In week four of The Artist’s Way, Julia Cameron asks you to give up reading. To be honest, I’ve been looking forward to this. I quit Twitter last summer because I wanted to focus on creating instead of consuming. But I’ve fallen into some bad habits lately. I’m still reading books, but I’m also looking at the Internet too much. More than I want to be. I’ve been using television as a distraction. So I’m using this week as an excuse to do a media blackout.
No Internet no television no music no reading. I plan to go to work, write at Starbucks, get outside as much as the weather allows, do yoga, meditate, just be. If I like it, I might even go to the end of March. I’ve been reading Emily Carr since December, and I want to write a book. The 72nd anniversary of her death is in March, but a more likely deadline is June, halfway through the year. If I can write a book for June, then a book for December, that’ll feel like a good year
My plan for today was to clean up my pots on my patio and get my seeds into dirt. I have two long windowsills that face south and get a lot of sun. It’s still cold outside, colder than usual, but I don’t want to wait to get started on my garden. Then I woke up to snow this morning. Actual snow on the ground. I knew it was going to get cold enough for snow last night, but I didn’t expect it to stick.
I shouldn’t be surprised. We’ve been having such an odd winter. When Vancouver hosted the winter Olympics in 2010, we didn’t have enough snow for the snowboarding events. So far this year, we’ve had more snow than I’ve ever seen in my life. Something has definitely changed. Even scarier is how much it’s changed in the 35 years I’ve been alive.
So I’m spending the morning indoors, soaking beans to get them ready for the crockpot, tending to the pans of sea water slowing turning to salt in my oven, watching the last two games of the Canadian women’s curling championship. I made pancakes for breakfast and ate them with peanut butter. I have a big mug of Earl Grey tea with cinnamon-infused soy. I might go for a walk to the beach later. But this is a good day, too.
Tonight is a new moon, and I’m thinking about new projects. Three days left in February, and more than 20 pages to fill in my notebook, but this is what I do. I fill a notebook every month. It’s nice to have the weekend off from yoga. I wrote my three morning pages, then I walked down to the beach and wrote some more while I ate lunch and watched the ocean. I took the bus all the way up the hill into town to get coffee. Anybody interested in the Starbucks Writing Club?
It was sunny in the morning (but cold). It was raining as I walked home. As soon as I walked through the door, the hail started. Then the sun came out again. Life goes like that, and my best days are the ones when I remember.
Tonight, I taught my first yoga class. Rather, my first class to a group of strangers, a high school boys basketball team. It feels like I’ve been planning this four-week series for months. I did research about basketball and yoga, the best poses for the sport, famous players who practice. Our schedule was thwarted by snow storms and school closures. Finally, we started tonight. I went in with a plan.
Then I threw it out and just taught from my mat. I looked around the gym, and I could see what their bodies needed. I became a yoga teacher tonight when I sat up there and just knew what pose I had to teach next. As many times as my teachers told us it would happen, I didn’t quite believe it until tonight. I’m already a teacher in my day job. That wasn’t what I needed from yoga teacher training. I needed the language, the vocabulary, the knowledge. Now I know I can walk into any yoga class and teach what my students need.
Now I’m excited for what’s next.
I want to be better at blogging. I’m great at writing in my notebook. I carry it (and my pencil case) wherever I go. I even started doing Morning Pages again two weeks ago. I borrowed The Artist’s Way from the library and decided to do the thing for real this time. Today is the first day of Week 3.
It’s perfect timing, really. I’m never happier than when I have a project, and my yoga teacher training course is nearly done. There’s a lot of work left to do: a four-class series, anatomy final exam, holistic class evaluation, short essay, as well as the required first aid course to come after. But by this time next month, I’ll be done. I started in September, and I can’t believe it went so fast.
On to the next project. The Artist’s Way might seem a little flighty from the outside, but as someone who has had a fairly regular writing practice for more than 15 years, I know what you can learn by paying attention. It’s only week three, but things are happening already, and the only explanation that makes sense is that the universe is paying attention, too.
My daily yoga practice recently has been a gentle yoga practice. In the morning, I stretch while I’m still in bed, on my back, slow circles of my wrists and ankles, spinal twist to the left, then right. When I get up, it’s a full body stretch, up to the sun (even on grey winter days) and down to the ground (or carpet). It might sound simple, but simple is what’s working for me right now.
Small goals are the best goals. I have big ideas, but they only work in my head. Life works best for me if I break it down into the smallest piece. I know that if I try to run through an hour of yoga (including pranayama, asana, meditation), I won’t make it. I’ll find an excuse to give up. But if I can do a few asanas in the morning, five minutes of meditation during the day, a pranayama routine before bed–if I can break it down into small goals instead of one big one, I know I can do it. I can do more.
My favourite thing before I go to sleep is ten minutes on my bed with my legs up the wall. It’s one of the core restorative poses, a way to rebalance your circulation, and calm your nervous system. Sometimes, I read while I’m lying there. I could almost fall asleep. It’s a single pose, but it makes a big difference.
It’s just a cup of coffee. My regular drink at Starbucks is a tall blonde roast with room for soy. If I’m getting it to go, I bring my own mug–printed with yellow bananas on a pink background–but a cup of coffee is more than a cup of coffee when I have the time to sit down and enjoy it.
My new thing is leaving the house by noon. I don’t have to because I don’t work until 3:30. But if I don’t, the days slip away so fast. During the colder months, it’s harder to find places to go that don’t cost money.
So this $2.26 cup of coffee buys me a place to be, a conversation with a stranger, a plan. Today I’m working on a list of books I’d like to publish this year. It’s small, but that’s how all big change starts.
Today is a holiday in Canada–called Family Day in BC–because we decided the long winter stretch between New Year’s and Easter was too long. In a happy coincidence, we’ve had the warmest, sunniest weather this weekend since winter began.
The heartiest herbs have survived this crazy cold winter in my grandma’s garden, so I have bay leaves, sage, and rosemary to dry. The blueberries in the freezer are from Grandpa’s friend’s farm in Richmond. The peaches and strawberries come from Keromeos, a few hours east where the best fruit in the country grows. The raspberries are out beside the fence, and the apples are from the tree at the edge of the garden.
Some gets canned; most goes straight into the freezer. When there’s no more room, Grandma pulls out as many bags of fruit as will fit in her big pot and cooks it all down into what she calls “mixed berry jam”, though there’s a little bit of everything in it. Big chunks of fruit, and it’s a deep purple colour.
It’s a lifetime of summer days, hot sun, long hours, heavy buckets, dirty hands, burned noses, and pie with whipped cream in a repurposed jelly jar.
The roundness of the world is true! and the ends meet.
In 1930, two German artists came to Victoria, via New York, to visit Emily Carr. This is a quote she attributes to one of them, Gerhard, in her story “The Round World.” Emily was born in 1871 and died in 1945, so she lived through both world wars, though far away from the action. Canada was a member of the allies, because we were still a part of England, but Emily had no male relatives left. War must have felt very far away to her.
We were People and the world was round. There were no seams in her. She was all of a piece.
It took a favourite preacher with a radio show for Emily to finally buy a radio for her home. She writes about the novelty in her journal, and to those of us living today, it sounds hilarious. She wasn’t afraid of the thing, but it was strange, even for a woman like Emily who did most everything in her life differently. It brought the world closer at the exact moment hers was growing smaller–because of age, health, and deaths in her family.
Even after her radio brought news of World War II, Emily continued to believe in the roundness of the world. She painted and wrote so we could see it, too.