Movement: Mind and Soul

Movement: Mind and Soul

For the next six to twelve months, at least, I’ll be focusing on writing poetry. Not to the exclusion of anything else, of course – but with an eye towards publication. That means no more posting it online, until it has had its fair shot at the footlights of publication – poetry journal, contest, anthology, or book. No “previously published” material is loved in the hallowed halls, and I have been an undisciplined writer all my life, shoving scraps of paper in drawers, posting bits online, here and there. When you have a full-time career and no plans to leave it, it’s difficult to write poetry or fiction seriously. It simply cannot compete for time and energy. So you shove it into drawers. Or share it willy-nilly, like these:

And a few posts on writing poetry, if you’d care to join me:

View at Medium.com

View at Medium.com

Movement: Body

Movement: Body

Couch Potato-ing

As things began to shut down due to the pandemic, it became clear to me that I would not be getting my money’s worth from the gym membership that I had not been getting my money’s worth out of for two years. The previous two years was entirely my fault; the pandemic was not. But if you’ve ever tried to cancel a gym membership, imagine trying to do it during the early stages of indefinite “lock-down,” when the doors are locked and no one seems to be minding the store.

It was painful, but I got it done. And put on about 10 pounds of stress-eating comfort food. Newly retired, I had the luxury of being able to sleep in, but the desire to do it was less. My stress levels dropped to nothing. The desire to dawdle over coffee and social media was strong, though. No exercise, no travel, plenty of quality time on the couch – that’ll do things to you. I did not hire a personal trainer remotely. Probably should have.

Last week, I felt my resolve returning. I joined the YMCA. I hadn’t joined while I was working, because their hours don’t run late enough and I knew I’d get even less of my money’s worth there than I would at the overpriced gym I wasn’t going to. But now, the daily commute is a distant memory, and I’m enjoying being able to do things during the day, when it’s less crowded. The YMCA is a good deal, at about half the cost of the gym membership. The one nearest me was practically rebuilt and outfitted with state of the art equipment after drowning itself in the floodwaters of Hurricane Harvey. It is clean, it is gorgeous…it has a POOL. Two pools! One indoors, one outside. Hey, that matters, with temperatures climbing into the 90s by 10 AM.

I know me, though. Left to my own devices, I’d be reading by the poolside all summer, dipping a toe in now and then to cool off, doing nothing about the dwindling strength and stamina from a year of couch-potato-ing. And so I made a reservation for a swim lane. 8 AM on a Saturday morning. Yikes. That meant leaving the house before coffee (almost).

Leisurely Laps

It was glorious. The water was just the right temperature – not so cold that the nerves encircling my waist caused me to levitate, impossibly, above the surface while squealing like a mouse; not so warm that I felt like I was sweating 5 laps in. I only managed 15 minutes of serious, non-stop lap swimming, but it’s a start. I left feeling energized, breathing deeply, and deeply relaxed.

I logged it manually, after calculating how many yards I swam. Garmin said I burned almost 300 calories. I’m not sure if I believe that, but I’ll pretend that I do – it’s a motivator! In fact, I committed to doing this at least three times a week. I used to practically sleep through 100 laps; now 7 (50 yards each) feels like work. But it’s good work.

Speaking of Garmin, I’ve switched from Fitbit to the Garmin vivoactive 4s:

That’s an affiliate link, by the way. Again, mostly for convenience’s sake: yours and mine. I had hung onto my Fitbit, and was enjoying challenges with friends, until one day, my stats started looking way too impressive – Fitbit gave me some massive award and friends started saying, “Wow!” and I looked to see what was up. Lo, and behold: Fitbit claimed I’d walked something like 40 miles in a single day! Woo hoo!

Jesus. Talk about your participation trophies. Folks, I hadn’t walked 2000 steps, that day. I don’t know what was wrong with Fitbit, but I couldn’t edit and delete that and no way could I let anyone think I was walking 40 miles in a single day. They know better. And I’m not down with cheating the system like that, so that system had to go. This wasn’t the first time – a few years ago, we toured an old battleship and Fitbit claimed I’d climbed something like 80 flights of stairs. I mean, I’d gone up and down the decks a few times, but that was ridiculous.

Anyway, the worst thing Garmin’s done to me so far is make it look like I’m not breathing. Its pulse ox readings are little low (alarmingly, if believed – but I’ve compared at the doctor’s office). At least it is consistently low, so if I just add 6 to whatever the number is, it comes out right. And Garmin gives me cute little maps of the places I’ve walked, along with how fast or how leisurely the stroll was.

Playful Leaps

I felt so good after that swim that I signed up for a water aerobics class. I got back around 9:15 AM, took a shower, and I’m now struggling to stay awake, I’m so relaxed. And look at this:

I didn’t believe that calorie burn, so I looked it up – according to Google, water aerobics does actually burn that many calories (I added a few laps to the cool-down, but nothing athletic). It doesn’t feel the same when you’re not red-faced, white around the mouth, and sweating so hard your clothes are as wet as if you jumped into the pool fully dressed. I could get definitely get used to this. By the end of the summer, I’m joining the synchronized line-dance team.

After all of this wonderful, full-body exercise, I was high on the endorphin rush. Too relaxed and limp to move. I am ashamed to admit that I spent much of the rest of the day surfing – the Internet, of course. But, Piscean creature that I am, my favorite post of the day was this one, on LinkedIn:

Oh, to be a sea lion, even for a moment. Jump into the pool and close your eyes…

 

 

 

 

 

 

Little Prompts for People Who Think They Can’t Write a Poem

Little Prompts for People Who Think They Can’t Write a Poem

Recently, in the Garden of Neuro Poetry Circle, I ran across a poetry prompt:

Monday Poetry Prompt: Backyard

I thought that this might be an excellent exercise for young writers and novice poets, as well as those who are more experienced. As the prompt says, you can use your own, very real back yard – or the one that exists only in your imagination.

First, observe and take inventory. 

What does your “back yard” look like? It doesn’t have to be a yard, and it doesn’t have to be real. It could be the view from your window, if you are an apartment dweller. Maybe it’s a community garden. Maybe it’s the back yard you’d like to have, some day. Maybe it’s the back yard you have today – and the one you’d like to have, some day. Let’s take inventory. Write notes and take photos; don’t just trust to memory. Mine looks something like this:

There’s a ladybug, rescued from a little birdbath in the back yard. She was surrounded by debris, but when I put my finger in the water, her tiny legs began to wriggle. I left her to recover in the shade of the Daikon leaves, in my vegetable garden, where she is protected from birds. Not pictured, but seen within the past few days: crab-like orb-weaver spiders, praying mantises, and a scoliida wasp with blue-black wings and a blood-red body, frantically darting from one squash blossom to the next. Its nest appears to be in the bell at the top of our wind chimes. Perhaps not the wisest or calmest place to start a home.

There’s a nice green compost bin, and a holding pen full of brown leaves my husband’s collected, that will eventually be mixed into the green scraps. Herman the dog-vomit slime slime mold lives inside the green bin, and now sleeps in the rich soil of my vegetable garden, where he feasts on dead and decaying things.

That raised veggie garden has been a learning experience, and there is a corner garden that is more wild than not – with volunteer holly bushes, crepe myrtles, and a plethora of spider plants and canna lilies that have crept under our fence from the neighbors’ back yard.

There are tall trees that shade us and saplings that try to reach the sun through the dappled shade cast by live oaks and Bradford pears.

There is also a sundial and an area laid out with blue rubber tiles to be an outdoor exercise and play area. Because this is a recent project, there are scraps of wood, rocks, glue, and bags of sand and concrete laid around the patio.

This is all visual information.

Pay attention to all five senses!

What do you hear? Birdsong, a lawnmower, children playing on the other side of the fence? A garbage truck, perhaps. A leaf-blower. Cars. A summer breeze, tickling the windchimes. Waking up the scoliid wasp, maybe.

What do you smell? Flowers, compost, petrichor. Earth. Freshly rained on? Or parched?

What do you taste? I pulled a few of the Daikons from the garden – they were in desperate need of thinning. I couldn’t resist rinsing one off with water from the outdoor garden hose and biting into that underripe and slightly-too-bitter crunch. A basil leaf. A pinch of fresh oregano.

What do you feel? Focus on touch, not emotion. Did you wander the back yard barefoot? I can’t, these days – well, I risk a foot full of pricklers from the carpet of weeds that winds its way through the grass, if I do. Still, barefoot girl that I am, at heart, I do risk it. I hop from one sun-warmed paving stone to another, avoiding the pricklers and the river rocks, the bits of broken stone. I let my toes sink into the cool, soft dirt while I try not to think of what might be wriggling underfoot. I dig in a mud puddle with a stick and transfer an earthworm to the garden, marveling at how fast they are when they’re trying to get away.

What symbols or themes begin to emerge?

Glancing through what I’ve written, I see a whole ecosystem. But unless I want to write an epic poem, I may try to narrow my focus to something like “birth” and “death” – how new life emerges and is nourished by the old, the dying; how it breaks down and builds up before becoming part of the cycle, itself. That may lead outside the garden, into the philosophical. Sometimes, a “back yard poem” strays from the back yard and explores uncharted territory. Follow where your thoughts lead.

Or I may focus on something even smaller.

Sunny and yellow
Herman, Eukaryotic,
Greets the squash blossoms.

Silly little Haiku! But it’s a start. Start small; start big. They key is to start.

Elegy at the Bird Bath

Lady, who told you you could swim?
You were meant to fly;
Not to float upon your own reflection
Waiting for a clever robin,
Or a hungry, ill-tempered jay
To pluck you from the placid pool –
Cool on a bright, June morning –
To pick you, all blushing red
And speckle-freckled
For their breakfast appetizer.

 

Lady, you were meant to bring me luck.
To dine, yourself, on sweet little aphids.
Oh, how they rejoice at your downfall!
But Heaven helps those who pray for their prey –
The mantis exacts swift vengeance,
Leaving the summer squash un-nibbled.
And I have pre-empted the robin’s repast –
A wriggling earthworm, uprooted,
Dumped beneath the Daikons, unaware
Of criss-cross shadows, a netted sky,
Shielding it from the watchful jay.

Now, it’s your turn. Please give this a try, then share your poems in a comment or link to one in your own blog. I look forward to reading yours, too!

 

 

 

 

 

Real Kitchens Don’t Look Like the Pictures (#AtoZChallenge)

Real Kitchens Don’t Look Like the Pictures (#AtoZChallenge)

I was making breakfast when the idea for “K” came to me. I opened the drawer underneath the oven to take out a small skillet. As I plunked it onto the burner, something jumped. I looked down and stifled a small scream as my brain turned this into a cockroach. Caterpillar? Bug.

My brain started going, “Eww, eww, gross – eww!” and as it sloooowly dawned on me what the thing actually was, I flashed back on “things found in other people’s kitchens” that had caused the same visceral disgust. Crumbs from the toaster, perhaps. A bit of thread mistaken for a hair. A bit of hair – my own – mistaken for the cook’s. Had it been so plainly written on my face as it was, this morning, in my own kitchen? I hope not.

In fairness, it could have been a cockroach. We do have an exterminator service quarterly, and they will re-treat, at no charge, if we see a bug in between their visits. A roach might have crawled into the drawer to die, I suppose, but it would be more logical to assume that a dying roach could not have made the climb, and would have died under the drawer. I’ve only seen about a dozen roaches in this house over two decades, despite living in the tropics where cockroaches grow big enough to saddle and ride.

My kitchen is clean. It’s not “Howard Hughes clean,” but neither is yours. It is probably cleaner than yours, in some ways; in others, you might find something – like this – that causes your brain to moan, “Ewwww!” But we clean after meals and we have a cleaning service weekly. I’d bet it’s cleaner than most commercial kitchens on inspection day, and we rarely ask for the “kitchen tour” when we visit our favorite restaurants or insist on seeing the inspector’s report. Maybe we shouldn’t think too hard on this when visiting friends and family.

Julia Child was famous for being messy in the kitchen. I found these photos, and the second one cracks me up. I’ll bet she found…things…in her oven drawer, from time to time.

So what was this…thing? (“Eww, don’t examine it, just squish it and throw it down the disposal!” urged my brain, in horror.) In spite of my brain’s recoiling till it had to be peeled off the back of my skull with a spatula, I leaned in and peered closely at “the thing.”

You see? It really is a matter of perspective and good lighting.

We had steak with mushrooms, last night. The “cockroach” was a bit of grilled, baby Portobello mushroom that must have fallen into the oven drawer and onto the tiny skillet while my husband cooked dinner. No big deal. I rinsed out the skillet and made breakfast, while singing Mrs. Crandall’s Boardinghouse, by The Irish Rovers.

I imagine my children, all grown, cooking us dinner in our own kitchen when we’re old and recoiling in horror at a glimpse of dehydrated Portobello mushroom in the oven drawer. It saddens me a little. Makes me laugh a little, too. I get it. We’ll see which wins out when I’m 90.

I did not add the mushroom to breakfast. I put that into the compost bin for Herman. Those little black specks? Freshly-ground black pepper, you heathens.

That said, I hear insects are an excellent source of protein. Which is good, because there seem to be plenty of them in the vegetable garden.

Journeys (#AtoZChallenge)

Journeys (#AtoZChallenge)

In my last post, I mentioned distractions.

After a year of nothing but absolutely necessary travel, it was nice to get away – just me (fully-vaccinated) and my beloved (also fully-vaccinated) for a couple of brief trips just for fun. One, to visit my dad in Louisiana, and another to soak up sun, salt water, fresh air, rum, and seafood in Daytona Beach. We planned it to not be during anyone’s spring break, not during motorcycle week, and not the high-season for snowbirds from the still-frozen northern wastelands. We had a pristine beach almost entirely to ourselves, and the water was refreshingly cool but also far too calm to attract serious surfers.

What on earth has happened to the seagulls? First birds to go “missing” in Daytona Beach, years ago, were the sandpipers. Now, the seagulls are missing. Pelicans fly overhead in appreciable numbers; we joked about the pterodactyls. But where are the gulls? And where did the beady-eyed grackles come from? When did herons decide to grace the beach? My husband got a photo of a gorgeous woodpecker. I am confused. I suppose the seagulls are frolicking with the unicorns, their dance floor lit by the thousands of fireflies that are also mysteriously missing.

But never mind me and my confusion. I had an early-morning appointment to go parasailing, and once airborne, watching the world shrink to a manageable size from 1000′ in the air, feeling like the girl on a swing, suspended like a balloon from the back of a boat, all the stress just melted away.

I didn’t even notice the shark.

Whew! He missed me.

Hang loose.