I got my wish. Mr. T. spoke to me.
This was my first two-caker. the guys at the JCB had a delicious chocolate torte for me, and Ma made her chocolate cake with buttercream frosting. Yummmmm! and it was a day of surprises, from the unexpected gift of beeswax candles from "The Bee Guys"'s wife Lucy who had never met me until I stopped in today for honey, to the basket of cherry preserves and croissant and gift certificate to the RISD store from my cousin Peter, to the phone message from Sue telling me that "Your appointment with Dr. Kervorkian is scheduled for two o'clock."
But the best gift of all was from David, and he didn't even know he'd given it. I got to see him warming up before class, and it was... beautiful. He knew I was watching, and I think he saw me smile. I do love to watch him move. He is very good, and very graceful. And later, in class, he was actually talking to me again. Teaching me.
It was a terrific, wonderful birthday. And my joy is back. I am very grateful.
The shadows are long now, even late in the morning. The colors are subtle now, too. The sky today was the color of well-worn jeans. Beautiful...
A three cake birthday! Aunt Shirl made a cake for me, too her special dark chocolate cake with chocolate frosting, of course! What an embarassment of friends and well-wishers! Extraordinary astonishing!
Ma and I watched two t'ai chi tapes tonight after supper. The people on those tapes couldn't even come close to the grace and balance David has.
Tonight, I should have done a Journal entry, but I worked on my Halloween costume instead.
Trick or Treat!
Ma and I arrived early for class and had to ring for the janitor to let us in. The school was keeping the door locked because of Halloween. The janitor asked if I'd "answer the door" for the rest of our group. Naturally, I said I would. I went to take my coat off it was raining on and off earlier and when I got back to the door, David was waiting outside, hunkered down in the dry spot on the stoop. When he saw me in my costume, he didn't recognize me. When it dawned on him, he smiled. He stood in the foyer, talking with me for a few minutes, told me I looked very nice... I finally had to shoo him off to set up for class Imagine that! We're talking! I stayed to mind the door for latecomers...
Just before we started class David asked me if I was going to change. I said I hadn't planned on it. I could tell that bothered him some, but he didn't say anything. I changed into my black sequined hightop sneakers for class, though. I had already ascertained that I could perform t'ai chi in the black velvet high heels, but the "Chucks" were more comfortable. I kept my witch's hat on througout, only taking it off for in the closing circle when we were doing some qigong exercises that required a lot of bending.... It was an excellent lesson.