Thursday, September 30, 2010

Leafing Fall Behind

It's intensive winter prep time. A hard frost is predicted for Saturday night and many folks, in addition to preparing for Apple Fest this weekend (an annual event that can draw up to 80,000 people to this town of 640), are scurrying to put gardens to bed and winterizing homes as if our lives depended on it (indeed, they do).

My mid-afternoon TCC practice on the deck was a delight. As the woods thin out I see farther and farther into what was previously dense and green. Yellow and gold have taken over completely. There are tinges of green, sure, but only enough to add a taste of lime to the yellow-gold-orange main entree.

One strong, stiff breeze midway through practice sent leaves tumbling en masse. As the forest opens up I sight glimpses and glances of light that illuminate the deep woods and transform it into a glittering fairyland.

While I moved in the 60 degree heat yellow and gold leaves reflected the light back to me in a dramatic undulating incandescence. Yep, we're at the height of this annual convergence of fall into winter and ...  it's golden.

Wednesday, September 29, 2010

Leaves Falling, Geese Honking

The day started out wind swept and rain drenched. In early afternoon the sun glimmered through big blue rips in the clouds and by midday the atmosphere brightened to full sun.

My late afternoon TCC practice outdoors was absolutely glorious. The temperatures rose to almost-60 and the forest blazed with color. Yesterday the first fall of leaves began and today leaves continue to accumulate on the driveway as they flutter from heaven to earth.

Mid-practice a gaggle of Canadian geese approached from the north, honking and calling back and forth like a bunch of conventioneers yelling to each other in a large auditorium. They were so loud and raucous that I paused mid-form to observe their approach and departure. Soon the largest contingent of geese I've even seen--at least 70 members strong--passed overhead heading south. It was a special moment, grand and glorious.

It felt so warm outside that I practiced in shirtsleeves as I soaked in sunbeams and feasted my eyes on nature's delicious palette of colors. It feels as if winter is fast-approaching; I'm reveling in the fullness of color that surrounds me right now before winter's curtain of white begins to drop upon every living being.

Tuesday, September 28, 2010

Smiling in the Dark Reflection

Day six at the new library job. I feel more relaxed than I did the first four days (i.e., two weeks). I'm also starting my day later in the morning to guarantee that I'll feel alert and capable as I work into the early evening hours.

By nature, I'm a morning person because that's when my energy is strong and my mind operates in "drive." On work days when I don't get my TCC practice completed prior to leaving for work, I can feel myself (body and mind) dragging and blanking out by the end of the day. Then I'm not well-equipped to do either a post-work practice or a blogging session.

My evening blogs tend to be short and not-so-sweet because my mind struggles with ideas, content, and vocabulary. That certainly seems to be true this evening even though I do feel more rested and relaxed following my TCC practice than I felt before I began.

By practice end this evening I saw myself smiling in the dark reflection of the window. Yes! I've done it again (started practice when I'm tired and ended up feeling better). It is hard to convince the mind to go along with a practice session when I'm exhausted. When I succeed, though, I'm always glad that I persevered.

Monday, September 27, 2010

Split Practice

Today was my first day since starting my job at Bayfield Library where I felt fairly relaxed and perfectly comfortable woman-ing the front desk. Of course, I'm still faking it to a certain extent. But now I've come to the conclusion that I will, indeed, be capable of learning this job--including all of its idiosyncrasies--over time.

Which reminds me of a story a friend told me years ago. She received a masters' degree and then returned to school years later to earn her teacher's certification. It was a major shift for her to become a classroom teacher and, when she walked up to the front of the room to face the students, she felt like a fake. Suddenly she realized that her students thought she was a teacher even though she didn't believe it herself.

Luckily I have a good relationship with books and also plenty of experience handling them through years of bookstore work. The computer system and book readers and DVD watchers are who I'll come to know better in the weeks ahead.

I didn't manage to complete my TCC practice before work today; the first half of my practice began at 8:15 p.m. and the other half around 8:50 p.m. In the interim Frances and I purchased airline tickets to visit my sister and her boyfriend in West Virginia over Thanksgiving weekend. Once I knew that we had our tickets finalized it was easier to attend to my practice.

Sunday, September 26, 2010

From Do-ing to Be-ing

This morning's silence was broken by the repetitive on/off of the furnace blower fan. The outside thermometer read slightly less than 30 degrees; it's obvious that last night we hit our lowest temps yet this fall. There's a crackle and snap to the air.

Yellow ferns in the south ravine turned rusty brown overnight. Though I didn't see froze glistening from the grasses, it does appear that fall is proceeding at an accelerated pace.

Thankfully, my morning TCC practice converted me from a human doing to a human being. I rolled out of bed, my mind overwhelmed by the mountain of chores that awaited me. As I moved I gradually felt my body unwind, my mind shift into quietness. By three-quarters of the way through the form my pace slowed, my mind unruffled.

Now I'm calm, refreshed, and ready for an enjoyable and (perhaps) productive day.

Saturday, September 25, 2010

Filled to the Brim

Yep. It was a full to the brim day. We started off running errands we'd intended for yesterday but had to abandon after a power outage hit our house and closed most businesses in downtown Bayfield, Washburn, and (rumor has it) Ashland, for almost six hours.

Then we hurried home to feed the geese before attending a reading and booksigning of Guerrilla Publishing: How to Become a Published Author for Less Than $1500 & Keep 100% of Your Profits by Barbara With. Another quick stop-and-go at home and on to Little Sand Bay for a potluck picnic celebrating a neighbor's 40th birthday and she and her husband's 10th wedding anniversary. It was a fabulous day after several days of never-ending rain: sunshine, 50 degree temps, and clear blue up above.

Whew. Catch a breath. Now, finally, after the sun dipped over the horizon and temperatures quickly followed we're back home. I'm upstairs in front of dark bedroom windows practicing TCC. It's quiet except for the sound of Namaste's barking as he reminds all woodland creatures that he is home now and he is the one in charge.

Funny. Lately I notice that my morning practices feel better than the evening ones. By the end of the day my body aches and creaks a little. Who knew? Could? This? Be? A? Sign? Of? Aging? Nawwww. I'm just tired. Well practiced, calm, and relaxed, I'm ready to settle back in my easy chair and read until my eyelids come fluttering down....

Friday, September 24, 2010

Cat & Mouse, Deer & Woods, Sound & Silence

Success! Today I found the first evidence of Chiripa's skill as a mouser. We adopted said kitten in February with the hope of obtaining assistance in the snaring mice department. Thus far Chiripa has exhibited no interest in shouldering such responsibilities. Sure, she's watched a few mice, even chased them into a corner or under a dresser but never before, ever, has she killed one.

Since our house is the only sheltered warm spot on our 25 acre property and for another quarter mile plus in any direction, we provide the ultimate luxury accommodations for woods-loving rodents. Frances and I agree, once you look into the shining eyes and notice the sweet little ears of these creatures it is difficult to kill them. Consequently, we've always set live traps but ... we're not totally opposed to allowing nature to take its course.

I practiced TCC early this morning, shortly after I stepped on the dead mouse lying on the living room carpet. It hadn't been light for long but the yellow vegetation continues to expand, gleam, and grow each day and gives the grey morning skies and darkened woods a welcome glow. The south ravine still harbors a wealth of luxurious, thick, glossy, green grass but slowly and surely the green is converting to gold.

I began my practice with a CD playing but quickly shut it off after I realized that the sound of wind brushing through and circling 'round treetops was music enough. When I neared completion, I noticed that the Healing Sound "szu" (liver) was amazingly similar to the sound of the breeze through the leaves. Tssssssuuuu.

Midway through practice I felt, or maybe saw, movement in the woods before me. When I focused my attention into the trees, I noticed two deer flowing gracefully by. We often see a mother and fawn crossing the drive, stopping at the salt block, and even licking and playing with each other. They're another gift and blessing we receive from living in--and paying close attention to--our surroundings.

Yes! The day has begun....

Thursday, September 23, 2010

Happiness, Love & Wisdom

Yesterday's anticipated storm arrived. It's raining, raining, and (guess what?) raining. I just talked with a brother who lives near Rochester, MN. He said over six inches of rain fell there yesterday and it's still coming down. Basements are flooding, water is standing, roads are closing, and, since he lives in an earth-bermed house, he's wet vac'ing the water that's leaking into his home. Luckily he has a Zen-like approach to life and handles it all with equanimity.

It was relaxing and comforting to hear the sound of raindrops hitting the metal roof and wooden deck during my TCC practice this afternoon. In the midst of practice several teaching inspirations struck. When my classes start in several weeks, I'll have additional teaching strategies to help students experience and better understand some of the more challenging movements.

Earlier today I looked through Buddha's Brain, a book that was mentioned at August's TCC Teacher Conference. This summer one of my longtime TCC students suggested that we participate in an online lecture featuring one of the authors from the book. I countered with a suggestion that we start a book discussion group in order to delve more deeply into the concepts and practices contained in the book.

The thesis of this book is intriguing. The authors contend that what happens in your mind changes your brain. Consequently you can purposefully use your mind to change your brain and affect your life in ways that lead to greater happiness. Both authors, one a M.D. and the other a Ph.D., are neuroscientists as well as meditation teachers.

Two of the key points from Chapter 4, "Taking in the Good," revolve around consciously looking for and absorbing positive experiences, which then rewires your brain and affects how you feel and act. Ultimately these strategies build positive emotions that benefit physical and mental health.

I found that chapter particularly interesting given a conversation I had with a friend earlier this summer. I told him that I felt better, I thought, as a result of making the commitment to practice TCC daily and keep a daily blog about my experiences. He inquired whether I thought the feeling better came from the fact that I was getting my feelings out. No, I replied, I felt that it was due to the fact that I was engaged in two activities that I felt passionate about and that brought me joy.

More recently, however, I realized that my daily TCC practices offer me the opportunity to sink and soak myself in the beauty and peace of the woods that surround me. The fact that I take a few moments every day to notice and appreciate my surroundings affects me in a positive way and contributes to positive emotions and experiences just as these authors propose.

Ahh. Perhaps I'm already practicing "the practical neuroscience of happiness, love and wisdom" per the book's subtitle because I'm a committed practitioner of T'ai Chi Chih moving meditation.

Wednesday, September 22, 2010

Color Conversion

It was a sun-filled day until dark blue clouds drifted over the region in late afternoon. According to news reports rain is already falling in Minnesota--and more anticipated (2-4")--which leads me to expect rain showers here soon.

Each day a wider expanse of yellow-gold moves into the forest. We're converting gradually from one form of beauty into another, glossy green to yellow, orange, red, rust, brown, and then our colorful woods will yield to winter white. I'm reminded of a poem/blog entry I published last October 24th on another blog ( It's Golden! tells the tale of color conversion in the north woods. It is a dramatic experience.

When I moved through my TCC practice on the deck this afternoon, I was cheered by the bright yellow ferns that greeted me from the south ravine, the dibs and dabs of yellow leaves that waved from the forest, and the insistent chirp of a woodpecker traveling back and forth from tree trunk to bird feeder. I traveled gracefully and gently through my practice like a fall leaf floating to earth.

At the August TCC Conference I realized that I shift my weight too far foward. During a recent discussion with another TCC teacher I mentioned that I'm currently practicing this correction to my form.

The teacher responded that all the things we do in our TCC practices are reflections of what's happening in our lives. She went on to suggest that my too-far-forward weight shift may indicate that I was expanding farther out into my life. Given recent changes I've undergone, we agreed that she may be right (thank you, Anna).

Tuesday, September 21, 2010


I didn't sleep well last night. Was it because I had a busy day at work and I found it difficult to slow myself down? Or, did my evening talk with another T'ai Chi Chih teacher lift my spirits--and my energy--so much that I couldn't go to sleep? Perhaps it was my later evening TCC practice?

Whatever the reason, I practiced TCC as soon as I returned home from work tonight. I also performed an abbreviated practice session. Today's workday proceeded at a reasonable pace throughout the afternoon so perhaps that will contribute to a good night's rest tonight.

This evening's TCC practice was the epitome of no effort. I came. I stood in place. I moved. I watched my reflection in the window with no expectation or judgment. I felt better.

Practice was simple, relaxed, and amazingly fast. I hope that my venture into the world of sleep tonight is equally easy. Based on how tired I feel at the moment I'm guessing that I'll be finding out very soon....

Monday, September 20, 2010

Flipping the Switch to Pause

Day Three at my new Bayfield Library job. Whew! It's a busy place! I found no time to reshelf books, audiobooks, or DVDs no matter how hard I tried to catch up with returns. So ...

What did I do? I came home and did a T'ai Chi Chih practice. After an afternoon of being "on" every moment it's nice to flip the switch to "pause." Of course, when I'm doing a TCC practice, I'm not lounging in a chair or reclining on a couch so there is some effort involved in shifting weight, turning wrists and waist, and circling arms and hands. After so many years of practice, though, I trust that my body can go through its routine with a minimum of force exerted, physical or mental.

I watched my reflection in the dark windows and realized that how I view myself varies from one mirrored practice to another. Sometimes I focus my attention on whether my movements look soft and flowing, other times I notice how circular the hand and arm movements appear, and tonight I watched my waist to see how far I turned from side to side. While I watch myself reflected in the window I also notice how I feel as I perform the movement. How do I look when it feels right?

There are always questions to be asked and answered about one's own TCC practice. That's the beauty of a practice like this. You can always improve, learn, grow, have new experiences, and new realizations. And then tomorrow ... you can start all over again. Huh. It reminds me of working at the library.

Sunday, September 19, 2010

Silent Sunday Blessings

Today's TCC practice in the middle of the woods was silent and silencing.... Other than the motor of an occasional car driving by on the quarter-mile distant highway there was no sound.

The geese slept on the driveway behind me, beaks tucked beneath their wings. Namaste lay before me in surveillance mode quietly observing everything around him (one chipmunk moved so quietly behind him that he didn't realize it was there). Leaf shadows cast against the side of the house were simple streaks of darkness that reminded me of a Chinese brush painting.

Me? I moved upon the sand of the driveway in ultra-quiet. The stillness seeped into me. Once a brief rush of breeze moved through the forest. And was gone.

It felt lovely to be outside in sun-dappled silence. With nothing to distract me from this present moment and presence in the moment I felt an abundance of space for my mind and heart to expand into the deep peace all around me. What a gift to live in the beautiful stillness of this wooded home. I feel blessed....

Saturday, September 18, 2010

A Sunbeam Reminder

It's wonderful to keep a sense of perspective about life's daily events and unexpected situations. Why? Because it allows us to remain focused and centered in the midst of seeming chaos and helps us to respond appropriately to the ever-present trauma, drama, and suffering that inhabits the Universe.

Today's TCC practice helped me to see yesterday's practice from a different point of view and reminded me, once again, that I do have a choice about what I allow into my consciousness and what I ignore during my TCC practices. I ventured onto the deck for today's practice after the day's strong winds died down and the resultant chill abated. Since the thermometer read 48 I donned a stocking cap and a pair of gloves. Fortuituously I found myself in the glow of one persistent sunbeam that wove its way through the branches and leaves and landed on the exact spot where I stood.

In order to bathe myself in the warmth of this westerly descending streak of sun I turned sideways to the direction I typically face during my practices. Ta-da. What do you know? I no longer faced the bird feeder that had so disturbed and distracted me yesterday because of the thieving scoundrels (a/k/a chipmunks) that scaled its narrow edges and prevented nuthatches and chickadees from feeding.

True, I did hang the feeder in a different location today and perhaps that provided a simple and effective solution. On the other hand, the oft-repeated phrase out of sight, out of mind described today's practice as I moved while eyeing a new view. I truly let my attention be occupied by a new set of trees and plants that grew directly in front of me. Had the chipmunks actually been on the feeder it may have been a different story but since they weren't, and I wasn't looking, I spent my entire practice in a relaxed, uninterrupted flow.

Yesterday I felt compelled to interrupt my practice in order to intercede on the birds' behalf. Interestingly, I seldom interrupt my practice. My typical attitude is this: I can take one-half hour out of my day to practice T'ai Chi Chih without worrying about who's calling me, what's happening in the immediate vicinity, or what I need to do next.

Thank you, sunbeam, for reminding me to remain in the peace of the present moment....

Friday, September 17, 2010

Eyes Wide Open

T'ai Chi Chih practice motivates me to venture outside and perform my moving meditation on days when I would likely stay seated in front of my computer screen or otherwise occupy myself. I am grateful for the subtle manner in which it inspires me to GET UP AND MOVE.

Today's early morning grey skies cleared and segued to blue by the time I ventured onto the deck for my lunchtime practice. Aha! Our fall and winter friends, the nuthatches and black-capped chickadees, are regulars at the bird feeder once again. Unfortunately, chipmunks make it to the feeder first, line both sides, and chug seeds; they're driving away the birds and emptying the feeder in record speed.

I moved my practice down to ground level in hopes of dissuading the chippies from their busy task. No luck. They barely moved when I interrupted my practice several times, clapped my hands, and verbally urged them to Vamoose! Be Gone! Get Out Of Here! The chipmunks--and the mice--consider Frances and me to be their friends. Intuitively they sense that we won't resort to corporal punishment or murder. We'll need to fashion another baffle to keep the chipmunks and squirrels at bay as I'm not willing to continually interrupt my TCC practice to intercede on the birds' behalf. (I admit, I was tempted this time.)

On our walk to the mailbox (Frances, Namaste, Chiripa, and me) we discovered one tiny snake and further on, another larger garter snake in the middle of the driveway. After Frances introduced the cat to the snakes Chiripa took it upon herself to tease and play with them. On our way back up the drive Chiripa still tormented the garter snake who lunged at her and wiggled its tongue. That was enough! Frances picked Chiripa up and carried her up hill.

It's a beautiful sun sifting through yellow leafed day. The slow down I experienced with my TCC practice has helped me to see and appreciate the beauty around me with eyes wide open.

Thursday, September 16, 2010

Days of My Life

Brisk temperatures are changing, brightening, and coloring greater expanses of forest with each passing day. Bits of yellow hop from tree to tree and leaf to leaf and red, rust, and orange are joining in the spree. Fall Equinox is early next week but, in the Northland, fall is here.

My late afternoon practice on the deck began at 50 degrees and ended at 45. It was extremely quiet. Just once I heard a breeze rustle through the leaves. It sounded like sand rushing through a funnel. I was reminded of the theme from the soap opera, Days of Our Lives: Like sands through the hourglass, so are the days of our lives. Yes, yes ... the older I grow, the more true it seems.

I received word last night via email that writers from Love Stories of the Bay will be taking our stories to the stage ... Stage North in Washburn, WI, that is. We're spiffing up our presentations with music, visuals, and lighting, scheduling several rehearsals, and offering two performances in mid-February 2011 (Fri., Feb. 11 and Sat., Feb. 12). Half of the $10 ticket price will be donated to the Bayfield Regional Conservancy which is a vital organization in this area.

I'm sure this event will push me and other writers to confront our stage fright and I'm incredibly grateful for this opportunity. All I need do is perform a mental rehearsal of T'ai Chi Chih prior to and during the performances. Somehow it always manages to calm me in the midst of high stress and tension.

Which is how I feel after today's TCC practice ... calmly quiet inside and thankful for the beautiful green surrounding me that is being spun into blazing gold.

Wednesday, September 15, 2010

Cold, Tired, Dark, and ... Relaxed

It's been a dark, rainy, cold (40 degree), low-energy day. A phone conversation with my sister in West Virginia at suppertime revealed that temperatures in her area were 80 degrees with bright sunshine.

I'm tired after two work days filled with new information and details, details, details. My evening TCC practice in front of the darkened patio door was revealing. I was surprised to discover that I moved faster than my mind and body told me I was moving, especially given my energy level.

The shadowy mirrored feedback helped me to slow myself. Though my reflection in the glass appeared soft and flowing, my body felt creaky, stiff, and uneasy.

I turned on music to accompany my practice but shut it off immediately after Cosmic Consciousness. Its soft, relaxed resonance felt too loud and I longed to sit in total silence. Ahhh. After two overly busy days the quiet feels comforting ... almost medicinal. And, post-practice I do feel more peaceful and relaxed.

Tuesday, September 14, 2010

Time for Bed TCC

Whew! My first two days on the new job are complete and all I can say is, What a whirlwind of newness: new information, computer program, workplace, names and faces, and even a new staff-only bathroom. Yes, it's a much different view from the backside of the library circulation desk when compared to standing on the front side.

I'm happy to be here. And I'm also perfectly content to have the rest of the week off before I head back to work next Monday. Today was overfull: primary voting day, an urgent plea from Frances to come pick her up in Ashland after I got off work this evening because her car's front brakes went out, and our first day pilling Namaste after the vet determined that he has Lyme's Disease. We've only just begun to give twice a day antibiotic tablets for a 42 day run. Oh, and did I mention that I worked six nonstop hours today with a 10 minute break?

By the time I began my TCC practice this evening I was t-i-r-e-d. By the time I finished my TCC practice this evening I was t--i--r--e--d--e--r. As my practice progressed and my mind and body slowed down from its fast paced day I began to feel my exhaustion multiply. By practice end I was in a state of what I'll call ultimate relaxation. My body is at its limit; my mind shut down its functions similar to the way I shut down the functions of nine computers at the library tonight.

TCC practice left me in an ultra-relaxed state and--no arguments here--it's time to head for bed.

Monday, September 13, 2010

New Beginnings

Today is my first day of work at the Bayfield Library (my work day begins at 1 p.m.). I'm excited to be back in the presence of books (it has been many years since I worked in two different bookstores in the Twin Cities) and I welcome my opportunity to get better acquainted with community members.

Yesterday afternoon Frances and I attended the farewell party for Karen, my predecessor in the library assistant job. It was a wonderful event full of warm sunshine, fabulous potluck fare, and friendly people.

Karen was one of the first residents we met when we moved to Bayfield. She joined my first T'ai Chi Chih class and, after I heard the story of how she chose to move to Bayfield (she hopped into her car in Chicago and drove until she didn't see electric wires hanging over her head), I knew that she was someone Frances and I wanted to know better.

Today and tomorrow Karen will train me in to take over the job she held at the library for the past five? six? seven? years. Could there be a better way for me to start a new-job day than with a T'ai Chi Chih practice?

I stepped into the lemony sunshine on the deck and observed small patches of sunlight as they flickered and danced in the dark, shade-filled woods. It was breezy but quiet; Frances and Namaste left earlier for the vet's office to discover why he's experiencing pain that wakes him--and us--up in the middle of the night.

The cat lounged in the shade of a flower planter in the corner of the deck. And me? I soaked and drenched and saturated myself with the generous rays of sunshine that flooded over me out of a brilliant blue sky. Early on in the practice flower stems and tomato plants jogged my attention. They jiggled wildly due to somebody's unintentional efforts. Soon two chipmunks ran out of their green shelter and pounced on each other before one dashed quickly away.

I interspersed my TCC practice with Seijaku. And now I feel calm, relaxed, and comfortable ... a wonderful way to feel on the first day at a new job.

Sunday, September 12, 2010


I practiced T'ai Chi Chih tonight while darkness crept into the forest. As the light faded the highlights of yellow and gold on tree leaves and undergrowth faded too. My surroundings filled with dark shadows and the only sounds I heard were swoops of wind and, perhaps, a slow, careful footstep or two deep in the forest.

Fall Equinox is barely a week away and, suddenly, everywhere I look I see yellow. Today's lunch theme was yellow and red: yellow curried rice, yellow spaghetti squash with red tomato sauce, and stir fried veggies that featured yellow squash, zucchini, onions, and tomatoes. And the forest around me gains more shadings of yellow with each passing cool day.

Early on in tonight's practice I saw a hummingbird feeding in the jewel weed, a delicate blossom of orange-yellow. I'm relieved to notice a few hummingbirds still flitting through the weeds and to the feeder. A week ago Frances found a hummingbird hanging upside down on a wire fence we'd dropped over a planter on our front step (goose proofing).

At first we thought the hummer was in torpor since we've heard of them losing consciousness or becoming dormant when their nectar is too cold for their body temp (is that correct?). Concerned, Frances picked the bird up and held it in her hands to warm it but soon discovered that it was dead, not resting.

I practiced my t'ai chi chih way into the darkness and then silently picked my way to the bird feeders and carried them into the house for the night. Another day comes to a close.

Saturday, September 11, 2010

Woodland Wanderings

I launched into this evening's TCC practice at 5:30 p.m., outdoor temperature 55 degrees. A chipmunk atop a tree trunk in our south ravine carried on a constant monologue while I moved. I assumed--wrongly--that the talkative interloper was a squirrel taunting Chiripa as she watched from the edge of the deck.

When I finally looked for the source of these on-going agitated grumblings I was surprised. You mean that teeny creature can talk that loud and that long? Chiripa maintained her Zen focus throughout. Though she watched with interest, eventually she went about her business as if no one was there at all.

After the chipmunk stopped its onslaught, a far away air-borne bird launched into a loud, echoing call. The haunting sound floated over the treetops until, finally, it was quiet. But, no. Another rustling, leafy sound emanated from the woods. When I squinted my eyes just right, I saw a deer digging into the earth with its front hoofs.

While I moved I watched the deer and they (I eventually spotted two though there were probably more) watched me. When I arrived at Joyous Breath, I saw a few ears twitching in response to my loud exhalations. At the Healing Sounds, my noisy aspirations drew barely a raised head. 

I felt gratified to be included in the activity of the woods. And peaceful. And calm. And, umm, just right.

Friday, September 10, 2010


It was a quiet day today. I waited, wondered, and wanted to hear a decision regarding this part-time job for which I submitted an application. In the meantime I used my time wisely and made a huge batch of salsa from the outpouring of tomatoes harvested from our garden.

And then ... I did my t'ai chi chih practice. Late afternoon brought quiet clouds and grey skies. When I practiced, I felt like I was captured in a lull before the storm. A quiet calmness sifted through the atmosphere and fell upon me as I moved simply, softly, silently.

And then ... and then ... and then ... I got the phone call. The job is mine! I feel tremendous gratitude for this opportunity and anticipate that I will become better acquainted with the community as I serve in a role that--like my avocation as T'ai Chi Chih instructor--is also public, also works to educate, expand, and inform, and also quietly changes the people with whom I interact.

Next week I begin my two-day-a-week job as library assistant in the Bayfield Carnegie Library. Let the DVD and book returns begin!?!

Thursday, September 9, 2010

T'ai Chi Chih Terminus

It was a wonderful day for an outdoor practice! After several days of rain, clouds, and--brrr--cold, today's weather was a delightful surprise.

Our TCC gathering was held at the terminus of a dead end road with a huge, ancient barn presiding over the property. We fashioned our TCC circle of eight in the middle of the road that led to the house and barn. It was a sun-filled area and there, within its blue-skied boundaries, we knew we'd stay warm.

Then, we moved quietly through our practice. Early on, one member of our circle pointed to an eagle flying overhead. Directly after completing Cosmic Consciousness Pose, we walked to a special place on the property, a medicine wheel, and re-formed our circle to bless the wheel and circle the energy.

A delicious potluck followed. While we ate we talked and talked and talked, balancing out the long minutes of slow silence that surrounded us during our TCC practice. What a lovely way to share the Chi and enjoy a beautiful fall day. One month from today--exactly--our next t'ai chi chih class session begins.

Wednesday, September 8, 2010

Just Desserts

My T'ai Chi Chih practice was a welcome reward after a day devoted to dusting off and polishing my resume. That task has always been a difficult one but this time, since this part-time job seems so right for me, I totaled my skills, laid them out, and will hope for the best possible outcome.

Right now I feel good about the efforts I made to convey my strengths and talents. And, after delving into a dark, quiet TCC practice on the porch, I'm content to trust the Universe on this one.

I practiced while Frances pulled in bird feeders and corralled and herded the geese to their pen. The darkness of dusk settling felt comforting and appealing after a full day dedicated to compiling a resume, application form, and cover letter.

Tomorrow morning I meet members of my Cornucopia TCC class for a morning practice and potluck at one of the students' homes. It's been cool lately and it's still unclear whether our planned outdoor practice and picnic will need to move indoors. It will be fun to have time to socialize and get to know each other better; normally we overfill our time together with TCC practice and unending discussion about the Tao.

Tuesday, September 7, 2010

Seasons Migrate but TCC Continues On...

It sure feels like summer has left the area--just like migrating birds--in search of a warmer habitat. We turned on the heat last night before the rain began to fall and after temperatures had already fallen.

Today's temps hovered in the low 40s as grey skies huddled over the earth. After Labor Day we're advised to take down hummingbird feeders but Frances and I wait for several more weeks just in case there are hummers farther north in need of a mid-flight fuel station.

I didn't expect to see any hummingbirds today because it felt blustery. But, once I began my TCC practice, I noticed a small bird--it had to be a hummer--who lit atop a low-lying branch and paused before, sure enough, flying to its feeder. Nearby I glimpsed a flash of white that metamorphosed into Ms. Chiripa hunkered down in the tall grasses waiting expectantly for an unsuspecting chipmunk.

The wind was strong, the air chilly, so I practiced TCC indoors with a music CD playing in the background. Again, I was astonished to discover how quickly my TCC practice time flew by. And, as usual, I feel better than when I began.

Monday, September 6, 2010

Social Butterfly-cum-T'ai Chi Chih Player

I was a social butterfly this weekend. One visiting friend left this morning after staying Saturday and Sunday nights with us and three other friends arrived about forty-five minutes after her departure. Hmmm. Just enough time for a t'ai chi chih practice between departures and arrivals.

And, indeed, a practice was just what I needed to relax and slow myself down. I admit, sometimes I get into a "hostess with the mostess" persona when I have guests. So taking time out to quiet my mind and relax my need to be all things to all people (based on strong training from my mother during my child- and young adulthood) was a blessing.

I placed myself on the deck under a sunshine-infused sky and, as I moved, purposefully willed myself to s-l-o-w d-o-w-n. It wasn't easy. The wind blew with a vengeance and my immediate surroundings felt as if they were being tossed like a huge chef salad. After some time (10 minutes?) my breathing deepened, my pace slowed, and I was back in the present moment.

Before I made it to the grand finale of my TCC practice, though, a car appeared in the driveway and I was out the door to greet two friends--along with a spouse--who worked on my community college paper, The Echo, when I was editor back in the day (or should I say way back in the day). We hadn't seen each other for 20? 25? close to 30? years???

It was a joy to reconnect and share laughs, stories, pictures, and memories. After a late lunch we rode the ferry over to Madeline Island then back again and they were off, retracing their route toward home.

And now ... I'll return to my t'ai chi chih practice. Hopefully it will replenish some of the energy I invested in two wonderful visits with friends.

Sunday, September 5, 2010


Gorgeous is too plain a word to describe this incredible day. The sun is warm, the air cool, and the quiet-- ahhh, the quiet--is restful and regenerative.

I did my T'ai Chi Chih practice out on the deck before my companions rose for the day. The peace was plentiful! And ... a buzz of activity circled me as well. Two woodpeckers chirped to each other as they climbed a tree trunk. Chipmunks and squirrels scurried around the forest floor briskly performing their winter preparations. And the sun shone with boastful magnificence in anticipation of its soon-to-be journey further south for the season.

Sunlight dapples the forest greenery as the afternoon slips quickly by. I can't help myself, I want to be walking along the lakeshore or forging my way through the forest while the brilliance of this day is still full, warm, and overflowing with energy.

It's time to gather my friends for an outing into nature's grand display. My t'ai chi chih practice was a wonderful entry into the magnificence of this day....

Saturday, September 4, 2010

A Labor of Love

Labor Day Weekend ... the official end of summer. Well, summer's been disappearing for awhile now. The days are growing shorter, of course, but the light is different too; it's shady and shadowy more hours each day.

Today was a flurry of activity as Frances and I prepared for a last-minute visit from a friend. After our friend phoned this morning to confirm that she was headed our way it was off to the market, ready the guest room, and cook and clean....

I slipped my t'ai chi chih practice in right before our guest arrived. It was timely. I felt relaxed and at ease when she pulled into our yard and ready to give myself over to socializing, cooking, and eating from now 'til Monday evening.

While I practiced in the cool shade of early evening, the geese grazed and the cat hunted at the edge of the woods. I felt like I was just one of the animals going about my daily routine. It was comforting to know that each of us was doing what suited us best.... Our own individual Labors of love.

Friday, September 3, 2010

Speaking the Language of the Soul

Just as the weather forecast predicted, temps dipped and rain fell. Today's temperatures--so far--are in the mid-40s and winds are gleefully tossing treetops and branches as leaves twirl wildly.

After a late night spent processing tomato sauce from our fresh-picked garden tomatoes (the sweet kind of sauce, not the spaghetti kind), I began this morning with my freshly-picked TCC practice. It felt good and brought me back to my quiet center.

I'm contemplating silence a lot these days since the topic keeps arising in a variety of contexts. First and foremost, our dear aging dog, Namaste, is losing his hearing. It appears that, as his world grows more silent and his sense of smell--his key signal of imminent danger--remains the same, his fear and vulnerability increase.

We've started using more hand signals with Namaste and increased our touch to provide him with a greater sense of security. But, for this little 10 pound dog who served for years as our No. 1 guard dog, he's experiencing a dramatic change in his role and responsibilities.

A recent post from Daily Good titled "In Pursuit of Silence" highlighted some intriguing quotes and observations about silence as well. From Henry David Thoreau:

          Let us be silent, that we may hear the whispers of the gods.

And from the book, "In Pursuit of Silence: Listening for Meaning in a World of Noise," by George Prochnik:
When we ourselves are in silence, we are speaking the language of the soul.
A review by Megan Buskey in the Wilson Quarterly, Summer 2010, of both the above book and another book, "The Unwanted Sound of Everything We Want: A Book About Noise" (by Garret Keizer) as well as an article published in The New York Times on August 15, 2010, "Outdoors and Out of Reach, Studying the Brain," by Matt Richtel and a similar story aired last weekend on National Public Radio, are compelling me to think seriously about writing a longer blog at Under the Forest Canopy in the very near future.

In the interim let me just note that I benefit greatly from the silence that flows from my daily T'ai Chi Chih practices as well as my life here in the woods. For each of these quiet moments I am exceedingly grateful....

Thursday, September 2, 2010


I began my TCC practice today with a single purpose in mind: to gain more clarity about a complicated--to me!--conundrum in my life. My practice succeeded: It helped me to relax the repetitive, circular thinking that held me hostage.

Of course, I still don't know the answer to my query but, amazingly enough, that answer doesn't matter as much anymore. I feel better about myself ... more relaxed, centered, and less ill at ease. And so it goes....

Today's reading in 365 Tao ("Garden") was helpful too (p. 245):
     Those who follow Tao say that all reality is like a series of nesting circles: microcosms within macrocosms. What is close at hand is a microcosm of what is far away. Why search all over for Tao? It is all contained in the seeds of the gourd growing in your garden.
My own garden yields ripe tomatoes every day as a result of the recent spate of intense heat and sunshine. Today was an exception as rain fell, then stopped, then fell again. The change in weather was a welcome respite from too many days of high heat and humidity. Now, if I could only find my answer in the seeds from one of those tomatoes....

Wednesday, September 1, 2010

A Gratitude Attitude

The T'ai Chi Chih Teachers' Conference this year (our 25th!) focused on gratitude. To elaborate on that theme teachers were asked to bring their favorite quotes about gratitude and share them with conference attendees.

In addition, a group of Minnesota TCC teachers created a ritual about gratitude and invited us each to make a beaded bracelet as we thought about what we were grateful for in our own TCC classes and practices. We then hung our gratitude-infused bracelets on pins stuck in the wall (the pins were pre-arranged in a pattern that spelled out the word "gratitude") and, after our final TCC practice Sunday morning, we each selected a bracelet out of a bowl to carry home with us. What a wonderful symbolic gesture!

Gratitude can be a slippery topic. Often we have plenty of reasons to be grateful for our lives. Instead we focus on our frustrations, disappointments, disabilities, ... you name it. In Sr. Antonia's September Newsletter she shared a quote by Paul Reps that Justin Stone, TCC's founder, uses in various settings: How grateful I am with no thing to be grateful for. Justin then added that he didn't say, "with nothing to be grateful for."

Sister then quoted from a talk Justin gave to the 2005 T'ai Chi Chih Teachers' Conference in Albuquerque, NM. He said, in part:
... it's very easy to have a good life. One word tells you how: Gratitude. If you live with gratitude and express the gratitude, you can't be unhappy. You can't be unhappy and feel gratitude. The two don't go together. I say (many times during the day) what I'm grateful for. True gratitude doesn't come from getting a new car, or from when something good has happened. That lasts two or three days before it wears off. True gratitude and bliss are synonymous. I would say from my experience: If you're looking for a good life, be grateful.... I believe that teachers who've taught you T'ai Chi Chih have helped your lives very greatly. Do you agree? If you're doing T'ai Chi Chih and getting the benefits of it, it's not hard to be grateful. That's the secret of a happy life....
Yes. I am grateful for the life I lead here in the middle of the woods. Grateful for the trees that surround me. For my partner and the animals that share my life. For the beautiful plants and wildflowers that gather 'round me in ever-widening circles. I welcome the peace and silence that grows within me when I continue to return, again and again, to my t'ai chi chih practice. I am grateful, as well, for my t'ai chi chih students who continually teach me.

So, too, am I grateful for today's TCC practice on the deck in the middle of glowing green light. It was so silent--not even a single puff of breeze lifted a leaf--that I could hear the sounds of silence....