Saturday, August 25, 2012

A lovely Saturday

   Today I accompanied Liz on a pre-birthday outing (her birthday, not mine!) to Denise Thibault's studio for her monthly 2 1/2 hour workshop, Pune Daze. It is always a wonderful class, and this was even more special because it consisted of the notes she took from Mr. Iyengar's classes at the Iyengar Institute in Pune India during her most recent trip this summer.
  The brand of English spoken by the Iyengars is always interesting and fun. Geeta's command that we must "shoulderize" when we stand on our heads has become de rigeur in the yoga classes I take. How else would one say this, in any sort of an economic fashion, after all? Mr. Iyegnar's latest words of wisdom are more mysterious and quirky. We are constantly reminded to turn back our "knee knobs," to transform the half-moons of our heels into full moons, to make our ankles "sharp." This, according to Mr. Iyengar, must be done "profoundly."
  As we endeavor to decipher these frequently repeated instructions, we focus on the pose, which is no doubt Mr. Iyengar's intention to begin with. We forget that our toes are cramping, our legs are tired, or that we are hungry for lunch.
  Afterwards, we stopped at the Loving Hut, a vegan joint not far from the studio, for a wonderful vegan lunch. If I knew how to make dishes like the ones I get there everyday at home, I would certainly become a vegan! I have the feeling it wouldn't be so simple though.
  Though we went out to eat, I left my teacher Denise with a fresh tomato galette (not vegan but vegetarian) for her own lunch, if her husband hadn't eaten it all up by the time she finishes her pranayama class. I will post a picture of it above.

Tuesday, August 21, 2012

Almost the End

  The end of the semester is swiftly approaching in my online class. I have gotten used to the routine of commenting on the discussions and forums and grading the papers online. In fact, I like that sort of online grading quite a lot. It is a lot easier than hard copy, particularly since the posted grades go straight to the grade center without me having to post them, and the comments are easy to edit or to delete if I change my mind before exiting from the program. I also don't have to worry about my awful hand-writing! I hear though that the school is going to institute vocal comments on the papers. I'm not sure that's the best idea. I don't know that if I were a student, I'd like to hear some teacher's snarky comments expressed in her own voice though the tone might communicate shades of regret,irony, or humor that are not possible to discern otherwise.
  I have enjoyed working with these graduate students and introducing them to the discipline. It was interesting to recall being in their place when I began graduate school, studying critical theory for the first time. I never thought I'd be teaching that class, but I found it came flooding back, and I was lots more ready to do it than I had imagined. Even those theories I had not read because they only came later, after I had graduated, made lots of sense because of the ones I was already familiar with.

Sunday, August 19, 2012

Music in the Dark

   Last night I went to the Great Park, a would-be future Central Park West, in Irvine. They have a free summer concert series, though admittedly they are now charging a $10. parking fee to boost the fund for completing the park, which is apparently and predictably coming in at way over the estimated cost of construction.
  Liz and I went to see Solas, an Irish-American band of some fame. I had never heard of them before, but it was instant engagement for me. I sometimes don't have the patience to sit through concerts. This happens a lot, in fact. But I have always liked traditional Celtic music when it is done well, and it was done well here.
  First, the Great Park is at this point a bit more built up than it was last year, but only a tiny bit. There is now an experimental farm, where vegetables and fruits are grown, much of the yield going to local food banks. There were pumpkins, yellow squash, strawberries, and that was only what I could see from behind the fence, in the half dark.
 A couple of buildings and a merry-go-round have joined the huge orange hot air balloon that sits beside the outdoor stage where the music was performed. As the band played, the balloon rose up and down, tethered to the ground by guide ropes, taking people on rides to see the world from above. I have never gone on one of these rides. The lines are always too long, and my innate fear of heights probably has something to do with it as well. The band leader remarked on this enormous "red planet" that he no doubt could see and feel in the background as the band performed.
 The band is an appealing assortment of personalities, two of whom still live in Ireland (plus the visiting vocalist), while the other two have immigrated to the States. The fiddle player lives in New York (Far Rockaway) while the band leader resides in Philadelphia.
  I particularly was interested in the fiddler, a young woman with strong arms and shoulders and a tendency to hop up and down on stage, her bow strings flying like unruly hair, in all directions. She was the only one of the band who did not sing, at least not in the capacity of lead singer, on any of the songs.
  I don't remember the band members' names, or I would name them here. They are tremendously energetic, as this style of music requires, and I was amazed by their precision, how the music, in all its variety, stopped and started so sharply, as if the notes were chiseled into rock.
  They also write their own music, and the band showcases its members' compositions, which reflect their disparate though harmonious personalities. As a group though, they have recently been engaged in writing a CD about the historical link between Ireland and Montana, where the band leader's great uncle immigrated in the 19th century to work in a copper mine owned by a countryman, and perished a few years later. The family never learned what exactly happened to him.
  After some research and help from fans in Montana, they learned how the uncle had died and where he was buried, and they began writing songs to celebrate not only this man's experience but that of thousands of other Irish immigrants who came to Montana to work in the mines.
  It was perhaps the most memorable evening of music I can recall.


Wednesday, August 15, 2012

Dog Days

   August and September are the hottest times of the year in these parts, as in most. All summer, and it has been a very hot, dry summer for most people I know, I have read others' complaints about the parched grass, the unrelenting heat beating down on them, and felt immune, sheltered by sea breezes and the perpetual early summer of coastal southern California, but now, the heat has arrived, and the heat holds me in its fist, threatening to squeeze me into nothingness, a wet spot on the sheets.
  It is an in-between time, but unlike so many years in my earlier life, when I awaited the beginning of the school year as teacher or student, I am not waiting for anything in particular to unfold. Jewish New Year arrives in mid-September, I believe, and all the color of that season, crowded with celebrations.
  I am looking forward to the heat lifting, to being able to breathe again.

Sunday, August 12, 2012

Crossing Over

  No, no one has died since the last funeral, at least not anyone I know. We have crossed the continent by air though, and it was a lulu of a trip.
  The travel took up two days. First we drove to Charlotte, where we stayed with R's cousin, a oenologist who sells wines to restaurants, stores, and hotels in his region and lives the high life in what a new version of the old south.
  After that trip to another cultural milieu, Jeremy and I flew the first leg of our flight the next morning to Houston. Then things went south, so to speak.
  Our flight was supposed to leave at about 11:30 and get to CA at 1:00 PST. But the flight was first postponed a few times and finally cancelled. After standing in line for nearly 3 hours, we finally got a flight to LAX. It was our own problem how we would get home from there. The airline didn't give us a voucher for land travel, just $10. each to buy dinner at the Houston airport, which yielded only a tremendous case of heartburn.
  J's friend picked us up at the airport, but today, J has to pick up the bags at the airport here. Our bags went there without us, on the next flight out.

Friday, August 10, 2012

Free Light Show

  In California, we don't have many thunderstorms. But visiting here in VA, I have been seeing lightning and hearing occasional thunder the whole time I've been here. It hasn't rained much, or at least it didn't until last night, when the dry lightning and thunder picked up and there was a real storm that lighted up the sky and blew heavy rain into the house. We had to close the window, despite the heat and humidity, which was too bad. The breeze from the storm had been welcome.
I used to run down the driveway naked as a small child in the summer when it rained heavily, hoping, in vain, to get cool. Thunderstorms were a regular part of my life then, but I had forgotten how the whole sky lights up and the windows shake during such a storm. It woke me up and scared me that the thunder sounded so close and the lightning flashed so brightly I thought it was time to get up.
  Soon I'll be back home, trading these green hills for the brown ones of Orange County.

Thursday, August 9, 2012


  It has been a while since I have posted here. For one thing, I have been out of town in Floyd, VA, where my husband's elderly parents make their home.
  His mother is not well, and he went to see what needed to be done and when it is likely to need doing. His parents manage quite well, despite their age and the size of the house, etc., but it is clear that they need R's help. He has been chopping scads of wood for the winter, cleaning up, shopping, and has eye on larger jobs that will need doing.
Despite the fact that I cared for my parents for 5 years before their death (though I didn't live with them, and they had 24 hour a day care), I am not terribly useful here. I don't do the kind of cooking, cleaning, or domestic work that would require doing. They don't need the sort of help (trips to the doctor, banking, clothes shopping and the like) that my parents required. There is no place to take them for entertainment out
here in the boonies, and they aren't interested anyhow.
The town of Floyd has changed enormously since I was last here, about 4 years ago. Then, it was beginning to pick up a little bit of tourist traffic because of the Friday night music Jamboree, local musicians gathering to play on every corner and on the stage at the Country Store. This was even publicized on NPR.
There had always been a hippy sort of vibe here, way past the heyday of that time, and I knew there were co-ops, artists' communes, and the like tucked back in the hills. But now the downtown is crowded every weekend with traffic. There is a radio program here (I haven't heard it yet) to send all the vagrant picking and singing out over the wires. Movies use the town as a location, etc.
It still isn't my ideal for a place to live because I am a city girl, who practices a relatively obscure form of yoga and Judaism, enjoys ethnic food, and wants to see the latest movies. But it's interesting to visit and to contemplate the way it used to be when almost the only stores to be found downtown sold farming implements and bibles.
It has been fun. We have gone to a family reunion with many far flung relatives I had never met. We spent an interesting afternoon and evening sitting by a pond in the growing darkness watching the fireflies I have missed seeing for all of these years and chatting with an 12 year old about going to middle school.
Soon I will be on my way home again to the other end of the continent.