This morning we woke to rain and then watched snow waft from the heavens in big full fluffy flakes. It was the occasion for laundering bed linens and reading the New York Times (paper version) and considering going to Trinity Presbyterian Church in Prescott (until seeing it was a Requiem and we were in too happy a mood for that) and grocering and trying to see Alice in Wonderland which sold out before we arrived. And updating my blog.
I open with such quotidian amusements lest I distract you from the realities of life here by posting Allen’s extraordinary pictures and writing mostly about weekends. Go ahead and brew yourself a pot of herbal tea, or bring your coffee carafe nearby – -I’m in a mood to write a while.
The morning after my last post, Allen took this picture from our front door while I sat cross legged on the emerald green carpet of our singular classroom. We think it publishable:
Meanwhile, I was printing and palpating the anterior hip flexors of whichever partner I found that day, and then finished my Swedish massage class (you might hear the Hallelujah chorus breaking out right here in the middle of Lent and everything!)
I’ve never imagined so much water in the middle of a desert as we are seeing out here. It’s great for Allen’s skiing endeavors. An aside from me and my thoughts: on my clinic days, Allen goes to Snowbowl and skis. They are expecting 8 inches tonight! I hear stories about the characters on the ski lift: some are picking up their kids at noon on Wednesday because school is out early on Wednesdays in Flagstaff. Others are in their 20s and carrying on incessantly about which cell phone is the best and which ringtones were recently downloaded, and a retired couple from Phoenix scoping out slopes in the West. Allen and I are competing for character sketches – he on the lift and me in clinic. So far, he is winning. But not by much.
Last weekend we visited Wupatki National Monument. It is large in every sense of the word. There are Sinagua ruins one can scramble about on and see incredible views. We think ourselves to be spiritual kin to these ancient ones from the 1400s – -they loved “king of the mountain”. They built ‘pueblos’ which Allen calls ‘condos’. These particular ones were also inhabited by ‘white’ people who were working for the national parks. The displays told of one woman in particular who, during the Great Depression, accepted a proposal of marriage and moved into a room with a ‘haul your own water once each week’ stipulation. She had a very sunny kitchen through the opening in the brick wall and from the writing quoted in the displays, an equally cheery disposition. Here are our pictures of the views around her room (for which they were charged $10 per month):
This is actually a picture of the “pueblo” of which one room is the one above mentioned.
We got to scramble about a number of rooms that afternoon, and then headed home to relax and prepare for the 100% chance of rain forecast for the next day.
We opted to head south to the City (called the Valley out here) to see the Frank Lloyd Wright house and visit the Phoenix museum of art.
Taliesen West is built into the side of a mountain. The buildings were designed to work with the landscape and in our view, Wright was remarkably successful at his endeavor. I thought often of my brother, Carlton, who has articulated ideas of becoming an architect and who has effectively maneuvered his vision into a ‘green’ environmentally respectful contracting business in Asheville. Taliesen was an inspiration to we who might consider how we live, the various aspects of one’s footprint, and the beauty of simplicity and efficiency in design.
This is what I am learning about the human body. It is unbelievably efficient and no action or reaction seems wasted. I am learning muscle by muscle which actions each performs, the location of its partner in action, where it begins and where it inserts and the various chemical exchanges required to make a muscle contract or relax.
Last week was my first week of ‘clinic’. We welcome members from the community into a crowded room with too many tables and too many students and little air circulation. They come with smiles and pay a reduced fee and climb on our tables and offer their bodies to us for our ‘practice’. I was at ease welcoming them and remember the many cold calls I took in my hospital chaplaincy days. But I was not prepared for the profound humility I feel when facing them, relaxed under a sheet on a table, hopeful that I might be able to relieve that shoulder tension, or address the pain of fibromyalgia, or just listen to their stories.
I notice the difference between their initial presentation — whether with frazzled hair, or well manicured face or packing heat — and the landscape of the bodies before me. Each is so uniquely different, holding tension in a different place, relaxing beneath my fingers at a different pace, rolling hills, gentle pools, stiff or supple. One of my teachers told me that she believed our bodies were outward expressions of our inner spiritual lives. I remember this often in class and in clinic. I feel a profound gratitude for their trust and willingness to get a somewhat complete massage with sometimes incomplete strokes. I notice I am excited to see who will come to me next, telling what stories and teaching me which lessons. They are the most generous people I’ve encountered in school.
At the Museum of Art, we caught a special touring exhibit of Ansel Adams complete with photographs of people, architecture, and National Parks. I was most struck by the subtle clues of this young man finding a spot of beauty and waiting. And waiting. And waiting until the right light and the right elements lined up for ‘the shot’. I wonder at his patience. I wonder at his artistry. For Ansel Adams this was a spiritual journey. Sometimes I think writing this blog is mine, though I require more practice and discipline.
In the current issue of The Sun there is an interview with Tim Farrington in which he cleverly compares writing and spiritual practice. I was moved by the comparison. “Writing and spiritual practice both involve a disciplined, committed, and protracted effort to bring ourselves into line with a reality that transcends the ego. Both processes rely on a kind of grace that emerges from a wholehearted engagement with truth….. Any spiritual discipline worth its salt should lead to a more loving, compassionate, realistic engagement with the world. Any authentic writing practice should lead to deeper insights into the human condition” p. 7 of the March 2010 edition of the Sun.
After Ansel Adams inspired us beyond words, we trekked back to Prescott and I headed back to class. This was the week of Reflexology. To be frank, it was a huge relief to get a break from stripping in the class and climbing on the tables under sheets and to just lie there with my socks off. We learned the ‘ingham method’ of reflexology and noted how the reflex points on the foot are a map of the human body. When I asked about the methodology used to figure out that the lungs are across the ball of the foot and the kidneys are in the arch of the foot, I was told it was subjectively done and to ‘suspend disbelief’. Which I did as soon as the pituitary gland reflex was ‘flicked’ and I felt it behind my eyes.
If I could believe that prayer worked, I can play around with a reflex map that I can feel in my body. Our teacher is from New York and was quick to laugh and easy with the very intense classroom dynamics. I do regret that we have an anxious person who can be calmed only by running a bit roughshod over instructors and teachers. It has made for a less than cohesive bonding experience and is begining to inspire some dread in my belly on Sunday nights looking ahead to the 30 hours ahead with a cranky, oppositional, unhappy, belicose and vocal woman. One of my new friends out here suggested that whenever the complaining started, I grab my journal and start listing things about my life that I love.
I have quite a list going. And I am starting to look forward to that part of my day. Although, in the interest of full disclosure, I’d rather make such a list in the comfort of my own living room and in the company of Allen while drinking jasmine oolong tea and listening to the new Carrie Newcomer CD.
This weekend we managed two Art Walks. The first was in Flagstaff and we arrived in time to meet some potters and see some amazing photography. We stayed in the Debbie Reynolds room of the Monte Vista hotel right in the middle of things. That room is the color of pepto bismol. Seriously. Very very pink.
We awoke early and headed to Sedona to hike the Little Horse Trail. Allen took the following pictures on our hike:
Then we made our way to the Chapel of the Holy Cross. We sat there looking at a memorial and the many candles being lit. I watched a woman kneeling on the prayer bench in prayer. What I liked best about the whole experience was walking outside and seeing the grandeur of the Sedona mountainside. It literally gave me my breath back. I have been thinking of the Protestant version of church ever since. Our sanctuaries have provided a respite from the woes and struggles of the world, we have valued our pulpits as a place of poetry and hopeful words to inspire one another toward a living God and toward discipline of obedience and trust. In that endeavor, we have embodied a certain belief that God is to be understood, that we are to be humble, and that the world is not the place of God’s working so much as history perhaps. If as much attention were placed to the glory of the exit into the world as is placed on the elements of beauty in the chancel we might hold inspiration longer. These are my simple ruminations upon exiting this very catholic place. I was unimpressed by what the room contained compared to what the one who Creates provided outside of it.
It seemed fitting that the inspiration for this chapel was born in a view of the Empire State Building.
And then we drove to Jerome, a quirky, funky town built into the side of a mountain that was once the home of copper miners. We went by way of another native american monument: Tuzigoot. There one can climb about inside the rooms and touch stoneware and see arrows and note that the excavation and building of this site was provided by the New Deal policies. We wonder how Arizonans feel about this and suspect on the whole a disgruntled sentiment.
I then donned my new Cowgirl boots (pictures forthcoming) and strutted about the streets of Art Walk — chatting up glassblowers and potters and painters and getting a recipe for the best hors d’oeuvres we’ve had in a while. (Upon learning that the melted jarlsberg cheese was ALSO mayonnaise we realized we’d eaten our dinner in the same sitting).
Then we drove down the winding road in the rain back to our 3 room gray walled apartment and collapsed into our own bed, grateful that the landscape before us muted and basic and less fusciafull.
This week I look ahead to neuro muscular therapy, four new community clients, more listing of things I love about my life, and the beginning of our Spring Break. We will be in Utah soaking up the rocks, dirt, and hospitality there. Allen is looking ahead to our taxes, much skiing on his new skiis, photography… and Utah.
We miss you all.