Beginnings: Broken Promises

My mom broke her hip. So my promise to post to this blog on a weekly basis was broken – like her hip – before my second entry. I am in Maine. And today the temperature is 0. You ask how cold is that? Well, when you try to breathe through your nose, your nostrils stick . So cold that you can’t take off your mittens to answer your cell phone. The 8 inches of snow we got crusted over  and shimmers in the morning light. I always tell folks in the DC area that Portland streets were cleared within 24 hours after the snowfall.  But due to budget issues, they are conserving sand and  salt so today the streets are one gigantic skating rink. I worry about falling for the first time in my life.  Hence YOGA.

(I promise if you read this entire blog, it WILL connect to creating a stone sculpture for the library.)

Caretakers know that you have to take care of yourself in order to be able to care for others. I decided that a good break from cooking, cajoling and caretaking would be a yoga class. Lila Yoga is located about 1/2 mile from mom’s. It is strange that the neighborhood known as The Hill – thought of as dangerous when I was growing  up (due less to danger and more to ethnicity and poverty) is now the most desired area of the city. In the past few years, there have been a spate of roof removals and glass wall installation so owners could see Casco Bay. There are several organic/local food restaurants and of course, a coffee shop that serves locally roasted coffee.  Although there is a hipper, younger crowd living here, my mom (up until now) has walked through the neighborhood to the local coffee shop daily for at least ten years since she gave up her car and they know her by name. Although most of the people I grew up with are gone, the Hill still looks out for its own.

There are many kinds of yoga practices (emphasis on practice) I am most  familiar with Iyengar….so entering an anyusara studio is a little  daunting especially when everyone seems to be below the age of 30 – including the instructors. More than 35 folks squeezed their mats into the studio space. Yes, we had to stagger  our “bums.”  The first two sessions were a lesson in humility. It has been 7 years since I was on the mat. And I have lost a great deal of flexibility and upper body strength – as well as a connection to the breath..and the ability to remain present.

Staying flexible and strong is critical to working in stone. Standing for hours at a time on a concrete floor  and striking repeatedly on a stone, creates tension and imbalance throughout the body and often carpal tunnel. Yoga helps to realign everything and to maintain focus.

There is one particular pose that I find most difficult (There are many others that I just find difficult.) It is vrksasana: the “Tree” pose. “Standing straight on the left leg, bend the right leg and place the right foot on the root of the left thigh. Stand thus like a tree on the ground.”

In an attempt to maintain my balance, I stare intently at  the wall in front of me. It is constructed of planks of chestnut …the width of which you no longer see. There is a sign on that wall signifying that it was once Longfellow’s home. For those of you who are not New Englanders, Henry Wordsworth Longfellow wrote a famous poem featuring a blacksmith standing under a chestnut tree.  A blight destroyed the American chestnut. But there are organizations attempting to reintroduce it:

The derivation of the word for LIBRARY is from the Latin word, Liber — with a long I — meaning, “to peel.” It refers to the inner bark of a tree. Early manuscripts were written on bark, and from this, we get the modern word “Library.”

And in that moment of trying to stand like a tree,  my brain made an unexpected connection. And this is how a sculpture starts to grow. And this is how a sculptor walks along the stone path.