the original kStyle blog.

Wednesday, February 23, 2005

Part Three in a Five-Part Series

Five Element Theory (or Five Phases Theory) is an important aspect of many schools of Eastern medicine. Although Mao et al (you know, the Communists) diminished its importance when codifying TCM (Traditional Chinese Medicine), it remains a vital part of many schools of Classical Chinese Medicine, Shiatsu, and so forth. Every week for the next five weeks I will be contemplating an element and writing a brief essay about it for class--how it acts in nature, how it applies to the human. I direct the curious to an overview or two of Five Element Theory.

In the class after I handed in this essay, I learned that I missed the point, really, of the Earth element. If you were to take some soil in your hand, remove all the plants and water and minerals, all you would have left is...nothing. Earth is the force that holds everything else together. It is the element that needs all of the other elements to exist, but it is the center, the binding force that unites the other elements. Earth-imbalanced people must be very careful to find their own center, or they will live tossed by the wind.

Nonetheless, here is what I wrote.

Earth Qi and Me
Full disclosure: I thought I had a tough time approaching the Fire essay, but this one has been much worse, because Earth is there, right in my face, 24/7, and it’s hard to see something you’re always dancing with. (My Western astrological chart actually has no Earth in it—unless you count the Wounded Caretaker in Taurus, which many astrologers don’t. This lack of Earth in my natal chart corresponds nicely, I think, with chronic Spleen Qi Insufficiency. So there we are.)

There is something I dislike terribly about Earth: It’s so easygoing as to let everyone literally walk all over it. Earth is the element that would be barefoot and pregnant with nine kids and no dreams of her own, with Wood yelling at her for putting on dinner too late, drowning her sorrows in a pack of Twinkies when she really needs assertiveness training. I’ve noticed that the people who irk me most are those with Earth unbalanced in a different way than my Earth is unbalanced. Sure, I over-think and eat too many dampening foods, but why does she take everything so literally? Why is he so stultifyingly practical? That person is so needy! In some ways, I’ve organized my life as a reaction against Earth qi. Maybe I should stop doing that.
I suspect that the Chinese thought of both earth, the soil, and Earth, the planet, when they devised 5 Element Theory. In the early model, Earth qi was at the center, with the other elements orbiting around it, like the moon and stars. Earth qi is associated with roundness, and we spin through space on a round planet Earth.

Earth, both our planet and its soil, is solid, stable, and reliable. It supports us. Without the gravity created by Earth, we’d all go floating off into space, fodder for black holes. We know, however, that there is great turbulence beneath the surface of the Earth, which erupts, sometimes, as earthquakes; and over longer periods as mountains, continental drift, and other such phenomena. The planet is undergoing constant change, twirling through space, with multiple seasons at the surface at any given time, and yet it seems solid beneath our feet. Likewise, the earth—soil—is forever churned by worms, prodded by shoots, and dug by humans. There are tremendous riches deep within the Earth/earth: minerals, metals, gems, and, most importantly, potential. Earth can grow all manner of plants, give water its shape, and create minerals.

Earth is nourishing. Just as the earth grows our food and sustains us, so the Earth element in the human gives us our nourishment. It takes the food from the earth and creates gu qi and xue for the body. The Chinese describes Earth as “the center”, and it is; Earth is the center of our existence. Except for a few astronauts and very in-tune astrophysicists and shamans, none of us knows anything that is not of the Earth. We are of the Earth. In the creation stories of both the ancient Greeks and the ancient Hebrews, a god creates humankind from clay. A very wise psychologist and potter once told me that clay had to be used with caution in art therapy. It is very powerful because it is made of the same stuff that we are, earth and water, and as such it could be too strong a tool to use on people with deep psychological disturbances.

I can’t quite wrap my mind around how Earth qi became associated with the intellect. It makes sense to me that Earth qi is associated with Spleen and Stomach, and that Spleen and Stomach digest both food and information, but that is an indirect link. Perhaps the fertility of the earth ties in with mental as well as physical fertility.

I think that a person with a balanced Earth element would keep her center in times of great change and turbulence, but also would be content in times of sameness, accessing the riches available in the present, and knowing that circumstances are bound to change eventually anyway. She would have a sharp intellect, but be able to quiet the chattering mind. She would be very comfortable with herself and quite grounded. Her fertility would enable her to grow whatever was necessary for life on this planet, be it new life from her body or new ideas from her mind. She would find and appreciate the nourishment around her, through food, friends, art, and, really, everything, and be comfortable accepting that nourishment.

Monday, February 21, 2005

Rewriting an Old Standard

Oh, the weather outside is frightful.
Yep, the weather outside is frightful.
And since I do hate the snow
Let us go
Let us go
To Mexico.

When we finally kiss goodnight,
How I hate going out in the storm.
Yes, I hate going out in the storm...
I hate going out in the storm!

The fire is slowly dying
I've no intention of goodbying
Like I said, I hate the snow
Let us go
Let us go
Let us goooooo

Thursday, February 17, 2005

Chain Reaction

I believe it was way back in July when I shared with float readers that I was determined to lose some weight. I increased my exercise and started counting calories, with the help of Lah's nutritional analysis of my needs. I was doing great.

But the scale did not budge. In fact, it went up another few pounds.

School started back up. I lacked the time to count calories, but had a shiny new subscription to Cooking Light and began making most of my meals with their recipes.

Still, the scale did not budge.

My weight-lifting regimen began making my hips incredibly tight. I started losing flexibility and agility, which is problematic for someone who needs to crawl around on the ground to give shiatsu. I stopped the weight-lifting, added a yoga class to my routine, and began doing cardio twice a week. 20 to 25 minutes of cardio, plus stretching, requires far less time than an hour long weight circuit, so I benefited from more free time, too.

Yet, months after I had begun, the scale still did not budge.

And then it did, maybe a month ago. The loss was tentative at first, fluctuating between 170 and 169 pounds. I doubted it was really fat loss, assuming I was probably gaining and losing water weight. But soon, the scale was fluctuating between 168.5 and 170. After I held a steady 168 for a couple of weeks, last week that I was down to 166. And this week, suddenly, I weigh 164 pounds.

I don't know why* the weight is now, after half a year of fruitless effort, falling off like slow-cooked barbecue off a bone, but hey, I'll take it. Maybe it just takes a while to get the ball rolling.

*In truth, I think it has to do with strengthening the digestive qi and metabolism over the last 6 months, so that the stage was set.

Today, I Am Older

My dear friends and family have made me feel very loved today. Thank you all.

Tuesday, February 15, 2005

Serf or Lord?

The thing about it, really, is that I work very hard, often many extra hours, to earn money for other people: the CEO, the president of the company, the pushy editor I hate. I have no intention of remaining a serf forever.

Many Happy Returns

To Ann, the Valentine Birthday.

Part Two in a Five-Part Series

Five Element Theory (or Five Phases Theory) is an important aspect of many schools of Eastern medicine. Although Mao et al (you know, the Communists) diminished its importance when codifying TCM (Traditional Chinese Medicine), it remains a vital part of many schools of Classical Chinese Medicine, Shiatsu, and so forth. Every week for the next five weeks I will be contemplating an element and writing a brief essay about it for class--how it acts in nature, how it applies to the human. I direct the curious to an overview or two of Five Element Theory.


Then there appeared to them tongues as flames of fire, which parted and came to rest on each one of them. And they were all filled with the holy Spirit and began to speak in different tongues…
New American Bible, Acts, 2: 3-4

I find it curious that both the early Christians and ancient Chinese associated Fire with speech and also with Spirit or Shen. Likewise, the ancient Greeks saw Fire as a divine gift brought by the god Prometheus, great friend of man, who was eternally punished by the Olympians for giving mortals a gift that made them too powerful. (Prometheus was chained to a cliff for eternity, vultures eating his liver, which, being immortal, unfortunately grew back every time.) There is, then, something universally precious and powerful in Fire and in human mastery of it.

Fire has proven more difficult to grapple with than Wood for two reasons. First, there seems to be a sad deficit of Fire in my super-safe, super-efficient modern life (I dare say, our modern culture): I cook with electricity (at best, only “sort of” fire); I light electric bulbs to see; I heat my living space with electricity. Even the sun is far from shivering Massachusetts right now, and a lit candle produces a lovely, but relatively staid, flame. Secondly, fire is a chemical reaction rather than a thing. I can touch wood, soil, water, or metal, but fire would burn my hand, gives nothing to hold, and can disappear in a second. As such, I believe it to be the most yang of all Elements; perhaps this explains its association with the Shen, a relatively yang part of the human.

After staring at a few candles and looking for sun on overcast days, I set out to do what my Earth-y self does well; that is, to research fire. I learned a lot from a textbook on fire fighting.

The first surprising thing I discovered is that fire never burns directly on a solid or liquid fuel, but rather in the atmosphere slightly above it. Individual molecules of solid or liquid must be vaporized in order to combust. As such, a certain amount of heat is necessary to spark a fire. This makes sense in the context of Chinese medicine, where warmth from the Kidneys is necessary to spark Heart Fire and Spleen Digestive Fire. A similar reaction happens on an emotional level between people, as well. There must be some initial warmth to spark a bond. It is good news for our internal Fire that once combustion has begun, it usually produces enough heat to sustain itself until it runs out of fuel or oxygen.

It is the nature of fire to spread itself, which it does by heating the potential fuel nearby so that it will also combust. It has three methods of spreading heat: convection, conduction, and radiation; fire is excellent—maybe even clever---at self-propagation. Fire behaves in a predictable pattern. Its heat primarily rises, although some heat escapes directly to the sides via convection or radiation (in a structure fire, the highest sustained temperatures will always occur at the upper corners of the room). We can see that people with Fire imbalances often exhibit red faces because of this rising nature. Combustion seeks out more fuel and oxygen to sustain itself. It gains momentum. Really, it gobbles everything in its path. Most striking is the moment known as flashover, when every remaining combustible object in an enclosed space catches fire simultaneously because the entire room has reached a combustible temperature. Flashover, terrifyingly dangerous for fire fighters, represents the fire’s peak. After flashover, if the fire cannot find more fuel and sufficient oxygen, it will begin to decline.

And that is the nature of fire: to spread over everything it can, using it all up, until it cannot sustain its own size, its own need and, perhaps sated, or perhaps overstretched, it declines, finally disappearing entirely. A person, then, must be careful with his Fire element, to sustain it gently without stoking it too high, in which case it would consume itself and himself with it. We must be sure to give our Fire the fuel, heat, and oxygen it needs, through proper diet, exercise, and breathing to nourish the Xue and Heart. We should take care that we burn clean fuel in our Fire—good air and food—lest we create the internal equivalent of toxic smoke.

But what does fire give us? Fire allows us to cook, gives us heat and light, and once kept the wild animals away from our ancestors at night. And so our Fire allows us to digest, keeps us warm and safe, and gives us the civilizing light of reason and compassion. We humans used to gather around our fires to tell stories, sing, and create community; thus, Fire is tied with speech and relationships. The Greek god Apollo embodied all of this nicely: He ruled light, music, and reason, and was often associated with the sun god, Helios.

Writing this essay has made me realize that I should increase my contact with the Fire element. The winter has been long and cold, and I rely too much on waiting for the sun to return and bring me fire. I have no physical Fire symptoms, no palpitations or heat or purple coloring, but I do feel a little gloomy this time of year and my moods can be erratic. Recently I reached out to various friends (who were similarly shivering at home) to see them more often—I think it’s been beneficial for all of us. I know it’s cheered me considerably. Now I’m going to light a candle.

Friday, February 11, 2005


Writing "To God ot Not to God" (below) has made me think, which parts of my myriad traditions have stuck with me, and where is the overlap? And so I'm going to write this out a bit, to explore the core beliefs of my ever-shifting spiritual/philosophical views. Here are the first that come to mind.

1. The universe/god/whatever is infinite, therefore there are many paths we can take to it and many ways to see it. (Hinduism; Wicca)
2. Moderation in all things (Aristotle); the Middle Path (Buddhism).
3. Reincarnation (personal "gut" feeling; Hinduism; Buddhism; Taoism; some Wicca; even Christianity read in an unusual way).
4. Practice compassion or love (Buddhism; Christianity). [I prefer the term compassion; I find its detachment important. See Moderation, #2.)
5. The divine/Buddha nature is present in and accessible to all people (Buddhism; Christianity; Hinduism).
6. Interbeing (Buddhism, Taoism).
7. Gratitude (any spiritual tradition worth its salt).
8. Acceptance/forgiveness of imperfection, while striving to better oneself (any spiritual tradition worth its salt).
9. Mindfulness (Buddhism).
10. Community (any spiritual tradition worth its salt).
11. There is a cyclical order to the universe. (observation; many indigenous traditions; Christianity, to an extent; the family of Eastern religions).
12. Spirituality, philosophy, and all such practices are useless without, well, practice. As Plato wrote, "The unexamined life is not worth living." As my tai ch'i teacher says at the end of every class, "Practice!" And as the priest says at the end of most Catholic and Episcopalian services, "Now go forth to do what God has called you to do, to love and to serve each other, in the name of Christ."

It might also be worthwhile for my own self-examination to list some of the texts most influential on my way of thinking at being.

*The Gospels (Can't say to draw upon the whole Bible. Can't stand Paul's writing; haven't read much of the Hebrew Scripture.)
*Plato's Republic, Apology, and Crito
*Aristotle's Nikomachean Ethics (This is a huge one for me.)
*Homer's Iliad (The Odyssey to a lesser extent; I think it's a less philosophical poem.)
*Assorted writings by Herodotus, the Stoics, and the Epicureans
*Tao Te Ching (Lao Tzu)
*I Ching
*Living Buddha, Living Christ (Thich Nhat Hanh)
*Saffron Days in L.A. (Bhante Walpola Piyananda)
*100 Years of Solitude (Gabriel Garcia Marquez)
*House of the Spirits (Isabel Allende)
*Prodigal Summer (Barbara Kingsolver)
*Sun Signs (Linda Goodman)
*the Winnie-the-Pooh stories (A.A. Milne)
*Island of the Blue Dolphins (Scott O'Dell)
*Where the Red Fern Grows (Wilson Rawls)

(I'm not sure how these last three have informed my psyche, but I know that they have.)
I'm certain I'm forgetting important ones.


Fire is proving a more difficult assignment than Wood for me. No wonder; fire is elusive, a chemical reaction rather than a "thing", and we don't encounter much fire in our supersafe little world. Stay tuned.

To God or Not to God?: A Personal Spiritual Path

I was raised Catholic. I was a believing Catholic; I was touched by the peaceful energy of church. The rituals are beautiful, and surely beauty gets us closer to a higher power, if there is one. And then, later, I became angry upon understanding some of the poor effects Catholicism had on my psyche--most notably, an overwhelming, pervasive sense of guilt--and so I didn't believe in anything, except for maybe the ordering logos of the universe, fate as an area in which to move rather than a line, and the virtue of practicing moderation in all things, beliefs straight from the Greek philosophy I was studying. From this natural order in the world, it wasn't too far to Earth-based spirituality, following the seasons with reverence, supplemented by Tarot cards and astrology and such. Nice, but not very sturdy in the hard times. And so, in a difficult time, I found the elegantly nontheistic Buddhism, with its transcendence of the inevitable sorrows of this world through mindfulness, being present. This brought the exquisite little book Living Buddha, Living Christby Thich Nhat Hanh, which draws parallels between Buddhism and Christianity. Yes, the Kingdom of God is right here, right now. Beautiful. And then I found myself making a peace with Christianity, and missing church ritual, and then visiting Episcopalian churches with two different friends, and so I decided to find myself an Episcopalian home. So I did, and it was nourishing, the fishes and loaves and wine and fellowship, and the Episcopalian liberalism: women bishops, gay bishops, the virtue of reason. But even as I went to church, I was getting deeper into my studies of qi, and then in a mind-blowing workshop on western herbology, I returned to a sort of Earth mother spirituality, grateful for the world around me and happy in the idea of the feminine in deity, manifesting herself in myriad healing plants; a deeper form of my earlier Wiccan dabblings. And now my qi work is growing deeper, and I've begun seeing everything all as qi, qi in different forms, and feeling, again, that we all live many lives and learn in each one, and that if there is a higher power, maybe s/he doesn't matter much, because we can learn to receive the benefits of prayer--and stronger, and moreso--without prayer and through qi work, which is, indirectly, what prayer is. And now I'm thinking of the cosmos as a dance between being and nonbeing, yin and yang; with the best God, the best prayer, the best Wiccan magick, the best philosophy, being in us and our use of qi. Our use of qi is not only through qi gong or meditation or healing, but in how we expend our energy in everyday life, and how we create harmony or disharmony with the world. We should use our qi wisely; we are more powerful than we realize.

I am not flaky or impressionable or fickle; rather, I synthesize everything I encounter that I sense is of value, and continually deepen and broaden my practice of whatever it is through my explorations.

Thursday, February 10, 2005

I just wrote a nice long post and then--Verizon cannot find server. I feel disheartened.

Wednesday, February 09, 2005

Double Happies

Happy Chinese New Year, everyone! We're in the Year of the Rooster. Maybe later I'll find you some fancy links. Impromptu Wed. Writing Assignment: tell me about the qualities of roosters and how they could relate to a year.


Tuesday, February 08, 2005

Part One in a Five-Part Series

Five Element Theory (or Five Phases Theory) is an important aspect of many schools of Eastern medicine. Although Mao et al (you know, the Communists) diminished its importance when codifying TCM (Traditional Chinese Medicine), it remains a vital part of many schools of Classical Chinese Medicine, Shiatsu, and so forth. Every week for the next five weeks I will be contemplating an element and writing a brief essay about it for class--how it acts in nature, how it applies to the human. I direct the curious to an overview or two of Five Element Theory. For the version of the essay published here, I've tweaked a few details about the person described in the end to "protect the innocent". I've also added a few notes in brackets to explain technical terms.

Thoughts on Wood Qi

I believe that both Don Juan, the famous shaman from the Carlos Castenada books, and a Congolese boy in The Poisonwood Bible by Barbara Kingsolver, asserted that trees and men are the same: Both trees and men have roots and grow upwards towards the sky. I would add, sap nourishes the tree the same way the channels nourish a person; what is sap but qi and xue [blood--but not exactly blood like you're thinking of, though it encompasses that, too]? I would also add, if either a human or a tree is severed from its roots, it will die.

Why then does Wood Qi so often pester the human? During my walks this week, I placed my attention on the plants around me, trying to learn what I could about these majestic green things living in the perhaps-not-ideal environment of suburban neighborhoods. The first thing I noted was that each plant has its own role in the plant community. The white pines soar high above the other trees, but do not grow many branches from the lower half of their trunks, allowing light to pass through to shorter plants. The oaks and maples are middle-height, maples more slender than oaks. Then there are the woody shrubs, content with the light that filters to them, and then low-lying brush. And so forth. I understand that this layered affect of plants is even more pronounced in the rainforests.

Which is to say, plants cooperate. This observation fits in nicely with the Chinese view of Wood—Wood Qi pertains to finding one’s role in life, to making decisions that support that role (I’ll take the sunny area!), and to harmony between the individual and the group (I’ll avoid growing low branches so you can have that sunny area). Where, then, does this association between Wood and anger arise? Anger manifests as an imbalance of the Wood element; harmonized Wood does not tend to anger. When I discussed this point with a classmate, she reminded me about invasive plants attacking an area, eating up all the minerals in the soil (Wood attacking Earth), and pushing out native plants: another association with anger and aggression and Wood in the natural world.

In balance, Wood energy is creative. Look at the infinite variety of flowers and the myriad of autumn colors produced by plants. Wood energy tends to move upwards and outwards, like shoots growing in spring. Excessive upward qi movement is a common manifestation of Wood imbalance. Perhaps the problem is not the upward movement so much as a lack of rooting to ground that movement. Liver, the yin Wood organ, stores xue and ensures smooth flow of qi; rich, flowing sap is necessary for a healthy tree. Wood people tend to work hard and be a little “Type A”. This tendency brings to mind both our use of wood to make many important objects, from furniture to paper, and also those bright little flowers one often sees blossoming, impossibly, out of rock cliffs battered by strong ocean winds. A puzzling thing about trees is that, rather than push out an irritant, such as a plant tumor or fence or carving, they absorb it. I wonder, does it continue to bother them? Has the tree made this wound part of its identity? Has the tree somehow transformed its wound? This inability or refusal to push harmful influences out might parallel inward-directed Liver aggression, which is known to cause depression in humans. I don’t think I’ve unraveled its implications yet, however. As for fire and wind [Fire and Wind are two of the Pernicious Influences of Chinese medicine, climactic factors that can cause disease. Remember that the human is a microcosm of the universe, just as each of our cells is a microcosm of the whole of us, encoded with all our DNA. Therefore, what upsets the Wood Qi outside of us can upset the Wood Qi inside of us. Too metaphysical? Put another way: the Chinese noticed that lots of people get sick a certain way when, for example, wind is blowing. Next time it's really windy, notice if your neck gets stiff, your muscles spasm, you become irritable or angry, or you experience sharp, moving pain. These symptoms are more likely to manifest if you have a preexisting Wood Qi imbalance.]—fire can burn up entire forests, and wind, when it becomes too much for a plant’s ability to sway, creates mangled-looking plants, like the bent red pines perched precariously high on cliffs in New Mexico.

Wood is vital to our planet’s health. It provides food, shelter, and oxygen for humans and other animals. Plant life is the conductor of the sun’s energy to earth, which also corresponds to the creativity of the Wood element. We can see, then, that Wood Qi has a very generous nature. In some ways, this seems more like an Earth Qi characteristic, but it is important to remember that the Elements are interdependent, interchanging conceptualizations of Qi.

I know an actress/director, a very creative person, who is bursting with Wood energy. She works long days, from 8 AM to 6 PM without a lunch break, drives over an hour home, and then spends her evenings rehearsing and planning her shows. More than a little Type A, she has obsessive-compulsive disorder. I've heard that she is prone to cursing and kicking the filing cabinet at work. It seems that her fits of temper blow over quickly, but she often suffers crippling migraines. Perhaps her migraines are like the “plant tumor”, a piece of anger she has internalized, causing Liver Yang to rise to her head. She dyes her hair a bright orange, as if to show her Liver Fire physically. She keeps no houseplants because she always kills them; I suspect that she cannot stand to have more Wood around her. I think that beneath this excessive Wood qi, she has a strong, balanced Fire element, as she is very warm and compassionate, fast-moving and funny, and her Shen is very bright.

Sunday, February 06, 2005

War of the Fishes

I'm sick of Jesus and Darwin. I'm sick of their gangsta fish trash-talking each other, I'm sick of the textbook stickers in Cobb County, and I'm sick of all these bunched-up panties clouding everyone's thinking.

Listen carefully, because I'm only going to say this once.

Let's start with you Nonthinking...oops, I mean Fundamentalist...Christians because, frankly, you're an easier target and I need the warm-up. Stop pushing your wacky religious agenda on everyone else. You don't have to believe in evolution. But we don't have to believe in your narrow-minded, scary-ass perception of the universe and the mean-ass Creator you say runs it. The Jesus I met reading the Bible is a really nice guy, one who even welcomed a prostitute into his posse, without lecturing her on Why She Was Wrong. And the creation myth you all spout as Fact? It's a story, a poetic fable to illustrate that we humans are creted by the Divine and should act like it. All you ever DO, it seems, is to yell and kick and scream and throw big tantrums about how everyone is going to Hell because we don't believe in the same narrow-minded nonsense you spout as Truth. And don't even get me started on this lame-ass, selfish form of Christianity you spout, where your personal relationship with "Jesus" is more important than social justice. So go serve the poor and be useful.

OK, Scientists: let's face it, evolution IS a theory. It's a very useful one, but a THEO-RY. Say it with me, TH-EO-RY. Would it kill one of you to say to the Wacky Christians, you're right, it's a theory, but it makes a damn lot of sense. You are NOT helping matters by behaving the same way these childish religious zealots are. Oops, did I say you're behaving like zealots? MORE-ov-er, the Wacky Nonthinking Zealots (as opposed to the Thinking Zealots--that's you) are doing other, more stinky things in the name of Jesus, like blocking same-sex marriage. So please, for Darwin's sake, bring a little rationality to the table, because the other side sure ain't going to. Do what you need to in order to keep teaching evolution, but stop being such hard-heads. It wouldn't KILL you to point out that evolution does not preclude a Divine Creator, which might be enough to shut the Nonthinking Zealots up. And why not help fight the Christian Wackjobs on a more human rights level, like getting involved in the SSM debate? Eh?

Friday, February 04, 2005


I went dancing Wednesday night. I had to; it was a visceral need. The thought of the gym was unbearably depressing, with its hamster wheels and fun-but-mediocre yoga classes, and anyway, I needed to break free from my deep winter rut. (I might sound melodramatic, but I often feel melodramatic at this time of year.)

So off I journeyed, by car and train, to the weekly barefoot dance event begun in the hippie days, where the music is great and the people are respectful and warm. None of that groping drunken nastiness you see in nightclubs here. The energy was high and the mood good; I had a fantastic time. It was revealing, maybe even a little inspiring, to watch how people dance. Some have no formal training, it's clear, and so they just move as their body tells them, free of the constraints that can be born of dance classes. I watched one middle-aged woman dance in teeny, tiny movements that would look strange except in deliberate Fosse choreography, and then they would be complemented with large, spread hands, but her hands were sort of fisted, very subtle. She repeated pretty much the same little movements all night, looking happy and serene. I watched a younger woman move, hips splaying everywhere, unfettered by the controlled range of motion of a trained dancer. (There's a certain freedom that comes from taking dance classes, too; the freedom that grows paradoxically from control, and the sense of learning the language of a style of dance.) And then I noticed a man I'd seen there the one time I'd been before, who liked to partner dance in a modern dance style, but this week he mostly squatted by the wall, sometimes stretching, but mostly observing; and another man who sat in front of the candles in the center of the room and just sort of meditated, and I came to understand that stillness is a kind of motion, a kind of dance, too.


I admit it, I'm superstitious about calendars. I take great care in choosing my wall calendar each year, for the calendar, the thing in which I lay out, chart, plan my year, surely has some sway over the tone of the whole year. National Parks are majestic and inspiring, but too cold and impersonal, too cavalier with my small life. Tuxedo Cats are very cute, but we have two real ones prancing around the house, and we don't want to be those people. New England Harbors can be too melancholy; European Scenes create too much restless wanderlust; Zen Gardens are too serene for all 365 days-I don't want to sleep through the year! In 2001, I became bogged down my in calendar shopping and never could choose one. I suppose it's just as well, given the sad world and personal events that transpired in the second half of that year. Can't blame that on a calendar, and I might have developed a permanent distaste for Penguins or Faeries or Jalepeno Peppers. For 2005, Chinese Proverbs won out, with its pithy, warm sayings and humorous, stylized drawings.

But this morning, I wondered, did we get the wrong calendar? I'm not even sure what “A good bee never takes pollen from a fallen flower” is supposed to mean.