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Culture Update and Workshop

Sunday, January 13th, 2013

Update on my fermentation experiments: (i) the first batch of kombucha was a success! It didn’t suffer from a couple weeks in the fridge. When I got home last Tuesday, I split it into bottles and added some chia seeds. It’s a little too sweet for me, so I decreased the sugar in my current batch. I was worried when the scoby fell to the bottom when I added the tea, but it is back today and fermenting away. (ii) the kefir did not do as well with a couple weeks in the fridge. I blended it with some fruit to make it palatable, but it had some cheesy overtones that I don’t prefer. However, the two batches I have done on the counter since my return taste great. Again, I blended it up with some fruit and have been consuming an awful lot of kefir. This could definitely be a problem — I get a quart of kefir every couple days. It is great for breakfast, but… urp. That’s a lot of kefir. (iii) Need to check on the vinegar again, soon.

This weekend was the David Swenson workshop hosted by the studio where I practice. David and Shelley were very personable and humanized the practice with their own experiences. I liked David’s self-effacing humor, his accommodating attitude toward the practice, and his admonition to give 85-90% in each pose, not 100%, which leaves you exhausted and prone to injury (that sounds familiar). Specific content wise, I found a few good tidbits that I will apply to my practice and was adjusted a few times on a rotate-shoulders-outward theme, that will renew my focus to that aspect of my asana practice. Maybe I have been to too many workshops (or read too many blogs) over the years, but I’m not sure I need more workshops as much as I need a more consistent practice of my own. Nonetheless, it was fun to join with the local yoga community for the weekend (more than 150 people attended some part of the workshop) and to hang out with some of the folks from the shala who I otherwise don’t get a chance to talk to.

My most interesting experience was during the workshop on pranayama. I have learned a little bit of pranayama from past workshops with Nancy Gilgoff and Tim Miller, but I haven’t really incorporated it into my practice consistently. After some discussion of pranayama, we did a short sit with breath retentions after inhale, after exhale, and after both. He was easy on us, and the breath retentions were not too long. Then he had us sit and breath for another, perhaps, 3-5 minutes. While my mind was relatively focused during the actual breathing exercises, I was just a bundle of anxiety and nervous energy during the last 3-5 minutes. Ugh. It was very unpleasant. Now that I think of it, it reminds me of when I was a little fourth-grade Wombat, and my handwriting was terrible, and I received Cs in handwriting. My concerned parents discussed this with me, and I told them that when I tried to concentrate to make my handwriting neater, this little Wombat got a tummy ache. Actually, this little Wombat had the same tense and anxious feeling in her belly trying to make her handwriting neat as she did trying to sit quietly after pranayama.

Test post

Tuesday, June 19th, 2012

Boring old test post

Sunday with Wombat

Sunday, February 26th, 2012

Working this weekend. I need the uninterrupted space of a weekend to immerse myself in an unfamiliar programming language and messy, unplanned data.  My progress on this project has been so slow that I have to be especially kind to myself.

Still there are a few Sunday chores – a quick trip to the granola store adjacent the studio, laundry to hang on the lanai.  I bought myself some sunflowers this morning in celebration of Sunday.

Practice this morning was nice. Although I’ve clung to primary through Janu A for a while, CL says it’s time to make a clean break for second. It’s good to have more energy for karandavasana and handstands. I’ve made this break before, but stuck some primary back in after the travel and inconsistent practice of late summer and early fall. My practice feels more solidly in second now. There little fear left in kapo, and I’m finding more strength in the legs.  This week’s small revelation: gluing the legs together with the inner thighs.  It’s pretty amazing energetically — the legs feel like magnets sticking together, like one energetic unit — until I start shaking so much that it falls apart.  I found it in headstand but need to look for it in shalabhasana and mayurasana.



Tuesday, January 24th, 2012

Sometimes the Wombat burrows herself into a hole of her own making.
Silly Wombat.

Dull & Awkward

Sunday, October 30th, 2011

I supress the churning just below the surface. But the self-absorption makes me dull and awkward. Shake it off, little wombat, you must proceed, head high. It’s too late to turn back now.


Saturday, October 22nd, 2011

I have been attracted to poetry lately.  When the Borders was closing down a couple months ago, I left with three books of poetry:  Mary Oliver, Billy Collins, and an anthology.  I gravitate toward different poetry than I used to.  I loved Robert Frost as a teenager but now the poems remember (can still recite) seem self important and a bit too allegorical.  I was attracted to the strangeness of e e cummings.  But now I prefer the poetry of careful observation.

I heard the poet Marie Howe interviewed and liked this poem.

What the Living Do

Johnny, the kitchen sink has been clogged for days, some utensil probably fell down there.
And the Drano won’t work but smells dangerous, and the crusty dishes have piled up

waiting for the plumber I still haven’t called. This is the everyday we spoke of.
It’s winter again: the sky’s a deep, headstrong blue, and the sunlight pours through

the open living-room windows because the heat’s on too high in here and I can’t turn it off.
For weeks now, driving, or dropping a bag of groceries in the street, the bag breaking,

I’ve been thinking: This is what the living do. And yesterday, hurrying along those
wobbly bricks in the Cambridge sidewalk, spilling my coffee down my wrist and sleeve,

I thought it again, and again later, when buying a hairbrush: This is it.
Parking. Slamming the car door shut in the cold. What you called that yearning.

What you finally gave up. We want the spring to come and the winter to pass. We want
whoever to call or not call, a letter, a kiss — we want more and more and then more of it.

But there are moments, walking, when I catch a glimpse of myself in the window glass,
say, the window of the corner video store, and I’m gripped by a cherishing so deep

for my own blowing hair, chapped face, and unbuttoned coat that I’m speechless:
I am living. I remember you.


Tuesday, September 20th, 2011

The backstreets were hungover this morning. A young red and yellow Spanish football jersey carted away some kegs. I headed out to the mercado for higos, pan, and to the farmacia for something for H. He’s all worn out–was worn out even before out departure– and his throat hurts. At the farmacia, I pointed to my throat and indicated that I would like a spray. I walked out with Anginovag. All of the possible root words are all wrong in English; perhaps it indicates something more appropriate in Spanish. Regardless, it seems to have helped.

My Spanish is quite poor. I have only a single box in my head for romance languages, so French phrases (my only formal language training) come to mind instead of Spanish. Je voudrais…. no no no. Should have refreshed with some Spanish tapes before the trip, but there wasn’t time. It’s all been rather last minute. Luckily, folks here are friendly when you smile sheepishly and mangle their language. Sigh. so American.

H still has work to do, although I’m usually the one to get in trouble for working on vacation. He has a meeting this Friday in Madrid– the excuse for our trip here, along with my travel to Tennessee immediately before (right next door to Spain, compared to my usual digs)– so, he is working away this morning.

A short history lesson from Granada: 1492 is the year that American school children learn that Columbus headed off across the Atlantic in the Nina, the Pinta, and the Santa Maria, but it is also the final year of the Reconquista, when Ferdinando & Isabel completed their conquest of Spain and ejected the last Moorish ruler in Andalusia; it is also the year that marks the beginning of the Inquisition. A trifecta. The brutality of it is shocking and still, unsurprisingly, human.


Monday, August 29th, 2011

I returned from the high seas a week ago. It took a few days to recover. Not so much from the physical work — although the tiredness and vague nausea of the ship heading into the seas the last few days does take it’s toll– but from the social intensity of living in close quarters for a month.

I spent a month carefully curating my interactions with the crew, my colleagues, and my little team. There are so many potential pitfalls, so easy to annoy people, so easy to lose their confidence. It was exhausting to do everything just right. I felt brittle upon my return… carefully constructed but not sturdy.

And this careful construction is just the many tiny bricks of an ego edifice. The curating of my ‘professional’ image. I post about my activities, accomplishments, clever observations. But with all this reporting, feel further from myself upon return. I can feel the change in my body– tightness has returned in the hips and loss of sensation in the thoracic spine. I can feel it in my relationship with H.

Can I do this work without the striving?

Ship Practice

Sunday, July 31st, 2011


No diving today, so I scooted out to the bow of the ship this morning to practice.   Although the ship is large (224 ft), you still feel the rocking of our currently calm seas.  The bow isn’t the most stable part of the ship (that would be the fan tail), but it is the loneliest and smells the least of diesel.   The ship is a rather male-centric environment, so it’s best to find a lonely spot before doing crazy yoga poses that might attract attention.

Boat yoga is a little like yoga for pregnant ladies — you have to keep your feet a bit wider. In samasthi and throughout the standing sequence where you would normally have your feet together or aligned, on the boat, I keep mine a few inches apart. In vinyasa, sometimes the boat rolls you into urdhva mukha svanasana or adho mukha svanasana , and sometimes you have to overcome the roll to get there. Utthita hasta padangusthasana requires a hand for balance.  Low arm balances are, curiously, not a problem: bakasana, titibhasana A are still solid.  High arm balances are tricky:  I tried pincha mayurasana with moderate success,  handstands felt a little scary, and I didn’t bother with karandavasana, which still needs work even on terra firma.   Kapotasana and standing backbends were fine, at least in the easy seas we have right now.

With all the experiment planning, the most difficult part of practice is the spinning mind — this is the same as home, of course.  But, perhaps, worse because of all the protocols and scenarios running through my head.  Being out here is a huge investment in people, time, and resources (the ship costs ~$10000/day to run) so I want stuff to work!  Tomorrow, we will launch a small dive boat off the big boat, go to the site where we deployed an instrument two days ago, carefully anchor (avoiding any coral damage in the protected area), deploy a corded instrument from the boat to the dive site, and run a bunch of experiments.  It’s all a little crazy and exciting, and has lots of details.  Lots and lots of details for me to worry about and so my mind spins…. today it was running around about anchoring scenarios.

But, if all goes well, my mind has mellowed by the end of practice.   Maybe I should get in at least the sun salutes even on dive days…   I suspect the rest of my team might appreciate it.


Wednesday, July 27th, 2011

Mokumanamana is where light and darkness meet, where the living and dead intermingle. The entrance to Po, where mana is strong. This last high island before the volcanoes descend into atolls is the Hawaiian River Styx. A monk seal greets us here. Boobies, frigates, terns, and petrels abound, and their excrement enriches the land, the sea, the air.

A successful day in the field; a day where experience mattered a little, and I had some. This still surprises me. Here’s what we did:

We also saw a little crabby friend.