iPhone

All week I have had to be ‘good’ in that sense of being ‘on’ with a lot of different people. Not much refuge for a recluse. Tonight, with the last of the meetings wrapped up and Quan taking off with friends to ride in the moonlight, I took a large slug of rum – two, i’sooth – and with my jaw thus loosened, I set off rowing. The night was exquisitely still, the river flowing glass, the pentacle moon wraithed in vapor, the trail of swirls fractaling out behind me as I cleared the boats of the cove out into the river proper. With one of Enya’s slow Gaelic carols on the iPhone, I am in the middle of a Scottish loch, magically cold within the hills and almost solid under a winter sky.

One of Mark Knopfler’s sea shanties paces the run across the channel, the rhythm marred occasionally as an oar hits a lobster pot. On the other side a long inlet runs up for a couple of miles. James Taylor’s steady picking and warm chords take me into its funnel, narrowing like some lazy southern river heading for a rapid, the oars rising and falling in time to the music, the bow singing as it broke the water ahead of us.

As the banks narrow down and I must pick my way more carefully though the curves, Etta James makes it a hot Louisiana bayou, schools of little herring sizzling out of the water ahead of the boat with each stroke, the overhanging branches closing out the moon until finally – no headlamp in the iPhone – bumping into the end of the salt water tide in total blackness.

Headphones off, I let the silence sink in until it was no longer silence but a rich blanket of sound – the plops and clicks of nearby insects or fish or birds, way up in this isolated, people-less cove. It is a little creepy, a little Stephen King, but wonderfully my own at that moment – ultima thule for this night’s journey. There is nothing to harm me, but my ancient self hidden under the social veneer doesn’t know that – my imagination puts anacondas in the black branches, and giant squid under the black surface.

I reverse the oars to align the boat back up the funnel, pumping out of the miles to the bouncing steel ball of Ry Cooder’s guitar. It feels so good – my feet are planted wide on the thwart before me, and I yield into my legs as I reach down and forward with my arms, not bothering to feather in the windless night. My pelvis rocks over the sitz bones, riding up along the ramus toward the pubes, arching my back. As the oars dip into the water I lean away from my arms, feeling the back of the arms engage right up over the shoulder and the bones elongate within the flesh. My legs push me back, twisting all those bones together from foot to hip into one piston rod, rolling the pelvis the other way on the seat toward the tailbone.

Push-yield-reach-pull – I’d been teaching it all last week, and now the tensegrity feeling of this frog-like movement overtakes my body as if I am leaping over the water – hands, then feet, hands, then feet. My breath falls into the easy rhythm, the movement creeps into the stiffer areas of my spine, especially the chronic panicked flexion behind the kidneys. Suddenly, with a fluid rush the kidneys open into the movement. The spine creaks into action, old water flushing, mossy shingles of locked open facets closing, adding to the movement as the enclosing X’s of the Functional Lines links the upper and lower parts of me in a new but familiar way. The arms reach as if pushed from the adrenals and the arching kidneys; the push of the feet linked all the way to the psoas to embrace them again.

It all feels wonderful and effortless, but like any new movement of course it isn’t, so I am grateful when the music fades to allow me to hear the ring tone, and I stop to drift as I talk to Misty, excited about her impending leap into college, the headphones doubling her lilting voice in stereo. As I drift I pass a wonderful scene of the moon shining through a row of trees and lift the phone to take a picture while I am talking to her. Everything on this little hand-held computer is so intuitive – I haven’t needed to access the manual yet. Within a very few clicks, you can get from any one thing to any other thing. An easy on-and-off switch avoids mistakes and saves the battery. The map bit alone is worth the price of admission.

Bending to it again with Roslyn Turek wailing out Bach’s English Suites, I fly through the warm August air toward our cove, where I finally turn to see Quan waiting anxiously on the dock with a light, “Where have you been? We’ve been looking all over. What if something happened to you? It’s eleven o’clock!”

I pluck out the earphones. “Why didn’t you call?”

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