Poetry in Slow Motion

If I were a weather-vane residing on the rooftop of a house in Charlottetown, Prince Edward Island, I would be throwing up all the time from dizziness.  All of that spinning round and round and round.   I mean, Mary Poppins would have had her black little umbrella blasted into and out of this town on the winds of change before Jane and Michael Banks even had time to go fly a kite with Daddy Warbucks.  (oops, wrong musical)  One minute six inches of snow, Sorels and long-johns;  the next minute grass and mud in all the parks, soaking and spreading up the hem of my jeans.  Salty sea winds that sear icicles into your lungs and then sub-tropical breezes that have red lobsters dancing a tango with silver nutcrackers on golden, buttery ponds in my minds’ eye.  The weather in this town is downright crazy.

I still have not yet determined whether I am a City Mouse or a Country Mouse.  However, there is a tension in my chest that seems alleviated.  A tension I was never fully aware was there until I’ve now noticed it gone.  As if there is suddenly more room to breathe.  City life can take its toll.  Sardine-crowded subways, rush-hour traffic, droning planes and rumbling trains, the crazy guy screaming at the stop sign in front of the grocery store, the hunched-over shufflings from place to place, void of eye-contact or connection.   Individually, seeming insignificant, but like a fine-grade sheet of sandpaper, they eventually wear you down over time.

Here simplicity prevails.  Not simple in mind, but unfrivolous.  Back to the roots of importance.  And I’ve noticed it takes getting used to.  For instance, why does my neighbour say hello to me EVERY time I walk out the front door?

Small talk here is crucial:  check-out lines, bus stops, sidewalks, and parks.  Everyone has something to say.  And people are so gosh-darn-friendly I feel like the entire town might suddenly break out into a Gershwin Broadway musical of song and dance in the streets, twirling around lampposts and clicking their heels up in the air in harmony and unison.  You have your earbuds in while grocery shopping, which is city-speak for “F**K-OFF!!—don’t bother me,” and people will still approach you, insert their face into your field of vision, gesticulating and miming violently until you unplug and pay attention.

“Excuse me, Miss.  But I’d like to buy some Epsom salts to put into my bath, because I ache.  Which container should I put them in and about how much do you think I should add to the tub?”

—I KID YOU NOT—-this happened to me at the Bulk Barn.

Oh, and don’t get me started on the Bulk Barn.  A mecca of bulk food only found in Atlantic Canada.  Row after low-priced row of anything you could possibly imagine wanting a lot or a little of.  I am so stocked up on oats, nuts, seeds and dried fruits that I wouldn’t be surprised to poop Cliff Bars.

As a yoga instructor who has to sign clients into a computer system by first and last name, I have never encountered so many “Macs” in one place.  And I’m not talking Apple computers although there assuredly must be a MacIntosh around.  Dozens and dozens of last names like MacDonald, MacInnis, McDougal, McIntyre, McMurphy, and McCauly.  It is now second nature for me to ask, “Now is that McCollum, M-A-C or M-C-C ?”  Maritime accents so thick you feel like maybe this island broke off from the land o’ Ireland sometime around the Great Continental Divide and these are the remaining descendants of Leprechauns.

This small town friendliness is so infectious, so genuine that I find I can hardly stop smiling.  I say hello and wave madly whenever I possibly can to anyone who comes within a ten foot radius of my person, and I have come to discover that the weather is a perfectly acceptable thing to chat about.  Especially, with weather like here.

The pace has slowed down so much that I notice how the heart beats in the shallow of a belly lying in Savasana, a car reversing out of a driveway, one private hand placed on the heart, the other on the navel of someone sensing themselves for the first time.  The salt crust of ice formed at the sea’s edge or a solitary lamppost shining in the snow, a ray of sun reflecting off a bead of sweat; the quiet moment when the inhale becomes the exhale.

The Buddha said, “When you realize how perfect everything is, you will tilt your head back and laugh at the sky.”

And I do, because in the Country, there are so many stars.



Kentucky Cruisin’

I taught two classes today and this could turn out to be harder than I thought.  Tomorrow I teach three.  And it’s not the teaching that I find hard, but the space in between.

Somewhere beneath the surface is inspiration, hiding and dodging my searching gaze.  As if saying, “Stop looking so hard.  I’m only right in front of you.”

Northern Kentucky is not the prettiest place you ever did see.  I wandered around during my break in search of a picnic bench, a table or any ol’ place where I could enjoy the Indian Summer sunshine.  What I settled for was a small patch of scratchy grass that I think had just been sprayed with chemical fertilizer.  From my grassy knoll, I watched the traffic ebb and flow with the ever-changing stop-lights and felt the rumble of a train squealing beneath me.

In every direction I am surrounded by strip malls, shopping plazas and chain stores.

And yet, despite the expanse of traffic and cement, there is a lot of heart here.  Blame it on Southern hospitality, but I think, perhaps, it is something more.  A different quality or definition of kindness and community.  A place where beef stew is still brought to the house of a sick neighbor.  A place where strangers pull over on the side of the road to ask if you need a ride because she noticed you shopping at the local pharmacy.  A place where favors are given freely because reciprocity is a way of life.

I sleep a lot here.  I go to bed early and wake up late and in between teaching I read yoga books and I go jogging and I eat healthy and I started knitting.  And when I wake up “late” (according to the time-clock of whom???) I bolt out of bed, feeling guilty and lazy, even though all there is to do is teach, read, jog, eat, knit a head-scarf.  Rinse and repeat.

And as I notice that I am starting to get fidgety with the routine, antsy with the excess leisure time, it got me thinking:  why is it so difficult to allow our lives to be simple??  To slow down?  To not only embrace the highs and the lows, but also the plateaus?  Surely there will be times in my life when I rise before the dawn and my head won’t hit the pillow until well after Cinderella is sitting in her tattered gown,  demi-slippered and surrounded by squeaking mice and a spinning pumpkin with the lingering tendrils of newfound love hanging from her heartstrings.  So why the guilt when my body wants rest?  It seems sensible to stock up now, no?

I took my knitting to the local yarn store, where I joined four Southern belles in an old-fashioned stitch-and-bitch.  Four old friends gather around a table every Wednesday to weave strands of yarn, life, tales and experience into the loops and knots that drape their shawl-covered shoulders.  They told me their stories, and amidst the clacking of needles, I told them mine.

And even though I am surrounded by kindness, by yoga, by generosity beyond measure, I am unsatisfied.  Feeling uninspired.  And yet, deep down this is what I tell myself:

“You will see fluctuations between passions, creativity in spurts, but all with the underlying knowledge that they will all, one day, feed each other.  You will become bigger, fuller and pay your respects to creativity, you will create worlds and your worlds will create you.  You will form symbiotic relationships with beauty and you will see beauty everywhere.”

And so I quietly acquiesce to the routine, to the simplicity of it all.

Because there is beauty, even here.


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