Wednesday, April 29, 2009


This is, I think, my favourite time of year; the short period when the buds on the trees are just beginning to unfurl into leaves, and everywhere I look I see shades of light green infusing the landscape.  This picture (taken last night on the mud flats) hardly does justice.  (Aside:  just to the left of this shot, there were two kids having sex in a field!  I wondered if they knew about the fertility rites that took place at this time of year long ago in northern Europe.  This being New Paltz, probably they did.  I should have thanked them for ensuring good crops in the coming year.)

Tuesday, April 28, 2009

Incense and Peppermint Chamomile

Last Monday, I taught two moderate classes at Jai Ma. And on Friday, I taught a demo Level I class across the river in Lagrange. The incense was so thick in the Lagrange studio, I smelled like I'd fallen into a vat of nag champa after Friday's class. Apart from that, I really liked the studio. It's in a strip mall! What a perfect place for a yoga studio!

The more I teach, the more comfortable I feel doing it; but I'm still having difficulty sleeping the night before.

I'm going to be teaching a class on pranayam, yogic breathing, on 13 May. Partly I'm doing this because I never seem to have as much time as I'd like during normal classes to teach and practice pranayam. Partly I'm doing this because I want more experience teaching, and I'm not getting it by subbing alone, and I don't feel ready to commit to a regular weekly class. At least not a regular weekly asana class. So... we'll see how this goes. Maybe if there's interest, I'll start teaching a pranayam class on a regular basis. Stranger things have happened.

I spent Saturday morning spreading manure on my third of the garden plot that I'm sharing with T and B. Does it say something about my feelings about my day job that I chose to spend my off time shovelling horse shit? My original plan was just to plant cheese pumpkins (which are way, way, way superior to sugar pumpkins for pie making), but I think I might plant pole beans as well. It'd be nice to have enough to freeze and enjoy throughout next winter, rather than just getting the meagre allotment of beans from my CSA share. I remembered on Saturday that I have a bag of chamomile seeds from a few years back, so I'll probably scatter those around too.

Thursday, April 23, 2009

Pet peeves

Three linguistic pet peeves:

  • Using quotation marks to provide emphasis. Why do people do this? Quotes are for verbatim transcriptions of speech or writing, or to uniquely identify a specific phrase or word (as demonstrated in the following item). If you feel you must show emphasis in your writing, use underlining, boldface, or italics. Or, if you aspire to even higher echelons of writing quality, find a way to show emphasis through word choice and arrangement.

  • Prefixing the last item in a list with the word "even." This should only be done if there is some sort of poignancy or amazement value that you wish to underscore in the last list item. If the last list item doesn't stand out any more than any of the other list items do, don't prefix it with "even."

  • Passive voice. There are some work related tasks which require me to write passively. I hate it. It goes against everything I've ever been taught about writing.

  • I don't know why this bee is in my bonnet today. I know that my own writing isn't perfect. For example, I tend to start sentences with conjunctions (in my defence, though, I see this done in the New York Times almost every day). And I sometimes end sentences with prepositions (as my sister pointed out to me yesterday).

    Wednesday, April 15, 2009

    funny story

    So, at the museum of nature in Ottawa, we were looking at the arctic exhibit - a display of a polar bear and her cub, and a seal poking its head through the ice. Most everyone else at the museum was speaking French. I kept wondering why I was hearing all these little kids around me swearing, and then I remembered that the French word for seal is "phoque."

    Monday, April 13, 2009

    Emotional landscapes

    I'm back from my weekend trip to Ottawa. Had a pretty good time - walked around Parliament Hill, through the Byward Market, went to the nature museum, finally saw Passchendaele. Ate way too many jelly beans. And I discovered that Canadians take Good Friday way, way, way seriously; NOTHING was open on Friday. I mean, Wal-Mart was closed. Wal-Mart! Yes, that Wal-Mart!

    On the drive north, T and I talked about emotional landscapes; how the mental maps that we make of a place do not necessarily correspond to the dry, two dimensional images that we find on Google Earth; memories and perceptions colour the map and warp distances and sizes. This evolved into a discussion of the slippery slope of assigning our own perceptions to places as if they reflected inherent values. We were driving through an area of northern New York with very little in the way of industry or economic opportunity of any sort. The first few times I drove through it (many years ago), I thought about how depressed the area was and how depressing it must be to live there. Eventually, though, I began asking myself how I knew that. I was jumping to an unwarranted conclusion; I simply don't know the experience of the people who live there. I've never met them. I've never asked.

    One of my yoga teachers talks about the Sanskrit concept of shri; life-affirming. A daisy sprouting through a crack in the pavement. Butterflies on a battlefield. We tend to find happiness, beauty, joy in the least likely places.

    Sunday, April 5, 2009

    Rolling the hard six

    So... after a few months of renewed communication via email, I met with my father yesterday morning for a bike ride. We rode the rail trail out to the bridge in Rosendale; spent about two hours together. It was the first time since 2002 that I'd spent any time with him. I asked him about his job and about his siblings, and he told me a little about his health as well (his prostate cancer responded very well to treatment, and he's free of cardiovascular disease - a concern, because it runs in his family). The only question he asked me during our time together, on the other hand, was how my company keeps track of me while I'm telecommuting; i. e., how they know I'm actually working. It really felt like a continuation of the last conversation we had in 2002; him talking about himself and his beliefs and interests, and me listening. For a while yesterday evening, I considered the possibility that perhaps he was just trying to avoid any sensitive topics (and maybe this was true); but he really didn't ask me anything at all. It wasn't surprising, but it was disappointing.

    I gave him my sister's email address, as she asked me to, and he seemed happy for (and surprised by) that. Perhaps she will be willing to come with me if I meet with him again.

    I don't know if I'm being too harsh on him or missing something or jumping to unwarranted conclusions. It wouldn't be the first time I misread a situation. But I don't think I'm wrong here to let my memories of the past colour my experience of the present. He doesn't seem much different from who I remember, and, well, I guess that's what I have to accept if I want to continue having contact with him.

    Thursday, April 2, 2009

    New Paltz moment

    At the counter of the Muddy Cup this afternoon, patiently waiting for my chamomile. Struck by a sudden odour, I look behind me. Dreadlock guy. In chain mail. With a dog. Dog is not wearing chain mail. I sit down with my tea; he asks for a big cup of water. Margaret must be in a good mood, she gives it to him without any guff. I figure it's for his dog. Minute or two later, I'm gazing out the window. He's outside, looking at his reflection in the glass, moving a piece of plastic rhythmically over his face. I look closer. It's a disposable razor. He got the water so he could shave himself.

    Still not sure what to make of this.