If my brain had a warning like my iPhone does it would be telling me that it’s overheating and needs to shut down for a while.
Today I got my “Your Group Fitness Instructor exam is one month from now” email from ACE, the American Council on Exercise. Yikes. I need to be totally prepared for this. Failing isn’t an option (although it’s certainly a possibility.) It’s going to take some serious effort over the next few weeks, but I have to nail it.
At the same time, I’m training diligently for my shodan (first black belt) test in Aikido. While the test isn’t until mid-December (thank goodness), there’s a run-through coming up in just two weeks. Lots more training to be done between now and then - and after, of course. I’m refining my focus, and really working on polishing the things I will need to demonstrate.
On the home front, the weather is cooling off a little, so it should be possible to finish more projects remaining from this year’s spring’s house renovation project. Something about the temperatures being in the 90s and 100s just saps one’s enthusiasm for that sort of thing.
I’ve gotten away from meditation, and “keep meaning to get back to it.” That starts now. I really need it. I need that settling down. With so many important things drawing me in conflicting directions it’s easy to feel scattered and overwhelmed, not knowing which to handle first. I need to find that centered, calm place from which to act effectively.
A random thought I had while chatting with a friend just now…
I think a really serious public health problem in our country, or at least our culture, is the constant messaging we get about how things get worse as we get older. It results in a fatalistic hopelessness, where people stop trying to stay flexible, stay active, stay strong, etc. they excuse all their aches and pains and weaknesses as “I’m just getting old.” Not to say age doesn’t have its challenges, but if we give up and sit on the couch, we are way more screwed than if we had kept active.
I have just returned from George Ledyard Sensei’s 4-Day Randori Intensive at Aikido Eastside in Bellevue, Washington, near Seattle.
For my non-Aikido friends, randori is a multiple attacker scenario, usually one of you, three of them. It can be intimidating and exhausting training (and a lot of fun). Four days of it… Whoa.
I first heard of this seminar shortly after I started training in Aikido. At the time it had been offered for 20 years! It sounded amazing. Four full days of weapons and randori work. One of the intended audiences for the seminar is people preparing for dan (black belt) exams. The word “Intensive” isn’t just in the title to sound cool on the flyer.
Wouldn’t it be amazing to be able to go? A learning experience and rite of passage rolled into one. I always thought it would be fun to take the train up, too! 1,500 miles. See a whole lot of the country on the way.
For the first few years I didn’t have the required rank (or skill, obviously) to go. When I first met Ledyard Sensei in person I mentioned that to him - that I was looking forward to the time I would be able to participate in this seminar.
Then last year, when I did qualify to go, budget and timing interfered. Also, knowing more about weapons I became concerned about that aspect. My training is based on Saito Sensei’s weapons, and theirs comes from Saotome Sensei. I don’t know their forms at all - not even some of the terminology. I thought I would be lost and in the way. Underfoot, you know.
So with that combination of factors in the mix I didn’t go. I gave up the whole idea of going. I figured I’d do a different seminar with Ledyard Sensei one day, but none really called to me the way this one had.
Life went on… My teacher asked me to test for shodan (first black belt) this coming December (2014), so I’ve been training extra diligently. I’m not working regular hours now, as I lay the foundation for a major career change. Meanwhile, Michael and I undertook some home renovations, and I happened to put all the purchases on my formerly-unused Amtrak mileage credit card to keep them separate.
Then this spring I saw the event listing for the upcoming 2014 seminar: “4-Day Randori Intensive with George Ledyard at Aikido Eastside.” Wait, what? Randori only! No weapons! The 25th year it’s been offered. “The 2014 seminar will be specifically geared to ASU Yudanhsa Test preparation and is intended for teachers preparing students for testing and test candidates and ukes. However, it is open to students from any organization.”
I had time. I had a free train trip. I had enough rank/experience. I had a yudansha exam coming up. OMG! It was perfect! How could I not go?
But being, ahem, “between careers” means money no longer grows on trees. Staying in a hotel and renting a car would have been a problem. I asked a friend who trains there if she knew of anyone who would let me crash on their couch, maybe in exchange for my paying their registration. Bless her heart (and her husband, too), she invited me to stay with them.
I registered for the seminar back in May, and made the train reservations (2 days each direction). Then I got my gis mended, ordered a shinai (more on that in a moment), and packed everything I might need for an adventure on rails and at the dojo. Finally I was really going to go!
I was pretty nervous, I’ll admit. Being on unfamiliar turf is always challenging. I tried to keep an open mind, remembering to enjoy and learn from whatever we did, but my hopes were so high there was a lot of potential for disappointment.
I was not disappointed in any way.
I knew the group would be small. It’s limited for maximum personal attention. But you know how sometimes the first day of a weekend seminar is even smaller because people can’t get Friday off work? Yeah… For the first morning we had four participants on the mat. Me, three sandans (if I recall correctly), and Ledyard Sensei, a rokudan instructor with 25 years experience teaching this particular seminar (and way more than that, overall). That’s some serious hands-on personal attention. There was no hiding in the back row here! As the weekend went on, more people arrived, but there was still constant attention to each student, with immediate and specific feedback, corrections, and coaching.
We worked on (among other things, and in no particular order) strategies for starting randori, direct techniques (dropping people where you wanted to), managing the relative positions of the attackers, using one attacker against the others (throwing them at each other, and using them as barriers or shields), seeing the lines of attack, judging (and creating) spacing and timing, executing techniques quickly (so as not to get bogged down with any one person), and getting out of trouble. We also worked on good (useful) ukemi for randori and with shinai, and safety in training at speed in groups.
Something completely new to me, but it’s on their tests, was randori with shinai. Three attackers wielding padded bamboo sticks. The techniques are like our bokken work (sword-like), but with shinai you can actually aim to clobber someone and not do any damage if they fail to get out of the way. That means the attackers don’t need to hold back when they come after you. We did several exercises in dealing with attackers coming from different directions, and I got to see a few full-speed shinai randori with people who were preparing for their exams.
On Saturday afternoon one of the dojo members took her shodan exam, too. I was lucky to be there to see it. It was a very impressive test!
I meant to do daily blog posts after the seminar each evening, but I was too mentally and physically exhausted, plus we had to get dinner, and needed to be up early the next morning, so that didn’t work out.
On the train ride home I alternated staring out the window with writing notes from everything I’d learned. It’s actually kind of hard to write on a train - too many distractions and too much being jostled about. But I wrote a bunch anyway. Assuming I can read my handwriting later I have a big chunk of a hardbound journal filled with notes, sketches, and ideas to play with and refer back to in coming months and years.
Something that has been particularly touching for me is everyone who made it possible for me to participate in this event. This was not just some random thing I thought it would be a hoot to do on a lark - it was a long time dream and goal to be there. I try to be a pretty independent, self-reliant person, but I simply could not have done this without a lot of support.
I’m so grateful to my friend and her husband for making it possible for me to be there. I’ve been on that side of hosting people during seminars, and while it can be fun it’s still a major disruption to deal with a house guest when you’re already quite busy enough as it is. They and their cats were awesome hosts, and I really enjoyed my time with them. I hope I can repay their gracious hospitality someday.
Much appreciation to my husband, Michael, for making it possible for me to be away from home. He took over care of feeding of our donkey, an assortment of cats, and a friendly raccoon who expects dinner each night, not to mention keeping our acre of thirsty trees happy during hot weather. Plus he did a bunch extra yard work while I was away! Oh, and got me to the train station at oh-dark-hundred, and then picked me up again in the wee hours when I came home.
I so appreciate everyone at the Intensive. Some folks had participated many times before, and are teachers in their own right. I was the newbie in the bunch, and the lowest-ranked, but they never let me feel like an outsider. They made me feel right at home at the dojo, and were generous and gracious in their coaching on the mat. But no taking it easy on the new kid - they were determined that I should do my best, and worked with me with warmth, compassion, and high expectations. And for that I humbly thank them. :-)
Most importantly, many thanks to George Ledyard Sensei for his attentive, demanding, thoughtful teaching, for leading such a great community of aikidoka. Oh, and for some pretty funny stories over lunches, too. I hope to have many more opportunities to train with him.
Whether you have heard of this seminar for years and just haven’t gotten around to going, or are learning of it for the first time here, go. Put it on your 2015 calendar now, and just go. I cannot recommend it highly enough. Every aspect of the event exceeded my already high hopes. It was challenging, technical, fun, useful, supportive, demanding, friendly, detailed, clear, funny, and intense. It definitely lives up to its name.
Photos from the 2014 Randori Intensive on Facebook:
Today was the first day of the Randori Intensive with George Ledyard Sensei at his dojo, Aikido Eastside, in Bellview, Washington. This is going to be a short post because I’m tired, and tomorrow starts early and will make today look easy. :-)
I had a great trip up on the train. I will post photos eventually, but it may not be until I get back. It’s a pretty busy weekend here. I’m lucky to be staying with a friend whose also doing the seminar (she’s done it several times before, too). We had a lovely day yesterday, out walking among trees and along a lakeshore.
This morning was a relatively small group on the mat, so tons of personal attention. Immediate, specific, detailed feedback and coaching. Some of it is familiar, some is similar to “how we do things back home,” just presented in different ways, and some of it is flat-out new or different. No pretense of “beginner’s mind” here — I really have to stay open, watch and listen closely, and try to do what I see and hear without thinking about it.
Attending to so many things at once is the most challenging part. I remember to irimi behind my partner, and forget to keep my base. Or I keep my base and forget to drop down into the technique. A lot of it is new info, but a lot is also stuff I know, and forget while I’m focusing on something else. So that’s a fun challenge.
It’s mentally and physically exhausting. Mostly mentally. I always have this experience when going to a new dojo - everything is different.
I’d best be rested for tomorrow. Off to sleep. :-)
I’m just ridiculously excited about it! I’ve been wanting to do both this seminar, and a long train trip, for years. Now I get to do both. Plus I get to meet and hang out with another of my fellow writers on The Mirror team from AikiWeb, Katherine Derbyshire, plus a bunch of other folks. Woohoo!
I will be posting a lot for the next week or so. Some of it won’t be directly about Aikido - lots of photos, random observations, etc.. Follow along!
I really enjoyed today’s seminar with Richard Moon Sensei and Dave Goldberg Sensei at Aikido of San Diego. The subject was “Aikido is Medicine for a Sick World.” We may not have solved all the world’s woes, but generated some good insights, and maybe made a few connections and shifts within ourselves. Afterward, at lunch, we decided it was a good training for mind, body, and spirit.
In related news, I’ve been feeling really overwhelmed and under a lot of pressure with everything I need to get done before leaving for Seattle at oh-dark-hundred on Tuesday morning. I’m determined to have all my preparations done by Monday afternoon before class. Months ago I had a long, complicated nightmare about missing the train, in spite of last-minute scrambling to throw everything together. I’m determined not to live it out in real life. LOL I’ve been feeling pretty stressed about it, actually - sure I’ll forget something critical, or run into some problem that will screw up my trip. Now, after an intense 4 hours of working on dealing with pressure, blending with multiple attackers, and moving into the open spaces, I’m feeling a lot calmer and more capable of seeing and managing the big picture instead of staring in panic at ever little detail (attack). I can see the whole system, and it’s something I can handle just fine. It’s not world peace (yet), but it’s my peace, and it’s a start.
We have a seminar coming up at our dojo a week from Sunday, with the teaching inspired by the O Sensei quote “Aikido is medicine for a sick world.” A couple of weeks ago when it was announced it seemed very appropriate in light of the fighting between Israel and Palestine. Right now Ferguson, MO (and many other places in the US) seems to need the same healing and reconnecting.
We cannot have police forces that see people as the enemy, who aim weapons at peaceful protesters. We have to get back in touch with our shared humanity. There is no “us" versus "them.”
“We’ve done everything we can to demonstrate a remarkable amount of restraint,” St. Louis County Police Chief Jon Belmar said in an interview outside the command post.
Restraint? Restraint from doing what? It implies they would like to be more violent, more forceful, but are trying to hold themselves back. It comes across to me as if a large, angry, powerful man had just backhanded a child, and then expects to be congratulated for showing restraint for not beating the kid further.
Police must not act out of anger. They are supposed to care for and protect their community. They should act appropriately, and with the least amount of force possible under the circumstances. If they need to “restrain themselves” something has gone very wrong in the underlying thinking.
It sounds like “Don’t make me have to hit you again!”
We have lost our collective minds - or maybe our hearts - when somehow two young friends walking down the street at night, bothering no one, escalates within seconds to one of them being shot dead by a man who was supposed to be protecting them.
There’s a lot that’s right in the world, but this sickness needs to be cured, and “we” have cure it. We.
"We need to be reminded to wake up and pay attention, to feel into our experience so we can respond fluidly and appropriately, to look and see if action is called for, and to summon the courage to take it."
Just published! Please check out this month’s column by “The Mirror” on AikiWeb. It was my turn to write, and I’d been struck by the similarity between a recent meeting with my teacher, Dave Goldberg Sensei, and the half halts we use to bring horses back to a centered, responsive place.
If you ever want to make a year fly by, here’s how to do it.
First, anticipate that you will likely be testing for shodan at some point this year.
Next, sign up for a study course to be certified as a Group Fitness Instructor (GFI). Plan to be done with it by summer. Ready to rock in your new career. Along with your writing you can help people be healthier and happier. Buy a notebook, highlighters, and pens. Put everything in a big tote bag so you can study anywhere, even at the park. Dive into the material. For a week.
Now, decide that this is the right time to remodel the house. Drop writing studying like hot potatoes for 6 months and instead focus on choosing flooring, rearranging furniture, and picking paint colors.
Meet with Sensei, along with a friend who will also be testing, and schedule your shodan exam for December 13th. Many months away. Plenty of time to train and prepare.
Refinish the kitchen cabinets. Landscape the driveway entrance. Collaborate with the contractor. Throw a big party when it’s all done.
Check the calendar and note that if you don’t schedule your pre-paid GFI certification exam in the next 2 days you will have to pay again to schedule it later. Schedule the certification exam for Friday, October 24th - as far out as you dare without being too close to your ranking exam. Dive into the material again.
Discover that you don’t know anything that’s going to be on your shodan exam. You’ve seen and done it all before, of course, but it escapes you now. Kazushi is kaput. Ma’ai is MIA. Even your gi are all goners. Start training on Sunday afternoons with your testing partner, friends, and sempai. Take all your gi to a tailor. Train, train, train. Make progress, slowly.
Get back to working on your books.
Realize there is more to do on the house. A lot more. Only the contractor’s part is done. Try to divide your time 50/50 between studying-writing and house projects. Study and write Sundays-Wednesdays, work on the house Thursdays, Fridays, and Saturdays.
Try to settle into a routine.
See that your elderly, arthritic donkey friend is getting worse week by week. Try everything you can to help. When that finally doesn’t work, let him go.
Get back to work.
After a few days adrift your brain starts churning out ideas again. Branding concepts, business models, marketing messaging… Blog posts resume writing themselves. Jot down ideas everywhere. Wake up inspired to write. Forget to drink coffee one morning!
Today will be about putting away all the stuff in the bedroom that’s still out after construction. And then there’s making a salad for the big dojo summer party after tomorrow’s kyu exams.
Just the thought of checking the oil in the truck feels like I’m plotting the murder of a dear old friend.
And I am.
I rarely use the truck anymore, since I gave up horses. I need to make sure it’s safe to start it. The truck and trailer are in the way. At least he won’t have to go in the trailer. He hates trailers. I think most donkeys hate trailers.
Yesterday I called the neighbors, the ones with the grandkids and the pool, to be sure they would not be around. Bible camp this week? Convenient.
My chatty neighbor is full of kind advice. “You’re doing the right thing. With our old horse… I wish we had… It’s always hard. We’ll pray for you at camp.”
And then the vet’s office. I had to schedule around other commitments. “Thursday? 9 a.m.? OK then. We’ll arrange everything. We’re so sorry.” Simple.
I hang up and cry some more.
Convenient and simple, but terrible and hard.
For years he’s had a hitch in his get-along. Arthritis. He’d stand up in the morning and cuss under his breath for minute, then shake it off and get on with his day. Just a bit of a limp in the right hind. Happy for ear rubs, excited about treats, glad for company.
We all have our aches and pains, right? I do, and I’m not ready to give up. He didn’t look ready, either.
More and more often, though, he rests lying down in the shade. His favorite place recently is under a pecan tree up the hill, where he has a view of the yard and the house, and the ground is sloped, making it easier to get up from resting. His friend munches her hay nearby, not hovering over him, but never too far off. He looks like a cat, lounging with his feet tucked under one side. Sometimes he chooses an open place in the midday sun, and stretches flat out, sunbathing as donkeys do.
Is it so bad to spend one’s later years relaxing in the shade and sunbathing?
But now I see the weeping sores on his legs from lying down so much. Generous layers of soft wood shavings may make him more comfortable - when he’s willing to lie in them at all - but they don’t help the sores.
Trusted friends give advice and sympathy. They’ve been here, too, and it never ends well. Ways to help, ways to let go. How to make it easier on his friend. Words of wisdom, shoulders to cry on.
Suggested sprays and ointments are rubbed off within the hour. Recommended bandages refuse to stay put. And he hates all of it. I decide he would prefer to be left alone and have sores than to be pestered with treatments that don’t help anyway.
Is it better to have life, with suffering, or to not exist at all? There’s a point where the scales tip. But where?
Every day I watch from the house as he buckles to his knees trying to rise from a nap in the shade, and hold my breath. He gives a mighty heave and gets to his feet, bracing wide against falling again. He makes it this time, and wanders off to nibble at his hay. But how many more times?
When will I come home and find that he’s been down for hours, exhausted from struggling in the hot summer sun? I’ve experienced that horror before. I want to spare him from it.
I see him crash to his nose one day, front legs failing him, too. I had wondered how he’d scuffed up his nose. Now I know.
He seems to do better when he takes his time. He rushes to jump up if he sees me come out the back door, so I watch out the window, waiting for him to stand on his own before going out to feed.
He stands and cusses a bit longer nowadays, tucking his leg tight to his belly. Are the muscles cramped? Is a nerve pinched? Do the sores sting?
He rubs his graying face on my jeans as he’s always done, and I’ve always let him. The seams and pockets are at just the right height for scratching an itchy forehead and eyes. He digs into his food with his usual combination of enthusiasm and desperation. He’s a fat little donkey. I think at some point in his past he went hungry, or lost the shoving matches at the feeder. He’s always afraid there won’t be enough food.
I hide his medicines in a delicious mash of soaked pelleted feed. He loves the treat, as long as he has some hay to eat along with it - it’s too mushy alone for his tastes - but the medicines might as well be inert dust for all the good they have done.
He has seen us through 3 horses and 16 years. We found him at the Humane Society in 1998, when we needed a companion for a herd-bound gelding. A family had lost their home and had to give him up. He was fearful and defensive. It took 3 hours and 4 people to load him my trailer. He was hard to catch, and harder to handle, but he never kicked. He wanted to be friends, and wanted to be good. With patience and kind training he learned the world could be an OK place, and that he could relax. We boarded him with friends when we took vacations, and he learned that trailers don’t always take you away from home forever. He surprised us years later by running to the trailer and jumping in when we evacuated ahead of a huge wildfire, embers falling around us. He knew he could trust us, and would be safe if we stuck together. He still doesn’t like trailers, though, and I won’t have to ask him to get into one again.
The sores have gotten worse. Sometimes blood drips down his legs, directed by the long fur, like rainwater. I kneel to take a closer look, and he threatens to kick me. “That hurts. Leave it.” I respect his request.
He walks down the hill to his water, and stands with his friend in the afternoon shade of the house, dozing. For years they’ve had the run of the yard, a sloping acre of fruit trees and dry weeds. No point locking them up in a barren pen. Neighbors have fed him grape leaves through the chain link, and he’s watched their kids grow up. Our citrus trees are all pruned bare to eye level - the leaves being tasty, apparently - and the fallen fruit makes a juicy snack. He’s had a pretty decent life. Now he wanders, picking at the short grass growing where the lawn used to be.
It’s been cool and cloudy for a few days. A welcome break from usual sweltering heat. Sometimes he doesn’t look so bad, walking slowly but purposefully back to his soft place under the pecan tree. But I remember the scuffed nose, the sores, the cussing, and the inevitable return of the blazing sun, and I know it’s time.
Now he is nosing through a half-flake of forbidden alfalfa - a legume hay too rich for donkeys, with its dark green leaves and flat, dry purple flowers. I’ll give him more this evening, too. Consequences be damned. Screw the nutrition and weight issues. The hell with long-term health risks.
Since he is up I take him a sweet slice of watermelon and some peppermints. He trumpets an increasingly rare he-he-he-haaaaawwww when he sees me coming with his blue plastic dish. Enjoy your treats, buddy, and a little shoulder-scritching, too. Enjoy everything you can - life is short.
I’ll move the truck and trailer in the morning - today it feels too much like treachery.
Today is about enjoying the day.
I have a short talk with him and tell him his troubles will be over soon, that he should relax and enjoy everything he can. If there are any things he had been meaning to do, unexplored corners of the yard, he should take care of those today.
I think of all the things he’s never liked, things he will never have to put up with again. He’ll have no more weather in the hundreds, salty from sweating behind his ears. No more huddling on the porch of the run-in shed for days on end during storms, with no dry place to lie out under the stars. No more gnats biting the insides of his ears bloody, and no more flies irritating the fronts of his legs. And no more fly spray, which is almost as bad as flies. No more loading or riding in the trailer. No more being tied to anything. No more hoof picking. And no more arthritis. No more pain.
Next is a good brushing, warm wash cloths to clean his ears and under his itchy tale, and all the treats I can think to give him. Marshmallows, peppermints, apple wafers, a banana — a new thing, which he enjoys, and a big handful of common sow thistle from the front yard, which I had been meaning to get around to picking and giving to him. Today is not a day for waiting for the perfect time, or putting off until later. Today is for experiencing everything right now.
I double up on his medication at lunch, which isn’t wise in the long run, but there is no long run, and it might make him feel better right now.
And I check the oil, which is fine, and move the truck and trailer.
Later, running errands, six huge Fuji apples, and three bags of fresh, crisp carrots from the farmers market shop. Just five dollars and ninety-one cents. Why haven’t I done this more often? Oh, right… Too much sugar. Not good for donkeys. Well today that doesn’t matter.
At bedtime I hand out bowl of the carrots and apples, a few pieces at a time to avoid choking. They were worth pinning ears over. I find myself wishing I’d fed him more carrots and apples.
I remember his vet’s words from a couple of years ago, when I’d mentioned that maybe I should put him on a diet, get some weight off… “Just let him enjoy being a donkey.” I pretty much followed that advice. He got treats, and a bit of alfalfa with his responsible grass hay. I wonder, what if I’d given him more carrots, more apples…? A happier, but shorter life? Is the trade-off worth it?
There is just one more arthritis pill left in the bottle. Good timing, I suppose, to run out exactly to the day. I didn’t plan that. In any case, it isn’t going to do him any good to take it tomorrow, so I give it to him now. Because why the hell not? So what if it causes kidney damage?
They get more alfalfa than usual for the night, and I head back to the house.
Before turning in I confirm my checking balance to be sure there is enough to pay the vet and hauling company, then set the alarm for daybreak and try to sleep.
The day begins like any other. Michael has already made coffee by the time I get up. I have to figure out what to wear. The cats are excited to go outside.
He is out at the barn, eating. Eeyore. Our little brown donkey. Like his namesake, he is a mopey sort of character. Capable of delight and mischief, but for the most part pretty sure the world is not quite a safe place.
I leave him be and have some coffee and a handful of Brazil nuts for breakfast.
There are so many details… I will need to have two checks ready, one for the driver, and one for the trucking company. I will probably need Kleenex, so I fold a few into my pocket. Must have a manure fork handy — I wouldn’t want to have him go down in a pile of poo.
And now he’s lying in the shade under his pecan tree. I let him rest.
There’s 200’ of water hose lying around out front, and I reel it up so it’s out of the way. Check to make sure the gate key is where it belongs. If I couldn’t unlock the gate… We will need both halters. I can’t ask Clementine to wear Eeyore’s halter when I take her out front afterward.
He’s on his feet now, so I go out to say good morning.
He chomps through the first apple and handful of carrots, all diced into bite-size chunks, in no time. There are more in the fridge, and why shouldn’t he have them all? For an instant I can’t find the apples. The big, crunchy Fuji apples I bought at the farm store just for Eeyore. They can’t be missing! Not now! There’s a brief frantic search, and then there they are right in front of me.
We can lose our centers so quickly. I take a deep breath, and exhale. It’s OK…
I cut up another bag of carrots and three more apples, in a bigger bowl this time, saving one apple and another bag of carrots for Clementine. She will be on her own after this morning, and will need plenty of attention and pampering.
8:01 a.m. An hour until the vet is to arrive. What might a donkey want to do with his last hour? What if I only had an hour left?
I cut a tiny bad spot out of a carrot slice, because no one should have to eat even a tiny yucky bit of carrot in their last hour.
The pragmatic voice in my head tells me to drink plenty of water so I don’t pass out. “Go to the bathroom now,” it says, “so you don’t have to leave anymore once you go out back again.” It’s always there, arranging things, being logical, unaffected.
A few friends who have advised me throughout this process text me now to wish us well. I reply, and realize that in all this time I never taught my my phone how to spell Eeyore’s name. I probably meant to get around to it. Someday.
With just a few minutes left I halter him, and lead him out through the front gate, and he drags me towards the nearest grass. Just then the vet’s office calls. He’s delayed 30 minutes. A lucky thing, too. I wonder for a moment if they don’t “accidentally” delay all euthanasias by 30 minutes, knowing everyone needs a little more time.
Eeyore spends the extra time out front, grazing and eating more treats. He used to be afraid to go out there. Today he was dragging me around looking for the best grass. I finally just toss the lead rope over his back and let him enjoy his freedom. What is he going to do? Limp off down the road? He’s not particularly interested in company. He’s busy with his donkey business.
Actually, he’s looking pretty good, walking around, grazing under the trees. But I remind myself that he’s on triple the normal dose of pain meds, and that he doesn’t have the strength to reliably get up from lying down. And he’s been getting steadily worse. He gives a good impression at the moment, but can’t go on this way.
It’s a lovely way to spend his last morning, grazing freely, eating all the forbidden treats he enjoys so much. I’m glad he can go on a morning like this, not down and struggling, frightened and hurting.
Meanwhile, Clementine is furious. Locked in the back, behind the gate, while Eeyore eats all the grass and all the treats. Not fair!!! I give her a few carrot and apple pieces (still mindful of her long-term health, at least). She takes them greedily, and goes back to pawing at the ground, kicking the air behind her, and banging the gate back and forth in her teeth. Not!!! Fair!!!
The vet, Dr. Chandler from East County Large Animal Practice, who has helped us all these years, turns into the driveway. He explains everything, and gets out what he needs. Sedation first, then an overdose of anesthesia. Yes, “blue juice” really is blue. You never want to mix that up with anything else. He is kind and skillful. Eeyore goes easily - drowsy, and then no more. Less traumatic than having teeth floated. I try to get up from squatting down after it’s over, and things go fuzzy. Even with all that water I drank. Back down to the ground, until after a minute I can stand.
Dr. Chandler gives me a hug. I thank him for helping Eeyore out, and he thanks me for giving Eeyore a good life. More tears. Sadness, but also relief.
I have arranged for an hour’s pause in the day before the truck comes, so that Clementine can come to her donkey-mind understanding of what has just happened. She can see from her spot at the gate - he is just on the other side. I let her stand there and look. The pragmatic voice says “Take a break. Have some Gatorade. Get your checkbook and a pen.” I do as instructed.
Back outside, I lead Clementine through the gate for a closer look. She looks, sniffs, and walks right past. Grass! I let her eat for a while. She shows no concern or interest. She’s out front, and there’s grass. That’s all that matters.
It’s getting near time for the truck. I ask her to come back up near the gate, but true to her donkey reputation she refuses to budge. I screw up my courage to drop her lead rope for a moment, and run back to the gate for the bowl that’s still half full of carrots and apples. Finally she’s willing to follow me back. I give her another chance to see her friend, and although she clearly notices him there I can’t discern any reaction. She lets herself be coaxed through the gate, following the bowl. The padlock is slimy and spit-covered from her earlier escape attempts. I click it shut so she can’t shove the gate open and get in the way.
The hauler arrives on time. He introduces himself - Jesus. Nice guy. Soft spoken, courteous, thoughtful. I can see at least two horses through the narrow gaps of the sides of the truck, which is tastefully enclosed to shield folks on the road from this harsh reality. I thank him for doing a tough but important job. He tells me he’s been doing it for 20 years, and it’s hard work, long days, but he likes it. I write out both checks and go inside, leaving him to his work.
Even as I’m hearing the truck engine and wench motor in the distance I discover an injured bird in the garage - a juvenile Phainopepla. It must have escaped from Miss Kitty after she brought it inside. Its wing is injured, but it’s bright-eyed and lively.
I put it in a cat carrier for the moment, and after the truck leaves I go out to check on Clem. She has been knocking a trash can around, dumping old hay everywhere by the side of the house. She’s perturbed, but it’s hard to tell if it’s about Eeyore, or about being kept from all that grass out front.
I put everything away, give Clementine a few more treats, and get the house closed up, grab my car keys, and take the little bird to the Project Wildlife triage center. They are hopeful about its recovery.
Later Michael jokes that we can say Jesus took Eeyore away. There is humor even in difficult times.
Listen: "Aikido, Empathy, and Neurodiversity" with Sensei Nick Walker, M.A.
I have a podcast to recommend to you. I’ve listened to it a few times before, and just listened to it again, twice, while doing some gardening at sunset out in the front yard.
The interview provides an excellent, clear, accessible, and thought-provoking introduction to Aikido. If you are not yet familiar with Aikido you’ll learn a bit of its history, and how it’s distinct from other martial arts. Even if you’ve trained for years, there’s probably something new here to consider about your practice.
The podcast is just over an hour long. At about 16 minutes Walker Sensei makes a very interesting point about the practice of Aikido, in contrast to non-contact practices like (most) yoga and meditation. He also discusses his work in neurodiversity and autism rights activism.
The source is Shrink Rap Radio, with interviewer Dr. David Van Nuys, Ph.D. (AKA “Dr. Dave.”) He is Emeritus Professor of Psychology at Sonoma State University.
According to the brief bio on the site (from 2012), “Nick Walker received his M.A. in Somatic Psychology from California Institute of Integral Studies, where he now teaches in the undergraduate Interdisciplinary Studies program. He holds the rank of 6th Dan (6th degree black belt) in aikido, and has taught the art of aikido to adults, teens, and children for over 30 years. He is founder and senior instructor of the Aikido Shusekai dojo in Berkeley, California.”
My sister would have turned 50 today. Alcoholism and drug addiction killed her 8 years ago, after a decades-long struggle to reclaim her life.
As a little kid she desperately wanted to be liked, to fit in. She’d come home from her early grades of elementary school crying that she had no friends.
For a while she found belonging in softball. Our family all went to her games to support her. At some point she failed to make the team, which was devastating for her.
Around the same time, at about age 14, as far as I know her history, a friend shared a stolen bottle of wine with her behind the local movie theater. I don’t think she ever stopped drinking after that, except for one time, when she was pregnant with her son. She stayed clean and sober during her whole pregnancy. Aside from then, from 14 to 42 were hard years, and everything was a struggle.
She could be nice, fun, and caring. As adults we got along well, and talked often. I didn’t trust her; she wasn’t trustworthy, but I did like her.
As a teenager she stole, both from me and from businesses. She lied about anything and everything. She ditched school regularly, and snuck off to surf with her cool friends. It was a huge crisis for her when she didn’t have the “in” jeans (Salt Of The Earth, in red) one year. She was dragged home, drunk, by the police. Once she and a friend ground up and snorted aspirin (to look like coke) at the beach so they could look cool in front of boys they liked. She would do anything to belong, be liked, and be cool.
She drove, of course. The “don’t drink and drive” message doesn’t work on alcoholics. They have to drink, and they have to drive. They have to get to work (or they’ll lose their jobs), to the grocery store (or they’ll lose their kids), and to treatment (or they’ll lose their jobs or go to jail). People ask why we didn’t take her car away. You know what they call people who take other people’s cars? Felons. You can’t just steal someone’s car because you know they shouldn’t be driving.
I had a talk with her about a year before she died, appealing to her medical sensibilities. She had a disease that made it unsafe for her to drive. She couldn’t not drink, just like someone with a seizure disorder can’t just stop having seizures, so she should not be driving. She should move to a place where she could use public transportation, and get rid of her car. That seemed to reach her - she saw the logic in it, and she was moving in that direction when she died.
Maybe we need support for these people, like free bus passes, or taxi vouchers. Admonishing them not to drive just doesn’t work.
My sister was a knowledgeable and talented nurse, employed and respected all of her adult life. She was a charge nurse in ICU, responsible for running whole floors. It was a point of pride with her that she only used drugs they were discarding anyway - she never took drugs from a patient. Eventually she had to limit herself to non-direct patient care positions (like medical help phone hotlines) so she wouldn’t be around drugs at all.
It was a fortunate thing that she was in the medical field, because that profession is much better educated about addiction. She was sent to rehab programs over and over, without losing her livelihood. I would go visit her, in 6-month residential programs. She would be journaling, participating in group therapy, walking and working out, eating healthy foods - really putting her heart into the program. She would be enthusiastic and positive, and when she got out she was going to make it work this time, really she was! And then on the way home she’d steal a bottle of whatever she could get her hands on, and be wasted within hours of being released.
If you think addicts and alcoholics are merely low-life scum with no brains and fewer morals, who deserve the life they have for drinking or using drugs, then I’m here to tell you that you are wrong. Arrogant, ignorant, and wrong. It’s a mental illness. In the right circumstances, it could happen to you or someone you love. I hope it doesn’t. It’s hell for the addict and everyone around them.
Still think addicts should just stop? Tell me, how’s that diet going? Still smoking? Working out regularly like you know you should? Trying to cut back on sodas? Yeah… Glass houses, and all that. Try not breathing for a while. That’s how she described trying to stay clean. She simply could not do it. It’s true that only the addict can make the choice to get clean. Nobody can do it for them. But it’s also true that sometimes even they can’t do it. They can try and try, and still fail.
What I’ve seen more than addicts or alcoholics being “losers” is that they are sweet, gentle, sensitive people. In my experience they are kind, caring, and helpful. They want to be accepted and loved. We all do, but I think it’s a stronger need for them, to the point they will destroy themselves to get approval from others.
We need to take the shame out of alcoholism and addiction. It’s something that’s gone very wrong in a person’s brain, like any other mental illness. When something is shameful, people feel they need to hide it. How can anyone ask for support and get help if they can’t let anyone find out they have a problem? They are damned if they do ask for help, and damned if they don’t. We need to remember that they are people in need of help.
They say “talk to your kids about drugs and alcohol,” but I think we need to go deeper than that with kids. Get ahead of that, and talk to them about keeping their own integrity, being true to themselves, and not being so concerned with what others think of them. Teach them to trust their own good sense, and value their own opinion of themselves. Teach them that anyone who would encourage them to do something wrong or stupid isn’t their friend - isn’t worthy of their friendship. Teach them that having only one or two good friends, or no friends at all, is better than belonging to a group of the wrong people, however awesome they might seem. Of course teach them how to say no. But so much more important to teach them to be OK standing on their own. Help them find belonging and community in positive ways. In my experience the lesson barn and the martial arts dojo are two very good options.
If you are a very young person reading this, please don’t try addictive drugs or drink - at least not until you are well into your 20s. Not even once. Your brain isn’t ready to deal with it. You might make the choice freely the first time, but after that it might not be up to you, ever again. Some people just get hooked. If you are one of them, you are screwed, possibly for life, which may be very short and very unhappy. Don’t take the risk. If all your friends are doing it, find new friends. If all the cool kids are doing it, be uncool. Loneliness and the scorn of the in crowd won’t kill you. Really, it won’t. Drugs might.
Having been to a good few seminars where weapons (wooden sticks, that is) were part of the training, I have some thoughts to share.
First, if you’re organizing a seminar, for heaven’s sake please be clear about whether participants should bring sticks or not. I have been left wondering many times, and either had to bring them just in case, or leave them home and hope they wouldn’t be needed. I’ve been wrong both ways.
Please give abundant notice. I’ve been part of a large group flying to a seminar where we were all scrambling two days before the event to buy and/or build airline-appropriate carrying tubes. Given that we were trying to get other things handled before traveling it would have been a lot easier to have dealt with the stick-transportation problem weeks ahead of time instead of at the last minute.
And after all that, we didn’t use them anyway. *headdesk*
Not everyone has their own weapons. Sometimes there are loaners available, sometimes not, and often not enough to go around. The first seminar I went to was actually a retreat, and was to be fairly weapons-centric. I rush-ordered an inexpensive set of weapons (and basically had to refinish them on arrival - the night before the event) to be sure I would be able to fully participate in the weekend’s training.
It’s great to have extras for participants to borrow. It’s a pretty iffy prospect for the participants, though. Maybe they’ll get one, maybe not. It seems there are always a few folks pantomiming what was shown, stick-less, during a seminar. It might be nice to specifically arrange loaners when people sign up. Another check box on the form: “Will you be [ ] bringing your own sticks, or [ ] need to borrow a set?” Members could help out by bringing any extras they have.
Also, as a participant, I bring whatever spares I can carry from my own small collection. Someone has always needed to use them. Encourage people to bring any they can share. Just be sure they are clearly marked. No one would deliberately run off with another student’s weapons (right?), but they could get them mixed up with the loaners or something. Make it easy for people to see who they belong to and return them.
Bringing sticks on planes can be expensive! On a recent trip my sticks tube, which counts as a checked bag, cost $25 each way. I split that with a friend (it holds two sets, plus one extra jo), but still… As an organizer be mindful of this when asking folks to bring their sticks along “just in case.”
There’s also the risk that they could be damaged or lost. I have a decent inexpensive set for “away” seminars. My good ones don’t go on planes. Good thing, too - on this last return trip my sticks took an extra day getting home, and for a while there the airline seemed to have no recollection of them at all.
Here are a couple of “out of the box” ideas for seminar organizers:
Provide a local address (the dojo, a member’s business…) where out of town participants could ship their sticks (or other heavy, big, or awkward things like sleeping bags, extra blankets, etc.) so they don’t have to schlep them on a plane.
If your dojo could use more sticks for general use in class or seminars, consider offering the option for participants to contribute to their purchase. For instance, buying this 10-pack of jo means they cost about $30 each. If a visiting seminar participant could “rent” a bokken and jo for $25 it could potentially save them (net) $25 in checked baggage fees, plus a lot of hassle in getting their own weapons to the seminar, and you’d have loaners for next time, and for your regular classes. After a few seminars they’d be fully paid off. Win-win!
At one big seminar locally, where lots of people travel to be there, they used only tanto. Easy to pack, no special luggage required. I thought that was a really thoughtful idea, and it was interesting to see how each of the instructors approached teaching with tanto.
I’d love to hear any other ideas for making it easier for people to get sticks to seminars, too!
Back from the 3rd annual O Sensei Revisited camp in Occidental, CA. It’s an intense, intimate camp in a beautiful setting. The focus is on teaching/learning O Sensei’s developmental process through experiential work - both technique and other exercises. It’s a lot of training packed into 3 days!
A little achy here and there from lots of training (and sleeping on a weird mattress), but mostly rested and awake after a couple of good nights’ sleep. It was great to see so many friends, hang out with my dojomate/roommate, Karen, and Sensei, and to meet a bunch of new folks. Pushed a few limits, learned a few new things, and was reminded of many more learnings that had faded. Lots to think about, embody, and incorporate into daily training. More inspired than ever about training for my upcoming (someday) shodan (first black belt) exam “later this year,” and recommitting to studying (reading, reviewing notes, watching videos, and consciously learning), and to writing (both my blog and my next book), even in the midst of house renovation chaos.
Already looking forward to going again next year - I hear it’s scheduled for the end of April. Check with City Aikido (Robert Nadeau Shihan’s dojo) in San Francisco for details.
Sensei is offering a new program at the dojo where I train (Aikido of San Diego) called Aikido 101. It’s a 5-week series of ten 90-minute classes, and the first session starts next week. I’m looking forward to playing with some brand new people just starting out. What a great opportunity to revisit the fundamentals with a fresh listening, not to mention the chance to work on improving my ukemi!
The course will provide a well thought-out curriculum of principles and techniques so participants get a broad overview that’s designed to introduce the basics. If it’s all they ever do, they’ll at least have a good beginner’s understanding of what Aikido is, and some fundamental skills. If they decide to continue, they’ll have a good foundation to build on.
A friend of mine asked me this morning “Looking for new experiences to enrich my life… Aikido 101 looks intriguing. Any input you’d like to share??" I was struck by her openness and curiosity. She’s understandably cautious, since she has some physical issues she’s concerned about, but she asked. She wondered. She allowed for the possibility that there might be value in it, and that she might be able to do it. Whatever she chooses, I appreciate and admire that about her.
Since I started training I’ve regularly invited friends to visit the dojo or participate in introductory programs we’ve offered. I’ve heard two kinds of responses from almost all of the people who decline - either they think they wouldn’t be capable of doing it, or they have a incorrect picture in mind of what Aikido is, and they aren’t interested in that. Both are so frustrating!
In the first group, I keep hearing folks say things like “I’m not very athletic,” “I’d need to get in shape first,” “I’m afraid I’d look stupid,” or “I’ve always wanted to try a martial art, but…” I hate to hear people limit themselves like that! I want to ask them what else they miss out on in life because of that kind of thinking. Getting past those voices telling them they can’t (or aren’t ready, or probably shouldn’t, or wish they could, someday, when the stars align just so…) might be the most important part of the course for these people. They might discover they have more potential than they thought.
Something this new program offers that might nudge them off the fence is that it’s specifically intended for brand new beginners. Out of shape, uncoordinated, clueless, whatever… If they were afraid of looking stupid or not knowing what to do, or holding more advanced students back, they will be in exactly the right place. No more excuses. They don’t even have to wear a gi, and don’t have to join the dojo - just sign up and show up.
From the second group I hear comments like “I’m not interested in learning how to fight,” “I took karate when I was 8, and I didn’t like it,” or “I wouldn’t like all that punching and kicking.” Aauuuggh! Frankly, I find this really annoying - a stubborn insistence on maintaining one’s ignorance. I’ve never heard anyone offering one of these reasons temper it with any hint of curiosity or glimmer of the possibility that they might not have all the information. Never “Isn’t that just like karate? I took karate as a kid and didn’t like it,” or “Is there fighting involved? I don’t think I’d like it if there’s fighting.” It’s like inviting a friend to try your favorite Thai restaurant with you, and they say “Oh no, I wouldn’t like that. Thai food is all really spicy, and I don’t like spicy food.” There’s no opening for learning more.
Like the first group, I wonder what else these folks miss out on in life because of this “cover-my-ears and ‘LALALALAALAA - I can’t hear you!!!’ refuse-to-listen” approach to the unfamiliar? They aren’t stupid people… I think they might actually be interested in participating if they knew what was available to them. I think it must be a subconscious defense, coming back to the same fear - that they might fail somehow, or embarrass themselves. They are afraid they don’t have what it takes, and rather than confront that possibility they turn their backs on opportunities that don’t feel comfortable. What else have they rejected with this reflexive, automatic “No, that’s not for me” reaction?
In both cases, It saddens me to see people afraid to even give themselves a chance. I hope they eventually do something that puts a crack in that shell. Whether it’s trying Aikido, taking a painting class, learning to play a musical instrument, going backpacking… I hope they take a leap eventually, and do something that shatters their own perception of their limitations.
Info and registration for the Aikido 101 course, if you know anyone in the San Diego area who might enjoy it, can be found here:
2013 was a year of beginnings. Changing directions and laying foundations. It has been an exciting time. I started a lot of things, but I got stopped a lot, too.
I switched to working (very) part time for my employer, and launched my own publishing company. I wrote and published my first book. I meant to get a lot further with the next book I have planned, but writing got delayed by a few projects coming in from the day job, and then I lost momentum.
I started to put in a large vegetable garden area with raised beds. That was going well until two local cats chose to unexpectedly grace me with their litters of kittens within days of each other. For a few months entirely too much of my time (and money) was taken up with caring for them and trying to find them homes. Besides, I could not get the tractor out of the garage because we had one litter trapped in there while we tried to socialize them. By the time that adventure was over the ground was dry and hard, and hot summer weather had arrived. I accomplished nothing further on the garden, and it has been overtaken by weeds.
In the late summer I aggravated an existing problem with my left knee. Getting it back in good working order required minor surgery and a couple of months’ rest and rehab at the end of the year. So there were several weeks of discomfort, icing, physical therapy, and of course sitting out and watching classes.
It’s easy to look back on the past year and feel like I didn’t really get much done — like I was floundering a bit. Too many incompletions, too many distractions, and a few thwarted intentions.
But when I started thinking about it over the past few days I started to feel better about it. I did get a lot done, and setting things in motion is a kind of progress in itself.
I really enjoyed training through most of 2013. I tested for first kyu early in the year, and got to participate in several really special retreats and seminars. I feel like I have settled into training, like it’s not about the next test or the next seminar. Not that those things aren’t fun and worthwhile — they are — but every class is special, too. I don’t feel like I am striving or struggling… I guess how a marathon runner feels when they have gotten into a good rhythm they can keep up mile after mile.
I’m just starting back on the mat after my knee surgery. I am doing well, and thrilled to be able to participate again. I plan to be diligent about continuing the exercises my physical therapist gave me for my shoulders, neck, hip, and knee. Barring any new problems, I should be in good shape to get back to full training now.
Sensei has launched several new programs at the dojo, so this will be a full year with a lot going on. I am also planning to participate in a few outside programs. There won’t be any potential for boredom in 2014!
Assuming all goes well, I may be testing for shodan at some point later this year. Since my first kyu exam I have already been training with that in mind, and am glad to have the opportunity to train more intensively in preparation. I am looking forward to it, but don’t feel in any hurry.
One thing I completed in 2013 was a major revision of our dojo website. That was a valuable learning experience. I’m very happy with the result, and I hope it serves the dojo well for a long time. We have some new things planned throughout the year, but it should be easy going.
At home, I am starting the year with a half-completed garden area ready to finish over the winter. I have all the supplies on hand. And last year’s mother cats have both been spayed, so no kittens this spring! The garden should be ready for planting in time for summer crops.
I have all the knowledge, tools, and infrastructure that I need to write, format, and publish my next book. I already have a lot of the material written. I need to get it pulled together, write the remaining portions, and get it done.
In the past year I did not do as much blogging as I had wanted to. It was not for lack of material or inspiration — just the opposite. I was so often hit with so many ideas that I found it difficult to sit down and get started writing about any one of them at times. Now I plan to give myself permission to be more concise, and perhaps a bit more raw. I will try to err on the side of the blurting out a half finished but important observation, rather than keeping it on the shelf until I can express it exactly so.
Just a few weeks ago I started studying to be certified as a Group Fitness Instructor through the American Council on Exercise (ACE). It’s a self-paced program. I eased up on studies over the holidays, and am looking forward to getting back to it in earnest now. Movement, strength, and improved health have made such tremendous difference in my life over the past few years that I hope to be able to support others in experiencing similar transformations of their own.
In the background of all this, I am working to eliminate as many distractions and unfinished things hanging over my head as I can. In 2013 I began culling ruthlessly. I still have entirely too many things I do not use or need, so will be selling or giving away everything I can. We will be taking on some long-neglected home repairs and projects.
I feel the need for quiet, open space, with freedom to move and create. This year will be about focusing, simplifying, and completing. So far, so good.
Thank goodness that’s over. I was barely inconvenienced or annoyed by The Holidays. I enjoyed a nice, low-key visit with family, and that was it. But man, the things I saw some of my friends going through. Living up to family expectations, suffering from loneliness, going mad trying to decorate and cook… Feeling bad about not sending cards, for heaven’s sake. And some of these friends are sick or healing from injuries, dealing with fresh grief, or just Not Wanting To Bother… All of this against a background of endlessly cheery music and TV shows and signs and greetings telling us how lovely it’s all supposed to be. Feh.
So now we can put it behind us for another year.
Time for the New Year. *whew* For me the end of the year is a time for reflection. Did I do what I meant to do in the past year? Was it time well-spent? Am I moving in the right direction? I’ll be doing a lot of thinking about those questions over the next week.
One thing I’ve gotten somewhat better at in recent years, due in combination to age, experience, and my Aikido practice, is noticing where my actions are out of alignment with my intentions. Sometimes I’m able to correct, sometimes not. It’s said in budo - the martial arts - “true victory is self victory.” I take this to mean making conscious, non-habitual decisions - moving forward with intention. it’s not easy. I have a lot of work to do in this area.
It’s a subject worth examining in all areas, at any time. I just got to thinking about it in the context of the holiday madness. Maybe something we can all take a look at, and apply the learnings to coming years. Are we really spending our money, effort, attention, and time (the most precious of all our possessions) in the best way? And where we aren’t, can we summon the courage to change?
I was recently chatting with my one of my Aikido buddies on the other side of the country, Mark Harrington. We’ve been checking in from time to time as we both progress through our respective ranks in different organizations. Mark is a bit ahead of me. Anyway, we got to talking about holiday gift giving (or not). If I recall correctly, I promised him a solstice haiku. So here it is, on the first day of Winter. Enjoy.
"Hey! How’s it going?" We call across the distance. Friends on the same path.
There are no snowy lanes where I live. Icicles don’t dangle sparkling from steep rooflines. No red cardinals perch in evergreens. Holly doesn’t grow here.
Pines and firs are trucked a thousand miles away to act as Christmas trees. Cranberry sauce is a cylindrical gel. Snow on windowpanes comes from spray cans.
Electric stars adorn hilltops. Plastic wise men, young families, and farm animals gaze eternally at plastic mangers. Joy.
Here we are again at that wonderful time of the year, The Holidays. Several weeks of non-stop bullshit and pretense.
Chestnuts roasting, Jack Frost nipping, roaring fires - all figments of some imaginary frozen land back east. Kids don’t play in piles of fallen leaves because our trees (none of which are native) don’t lose their leaves. Sleigh bells don’t ring-a-aling because there are no sleighs. None of it is real for me. The stuff of children’s picture books. Fiction.
I’ve lived my whole life in the San Diego area. It’s warm and sunny today. Things are starting to green up after last week’s rain. Sometimes the Santa Ana winds bring dry air from the desert, it gets blazing hot. We’ve had huge wildfires as late as New Year’s Day. Sandcastles, perhaps. Snowmen? Not so much.
Most of the season’s festivities come from someone else’s distant memories. They celebrate a time and place that holds no relevance for me. I don’t worship any deities. I don’t eat turkey, ham, and prime rib, nor stuffing, rolls, and pie. I’ve never hung my socks from the mantle to dry.
A few things do ring true. We have poinsettias! Our 6-foot tall bush in the front yard decorates the view from the kitchen window year-round. The pecan tree gives us just about enough nuts to make pie or two. Apples grow in our local mountains, and fall is the time to take a drive in the country to buy some, just picked, from the farmer’s roadside stand. I’ve seen mistletoe at higher elevations. I like sweet potatoes, nuts, and chocolates. And I enjoy spending time with family.
I get it about celebrating the harvest with a feast, and brightening the long nights with candles and colorful lights. I enjoy the music, even if I can’t relate to the songs. Still…
I think this is why the holidays can be such an awful time - so much feels false. We have to lie to ourselves and lie to others, or risk being shunned or even vilified. To thine own self be true? Oh no you don’t, not around The Holidays. Even if we don’t actively participate it goes on around us - the decorations, ads, music… It can feel like we don’t belong. We are outsiders, weirdos, the other.
From our first years we’re taught to ignore what we really think and feel around The Holidays, and instead be “good” and “nice” and “happy” like others expect us to be. We might spend time with people we don’t like, wear clothes we hate, eat food we don’t care for, and buy, give, and receive things that nobody needs or wants. And we’re supposed to act like we’re just tickled about every bit of it.
Tired, and feel like being alone for while? Just want to curl up and read a good book, go for a hike in the desert? Excited about working on some project you’re engrossed it? No! Wrong answer.
We sing songs we don’t believe, reminiscing about experiences we’ve never had. We rush around buying things we know we don’t need, spending money we know shouldn’t be spending. We eat food we know we will regret, and then regret having eaten it.
For some, whose experiences and beliefs mesh well with the tradition, it’s probably a delightful time. I can see how that could be so.
In my early 30s my work sent me to Cambridge, Massachusetts for the week before Christmas. There was actual ice and snow accumulated in the corners of the windowpanes. (Wow! That actually happens!) There was a group of carolers singing on the street. They were bundled in scarves, gloves and mufflers, hats, and long, warm coats - not because they were Dressed Up Like Carolers, but because it was 29 degrees out!
Here you might see groups of people singing in the same attire because that’s the costume they are supposed to wear to look like carolers. But on a hot, sunny day at the mall - and our malls are open-air malls - standing next to the hill of manufactured snow for kiddies to play on, singing about a Winter Wonderland, they just look ridiculous.
Over the years I’ve come see this incongruity more clearly, and have stopped participating in much of it. I don’t eat the foods I don’t want to eat. My family has dropped most of the frantic shopping and gift giving. I don’t go to parties that don’t sound like fun. Nothing against anyone who likes those things, but I’d rather see you another time, when we can have a quiet conversation or go for a walk.
Aikido training also helps bring the insincerity of it all into better focus. Our practice teaches us to perceive the reality of a situation. We learn to stay present and feel what’s really happening. We notice our own alignment with circumstances, and correct ourselves when we are out of whack. That constant practice of feeling what’s true for us and taking action in accordance with it makes insincerity and pretense stand out in sharp contrast.
Devoting so much attention to keeping it real has made it that much more intolerable for me to act in ways that aren’t true for me. It doesn’t mean I’ve refused every social obligation, or that I grumble at the tired cashier wishing me “Merry Christmas.” But I know where I stand, and I know when I’m going along just for the sake of getting along. I can watch it from a more centered place.
When we can’t articulate this there’s a vague, heavy sense of that last straw being added to our load at The Holidays. After a year of pretending to be an enthusiastic worker, dedicated parent, or whatever it is we’re supposed to be we find we are expected to redouble our efforts. Everywhere around us we hear what a beautiful and happy time of year this is, while our experience is one of obligation, falseness, and overwhelm. We’re supposed to be thrilled about it all, but we’re miserable, and we don’t see a way out. I think this is why people finally snap.
Some people have created their own traditions that work for them. Having a group of friends over each year, going on a cruise, isolating themselves in a mountain cabin until it’s over. My immediate family’s Thanksgiving tradition for the past few years has been to meet for dinner at a bayside restaurant, overlooking sailboats bobbing in their slips. Later we regroup at Mom and Dad’s for desert and to enjoy each others’ company. No maniacal food preparation, no travel, no heroic efforts at hosting a hoard of house guests. We only do what really makes us happy, and have refused the rest of it.
If you are looking for the perfect gift for family and friends this season, maybe that’s a good one to give. Drop an expectation, refuse an obligation. Be an example, and encourage others to join you. Invite a friend to go for a walk. Give up on gifts. Stop sending cards, if that’s not fun for you. Take a hike. Start a tradition of celebrating (or not) in a way that’s meaningful and positive for you.
And with that thought, we’re off to go enjoy a local lake… If we can avoid the traffic going to the malls.
For over a year I’ve been working (off and on) on a new website for the dojo where I train, Aikido of San Diego. I did all the photography, design, and development - hand-coded in HTML/CSS. It’s the biggest web project I’ve taken on, and the most important (to me). We have a tradition of giving something to the dojo or making some lasting improvement to the facility when we test at dan ranks. This is my (early) shodan gift:
This site is responsive (works on desktops, tablets, and phones), and includes more content, all new photos, and more videos than our previous site (which was pretty darned good already). We even have Member Spotlight features, where you can read about how people got started, and what Aikido means to them.
For the techies out there, I started with the Zurb Foundation framework, and then did all the layout and design through HTML and CSS. (It’s not a CMS or templated site). It’s highly optimized for SEO, so people can find us easily.
There is a lot of information on the site. We will be refining and expanding over time, too. Our dojo handbook is available only as a PDF now (from the Membership and Resources) pages. We will be creating an HTML version of the manual too, for easier online reading. We will also be adding pages to address specific concerns or demographics, too, so that people searching for that information can discover us more readily. We’ll be continuously improving and keeping things fresh with new photos, videos, and more.
Check out the site, and come train with us whenever you visit San Diego!
I meant to hit the road early last Friday, August 9th. It happened to be my 51st birthday, and I was heading a few hours north to a weekend seminar on aiki, or internal power, in martial arts. It was to be held at Orange County Aiki Kai (http://www.ocaikido.com/), a few miles east of Disneyland. I didn’t have a lot of details - not even a confirmation of my registration - but I thought I was supposed to be at the dojo at 6:30 on Friday evening.
I had been looking forward to this seminar both on its own merits, and as a little weekend escape. I was hoping to get to the hotel by 3:00 to have time to check in, chill out, and enjoy a quick swim in the pool before the seminar began. Alas, getting ready for trips always takes me longer than I think it will. By mid-day I realized I was going to roll in at the last minute, so I put my swimsuit and cover-up back in the closet and stuck with the essentials - 3 days worth of gi and light sweats, because I didn’t know which we would be training in. All morning I was hustling to do laundry, clean up loose ends around the house, and pack.
It was already after noon when I chucked my bags in the car and headed out. My hotel didn’t offer breakfast, but had a microwave and a refrigerator, so I picked up some fruit and snacks at a shiny new Mediterranean foods market near home while my car got a long-overdue oil change down the street. Then after a quick stop for fuel and a trip through the local car wash - my car was dangerously dirty - I was finally ready to go.
I carefully entered “610 East Katella Ave” into the Google Maps app on my phone, put on some tunes, and hit the road. Luckily there wasn’t much traffic, but because of the late start I was just on track to make it to the dojo with barely enough time to change and warm up. I’d have to check into the hotel afterward. I followed Google’s directions, although it seemed to be taking me further west than I expected. At 6:25 p.m. I found myself in front of Fritz’s Gentlemen’s Club. “Your destination is on the right.” Hmmm… It was possible that the dojo leased space in the back of the club or at a nearby warehouse, but if so there was no sign of it. Now having only 5 minutes before the seminar was supposed to begin, I pulled into an empty parking lot and called the dojo.
A gracious man named Michael answered the phone and let me know that the seminar wasn’t even there that night. It was somewhere near the beach, at a pier, and he didn’t have any other details. I confess I was a bit peeved, having rushed all day to get there, and then learning I was going to be missing it anyway. If there was a memo, I hadn’t gotten it. Rrrr… Bless his heart, Michael kept his center, along with his cheerful demeanor, and let me know that the seminar wasn’t a dojo-affiliated event - it was just using their facility on Saturday and Sunday. He also gave me correct directions to the dojo - same street address, next city to the east (Orange, not Anaheim), just 4 miles down the road. Given that I was suddenly free for the evening he invited me to come on over and watch some shodan (first black belt) exam run-throughs. I could even take ukemi if I wanted to. They’d be starting at 7:30.
Time to practice some real-life Aikido. Things were not unfolding as I had expected. I needed to flow with what was actually before me at the moment, letting go completely my ideas of how things were supposed to have gone and moving forward into this new reality.
Now with an hour to spare, and not sure what I wanted to do yet, I headed to the hotel and checked in. Cute enough place, quiet, with friendly staff. A tiny room, but with all the necessities of life. I considered my options as I unpacked my bags. I’d only grabbed snacks here and there all day, and I was really hungry. I could go to dinner, have a relaxed evening of writing, and get a good night’s rest to be ready for tomorrow. I was right across the street from Disneyland, too! It was a warm summer night, and I could easily walk over and hang out at the park for a few hours. That would be nice! Or I could go to a completely unfamilar Aikido dojo in a different lineage from my usual training, where I didn’t know anyone, and crash their exam run-throughs.
If you know me you’ll have already guessed what I chose. I snarfed down a handful of raw Brazil nuts and a banana, and set off for the dojo. I threw my gi bag in the car, just in case, but figured it would be stressful enough for shodan candidates to be doing exam prep without having to deal with an unfamiliar uke.
Equipped with proper directions the dojo was easy to find. There was a big sign and plenty of off-street parking. It was a beautiful, spacious facility, too! When I arrived a class of well over 20 kids was just ending, with parents relaxing in a lounge area with several couches and chairs. In another corner there was an office area defined by folding screens. On the wall near the desk there was one of those big boards that I’ve only seen in photos, with a vertical wooden “card” with each member’s name, in kanji (I think), organized by rank. The far side and rear walls, opposite the shomen, were mostly floor-to-ceiling windows, with tidy weapons racks on the narrow solid parts between the glass. In addition to the lounge area there were wooden benches along the windows.
A lot of people were milling around, with kids leaving and adults arriving for the exam run-throughs. I found someone, who found Michael, and I introduced myself as the one who had called earlier. It turns out that in addition to training there, Michael is an acupuncturist with his practice at the dojo. Having let them know who I was, this stranger lurking in their dojo, and knowing they were all busy getting ready, I excused myself, found a place on a bench along the far windows and sat down to watch. Almost immediately I saw I’d made the right choice by not trying to bow in for the session. Everything was different from how we train, and I would definitely have been in the way! Better to watch and see how things are done in another organization.
Everyone lined up by rank, another thing I’d only heard about. Someone shouted an instruction to bow, which I had seen before at least, and they began. A young brown-belt, Liz, who I soon learned was to be one of the exam candidates, was asked to lead warm-ups. This is something I’m often called on to do at our dojo, so I was eager to see how she went about it. After leading everyone in running a few laps, slapping the mat at all four corners as they went, she called out the name of each exercise, and the class responded by repeating the names. “Aiki taiso, ikkyo undo! Ichi, ni, san,” and so on. I thought it might be fun, if I could remember all the names, to lead warm-ups like that one day at our dojo, just to change things up. As part of the warm-ups they even did line drills, running everyone through a variety of techniques and ukemi in three or four groups going across the mat.
After warm-ups the class lined up, sitting in seiza, again by rank, along the back edge of the mat. The higher-ranking students sat on the right, farthest from me. Three yudansha (black belts) sat at the front, in the corner to the right of the shomen, like Sensei does for our exams. There would be two people doing their mock exams, Liz and a man whose name I regret I’ve forgotten. Liz was to go first.
The way it went was that one of the black belts, who turned out to be Ishisaka Sensei, the dojo cho, called an uke up, specified an attack, and instructed Liz to demonstrate “five arts” from that attack. The uke would pop out behind the line of students, dash to the end nearest me, bow onto the mat, and join Liz at the center. The attacks were much faster and harder than we normally do, with correspondingly fast and hard techniques and ukemi. Again I was glad I’d decided just to watch. At best I’d have been a nuisance. At worst I’d have gotten myself injured in a big hurry. Perhaps I could work up to it, but coming in cold to a shodan-level workout… Uh, no, thank you.
Liz’s technique was really sharp, very impressive. After each set of techniques the uke would be excused and the three instructors would review what she’d done well, where she could improve, make note of things to go over in class, and so on. What a privilege to get so much insight into how they train in just one evening!
A few times they commented on her getting winded. Clearly she was in awesome shape, so that wasn’t the problem. But she was also nervous, I think. Who wouldn’t be? I could see she wasn’t breathing enough during the first few techniques of each set - her mouth was shut tight - and then she couldn’t get caught up. I sat watching, trying to will her to breath deeply right from the start. “Breathe, Liz!” I thought. Funny how that doesn’t work. Haha.
I’ve noticed this in myself too, of course. I’m sure we all do it - especially under pressure. I observed something about this while doing randori, oh, maybe a year ago. For the first two rounds, when I was attacking/taking ukemi, I wasn’t breathing enough at the beginning, and so I was quickly gassed and couldn’t seem to take in enough air. But later, after several more rounds, I was fine. I kept jumping up when Sensei called for ukes, and wasn’t having any trouble breathing at all. I was breathing hard, for sure, but was not winded. I knew it wasn’t that I got into better shape over the course of an hour. What I think I figured out was that in the later rounds I was already breathing fully right from the start. If you’ve trained with me much you might have noticed that I often jog around the mat before class to warm up, adding in faster laps and sprints, too. (Actually, people at the Aiki Retreat were kidding me about it.) In part it’s to get the blood flowing, and warm up my muscles before class starts, but I’m also working on developing the habit of breathing hard right away. Ideally I should be able to do a sprint or two without being winded, and without my heart trying to pound itself loose from my chest wall - those are signs of not breathing enough. I’ve also played with training and singing - like horseback riding instructors have students do sometimes. You can’t hold your breath if you’re singing! I’m getting better at it, but of course I forget a lot, too, and then I find myself gasping for air all over again. But I digress…
After the open-hand techniques there was some weapons work - solo forms (kata), take-aways (dori), and throws (nage). The kata were different from ours, but the principles were the same. Then randori, free technique with 3 or 5 attackers, I forget which. At my dojo we attack as though we intend to land the strike, reaching our target and following through, but man… This was faster and more intense. Have I mentioned it’s a good thing I didn’t try to join in? Wow!
Liz received some more feedback from the instructors and returned to the line. The next candidate came forward and the process was repeated. Finally, around 9:30, the group bowed out.
Afterward I introduced myself to Liz and the other candidate, and thanked them for the opportunity to watch their test run-throughs. I’d hoped it hadn’t distracted them to have some unknown person watching from the sidelines. It was a really special glimpse into how people train at another dojo, and I was grateful to be there. I also met Ishisaka Sensei, who I think was the first person I’d spoken to when I arrived, but hadn’t realized at the time he was the dojo cho - he’s a young-looking sensei!
A group was forming to meet up for dinner, and he invited me to join them. How could I resist hanging out with such friendly Aikido people? Besides, by that time my earlier snack had worn off completely and food was again a high priority. About 15 folks met up at Norm’s restaurant, just down the street. They shared the usual recounting of the evening’s events, a lot of laughs, and some tales of past adventures at the dojo. We talked a little about teaching, dojo management, and Aikido politics.
At dinner I was honored to speak with Ishisaka Sensei a good bit. He is the grandson of the dojo founder, Harry Ishisaka. What a nice person! I was really impressed with his warm, family approach to leading his dojo community. I learned that the dojo is approaching its 50th anniversary, and is run as a non-profit organization. They moved to the current location a few months ago (in early 2013). Ishisaka Sensei and his students have been breathing renewed life into the dojo and programs along with the new facility and even a new website. Somehow he manages a full-time career, a young family, and the dojo. Much respect!
Eventually dinner was finished, everyone tossed in their share of the check, and we all parted ways. I finally ended up back at my hotel around 12:30 in the morning, with just enough time to get a decent night’s rest before the seminar started in the morning.
In the end, what started out as a disappointing, frustrating misunderstanding turned into a lovely evening, expanded horizons, and new friends I wouldn’t have met otherwise. The weekend’s seminar wasn’t a dojo event, so I wouldn’t see these folks again in the morning, but I was very glad to have had the chance to spend such a special evening with them. I’d love to get back up to train with them someday soon, too.
If you’re in the area, go visit. They are a very friendly, welcoming bunch of folks. Just be sure to specify “Orange, CA” when you enter the address in your phone or GPS. ;-)
This is kind of random, but it’s actually really important to my training. A couple of dojo mates asked about this recently, so I thought I’d share my thoughts here, too.
But first… I’m not a doctor. This is all just my own understanding, and my personal experience. And no, Gatorade didn’t give me any free product or anything.
Gatorade was created to help football players stay hydrated and keep their energy up. Players perform better late in the game when they drink Gatorade compared to just water. It’s not an “energy drink” with caffeine or anything to make you hyper/awake. It works better than water alone because it contains sugar, sodium, and potassium.
I always have at least a decent snack (like raw nuts and a banana) before I go to class, and drink lots of water before, during, and after training. Staying well hydrated helps me avoid vertigo (BPPV) and orthostatic hypotension (y’know, when you stand up suddenly and start to white out - time to sit back down). In addition to eating something and drinking water, I’ve been pretty consistently drinking Gatorade between classes. If I don’t, I run out of steam and get stupid and slow halfway through the second class, which is often more vigorous training. Low blood sugar. By the way, I’ve tested my blood sugar before, during, and after training, and drinking Gatorade does not cause it to spike.
I like the little packets of powder (they each make a quart) because I can keep it in my dojo bag and add it to my water bottle. It’s also great for traveling to seminars. Easier to carry than a case of bottles! I usually use it at half-strength - less powder, more water - and just drink more of it.
The little powder packets for the flavor I like - Frost Glacier Freeze (light blue) - have disappeared lately. I’m guessing that’s because it contained bromated vegetable oil (BVO), which PepsiCo is now removing from at least the Gatorade line. So… I’ve been looking for a new flavor, and in the process I’ve been learning a bit about the different kinds.
It turns out the sweeter flavors that I don’t like (usually fruity flavors) are made with just sucrose.Correction - the whole Thirst Quencher line has sucrose and dextrose. It’s the G2 products that are just sucrose. You can find more info here: http://www.pepsicobeveragefacts.com/infobycategory.phpThe less-sweet (but not “Low Calorie”) kind I’ve been drinking, turns out to have sucrose and dextrose, which is less sweet-tasting. This is a good thing (for me, anyway) because sucrose is broken down into dextrose and fructose, and I’m pretty sure my body doesn’t like fructose. More dextrose means less fructose. I think fructose is a factor in my neuropathy acting up when I eat apples, and in the episode of gout I had a while back, after (among other things) pigging out on grapes.
So anyway, I’ve found that the Riptide Rush flavor is a sucrose/dextrose blend. I’ll probably end up getting that, but I want to try a bottle of it before I order a case of 144 packets. I’ve searched high and low for the darned stuff, and have discovered that it tends to be sold through construction and forestry supply companies, for work crews. They even sell pouches that make 5 gallons at a time, for those big orange drink coolers you see on all their trucks.
I can’t recommend a particular supplier (yet), since I haven’t ordered any, but I’ve noticed a huge variation in prices (almost 2x in some instances). If you want to find the stuff, try Googling these keywords: gatorade powder 2.12 oz Riptide
If I find a particularly awesome supplier I’ll update this.
I was excited to see this article, when a local Aikido friend shared it on Facebook last night. This research supports what has been my experience over the past few years, since I started training, meditating, de-stressing, and generally being happier. Like “waking up excited about the day” kind of happy.
I have done other things that should affect my health, too, like lost weight, got in better shape, I eat better, and of course get tons of exercise. But it feels like my body is healthier when I’m happy, and my peripheral neuropathy (PN) symptoms (pain and weird circulation) are reduced dramatically.
When I’m unhappy (and not just stressed out, I mean sad, grieving, deeply unhappy), I’m in pain. And the PN started during a period of extreme, long-term unhappiness a little over 10 years ago.
Here’s what these researchers found:
“What they found is that different types of happiness have surprisingly different effects on the human genome.
People who have high levels of what is known as eudaimonic well-being — the kind of happiness that comes from having a deep sense of purpose and meaning in life (think Mother Teresa) — showed very favorable gene-expression profiles in their immune cells. They had low levels of inflammatory gene expression and strong expression of antiviral and antibody genes.
However, people who had relatively high levels of hedonic well-being — the type of happiness that comes from consummatory self-gratification (think most celebrities) — actually showed just the opposite. They had an adverse expression profile involving high inflammation and low antiviral and antibody gene expression.”
I have wondered if this might be the way antidepressants work on neuropathic pain, by making people happier, and if just being happier (without the meds) might not be just as effective.
In any case, being happy is a good goal for how to live, and worth achieving even if this weren’t so. But leading to better health, too? Bonus!
These are the lyrics to the song I wrote and performed for the Aiki Follies at the Aiki Summer Retreat 2013 in Quincy, California. The song is to the tune of “Gimme That Old Time Religion.” Please share this! I hope you will add verses of your own, and perform it at the camps at retreats you go to. I’d love to hear them, and could add them here if you send them to me. Enjoy!
Gimme That Old-Time Aikido
by Linda Eskin
Aikido’s roots run deep The art of harmony and peace What we practice, we will reap And that’s good enough for me
CHORUS Gimme that old time Aikido, Gimme that old time Aikido, Gimme that old time Aikido, It’s good enough for me.
When attacked we move to enter, Reaching right to uke’s center, Though we try hard not to dent her. And that’s good enough for me.
Takeda was O Sensei’s teacher Martial technique strongly featured ‘Til Sensei met up with that preacher And that’s good enough for me.
Deguchi was O Sensei’s buddy And while Omoto Kyo is muddy He said that fighting stuff’s too bloody And that’s good enough for me.
O Sensei saw the harming From the war - it was alarming! So he left and took up farming. And that’s good enough for me.
These two verses run together…
O Sensei had a notion To spread Aikido o’er the ocean So he set Tohei in motion Sent him halfway ‘cross the sea …..
Tohei urged us rather sweetly Keep one point - relax completely Extend your ki more freely And that’s good enough for me.
Tomiki had a mission To hone his students’ vision By judging friendly competition And that’s good enough for me.
Saito said train hard with bokken Forging spirits never broken. 1,000 cuts? You must be jokin’! But that’s good enough for me.
While the days and years revolve Boundaries between us dissolve As we endeavor to evolve And that’s good enough for me.
Peaceful people gather here To practice love instead of fear, We’ll do it all again next year, And that’s good enough for me. …………………………………………..
A quick update at about 1:30 a.m. (actually Thursday morning), with some highlights from the day:
Wrapping teardrop-shaped energy around Uke in a very cool gyakute-dori blend. A clattery connection exercise with jo - imagine a gym full of loudly-ticking clocks. Gluten-free, low-garlic pasta made special for me by the awesome kitchen staff. Training with Daniel Lance Sensei, doing techniques with breakfalls - after dinner. Hanging out and talking with my roommate, Glynis. Hearing “Danny Boy” coming up through the room below us - we put our ears on the floor to listen. And then I went down there and traded songs with David Floeter and Francis Takahashi Shihan.
Many, many more awesome moments, too, but tomorrow is Nadeau day, and the first class, with Johnny Newsome, is at 7:00, so it’s time to stop writing and get some sleep.
This is quick, because I have a lot to do today. I’m going to the Aiki Summer Retreat 2013 - the one formerly held at Menlo College - at Feather River College in Quincy, California. This will be my second time going. Some people have been going for decades!
I had a great time talking with Frank Bloksberg Sensei, one of the organizers, a few weeks ago. We chatted about what it’s like to go to the Retreat, especially as a first-timer and lower-ranked student. It was a lot of fun. You can watch our 40-minute webinar here, if you like:
I’ll be blogging throughout the week. Here’s the big picture:
Today I’m packing and setting my bags by the door, and then tonight I’m going with some friends to train in Mexico. My teacher, Dave Goldberg Sensei will be leading a workshop at Aikido Tijuana, as he does every few months.
Saturday morning I’ll hop on a plane to Sacramento (only after taking Sudafed, drinking plenty of water, and chewing gum, all to ward off vertigo - I hope) . There I’ll get to visit with Michael’s parents, who are lovely people. I’m planning to show them how to make my favorite kind of gluten-free bread. On Sunday morning they will drive me the 2-1/2 hours to Quincy and drop me off at the campus.
Sunday afternoon through the following Saturday morning will be Aikido, Aikido, Aikido, plus some food, a little sleep, lots of friends, and the infamous Aiki Retreat. I have a song half written. Must get that finished!
After the Retreat I’m hitching a ride back to Sacramento with a dear friend, one of my Aiki mentors, and flying home. Back to the dojo on Monday.
So much to say, and so little time! I have been training tons, and loving every minute of it. I’ve been writing a lot, but mostly in my training journal and content for a book or two. A hundred insights and aha moments to share, and a few frustrations. I went to one camp already, and am signed up for 4 seminars/camps already, with a few more on the horizon.
On Friday I’m going to Tijuana with some friend for a class with Sensei, and then on Saturday I’ll be leaving for the Aiki Summer Retreat. I plan to be blogging from camp, and a little before I leave, too, if I can find the time.
As I was in the middle of writing this short post I remembered that I had to wash the gi I need for today’s kids’ class, and I need to leave in an hour! Ran to the washer and got that started. Typical of how my week has been going. LOL