Archive for the ‘Spring’ Category

Dromania

May 21, 2011

Also delightfully called Travel Fugue – the overpowering desire to wander.  Long a victim of this disease, my symptoms have become increasingly dire.  Though always a traveler, the success of Anatomy Trains has lately given me a free ticket to many places, and I have hit every continent except Antarctica in the last few years.  This year alone, since January, I have been to Greece and back, then to Oxford and Oslo and back, then to Australia and back, then to Norway, Denmark, and Germany and back, and finally to Tokyo and Nagoya and back.  My marriage suffers; my business languishes, but my dromania is satisfied.

But now I have tucked my passport away until October, and am suffering the pains of withdrawal: the weather at home is unending rain, drizzle, and fog, so my sailboat swings idly at its mooring; our ‘estate’ requires all manner of spring projects to be ready for summer which cannot be completed because everything is soggy; my retired neighbour is planing out old boards for his new barn floor and the all-day irritated whine of his planer is driving us all spare; and the long-denied business projects at my home office are so complex and stalled that I feel I am running on shale.

Still, it’s great to be home, as the maniac heart calms to a slower pace, regains its sense of place, stop living out of a suitcase, and relearn the lineaments of my Quan’s face (oom-chakka-chakka-chakka, oom- chakka-chakka-chakka).

Any road up, there are many signs that my dromania must come to an end.  Australia tested the upper limits of how many students I am willing to have on a course.  I can talk to an unlimited number of people; but teaching practical skills to 120 people in 3 days is an exercise in frustration for all of us, however well-handled (and that tour was excellently planned and executed by the Ozzie organizers).  In Europe, we have had trouble being paid on a couple of my courses, a new and disturbing phenomenon.  And the trip to Japan in this year of the tsunami and Fukushima was stressful in the on-again, off-again lead-up, stress with the organizers in execution, and for whatever reason – am I just getting too old for dromania? – getting back to East Coast time took a week of relative jet-leg.

Generally, I love my bipolar waves, and will weather the troughs in order to get the view from the crests.  But this is just too exhausting.

So I have told my scheduler: stop the madness.  I am booked a year out, so the madness continues this next autumn and winter, but then we must focus on the next stage of building a platform for these ideas without my waiting endlessly in airports: web-learning and electronic appearances.  Of course I will still go abroad – being in the belly of the American beast all the time is not good for the soul and skews perception – but my dromenon must go inside again, to search for its center not its outer wings.  And the mania must end.

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Obama Gets Osama

May 8, 2011

While we can all appreciate a well-executed execution, the death of Osama is cold comfort indeed in the face of the dismal decade after 9/11, and the changes in America we have wrought with our response.  The difficulties around flying alone (which used to be pleasant) are sufficiently expensive and unnecessary Kabuki, but we have a whole cultural attitude coarsening that I lament – with increasing bitterness in my tears, but maybe I am just getting old.  Two wars, burning Korans, and a culture of fear and separation that threatens to undermine the entire constitutional republic that despite its flaws has been, in fact and in deed, a beacon of freedom, opportunity, and easygoing acceptance to the world.

Whoever you think is responsible for 9/11, it is our response to this savage but brilliant crime that has been the sadder if slower offense.

The Abbotabad raid happened while I was in the plane coming back from Japan.  In my last dinner there, the conversation was not about the old days of Ida Rolf as usual, but of a world before computers, with these young people laughing as I described the first clunky small screen Macs and switching out floppy discs every 10 seconds.  All the computers on the Apollo capsule equaled about the computing power of the iPhone – something like that.

These young practitioners find a world before computers worthy of historical, somewhat hysterical note.  Anyone from puberty on down will similarly have no memory of a sunnier, pre-9/11 world.  Thus is the world changed – one funeral at a time, one birth into a new world disorder at a time.

I am no friend of Bin Laden.  Being a strict constructionist of the Old Testament, I am against capital punishment as contrary to the sixth commandment.  It would have been a better idea to take him alive, IMO, and put him on trial in Kenya and Tanzania, where his bombs killed innocent Muslims, and then just keep putting him on trial in various countries for the rest of his natural life.  No martyrdom, no jihad, just the long, slow death of being a perpetual defendant, subjected to the rule of law for his criminal acts of killing the innocents.

And you can say he killed our innocence as well, but I hold our own national response more accountable.  We have done exactly as he wished; we could hardly have answered his call in a way more pleasing to the jihadis.  I applaud Obama for not, as he said, ‘spiking the ball’.  Time to tone down the rhetoric, accept this small globe for the unsafe place that it is, and make the world an impossible place for any new Bin Ladens to emerge – through a return to core, and I do dare say, American values.

Last night, a dinner guest asked: “What will the next generation do for work?  Manufacturing is gone, they cannot all work at Wal-Mart.”  My answer, my hope: “They will stop building weaponry and build livingry.”

Japan: Running It Off

April 26, 2011

In the hotel gym is a treadmill whose screen counts off the calories in terms of food items – takes a while to run off a beer, but a tuna sushi is burned in no time.  A little disheartening that after more than half an hour’s run, I seem barely to have accounted for last night’s meal.

Everyday there is a bit of aftershock – today right at the end of class – always completely unannounced and unexpected, but always mild and almost pleasant in an odd way.  I don’t know how I would feel if a big one comes, but these little ones just seem like the earth giggling.

Gradually you get used to these things.  I felt confined when I first arrived, especially when it was raining, as rain brings down the radiation, but with sunshine and a fresh south wind, walking abroad is irresistible.  Tokyo, like New York or London, is endlessly variable and interesting.

A few cherry blossoms were hanging on, waiting for me as it were, but yesterday’s wind has swirled them into beguiling piles of petals on the sidewalks.  Still, at night the city seems gloomier without the lights, the red winking bulbs on the tallest building are like warnings, or blinking Buddha eyes.

Daichi is still a long-term disaster (for the entire world, not just Japan), and here the fishing industry may have taken a terminal blow, and industry is in for a rough ride for sure.  The hotel, in other years bustling with every nationality, is nearly deserted. The Japanese are resilient, efficient, and community-minded, but we see the long weave of their post-war economy fraying and coming unraveled.  None of the rest of us are far behind.

Japan 2: Confined to Quarters

April 22, 2011

At the end of my second day of seminars in Japan, I must say that the appreciation of people for my coming is genuine – not just the organizers, but the students.  Japan has always had earthquakes and tsunamis – they accept it as the price of living on this island nation on a patchwork of tectonic plates.  We are all helping in whatever way we can: one fellow just came back from giving bodywork to the municipal workers up north, another Alexander Teacher is wondering how to help with traumatized survivors, a third is selling T-shirts to aid the north.

In the Japan Times, an English-language newspaper stuck in my door slot each morning, I read an independent reading of the air radiation levels around Tokyo (very low), and the shocking way the nuclear plant workers are being treated – overworked, underfed.  The embattled Japanese Prime Minister went north himself yesterday and got a very uncharacteristic earful from the refugees up there, still sleeping in shelters with not much being done.  It must be a nightmare for the people trying to administer the recovery.

Toyotas have started rolling off the line, as the early reports have the Japanese economy grinding to a halt.  The ability to keep going, even this little set of seminars, is truly gratefully received.

Ironically and irrationally, I don’t feel like walking around much in the open air to see the last of the cherry blossoms hanging on.  I don’t trust governments or corporate spokesmen any farther than I can throw them, but I truly believe that if radiation levels here were bad, someone independent would have detected it.   But especially when it is raining, I stay confined to quarters, catching up on emails and using the hotel gym rather than run-walking the streets, which is what I did in earlier visits.

There is still some aftershocks, and a major one rumbled the hotel room for about 45 seconds last night.  It felt like a gentle bed massage, but weird when I realized what it was.  I’m on the 35th floor, so it’s a long way down, but these buildings are way, way over-engineered by law.

I keep taking all my nostrums to ward off evil spirits, but all is well so far.

Japan: Landing at Narita

April 20, 2011

I have been called a ‘hero’ for coming to Japan at this time, one month after the tsunami and with the Daiichi nuclear plant still out of control, by the people who have a financial interest in my coming.  I was called a ‘coward’ by the same people when I was contemplating not coming.  My wife and several others would have reversed the epithets, calling me a hero if I had stuck to my guns and stayed home, and a coward for blindly keeping my commitment when the situation had so clearly changed in a way that might damage my health, and thus my deeper commitments to them and the future.

Never has one of my gigs so divided my household or myself.  My promise to myself has been to keep my professional commitments, and last spring’s declining of a lecture in St Petersburg (because of the volcanic ash that was grounding planes all over Europe – good thing too, I would have missed my daughter’s graduation) was a rara avis indeed.

But I chose to come this time, in spite of the possibility of earthquake and irradiated air.  I pray that I may be of some help, and that this choice will be validated.  The clouds coming into Narita looks ominous, with the sun shining through them like the rays of radiation, but my brain is working overtime.

The ominous feeling continues through my sunset ride to the hotel – how much am I adding with my Edgar Allen Poe imagination?  Red sky at night is supposed to be sailor’s delight, but now it looks nacreous with glowering clouds.

My room is on the 35th floor – a long way down if the building goes – which gives me a great view of a subdued Tokyo, but this is more than my overheated perception.  Tokyo, like Paris, is a city of light, but in order to save on electricity, they have ordered extra lights and escalators turned off, so the somber nature of the crisis is reflected in the dimming of neon and company signs, so the predominant night view are the red eyes warning the planes at the tops of the higher buildings.

So it looks like a Dantean circle of hell, but it feels all normal at the hotel and on the streets – I even have seen some late-blooming cherry blossoms, but I am uninclined to eat them.

Reverb

March 29, 2011

Last year, I think I was crowing about having three springs in my travels – this year I have had none: straight from English and Maine winter straight to Australian summer and back to Norwegian and Danish winter.  Even Germany in late March is still crispy and bare.

I had unusual carry-over, perhaps because my schedule is way too thick this season. Accustomed to the cheery and irreverent Australians, I started lecturing and hectoring the stolid cold-resilient Norwegians in the manner I had been joking with the warm-resilient Ozzies.  It did not go down well.  I course-corrected by the second day, taking on the somber correctness suitable to the frigid drizzle and cobbled streets of Bergen.

Somewhere over Tahiti on the plane back from Australia I developed a minor virus that makes my nose drip.  It attacks randomly, starting with an allergic itch in my right nostril that quickly turns me on like a faucet – very annoying and embarrassing when I am teaching.

Wiping and washing constantly in the middle of a bunch of healers, I have been given various pills and nostrums, all kindly of course, but I suspect they all work at cross-purposes.  Mostly these viruses just seem to have a life, so you can abate the symptoms but not the arc – at least so I find.

Most annoying are those who are self-convinced that their method will cure you.  A gentle Scandinavian giant – white haired, moustached, a tall man’s stoop – stopped me on my way to the bathroom to do his Chi-Gung work on me, pointing his sausage fingers millimeters from my face (“Can you feel that?”) and tapping points on my wrist (“Does that feel better?”).

I will be honest with these people – “No, not particularly” – so he kept on, ever more desperately trying to prove a point.  The thing with these people is that it is not so much about making you feel better as them wanting you to share their conviction that their power can heal anything.  When I continued to drip, he simply redoubled his efforts – and my break whittled away.

Finally after minutes of this, I got so annoyed that adrenalin cleared my nose and I was honestly able to tell him it felt better and he let me go.  Lord, save me from the convinced – the fool is so sure of himself, while the wise are so uncertain.

God knows I’ve been there myself in the early days, but now I know to wait for an invitation.  Leave it to The Bard: The readiness is all.

Nuclear

March 23, 2011

In the next few days, I must choose whether I am willing to go to Tokyo to do a series of workshops.  Apart from the Fukishima reactors, I wonder whether this is not too sad a time in Japan’s history for such a venture, but my organizers assure me everything will be back to normal within a few weeks.

However, the nuclear situation is real – this morning they are talking about increased reactivity in spinach – no oshitashi for me!

I am reminded of Bucky Fuller, when asked about the then-current, pre-Chernobyl enthusiasm for nuclear power, said (and I paraphrase, not quote), “God, in His infinite wisdom, loved  power from nuclear fission so much that it happens all over the known universe.  But also in his infinite wisdom, he placed the nearest such heating plant 93 million miles (that would be about 150,000,000 km, or 9 light minutes) away from Earth, and I think we should respect that distance.”

I love Japan’s organization, and it’s efficient and caring response to this disaster.  But placing nuclear power plants over a subtending tectonic plate is of questionable judgment.  Maybe placing nuclear power plants anywhere near this planet is of questionable judgment.  When there is so much power in the wind and sea motion, do we need to use such dangerous (and absolutely unrenewable – indeed, hard to get rid of) fuel?

Close-hauled

June 20, 2010

Sneak in the back way to McMahon Island – there’s a little passage around to the west into Hockamock Bay from the Sheepscot River.  But I am single-handed and going up wind and against the tide.  After three tacks in which I gain only a few yards before I have to jack her around again, I realize that getting past the little spit is going to be impossible – too easy to be pushed down onto it, with an unfavorable wind and current to hold me there is abject embarrassment.

In earlier days I would have gone for it, but in my sixties the better part of valor takes over and I turn tail and run for Damariscove.  Hard to believe that this thin little thread of a harbour has been inhabited most summers since 1608, when the English fisheries summered here to fish for a haul of cod back to Liverpool.  I rush headlong before the wind into its narrow embrace, luffing up around a Canadian sloop parked by the old Coast Guard station, across from the hill where the headless ghost walks.

But I have wind and sunlight left, so a dance around them and back upwind out of the anchorage and back into the exhilarating sea.  As the sun attenuates, I ride the rollers back into land, past the big seal on Pumpkin Ledge, the terns swirling above the lonely chimney atop the Whites, slipping by Pemaquid light through the Thread of Life, tucking up into The Gut just in time for Mike to give me a mooring, so he can fix my bilge pump in the morning.

It’s a joy to be doing real play and real work, swinging the scythe, sanding the oars, tying up the tomatoes, but it’s back into jet land for me – one more time, over to UK, to see the students out and James in.

The Gulf

June 12, 2010

The oil pluming into the Gulf of Mexico has been too horrifying, too sad, and too confusing to write about.  It is easy for some to assign blame depending on their political predilection, but I keep returning to myself, mindlessly pumping gas at $3/gallon, with no thought to the workers, the executives, or the regulatory structure that brings it to my car.

The ‘gulf’ is between us and the source of our energy.  Oil is ‘capital’ energy – finite and dirty at both ends; wind and solar are ‘income’ energies – they don’t get used up in the process of capturing them.

Here’s the first stanza of a poem I wrote about ‘conservative values’: (for the whole poem, Votive, a bit dated now in the era of Obama, go to:

http://www.anatomytrains.com/explore/tom-myers/poems)

I

I would vote for a conservative, my friend, if I could find one.

A conservative would be about conserving something, wouldn’t he?

Conserving oil, for starters – that sticky goop in the earth

That no one was impressed with until the right whales ran out.

I wish there’d been some conservatives then

As we flensed huge mammals for a smokeless flame.

It’s not over til the fat lady sings.

Did we leave one to sing us through our curtain call?

As the whales got rarer and their oil got dearer

Refined petroleum came within reach.

In one short, hard century we drilled and flamed

Two billion years of accumulated fuel.

Greased the rails

At about 4% efficiency.

So that much of the heat and long tons of carbon

Escaped to confuse the self-adjustment of the earth.

A conservative approves of self-regulation,

Or so I thought. Or does he not?

It cost the sun a million bucks –

That’s today’s dollars, my friend –

To press each barrel of this organic wine.

We’ve been on a drinking spree.

A conservative worth his salt, and worth my votes

Would see the log, not pick at motes

Would sober up, contain our mirth

Would shore up oil for all he’s worth

So our grandchildren will not say to us,

“You used essence of dinosaur, precious oil

To push just you and tons of metal

Around those ‘roads’ you love so much?”

As we say to our grandparents,

“You did fatal liposuction

On an intelligent fellow creature

To light your bleedin’ houses?”

Thayer Street

June 7, 2010

After my presentation in Providence, I drove up the hill past Brown University to Thayer Street.  I haven’t stopped in Providence since 1968, when I was sent there to organize against the Vietnam War by the American Friends Service Committee (the Quakers).  For those not of the hippie era, it is hard to convey the ferment of those days, the fervor for change, the sense of revolutionary possibility that seems so far away from us today – as the corporate oil gushes and the pointless wars rage.

These days Thayer Street is a genteel boutique main drag for the college students.  No more Omega Coffee house (Omega, Ohm, symbol of resistance, get it?) where I showed up for an antiwar meeting early in June of 1968, driving the VW ‘bug’ my brother lent for the summer. Martin Luther King and Bobby Kennedy had just been assassinated, drugs were in full swing, and the country was on the precipice of something either beautiful or very nasty.  In the event, neither happened – life went on, as it usually does, but those of us who lived through it are bonded in a way that will never be broken.

I stayed in the spare room of a couple of straight looking but sympathetic Providence Journal reporters who were never home, and whose refrigerator was a total disaster.

That night I met Michael Frenchman, a chemistry major recently dropped out from Brown, one of the smartest people I have ever met, and still my friend these forty years later. (He produces most of my DVD’s, lo, these many lives away.)

That night I met Anne Finger, differently-abled in her body, but sharp in her mind.  Despite my self-congratulatory freedom from convention, Anne taught me my own class prejudice in a few well-chosen words, a lesson I have always remembered.

In another building, long gone and gentrified by modern architecture, was the Rhode Island Committee for Peace in Vietnam, the center from which we organized draft counseling and anti-war protests.  Upstairs from a tobacco shop, we had typewriters donated by liberals, a pencil sharpener, a lot of ideas and laughs, and a mimeograph machine, which, along with classifications of 1-A or 4-F, are long forgotten.

Faced with forced conscription into an unpopular war, the able were left with few options.  Some left for Canada, some manufactured gayness (a serious disadvantage in 1968) or craziness or a medical excuse.  The most courageous refused induction and were prosecuted.  Michael refused but avoided arrest; Tony Ramos served two years in Allentown before resuming his successful career as an artist (I have written of this in an earlier entry: https://tomyers.wordpress.com/category/in-my-life-pers/page/3).

We counseled young men as to how to get around the law, shuttled a few sailors from the navy base to Canada, supported Tony in his run up to trial, and were generally a pain to the Providence ‘pigs’, who obliged with porcine behaviour, hitting us with flashlights and clubs (on the back, where it wouldn’t bruise), throwing us in the paddy wagon and taking us to jail (me only once, and the record was supposedly ‘expunged’ – I’ve never checked.– after I’d spent a long night in a cell and been put on a line-up in front a roomful of cops and called ‘a Communist outside agitator’.)

It’s all gone, it’s all history, and none of it was left, so I bought a few trinkets for home from the Indian store, and hit the road back to Boston.