Sunday, 30 March 2008

Stories for and from the big girl walking

Tonight we turn the clocks forward an hour. As if on queue, this afternoon the clouds parted and the blue sky swept over us, high and thin like a bleached prayer flag. I stared at it, imagining it to be a banner of blanched silk cobalt, and waiting for the invisible strings to suddenly unleash it, set it free on the breeze. What if the sky unfurled? What would lay behind?
This morning I did my first full yoga workout in ages. My hips are stiff and it was difficult. When I reached the end I dawdled and did some random stretches, avoiding the move into savasana or complete relaxation. When I take a class, this is always my favourite time, but when I am alone, I often cut it short or skip it altogether. Today I forced myself to lie down and be still, and while I wasn’t able to truly relax, the reasons for my evasion of this pose did bubble up. Part of it is the fear that through stillness, some emotionally difficulty will unlock inside me and reveal itself. This would cause confrontation, which I have always avoided. The other reason is I have a hard time giving myself permission to rest. I am plagued with the feeling that I have not earned the right to stop and relax. In class it is easy - I’m just following orders and someone else is giving me permission. But when I am alone and faced with the idea of being kind to myself, in this case I struggle.
Later this afternoon I walked, detouring widely at first in order to take the silly photo of the “master bakers” sign that I posted below. Then I doubled back and hit the canal, joining the throng of dog walkers, joggers, cuddling couples, and parents pushing infants in carriages while trying to convince their toddlers not to dig their fingers so completely into the mud.

I have some idea of how ridiculous I must look as I attempt to follow the power walking guidelines of stride and posture, as thoroughly described in my MoonWalk brochure. My abdominal muscles are weak and my lower back arches slightly in the way that it does on people with round bellies that possess a fondness for gravity. This means I have to focus on tucking in my pelvis to protect my spine, all the while imaging that I am squeezing a £50 note between my buttcheeks (I told you the description was thorough). To complicate things, my breasts are heavy (F cups are no laughing matter) and have their own unique affection for the earthward tug, so I fight to keep my shoulders up and back.

Just as the feeling that I had taken on more than I can manage was beginning to loom within my mind, I turned on my Ipod and was immediately and thankfully distracted by the warm and jovial voice of the Vinyle CafĂ©’s Stuart McLean as he described the various calamities befalling “Dave,” a character now known and beloved by a vast number of Canadians, or at least those with a fondness for CBC Radio.

I have given up seeking music to see me on my way to fitness. As much as I love music, and I adore everything from Louis Armstrong to Tibetan throat singing, there are no tunes that lift me out of my seat and spur me to dig my shoes out from beneath the wardrobe. Instead I have turned to stories, which seem to be the only thing that can consistently plant in me a faith in the bizarre churning of the big world. Today Stephen Fry almost had me stumbling with laughter as he described (his Cambridge-bred accent boxing its way past vowel and consonant like Rocky through a meat cooler) his utter spite of dancing. His swathe of his loathing took in everything from ballroom to “the sweaty ghastliness” of “the vile terror known as line dancing.”
I had to stop by the side of the path and regain my composure following Stephen’s outburst about “the worst song ever written - The Lord of the Dance.”
“If ever a song were guaranteed to create a generation of atheists and non-dancers it is that one….I mean come on! Seriously shut up. Shut so up and go so dreadfully and entirely away.”
If anyone fancies a listen, look up Stephen Fry’s Podgram on Itunes and download “Bored of the Dance.”

I don’t know how far I walked, but eventually I wandered off the path onto another one below, where the trail follows the Water of Leith all the way through Dean Village and ends in Leith itself. I didn’t walk that far, but I did go far enough to take in some beautiful and intense signs of spring. On the water’s banks the grass is growing so thick and lush it looks almost surreal, like the tousled hair of some adolescent god. The sun was shining through the chick yellow trumpets of a clutch of daffodils, their mute mouths bellowing a chorus of colour.

I also passed by a large cemetery, the kind with long, solemn stands of trees that lend the place a special feeling of serenity.
I only wish I could photograph the songbirds, but even when I do catch sight of them, my wee camera does not contain a powerful enough zoom to capture any real detail. A feathered brown lump amidst leafless brown branches does not make for a compelling image.
Work tomorrow, and I still haven’t written my article about the lone piper. Something else I seem to be avoiding. Later then.

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