Monday, October 13, 2008

The Fall of Mr. Henley

Life is marked by certain events. For Becky, it started when she was very small -- the time she saw her elderly neighbor fall off his porch while calling "Here, kitty kitty!" The milk from the saucer he held splattered as the blue dish landed and rattled around in a circle until it settled upside down on the driveway cement. When she stood over him saying "Wake up", Becky saw something oozing from his ears and she knew something wasn't right even though the raggedy gray kitty was purring and lapping up the milk that had puddled next to Mr. Henley's slippered foot.

Waiting for his chubby wife to open the screen door and come see about her husband, Becky called out "Hey, he felled down! Hey!". But the fat lady didn't come to the door and the old man wouldn't wake up so Becky ran through the bushes and across the lawn and banged on the door of the one-room studio apartment crying, "Mama! Daddy! The old man felled down!"

The curtains of the door's window parted, her father peeked out and said, "You stay outside and play Becky. We're bathing Tommy and don't want any drafts from you running in and out." He dropped the curtain and disappeared from the window. Surprised and hurt, Becky banged on the door some more and her mother said in her mommy voice, "Becky, go play!"

Even though she was only three and a half, Becky knew that Mr. Henley was in trouble and needed help so she continued to pound on the door and began to cry, "But the old man felled down and there's snot in his ears! There's snot in his ears!"

Finally, her daddy opened the door. She saw her mama wrapping her wet baby brother up in a soft, yellow, terrycloth towel on the kitchen table near the sink where the bath had taken place. Becky's daddy scooped her up in his strong tan arms and tried to soothe her tears as she blurted out all she knew about the old man falling.

Setting her feet on the ground, her daddy asked her to show him what she was talking about so Becky grabbed two fingers of his big hand and led him to the neighbor's backdoor. She watched as her daddy knelt down beside Mr. Henley and listened as he spoke gently to him. Then she watched as her daddy stepped over the old man and up the three steps to the screen door which he opened and, poking his head inside, called for Mrs. Henley.

"You go back home, Becky, and stay inside with your mother and Tommy". Being a good girl, Becky did as she was told and, from her perch on the back of the fraying couch, looked out the picture window and watched the grown-ups. She saw policemen and men in starched white uniforms coming and going. Finally, they rolled old Mr. Henley out on a gurney, a sheet covering his body and face, and lifted him into the back of the ambulance with the red flashing light on top.

"Mama, where did the old man go? Why did they hide-and-seek his face?" Her mother's lap was warm and soft and her slender, freckled arms had a soft coating of light hair and the clean, sweet smell of Jergen's lotion.

"Mr. Henley went to Heaven today, honey."

"Well, when will he come back? He has to feed the kitty." Becky's clear blue eyes looked up at her mother's.

"Mrs. Henley will have to feed the kitty now. Mr. Henley won't be coming back."

Becky thought about this and, though she didn't understand, she fell asleep and then dreamed again and again of the old man falling and the cat lapping and the stuff oozing from the old man's ears. Her mother and father took turns consoling her throughout the night.

The next day, and for days after that, Becky timidly tip-toed across the lawn and peeked through the bushes to the place where Mr. Henley had fallen off the porch. She waited and waited and, day after day, watched for him to step through the screen door with a saucer of milk in his gnarly hand, to smile at her with his wrinkly face, and to once again call for his raggedy cat in his deep, crotchety voice, "Here kitty, kitty! Come eat!"

Monday, September 8, 2008

Debbie's Sunshine Song

Debbie came into the 8:30 a.m. yoga class Sunday morning, thinking about nothing except the class ahead of her and how the next 75 minutes were all hers. When asked by Rosie if there were any special requests for class, Debbie sat quietly on her mat as others said Neck, Arms, Abs. Her hope was for a good class that would give her a whole body workout but, more than that, transport her to that space she loved to go - deep inside herself, to that quiet place. In yoga, she felt peace even if Rosie had them standing on their heads.

Friends outside of class didn't understand what she got from her time in the studio, but everyone there did - they all came back for the same thing. To move beyond their everyday lives into something more, something deeper and calmer and more worthwhile. After yoga, everything else was easier. Yoga had taught her to breathe and to go to that place in herself where she could look at things differently and put things in perspective. This was her homebase. Everything started and ended here, on her mat, within herself - calm and serene and oftentimes sweating for that one hour of the day.

"Okay, so abs and neck and arms," Rosie said as she began rubbing her hands together, signaling the body that yoga was about to begin. Everyone gently shut their eyes and began rubbing their hands together too. "Bring your hands to your heart," she paused, "Take a deep breath in to tune in."

And they all sang OMMMMM...

After chanting and Kapalabhati breathing, plus two minutes of Breath of Fire, Rosie lead the class through a series of tough asanas. Sunday morning was flow class, Debbie's favorite. The constant moving from one pose to the other was challenging but rewarding and she always felt like she'd accomplished something beautiful when it was over. When the mantra-filled, trance-like music was playing in the background and the candles on the altar were lit, the transcendent atmosphere made her want to stay there all morning, dancing to the flow of the class.

"And come to the floor where we'll do a few more poses," Rosie said in that voice the class had come to love. Rosie's voice could work miracles. She made poetry come to life when she started or ended a class with one of her favorite poems. Oftentimes when she read, unbidden tears would flow from her students' faces; she was able to convey so much with the tone of her voice. Sometimes -- like when the stereo was broken and CDs wouldn't play -- Rosie sang chants in Sanskrit for them while the class rested in corpse pose.

"Now gently unfold, into savasana..." As she rolled down, one vertebrae at a time, Debbie relaxed all her bones and unfurled onto her mat. Her eyes closed, her mind lazily moved from one hazy thought to another as she listened to the mantra playing, "Ra Ma Da Sa, Sa Say So Hung." Sun, moon, earth, infinity, I am all That. Without thinking, her focus went to her third eye and she was gone, floating somewhere beyond her consciousness.

After an indefinite amount of time, and what seemed like from far away she heard Rosie's voice say, "Deepen your breathing." Time to come back, Debbie thought, time to reenter the room. "Wiggle your fingers and toes... Roll to your right... and when you're ready, come up to sitting at the front of your mat."

Eyes still closed, Debbie rolled to her right and pressed herself up into lotus. There was always a slight feeling of sadness when the class ended, like coming to the final lines of a beautiful story. She heard the brushing sound of hands being rubbed together, signaling the end of yoga. She joined in and then brought her hands to her heart in prayer. Rosie said the closing words: "I honor that place in you where God resides. When you are in that place in you, and I am in that place in me, there is only one of us. Namaste."

The class bent forward over their crossed legs, extending their folded hands and bowing their heads to the floor between their arms. Debbie prayed that her day be a good one, that she have fun with her husband. She prayed that everyone in her family be healthy and happy, and that everyone in the room and their families be healthy and happy as well." As she came up from prayer, she remained in the seated position with her hands at her heart. Her eyes felt good closed and opening them was always the last step to take before ending the joy of yoga and facing the day ahead.

The room was silent except for the humming of the music in the background. Everyone else was in the same space as she was, thought Debbie. She slowly opened her eyes. On the floor in front of her flickered the light of a candle atop a cupcake.

She heard a few giggles. "Happy birthday Debbie!" And with that, they all began singing.

Debbie's eyes filled with tears as she realized what was happening. She glanced side to side but was overwhelmed with the feeling that people were being nice to her, that they liked her and that she was special. She looked to the ceiling, trying to balance the tears that cascaded over her lower lids before she could wipe them away. She could hardly stand it, the feeling was so all encompassing. When the singing came to an end, she thought about it a second and then made her secret birthday wish and blew out the candle. Before she could speak, Rosie said, "Now let's sing the "Long Time Sun Song" for Debbie."

Feeling as if her heart would burst, Debbie listened as they sang the Kundalina farewell blessing song that always, no matter what, made her cry. In their soft high voices, they repeated the loving verse three times:

May the long time sun
Shine upon you,
All love surround you,
And the pure light within you
Guide your way on.

As the song went on, one by one, she heard voices stop singing, and Debbie knew that others were being touched by the song as well, including Rosie. In the end, only a handful of sweet voices made it though the last verse.

Barely able to speak, Debbie gathered her breath and said softly, "Thank you." And thoughout the room, more tears slid down cheeks, and more minds thought about what they had experienced here, and how they would carry it with them in their heart throughout the rest of their day.

Monday, September 1, 2008

Labor Daydreams

It was gray and snaky and now it's behind the couch. I saw it. It moved!

Which is more than I can say for myself, curled up in my reading chair, still in my pajamas at three in the afternoon. This has been a very unlaborious Labor Day weekend.

So far I have slept in all three days, watched four mindless movies, finished one enthralling novel and started another, learned the sad story of Tokyo Rose on the History Channel, walked the dog to the park on the hill four times, leisurely picked tomatoes and basil from our sunny garden, took a nap with the fat brown cat in the hammock under the passion-flower-covered arbor, butterflies flitting about, ate yummy raspberry sherbert from a wilting waffle ice cream cone, thought a good deal about exercising, and gently massaged my hubby's strong, hard-working hands until he fell asleep.

What's that furtive rustling sound? Did you hear it? I hope it's not a rodent. If I wasn't so lazy, I'd go investigate and find out what's moving over there...

I had plans of doing a myriad of other things around the house this weekend like organizing the boxes that've been stacked haphazardly in the garage since we moved here, reorganizing the tupperware cabinet, the pantry, and the pots & pans shelves, converting the extra bedroom into a gym with a special yoga area, and scrubbing the bathtub so I can take that much-anticipated bubbly, candlelit bath. So many undone projects await my attention.

Do you see it? There, beneath the fringe of the couch, the whiskers, the tip of a flickering gray tail? Poking out now like a cartoon - a pink little pointed nose and two mischevious amber-green kitten eyes, daring me to drop to the floor and play. Let's wrestle!

Wednesday, August 27, 2008

One Miscommunication, No Ice

So my husband and I are sitting on the couch watching the Olympics, each savoring a dish of raspberry sorbet when he asks, "Do you have ice in yours?"

I thought he asked me if I have eyes and ears so I answer in a slightly condescending little sing-song voice, "Yes, I have eyes and ears."

Turning his gaze away from the TV screen, he looks at me wide-eyed like I'm going deaf and says slowly, "I didn't ask you if I have ice in mine... I asked if you have ice in yours."

Surprised, I answer "What? I thought you asked me if I have eyes and ears."

Now he's smiling. "I know you have eyes and ears. I thought you said, 'Yes, I have ice in yours', meaning mine. I was asking you if you have ice in yours - your sorbet!"

"Oh, that's different," I tell him, "No, I don't have any ice in mine."

We laugh until we cry, and then, breathless from that laughter, we talk about how easy it is to hear something that wasn't said -- and we secretly think about the times we've argued over some perceived statement that maybe didn't exist.

We lean a little closer to each other and go back to watching the Olympics and eating our sorbet, with and without ice, content with the happy ending of our crazy miscommunication.