Monday, April 29, 2013

Spring Sadhana II

My second sadhana at YCT is coming to a close. One more morning, and then I will be returning to my daily solitary practise.

I enjoyed being with the same group of people over a progression of time. By observing others I got to appreciate I wasn't the only one struggling, everyone has their individual challenges.

One of my favourite sessions was when we reversed the order of a typical class, and started with savasana (corpse pose), working backwards. At the end, I took a few moments to be in tadasana and it was like a standing prayer.

Then there was the morning I thought I would have a coffee before class, and it turned out to be a restorative session. Total agitation!

I made a commitment to show up every day, and it resulted in a few additional cab rides, altered flight plans and some preternaturally early nights.  Interesting to observe how deliberate choice unfolds.

Last sadhana, I decided I wouldn't use a checkmark to note my attendance because it felt like a tick in a to do list, so I made different notations, like circles or squiggles or waves, to mark each passing day. This time around, during these last four days, I thought it would be fun to make a series of marks that over a sequence of time would make a larger pattern. So it was one day connecting to the next and the next that would make a bigger picture. Why not? The sum of our days.

Pranayama was an important part of this sadhana, and I would like to incorporate more breath work into my daily practise. The guidance I was given was to incorporate before a very active session, after a restorative session, or at a separate time; but never when you are overly tired or agitated. Even 10 minutes can make a difference. According to the Upanishads, "He who practises only for a period of a yāma (twenty-four minutes) every day conquers time." 

When I was on my recent holiday in the Grand Canyon, and stargazing in Sedona, I was totally awestruck by the scale of everything, and by how brief our lives seem when measured against the grand passage of time. All we have is our small life, sustained by each breath we take. All we really have is that breath, and when it leaves us, we cease to live. Breath is life.

Sunday, April 28, 2013

It takes a village...

Beaujolais-Villages, Manoir du Carra, France 2011 was a perfect match for this sunny weekend. It even tasted light-hearted. "Spicy, red cherry fruit has a satisfying depth," according to Wine Decanter who gave this a score of 90.


The following reds were part of a wine-tasting at BPYC. Wine drinkers have been protesting for quite awhile about the quality of the vintages behind the bar, which has typically been selected by the beer drinkers at the club.

The votes are in on the shortlist, with the Santa Rita Cab Sav tying with the Wyndham Estate Shiraz.  As with any house wine, the price is right.

Las Rocas Garnacha Spain $14.65
Wyndham Estate Shiraz Australia $14.45 (sale price)
Rocca delle Marcie Chianti Venaiolo DOCG $13.95
Santa Rita Reserva Cab Sauv Chile $13.95

Saturday, April 27, 2013

ooh la la

French foodie dinner!

Last Saturday night we went to Maureen and Dick's for one of our friendly feasts.

For h'orderves we had figs with honey and martinis. Appetizers were foie gras and black pepper pate served with Mathilde Pear Liqueur.  For the main, lamb with creamy feta potatoes and a full-bodied Bordeaux. A scrumptious meal!

Unfortunately Caro and Jim weren't able to make it. But fortunately for us, Crepe Suzette was able to make the dinner date. Caroline thoughtfully dropped off dessert, which Rob prepped and served. We snapped photos and emailed them to Caro who quickly responded - "the filling goes on the inside..." C'est la vie. It was tasty just the same.

We made tentative plans to enjoy a meal together on the lake over the summer. I can't wait!

Friday, April 26, 2013

Full Boat Launch Moon - April

The full moon officially kicks in at 3:57 pm April 25.

Instead of Full Pink Moon I will dub this the Boat Launch Moon since Yondering goes in the lake this weekend.

I got an amazing view on my way to yoga early this morning. Huge in the dark blue sky as I scraped thick frost off the car windows. Geometric patterns on the roof of the car quickly melted away to nothingness. By the time I got to the studio, the moon had disappeared from my view.

frost on the car almost looked like waves on the lake
Temperatures of 18 degrees Celsius are expected this weekend. Bring it on!


Wednesday, April 24, 2013


Race is a fairly new play written by David Mamet that first premiered in 2009. It's being promoted heavily here in Toronto, mostly in posters with Jason Priestly featured predominantly and Nigel Shawn Williams in the background.

Set in a legal office, the entire play has its 4 characters challenge how race will influence the case of a rich white man charged with raping a black woman. The accused has chosen this particular firm because one of the lawyers is black and one is white.  A pivotal character is a black woman, who in the beginning doesn't say anything, which had me wondering if she was just a spectre to represent the victim. As the plot unfolds, she turns out to be a lawyer. With the final twist, the audience is left wondering whether she planted evidence that will result in their client being found guilty.

Cara Ricket's character doesn't even appear in most of the ads but to me she has the most interesting and complex role, as well as the best overall performance.

Rob and I went with Mike and Kaarina last Thursday night, and despite needing to get up bright and early the next morning (me for sadhana, Mike to be at the office by 6 am), we still went out afterward to share some thoughts before they went stale.

Here's an unattributed collage "It's about guilt." "The writing was incredible." "Did he or didn't he actually do it?" "Did she or didn't she actually do it?" "Incredibly complex." "Better than the last Can Stage." "Definitely worth seeing." "Great set." "Modern sensibilities." "Priestly was great." "Priestly didn't have much presence." "Starts with a slam on the table and keeps on hitting." "Intense."

The curtain call didn't last long. To me it seemed the actors came out to less than three minutes applause, just enough to see the four of them on and off the stage politely. I think the clapping may have even stopped before the cast had made their final exit.

Cara Rickettts

Tuesday, April 23, 2013

Up in the Air

Traveled to Ottawa and back today so I could meet face-to-face with someone I usually meet on the phone. We spent five hours discussing the project we have underway and getting more in touch with some of the pressing issues. The outcome could likely be summarized in a few bullet points, but it was definitely time well spent. As a result of the time invested I think we'll both be able to be a bit more candid in the future.

The commute there and back was longer than the meeting, but the flight was enjoyable.

Best of all was the view out the window.  We flew over favourite sailing grounds: Cobourg, Trenton, Kingston, Waupoos. I felt almost homesick for our boat and the easy summer living. Yondering goes in the water this weekend, but with the chill in the air lately we likely won't be doing much overnight sailing, at least for a couple of weeks.

When the little plane was taking off, I put my magazine down so I could give take off my full attention, remembering how when Alex when he was young he was truly furious about people who kept their noses buried in books and magazines. Especially if they had a premium view by the window!

I also flew Porter for the first time... and it's about time, because they've been in operation for years. There is some recent controversy because they want to expand the runway, something boaters and residents oppose. Right now Billy Bishop Airport seems just the right size... any bigger would mean more bodies crammed into a tight space... making everyone a lot less comfortable.  It was a great experience: parking close at hand,  a complementary coffee Americano in the morning and an Ontario cabernet sauvignon on the flight home. Altogether civilized, compared to the usual rush hour squish.

Sunday, April 21, 2013

Spring Sadhana

When I got home from my vacation, I joined the Spring Sadhana that was already in progress. I leaped in on Day 11; it is now Day 22 and there are 8 days left.

I'm feeling pretty worn out right now, because in addition to getting up to be at the studio by 6 a.m. each morning, I also signed up for a weekend workshop that finished a few hours ago.

Nadia asked me how the intensive was going, and I answered honestly that "it was intense."

I'm definitely making progress with some physical limitations in poses, which is encouraging and discouraging at the same time.  Encouraging to know that progress can still be made; discouraging to know I have so much further to go.

Marlene said something that stuck with me today... whether you believe in reincarnation or not, it is possible to have different lifetimes in the same life. That's something to contemplate.

technical notes
(I know this won't make sense to anyone but me)
- chair sarvangasana, on folded blankets, with arms inside chair legs and then wrapping through outside, palms facing shoulders, upper arms pressing firmly down on blankets
- stretch feet by sitting in virasana, ankles bound loosely, resting sitting bones on heels with toes bent forward; then with the top of the foot on the floor
- supta virasana is very beneficial to the heart and the supported version is often used with cardiac patients 

Happiness Economics

Laura's pick for the book club was Happiness Economics, by Shari Lapena.

Toronto is the setting and neighbourhoods like the Danforth, Queen Street West and the Financial District are named outright.

The author is a fellow Torontonian, who also happens to be Laura's neighbour. She was on hand to answer the Book Babes questions and take part in the discussion.

The novel doesn't take itself too seriously. It is full of ironies and plot twists that brought it to the shortlist for the Leacock Medal for Humour.

Will begins the Poets Preservation Society to help fund struggling poets, but also to capture the attention of a beautiful girl half his age. His wife Judy has a high profile as a celebrity economist and is being kept busy during the meltdown of 2008. She helps secure the funding for the nonprofit to keep her husband occupied with something other than writing poetry - a process that seems to make him incredibly unhappy.

Something I was wondering was why a book about poets had so very little actual poetry. Answer: copyright.  The international rights were too expensive. Names like Philip Larkin and Margaret Atwood could be mentioned but no verse quoted. An exception is Luminous Veil, by Steve McOrmond, about the Bloor Street Viaduct and its suicide barrier. Both the poem and its placement in the novel remind us poetry has power - but readers need to take part if there is to be any dialogue. Poems need to be written, but they also need to be spoken and read.

One of the characters observes, "It's great to support poets in need, especially the really talented ones, so that they can write... But unfortunately I don't think the problem is one of supply - it's one of demand."

Members of the Poets Preservation Society take this insight and try to increase demand for their products by adapting guerrilla marketing techniques. Parkeur and poetry combine for some Banksy-style graffitti.

The novel is entertaining and it was a treat to have the author there -  a reminder that books not only need readers, they need writers, too...

Sunday, April 14, 2013

Red Rocks

More hiking in Sedona! There were many trails, and although they were well-marked there were still a few ambiguous forks.  It is not uncommon for people to get lost and go missing. While we were there, a Toronto doctor made headlines after setting out for what she thought would be a short hike and getting stranded without food, water or her cellphone for more than 30 hours.
Nights 9, 10 and 11 on our trip we stayed at the Penrose Inn and had a great view of the Red Rocks. One night we watched Thelma and Louise on DVD just so we could pinpoint the scenery of the Grand Canyon and Monument Valley. 

Our hosts warned us about scorpions getting into the room so we were on constant look out, especially at night. I was happy not to cross paths with one of those creepy crawlers.

We also took a few day trips. Jerome was an abandoned mining town that is being rejuvenated with tourism. Restaurants, galleries and curio shops now line its streets.
Montezuma's Well and Castle have native ruins built into cliffs. This was prime real estate 1,000 years ago because it was waterfront. The cliffs offered sheltered warmth in winter and natural air conditioning in summer. I looked at the birds and wondered whether they were old souls come to visit.  When we got to the Well, there was a telescope trained on the cliffs. It turned out to be the nest of a Great Horned Owl and two owlets. Camouflaged nicely in the cliffs, the birds blended almost invisibly into the blue-grey rock.  The photo on the left isn't mine, but the owlets looked just like this one.

We went out one night with astronomers, star gazing. It was very cold at night, and even dressed in warm coats we were happy there were extra blankets on hand. We got a great view of Jupiter and its moons; Saturn and its rings; several constellations; galaxies; and nebula. Where we see one star with our naked eye, there are sometimes 300,000 points of light. It reminded me of standing next to the rim of the Grand Canyon, and feeling so insignificant there. Here was a vista that would make the Grand Canyon itself disappear, in a universe with infinite points of light.

Wednesday, April 10, 2013

Sonoran Desert

I wanted to see the desert in bloom and I did!

Night 7 and 8 of the trip, were spent it in Cave Creek, just outside of Scottsdale, with a view right onto the living desert. We bumped into a few Snowbirds and saw some Ontario licence plates. I can see escaping bleak cold damp dark months to Arizona's sun.

Frank Lloyd Wright ended up wintering here on the advice of his physician, in order to improve his health and extend the length of his years. It seems to have worked because he first arrived in his early seventies and died when he was 91.

I was amazed by our tour of nearby Taliesin West, home and school of architect Frank Lloyd Wright. This exquisite property was used as a test site for many designs. The way he worked with light, the way he brought the outside in and inside out; his use of reflecting pools in the middle of a dry and arid space. I loved the stylish and democratic "origami chairs" constructed out of single sheets of cheap plywood. Wright shared this space with his 3rd wife, along with several apprentices he convinced to do the building and heavy lifting for him in exchange for letters of recommendation. These disciples were also expected to cook, clean, build furniture and put on private performances to amuse their mentor. The more I heard the more Wright reminded me of Kurtz in Heart of Darkness... a massive ego exploiting everyone around him. In Wright's case, the legacy lives on. When Wright first built Taliesin West there was nothing around for miles. Decades later, he almost moved because of the telephone poles and wires that were erected to blight his beloved view of the desert landscape. I can imagine how much that must have enraged him, but in the end his wife talked him into staying and dining on the back terrace.

Our B&B here brought the Sonoran Desert just outside our balcony. Definitely a very comfortable stay at Full Circle Ranch. A swim in the infinity pool and a dip in the hot tub after a long day's hike made it seem even more a desert oasis.

At sunrise , there was a cacophony of birds. I couldn't see them in the dense vegetation, but I sure could hear them! So I started making up names based on the sounds. Laughing jay. Coughing dove. Early rising woodpecker. Boinkers, coo-purrs, barking bobs, chirping chicks. I did manage to see three desert cottontail hares, quails, tanagers, and a gila woodpecker. Rob and I also swear we saw a pair of roadrunners, but it was hard to confirm because they streaked across the road too fast to make a positive identification.

This was cowboy country.  It was hilly on our hikes and we had to watch out for rattlesnakes and horse poo as we traveled the trails.

We also made it to the Boyce Thompson Arboretum... It featured desert plants found in the Sonoran, Chihuahua, and  Australia deserts.  The site was also designated as a special bird migration fly-path by Audubon, and we saw several varieties of hummingbirds at feeders.

Later, a tasty dinner at the local Mexican eatery El Encanto. I have to learn how to cook some of these dishes at home.

Tuesday, April 9, 2013

Monument Valley and Flagstaff

Night 5 of our Southwest Tour was Monument Valley in Utah - surreal!

The hotel we stayed at was located in the Navajo Nation.

Sunset and sunrise bring a whole new dimension here. Just like Grand Canyon or the other places we toured, the time of day and the cast of light totally change the perspective and the sense of space.

Night time was incredible for stargazing. With the binoculars it seemed the entire sky was crowded with stars. Infinite pinpoints of dotted lights, some shining more brightly than others. There were so many it was disorienting and it took quite awhile to locate Ursa Major.

On the night we were there, there were storms in the distance and lighting on the desert horizon. A true desert storm.

At sunrise and sunset we toured a trail with an incredible view of the monuments: East an West Mittens, Elephant Butte, and Three Sisters, just to name a few. The natural sculptures towered high above.

The Navajo let horses run free, so there were several roaming as Rob and I circled the 17 mile trail with its view of towering monuments. We were taking photos of a group of horses gathering at the gates of a corral. There was a newborn foal, just finding its wobbly legs.

"What gentle creatures," I said, and just at that very moment, a stallion suddenly took hold of the neck of the small foal, picked it up by the neck, shook it violently and then flung  it to the ground. The foal found its legs again, stood unsteadily, and the stallion attacked again with its biting and shaking. It happened at least five times, until the foal finally gave up and stopped getting to its feet. We tried to intervene but there was little that we could do other than beep our car horn, which wasn't much of a deterrent. The Navajo we told about the event were surprised, and so were the ranchers we met later and described the event. Very disturbing.

On Day 6 we drove through the Painted Desert on the way to Flagstaff and stopped to explore Wapatki's ancient ruins and Sunset Crater's volcanic ash. Each of those landscapes is so different from the other, it is hard to believe they are only within a few hours drive.

When we arrived at the Inn I enjoyed its creature comforts - a jump into the jacuzzi and a nice dinner around the corner at Brix.