Write Time

I have this idea I need hours to write, with no interruptions, whether it is a novel or a short story: time to revisit the story, get into the main character’s head, go deep emotionally. But it’s not possible to find that much time every day. I decided to try a “short writing” approach, just as I have tried a “short yoga” approach, that is, to write each day for thirty minutes and contain each session to that amount of time. Keep it straightforward, uncomplicated, easier to approach.

For months, I’ve kept a post-it note on my desk that says: “write in clusters.” I’ve been hoping that notion would sink in, but I’ve hung on to the idea of a longer time requirement to write anything “good,” even though I’ve produced a lot of good material by writing to prompts, numerous times, for just thirty minutes. Why couldn’t I begin my novel this way: Write for thirty minutes, in clusters of paragraphs, and see if that inspires me to write more? I tried it and found a short period of writing every day exercises the muscle and gets the story out of my head, onto the page. Then, more writing follows, writing that is fun and good, and simply enjoyable again, which is the reason I write.

This daily approach to thirty minute spots of writing isn’t a long-term plan. It’s a way to ease off and listen to my deeper self, find the story that is worthy. Try it for a week or two. You might be surprised at what emerges.

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Right Time

This post comes in spring, that revved up time of year when the garden changes from mud to daffodils, tulips, hyacinths. The fruit trees are abloom in pink and white. With sixteen hours of daylight, all the trees are leafed-out and the grass that wet green. It’s a lively time and one that pushes me to try to do everything: more work and more play. Each day is a squeeze to keep up my routines and add in gardening, walks, and vacation plans.

Hardly time to write a blog post or attend a yoga class.

Last month I sought out a senior yoga teacher to create a home practice for me. Like everyone, I have a quirk best served by a custom practice. A daily practice of thirty minutes seemed doable. And even though I’ve only managed twice a week so far, this practice has made a big difference in my mobility and overall well-being. In fact, I sometimes add a few more poses that make it longer. But I aim to keep it short; there is a certain power in that. Still, it’s not a typical ninety-minute class, just thirty minutes. A spot of time. Not a substitute for twice weekly classes, but the best I can do right now. To my surprise, each time the healing effects are measurable and that, too, reinforces the practice.

Funny, there is enough time for a home practice now. What fell away? I can’t remember.

 

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Lift Off

After months (actually, years) of deliberation and a few chapters scribbled here and there about a character I’m fond of, I made a commitment last week to embark on my next novel. When I began my first novel, my enthusiasm and sheer
joy on good writing days carried me through, in parallel with a daily yoga practice. At the time I signed up with a writing coach, I also enrolled in a yoga teacher training course (that lasted 18 months).

The combination of regularly practicing those two activities helped me complete my first novel. It was a lot of work. Am I ready to commit again to that amount of time over the next several years? I admit, I’m excited to apply what I’ve learned about writing a novel, but this time I know what I’m getting into: characters speaking to me at odd hours, flashes of inspiration, whole days wondering what the story is about, the joy of discovery, and the agony and ecstasy of later drafts. The focus required in yoga poses helped to calm my mind and stay the course. I trust I will find yoga a reliable ally again.

The idea that this is a “lift off,” the first stage of a rocket headed for the unknown, feels just right. The notion raised this question: what’s the best yoga practice for me over the next weeks? The most suitable poses are obvious: those in which we lift up. Head stand and shoulder stand seem just right. And maybe, in the end, I will get into that full handstand, too.

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Standing Strong

Orchids by Margaret GrawOrchids always catch my attention with their slender stalks and flamboyant petals. They look delicate, but the blossoms, if properly cared for, can last for months. Their strength is in the long growth period that slowly builds nutrients in the stem. This is the way we build strength in our yoga practice. We practice standing poses like Tadasana and the Warrior Series. And, over time, we build foundational strength by holding our arms, torso, shoulders and head just so, like a well-situated blossom on a sturdy stem.

Now, I find a mature orchid, in a pot, always has a wooden stick to support it. I wonder why this is. Was the plant forced to grow too quickly in a hot house, is there insufficient space for its roots to go deep? I don’t know, but I’ve seen orchids in gardens and they stand on their own when allowed to grow at their own pace and have sufficient room for the roots. The balancing is taken care of as the plant grows to maturity.

When we rush our growth it, can look like we’ve achieved our goal whether it is a yoga pose, a good piece of writing, or a well cooked meal. But when we work in a rushed manner and push through, we could be cheating ourselves. To achieve our goal, we can rely on props, steal someone’s work, use pre-packaged food. But when we take the time, honor the rhythms of our body, use healthy ingredients, we can produce beauty and strength. Of course, we can’t slow down life in the modern world, but we can create moments when we take our time. In those moments, we reflect life and growth in the natural world, where an unforced rhythm can produce a miracle. Like the petals on an orchid fluttering in the breeze.

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Snowdrops in London

shutterstock_559243444I’ve been waiting for February, snowdrop season, so I could write about my first visit to the Chelsea Physic Garden almost three years ago. That day, in spite of a blustery London rainstorm, I was determined to find the garden on Swan Walk.

I rode the tube to Sloane Square and marched the length of Chelsea Bridge Road, leaning into the wind, no umbrella, just a scarf on my head. I was about to give up when a young man came along with an umbrella and asked if I needed help. We were just a few meters from Swan Walk, that hidden alleyway with stone walls, and he guessed, “You must be going to the snowdrop event. We’re a bit late, but it’s still on.” He offered his arm and a place under his umbrella. Snowdrops? I was hoping to see the medicinal herb beds, even if they were dormant.

Robert, a member of the garden society, kindly offered to bring me in as his guest, waiving the fee. A tour was about to begin and we joined the others at the statue of Hans Sloane. After a visit to the greenhouse, we walked the garden pathways to see the sweet, small white snowdrops. Nestled in the grass, their numbers created an impression lovelier than the individual flowers. Along the way were carts, like puppet theatres, each with three tiers that held small pots of the drops so we could examine their tiny faces closely and see that the blossoms wore a variety of “faces” — smiling, grumpy, shy, coquettish.

The guide, in her woodsy tan and leather jacket and thick boots, pointed us to a white tent where hundreds of small pots were set out:  snowdrops, tiny violets both purple and yellow. The aroma in the tent was a lightly pungent perfume mixed with wet soil, an aphorodisiac after the winter months. The rain let up. Robert and I went to the tea house and shared a large pot. We talked of our love of gardens. My dream of a large medicinal garden like the Chelsea; his dream to work at the Chelsea.

As we left, we inquired about volunteering to work in the gardens. I live much too far away, but Robert lives closer and he is a professional gardener. I like to think he works there now. Each February I think of that splendid garden visit. It inspires me that such a place exists in the heart of such a great city: the oldest botanical garden in London, founded in 1673, by the Worshipful Society of Apothecaries that allows us to walk amongst medicinal plants, exotic trees, and snowdrops.

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