The Yoga of Experience – Native Language

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You never forget your first language(s).

I got back from California two weeks ago. I’m not sure why it’s taken me so long to get back to the typewriter, so to speak. If I had to pick a reason – OK, if I had to pick two reasons, they would be:
1. Craft ADD. I love making stuff. With my hands. It’s fun. Sewing, knitting, crochet, making products to use on your beautiful skin. It’s in my blood, making things. Just ask my Dad. So I’ve been busy making stuff.
2. Fear of creative expression. Weird for someone who claims to be a writer, right? And even though I’ll be the first person to demand that the definition of “being human” includes the words “creative expression is one of the core tenets of being human,” it’s sometimes is easier to ignore this and just binge watch Cheers, than to put myself out there and let the inside out.
And sometimes, it’s just hard to find the right words.

I had a fantastic time during my three-week SoCal vacation. Duh! I practiced yoga in Long Beach. I read a PG Wodehouse book (among others). I walked on the beach (a lot). I ate sushi, I bought Vans, and I drank a lot of coffee. I enjoyed doing things and visiting with people, and I enjoyed doing absolutely nothing other than feeling the sunshine on my bare skin. Oh man, I love that place so much.
Even though I’ve been gone a looooooong time, Southern California still feels like home when I’m there. Everything just seems so relaxed, and there’s pretty much at least one of every kind of person you can imagine – everything goes. So it’s really easy to feel like I fit in. Especially in Sunset Beach. I can’t even imagine how much money you would need to actually live there these days, but nonetheless, the atmosphere is relaxed and unpretentious.
When I arrive at the beach, I fall into a wonderful sort of familiarity that feels so natural. I don’t have to try to do or be anything. It all just is, and it’s always exactly as it should be. The waves keep coming, the sun sets over Rancho Palos Verdes, the cargo ships wait their turn to dock in San Pedro. My grandmother’s house still stands – empty now, but still full of memories tucked into every corner.

On this trip, I really connected with Seal Beach, too. It’s sooo cute! I love it there. My Dad told me that he and my Mom were living in Seal Beach when I was born. They rented a house, because my Dad had gotten a teaching job nearby. I didn’t really know that before; my Mom never told me much about her time with my dad. But realizing they lived there together, in that cute, cute place…no wonder I love it there too. No wonder it’s so familiar, somehow.
I will buy a house there someday. It might end up being a teeny tiny house, but it will happen. I’ll have a short walk to the beach, and a short walk to Main Street where I can meet my friends and have a coffee and watch the tourists. You can come visit anytime.

seal beach pier
seal beach pier

I started and ended my trip to SoCal with a visit at my Dad’s house, in the foothills of La Crescenta. It’s kind of a nice way to bookend the trip – a way to acclimate. When I first get to California, a visit with family makes the transition to the culture a little easier. And on the way back home, it’s a good transition back to reality. Because if I had to leave Sunset Beach and drive straight to LAX to get on a plane back to Tulsa, I would cry for three straight weeks.
And of course, it’s also nice to see my Dad.
After years and years of living with women, my Dad has gotten pretty good at listening, without necessarily offering solutions. Occasionally a logical (to him) solution does pop out – and that’s ok – but he’s a good listener. It’s really nice to be able to talk to him about things that I’m learning or discovering or working on. He knows my language, he understands what I’m saying. And one thing he does do, without fail, is call me on my shit.
He listens so closely, that he challenges me when I speak in opposition to who I am working on becoming (he’ll probably have an issue with how I worded that just now, but I can’t think of any other way to say it, sorry Dad!). He challenges me when I express doubt or negativity, after declaring that I am no longer going to express doubt or negativity. He requires me to clarify my thoughts and intentions. He knows my language, because I am his daughter. No one else is left on this earth who can know me like that. There’s a sense of familiarity between us that I sometimes still marvel at to this day, since we didn’t spend much time together when I was growing up.

So as I understand the language of Southern California, so does my Dad understand the language that is me. I am fluent in Californian, I am fluent in Neil. Perhaps they are the same? Either way, I will craft something good out of this language, and it will be amazing, and it will be mine, and my Dad will love it.

ace and dad
ace and dad
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Visions.

I had a big ol’ blog post ready to put up, detailing the busy week I had last week. In fact, I actually put it up last night. But I took it down this afternoon. It read more like a grocery list, than anything that would actually convey to you what kind of week I had. So I’ll try again.
Last week was busy. It was my birthday. I did some yoga. I did some work. I drank a lot of coffee and I talked to lots of people. It was pretty great, really.
The thing that stands out most about last week was that I had three very distinct, intense visions. The first one was early on the day of my birthday last Tuesday, before I got up. The second came at the beginning of a yoga class on Friday, and the third was yesterday, during a yoga class. They say that stuff can come up, when you do yoga. Word.
On my birthday, I was lying in bed, it was dark and I was floating in and out of sleep. I suddenly identified a big knot in my stomach (if you know me at all, you know that PTSD has left my stomach functioning at a less than optimal level these last few years). In my vision, I untied the knot, and it came apart into lots of thin, colorful ribbons. The ribbons then floated and twisted around until they formed a thick, strong tree trunk. Instead of leaves, the tree was growing money. And pencils.
I can’t tell you how incredible it felt to finally untie this knot. That image will stay with me and I’ve already gone back to it so many times in the last week. Also money growing on my own strong tree is pretty damn cool too. And the pencils? Let’s face it. My “dream vocabulary” isn’t that complicated.
The second vision I had was of a warrior woman. Ach, I almost hesitate to explain it much, because it sounds so cliché. But to be honest, it was an important vision. I think most of my life I’ve been stuck in a sort of gender-neutral purgatory. When I was little, my mom would always lament the fact she couldn’t ever get me into a dress. But at the same time she sent the message that it wasn’t really ok to be a woman. To be a woman meant being helpless or overly vulnerable, which inevitably leads to being hurt. So cover that part up because it’s dangerous.
Well what if you could learn to access the best parts of your feminine and masculine traits? What if it’s really ok to be strong and powerful AND feminine? And what does it mean to be a warrior, anyway? The answers to these questions are different for me than they are for you. I’m still working on mine.
The third vision was during a Yin Yoga class and while I was holding a pose I suddenly had the clear image of fire. Flames everywhere, in my body. But they weren’t dangerous, they weren’t going to kill me. They were burning away everything that I no longer needed to carry around with me. It was a purification.
So – the knot has been untied, the tree is planted and is flowering, the Woman Warrior is in the house and the flames are burning away that which is no longer needed. Holy Smokes.

I get the distinct impression that now is not really a time for action. It is a time to listen, reflect, and take stock. It’s also time to be talking to a lot of people. I’m taking every opportunity I can to meet up with people and make connections. I’m meeting new people, reconnecting with old friends and getting to know people I’ve never known that well a little better. Talk to people. You never know what interesting things you might learn, or what cool stories you might hear – or where your next art project or job might come from.
I’ve also been thinking about this blog. So far it’s always been a place where I just toss up whatever I’ve been thinking about – including short (short) stories, haiku, record reviews, coffee adventures. I think I’ll still do those things, but I’ll also make more of an effort to document this latest chapter of my life in a little more detail.
I don’t think I could have done any of this – quit my job, live in uncertainty and like it, have the freedom to venture out – if my mom were still alive. I feel bad about that. But I also know that’s just me. I think she’s ok with it, wherever she is, and she’s telling me to get over it already. She’s saying, get over it and go have a good cup of coffee and DO things. Word indeed.

 

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the family cheesecake recipe.

I like cheesecake. Even though it doesn’t have any chocolate in it (my usual dessert prerequisite), really like it. I’m kind of a cheesecake purist – I’m not a big fan of the “toasted marshmallow s’mores galore” or the “white raspberry truffle” kind of thing. A little fruit is good, sure – but I think it’s more difficult to make a plain one. Think about it – if you use fewer ingredients, and don’t cover them up with the flavors of peanut butter, chocolate-chip cookie dough, or Snickers bars, you’d better get those few ingredients right because you’re gonna be tasting them, and nothing else.
When a few ingredients are put together with care and love and precision, great things can happen. I’m a fan of that approach.
I have a cheesecake recipe that I inherited from my Mother. Or at least I thought it was from her…
She had made this recipe for my entire life, and for some reason I had thought that she picked it up when she was an Au Pair in Switzerland, at the age of 16. I always thought it was a “French” style cheesecake. Whatever that means!
After she passed away several years ago, I finally got around to asking my Dad about the recipe, and if he knew where she had gotten it. They had been divorced for a very long time, but I thought maybe he could remember. And he did – as it turns out, it was actually his recipe! He had taken some sort of hippie cooking class in San Francisco and this recipe was from the class. Beyond that, we don’t really know anything about the recipe. It could be an Icelandic-style cheesecake as much as it could be a French-style one. Regardless of its origin, it’s a very unique recipe. I can promise you, you’ve never had a cheesecake like this. It’s light and fluffy – not dense like a NY-style cake, not gelatinous like a no-bake. And it’s not that sweet. But it’s so, so good.
I have fond memories of making this recipe with my Mom. We would make it for holidays, birthdays, special dinners with friends or family, or sometimes just because. I can see her mixing the dough for the crust by hand, and meticulously pressing it into the springform, bit by bit. I can see her folding the egg whites into the cheese filling. I can remember pressing the extra dough into flattened circles and making cookies with it. And I can remember, of course, getting to “clean” the spoons and the bowl… We would even cheat and have it for breakfast pretty often – we could rationalize this because, well, it had eggs in it…
So now I am the keeper of the recipe. I don’t think my Dad has a copy of it, he doesn’t make it himself. I have given the recipe to one other family member, and other than that, I’m it.
Every time I make it, I see my mom making it, and it’s like we are still making it together. I love that. And knowing that it actually came from my Dad – I love that too. Even though we never spent much time together as a family, it’s like we can still come together over a recipe. A few simple ingredients, put together with love, to produce something so very wonderful.

 

pressing the crust into the springform
pressing the crust into the springform
getting ready to fold in the egg whites
getting ready to fold in the egg whites

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

right outta the oven...
right outta the oven…
...and after it's fallen. tip: it always tastes better the next day.
…and after it’s fallen. tip: it always tastes better the next day.
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advent.

Today is the 3rd Sunday of Advent – there are four of them leading up to Christmas. It is the third one, and I still don’t have a single holiday decoration up anywhere in this house. I feel kind of bad about it. But in my defense – I’ve been busy.
For the most part, I’m OK with not having anything out yet. I feel like my Mom would be disappointed with me, but you know, she’ll just have to deal with it, wherever she is. This is the first year since she passed away that the Christmas season is not sucking for me. The first year I don’t have PTSD, the first year I’m not filled with a now-familiar sense of dread from looking back to the events of 4 years ago. I feel sad, and I miss my Mom, but it is finally, for the most part, OK. And maybe because of that, I don’t know – I am OK with celebrating Christmas a little differently this year and not having it all over the house.
My Dad sent me the following piece of writing this week. It was part of something he wrote as a tribute to my mom, in March of 2012, one year following her death. He wrote something, as did I, my Aunt Deepti, and my Mom’s brother, Jan. I would point you in the direction of that original post, but I managed to permanently blow away a huge chunk of my blog a while back, and I can’t find it. (I hope I have that post somewhere on my desktop though – it was some beautiful writing by all 4 of us, I have to say).
My parents were divorced when I was so young, that I don’t have any memories of all three of us together as a family. But he wrote this lovely piece about something he remembered about their life together, before I was born. I can picture it so clearly in my imagination…
Early in our marriage Monika asked to make a little table stand for an Adventskranz. The stand had a star-shaped base with a tapering, 16 inch mast, at the top of which I cut and secured a small 5 pointed star. I painted it all a warm Venetian red. 
On the day before the first day of Advent, from the base of the top star, Monika would suspend, by four red ribbons, the Krantz that she had made by binding fir branches in a circle. It hung as a wreath, parallel to the table just above the base. On the Krantz she then would attach four, white styrene candles, equally spaced. Atop the upper star, she secured a little painted angel, a German, folk art angel made of turned wood.
The next day, the first Sunday of Advent, she would cover our small breakfast table with a folk tablecloth, set the Adventskranz in the center and the Adventskalender to one side. Then, she would set out two coffee cups, on saucers (not Meisen, though if we had had them, they would have been), and brew a pot of coffee. When the coffee was ready, the first of the four candles would be lit and we would sit down and enjoy the special space we had created. She would have stories to tell of other Advents, and at some point we would punch open the first day of the Adventskalender and share the chocolate that we knew was concealed inside. 
There was a window for each of the days of Advent, so we celebrated each day with a little chocolate, and on the remaining 3 Sundays we sat with coffee and lit an additional candle.
I am grateful for my parents. Happy Advent to you, too.
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