Wednesday, April 29, 2009

Peony Explosion

The first time I saw a picture of a peony, I feel in love with this gorgeous flower and it's been a mad romance since that day. And this began with a mere picture of the flower. Never mind the fact that it was the middle of the summer. I knew not much about gardening, except that I had just caught the gardening bug. I purchased the peony roots and proceeded to plant them in the dead of the summer. Of course since peonies are to be planted in the fall, nothing came of those efforts, except a loss of money and a great lesson learned. RIF, reading is fundamental. Had I read the package, I would have known this was not the right time for planting peonies.

Someone famous once said, "I never saw a flower that I didn't like". Well, I have some friends who, let's just say, they're flower snobs. Most of their garden is filled with small, very rare, and delicate types. They don't like peonies and consider them too big and showy. To each his own, I absolutely love them; to me they're bodacious and beautiful. When they're totally open, their texture reminds me of paper, kind of on the order of poppy flowers. And their transformation from that weird looking bud, to the show stopping, pink blossom, never ceases to amaze me.

Fast forward to today and I have been taking pics every year of my peonies, as if they were school pictures of my kids or something. This year I tried my best to get each stage of their development. But that's a tricky task. This past Monday one of the peonies was barely open, just sort of peaking out. You could barely see it. Two hours later when I came outside to take a photo of it, it had totally opened up (it was 89 degrees). I couldn't believe it! Imagine if I had had a video taping the entire opening, like a PBS nature show or something. It would have been phenomenal. But such is life. I missed that show.

I've been through this almost every year with my peonies. They will be locked up, closed tight, taking their sweet time to open and bloom. And then it's like, BOOM, there's a heat wave and they literally explode open. I would prefer a slow and steady opening, so as to drag out this fabulous show of nature. Because once they're all the way open, the next stage is the petals dropping one by one, to the ground. It's a beautiful experience regardless of the timing of the heat wave. And I am so blessed to have this enchanting experience year after year. Sweet peonies, my love, I'll await your return again and again.

2009 peony show.

Thursday, April 9, 2009

Bath time

When was the last time you took a bath? Yes, I know you bathe everyday, but I'm referring to actually sitting down in a tub of water, with bubbles, and candles and just relaxing. I use to have a weekly ritual of taking a bath every Sunday. That was one way to ensure I took a bath at least once a week.

Growing up in Virginia we didn’t have showers, only bathtubs. When we moved to NY in 1967 and landed an apartment in a beautiful pre-war building, I was taken by the bathroom. Not only did we have a tub, we also had a stand-alone floor to ceiling, art deco tiled, shower stall. I never wanted to take a bath after that. But of course my mother would insist we take baths from time to time.

As an adult I definitely realized the value in taking a bath, but I had an experience that caused me fall off my weekly ritual. I had some work done in my house a few years ago. One bathroom had a shower stall and the other had no shower at all, just a tub. Well for some unknown reason, my contractor took a year to return and finish the bathroom with the shower. So for a year, I had to take a bath every single time I needed to bathe.

You have no idea what it’s like to take a bath every single day unless you just love doing that. The first thing I noticed it that taking a bath really slows you down. No matter how much of a rush you’re in, sitting in that warm water just causes you to slow your roll, to relax, to linger a bit. I would get so pissed with myself, because I needed to get going, but it was cause to pause. I tried every approach to try to get my contractor over. I got angry, that didn’t work. I tried being sweet; no go. I even lied claiming I had an infection from too many baths; he didn’t budge. I gave up and tried to be patient. He still didn’t show up until he was good and ready.

Why did I put up with his absenteeism instead of just hiring someone else? Well my contractor’s work is awesome and his prices so affordable, that it boggles the mind. So that’s the pay off, you have to wait until he gets around to it. It’s either time or money…

Anyway, I didn’t take a bath for a long time after that. Now I mostly take baths only when I’ve strained a muscle or I’m just too exhausted to even stand up in a shower. But that’s not how it should be. Bathing in a tub, as we all know, is a chance to unwind, to luxuriate, and pamper ourselves. I’m going to get back to sitting in the tub on a regular. Although, I’ve recently noticed, that I receive some great light-bulb moments while showering. What about you?

Monday, April 6, 2009

Spring Opening

What do I love about spring? Ha! Let me count the ways… I know I’m not special for loving spring, who doesn’t? Besides the promise of life, the flowers, the rain, I love the way my body, mind, and spirit responds to spring, especially as it relates to yoga.

In the spring, you can actually feel your body opening. Imagine that for just a moment, the feeling that you are expanding, ever so subtly, becoming more pliable, opening up to the cosmos. This happens despite the fact that it’s not quite warm out yet, something has shifted in the universe and consequently that shift also takes place within us. It's not only the flowers that are opening, we too are budding, blooming, opening.

There is a real difference for me. In the winter I just feel contracted when I practice, a bit tight and not as yielding. Perhaps that’s why so many are attracted to Bikram yoga a.k.a. hot yoga. The heat does helps you to expand, but it’s not the same as when the universe is behind you, opening something within you.

With that said, I encourage you to do a little yoga if you haven’t been practicing lately or even if you have never practiced. Just do a little of it to experience for yourself what happens. I actually find it magical. The great thing about yoga is, you start where you are. I know that sounds so obvious, but we humans like to compete not only with others, but also with ourselves. But with yoga, there should be no competing, just the practice of allowing. You allow your body to go at a pace that honors and respects its limitations and its possibilities, without force or strain. That’s yoga.

Some of what happens, I’ll refer to as squeezing and releasing, contracting and expanding, closing and opening, tightening and loosening. These opposing factors occur within and without as we go through our postures. For instance, when you’re in a spinal twist, the kidneys are squeezed releasing toxins. This squeezing is like a gentle massage for your organs. And your organs love it. In a forward bend the intestines are contracted pushing “toxins” down and out. In one of my all time favorite posture, the bow (and all postures that put pressure on the abdomen), not only do you massage the intestines, pushing toxins out, but also the reproductive organs receive a nice massage, forcing a new supply of blood there, increasing the strength and vitality of those organs. And the list goes on with each posture having its affect on particular organs, muscles, and tendons etc. Say nothing of the great affect all this has on the mind and spirit.

Don’t take my word for it, try it yourself and see how you’ll naturally go ahhhh as your breathing deepens and the relaxation pours over you gently rocking you into a place of peace and calm. Stay there on that mat as long as you can. When it’s time to roll the mat up, consider the grace of being able to take that experience with you through out your day, or for as long as you can hold on until the next time. ahhhh!