The Moon Appears…

The Moon Appears…

Earth Story Calendar

Tonight’s Snow Moon is so spectacular that even after an egregiously long day at work, I must share an excerpt from the equally spectacular 2012 Earth Story Calendar by local creative, Peter Adair.

The February page of his calendar opens with these show stopping words:

Earth Adopts a Child: The Moon Appears

I’ve never met Peter, but I’m studying to be a yoga teacher with a friend of his, who gifted us this calendar.

I’m a gift lover so this was a nice surprise, but it wasn’t until February that the magic of it began to unfold.

While the art of January’s Supernova Event was stunning, it’s February’s Moon that drew me in. Like a ballad, the accompanying text sweeps me up into its story again and again.

According to Peter, it’s inspired by the work of a mathematical cosmologist (Geez, where do they go to school?) who is described as having a heart of a poet.

No kidding:

Soon after Earth’s formation, during a time when asteroids rain upon the fledgling solar system, a sizeable intruder strikes our globe in a sideswipe  collision. From this shuddering meeting, a portion of Earth’s body spews into space. The interloper, its momentum reduced through the encounter, succumbs to Earth’s gravitational embrace and is received into orbit. There, it coalesces with the scattered material of Earth and becomes our Moon.

My gosh! Is it me or does that take your breath away?
But don’t stop there, it continues…

Earth’s daughter gradually slows our planet’s spin to its accustomed twenty-four hour rotation, establishes the axial tilt making possible the four seasons, and produces the caressing tides along shorelines that will become the fecund wombs of evolving life.

Who needs March when February makes you swoon;
and No, I haven’t looked ahead.
That’s taboo!
But how fortunate are we to live in such a place–
with such a daughter shining above us.

It wasn’t until I moved to Vermont that I began to truly notice the moon. Others taught me how. Women mostly. And now Peter, and his “ode to creation” in the Earth Story Calendar.  I kind of feel bad for telling you about it because it looks like they’re sold out.

There’s always next year, and in the meantime, take a drink of that gorgeous daughter in the sky.

Kelly Salasin, Snow Moon, 2012

More from the Earth Story Calendar:

The scientific account of Earth’s formation and development is a story of vibrant creativity and  stunning transformation. The journey begins within the fiery core of a star, and concludes  (for now) with the emergence of a species able  to comprehend its origin. We have learned that the unfolding of the human is interwoven with the unfolding of the planet. This is the theme of Earth Story calendar.

A Tale of One Funeral

A Tale of One Funeral

In the East a funeral for a mother; and in the West a funeral for a father–as if pain was a child–requiring a hand on both sides of our state.

Fires and floods, murders and accidents. How much will Southern Vermont be required to take?  At first I thought the curse was on Brattleboro, but there seems to be a similar infliction on the Deerfield Valley.

This morning, friends in the West attended the funeral of not one, but two fathers–both killed in the same tragedy–one by accident, the other by anguish.

I headed East for another two taken–Rita Corbin died 11 days after the collision that also claimed the life of her 17 year-old grandson. But it was love, not loss that echoed in Rita’s absence; just as it had after the fire and the flood and the murder. And so it is, that I offer the echo of love to our friends in the West, in the hope that a sweeter balance can be restored.

A Mother’s Legacy

Is there any greater testimony

to love

than joy?

The Corbins make music

of their mother’s life–

the strumming of strings,

the stretching of chords,

the tender gifts of

rhythm and melody;

The tempo of a life

lived on

in

family.

Kelly Salasin, December 2011

The Blessing of Becky & the Brattleboro Women’s Chorus

The Blessing of Becky & the Brattleboro Women’s Chorus

A few years back, I answered “a call” to SING–by reluctantly joining the Brattleboro Women’s Chorus.  This was a one time thing for me, but the women of BWC have continued for 16 years, including this past weekend’s Thanksgiving concert.  It is in the spirit of Thanksgiving–for the work of chorus director Becky Graber and the board & women of BWC–that I share the piece of writing below.

It was the second or third stop on the Mother’s Day Nursing Home Tour when it hit me.

The Low Middles and I had just patched our way through Que Sera Sera–a song my mother loved–one whose harmony slipped from my memory when it was our time to sing.

I’d been scrambling to learn my part to this and a dozen others for weeks in preparation for our big concert at the Baptist Church. I didn’t like the pressure. I didn’t like being unprepared.

My jewel of revelation was here.

I had long admired the work of the Brattleboro Women’s Chorus, and had even co-opted their music years ago to create a women’s sing-along in my community of Marlboro;  but I had never wanted to perform with them.  I didn’t like the responsibility of it.  My life had been too full with responsibility.

It was my spirit that cajoled me.
Over the years, I had grown accustomed to responding to this inner voice.  It had taken me on a wild ride from an Art and Meditation Class to a Ballet Class to this.  I knew there was a good reason why I was supposed to sing with the chorus, I just didn’t know what it was.

Once I had made the commitment and began rehearsing , I expected some great gift of joy to be released.

It wasn’t.

I hadn’t realized how hard it would be to focus on music for two to three hours at a time, particularly in the evening when I liked to crawl under the covers with a book.  I hadn’t realized just how much all my years at home had ruined me as a student.  I didn’t want to be told where and when to sit or stand.  I didn’t like being part of the herd and I didn’t know how to small-talk like women do on the rides home.

Sitting at a cafe one afternoon, I was approached by a friend whose wife had been singing with the chorus for years. “She loves it,” he told me, complaining that she wouldn’t take a break  no matter how full their plates were.

I told him that I didn’t really want to join and shared how anxious I felt about the performance.  Though it didn’t feel particularly sublime in the moment, his response, like a pebble tossed into a pond, rippled again and again.

“It is all of your voices,”  he said, “Coming together, that made the music so beautiful.”

Little by little, I began to experience just that.

On the day that we came to sing at the nursing homes, I knew it to be true.  It wasn’t the perfection of any one of our voices or parts, that made the music,  it was the mysterious alchemy of coming together–without perfection.

How can I begin to put into words the depth of my experience?  How can I communicate the breadth of its influence in my life?  Not one of us Low Middles knew our part fully.  But each of us offered something to the other–so that together, we made the music.

We made the shades rustle, the faces lift, the eyes brighten.  And for me personally, a profound understanding emerged: that I can be supported, that it is not all about me and my responsibility or my perfection, that it is in our fallibility as well as our competency that we support and uplift others.

On the following Sunday, I stood at the podium on the altar at the Baptist Church and gave VOICE to Julia Ward Howe’s words.  A wind came through me and spread her thoughts resounding through the room. Tears sprung from my eyes eyes and I was swept up in the passion of her voice.  I felt a strength that I have never known.  The strength that comes from vulnerability.

On the fourth floor of Eden Park, I had seen vacant eyes, drooping heads, drooling mouths. This is where we discard our elders, I thought. But when the music began, and we came together in song, the room came to life—not just in front of me, but within me.

I saw a husband tend his wife, wipe her mouth, hold her trembling hands.  I heard a woman, at first talking out a lifetime of troubles, begin to sing, eyes brightening, connecting with ours.  I felt a nurse spread love throughout the room with her caresses.

As we left the floor, I approached a woman who had never opened her eyes or lifted her head to our performance.  I gently squeezed her shoulder, and to my surprise, she moved her head to cradle it against my forearm.

I put down my backpack and gave her a full embrace knowing that she felt everything around her even though I hadn’t seen it.

Kelly Salasin, November 2011

For more about the Brattleboro Women’s Chorus, click here.

For more about Director Becky Graber, click here.

Hits the Spot Yoga Teacher Training–in Southern Vermont

Hits the Spot Yoga Teacher Training–in Southern Vermont

Solar Hill gardens, Kelly Salasin, 2011, all rights reserved

When I first moved to Vermont, 18 years ago, I heard about Scott Willis, and a place called Solar Hill, I just never knew where it was. When I finally did meet Scott, just a few years back, he wasn’t what I expected.

The name “Scott” brought to mind a youthful, blonde-haired, tennis player, and maybe he was at one time, but now he was a middle-aged guy with a softer figure and a touch of grey.  Just my kind of guru.

When he opened my first yoga class with Stevie Ray Vaughan, I was hooked; and when he tossed out a few bad jokes, I knew I’d found what I was looking for.

It wasn’t too long before I felt the yearning to become a yoga teacher myself, only I knew that my tight muscled, low-keyed body couldn’t handle the intensity of some of the typical trainings. “I wish Scott would offer a yoga teacher training,” I said to my husband.

And then he did.

In 2011, Scott began Hits the Spot Yoga Teacher Training, a year-long program that takes place one weekend a month.  That first class filled up before I could get on the list, but I signed on well in advance for the 2012 program.

I am both excited and anxious. Anxious for all the reasons I’ve already covered–tight muscles, lack of ability or inclination toward physical exertion; those kind of things. Fortunately, what I look forward to outweighs my fears.

I look forward to the challenge of deepening into the body and out of the mind. I look forward to the challenge of learning basic anatomy–if nothing else than to develop a greater appreciation for the gift of this miraculous instrument we call the body. I look forward to the way the training would seep into my every day life and out into my overall outlook and presence. I look forward to expanding my platform as a teacher and group leader.

Despite all this looking forward, I’m still afraid, but I’m counting on some bad jokes and some good tunes to ease the way.

Kelly Salasin, October 2011

For more information about Scott Willis and Hits the Spot Yoga and Yoga Teacher Training, click here.

To read more about balancing life with yoga, click here.

The Place of Belonging

The Place of Belonging

Last summer I walked through the valley of the shadow of death…”

Peter Gould

Peter BouldIs it the place or the people that make Vermont a Mecca for the soul? This piece by local Peter Gould (see below) speaks to both.

I first “met” Peter on the stage at Marlboro College where he and  Stephen Stearns, offered their comic rendition of Jack and the Beanstalk. I was seated in the third row, and I remember the moment exactly, because in addition to the laughter, I felt the baby move inside–for the first time–and I knew he liked comedy too.

A handful of years later, Peter (aka. “Pedro”)  became this same child’s Spanish teacher, and later accompanied his Junior High class on their trip to Costa Rica; and in his graduated year assisted them in preparing for their annual Cabaret.

Peter “clowning” at the 2009 Heifer Stroll (with his mother!)

During this time, Peter also helped create a theater school in Brattleboro, and published a YA novel, Write Naked, which captures the tender heart of first love.

Last year, he retired from his role as Spanish teacher extraordinaire following a health crisis.

The next fall, I found Pedro’s words at taped the teachers’ bathroom wall–a long held dedicated place of poetry, humor and inspiration. I wrote Pedro for my own copy and he gave me his permission to share it here. No doubt you will find it as inspirational as this place called Vermont:

Kelly Salasin

Last summer i walked through the valley of the shadow of death one night. My heart stopped while i was riding in an ambulance.  i was in a beautiful, calm, and fearless state of mind—you could almost say, of meditation, grace and patience—when i nearly died. and this is exactly why i live to talk about it. The technician sitting next to me walloped my chest, and i returned from where i had gone to. He welcomed me back warmly–one of the three percent who live to talk about it.

i now live my life with four principles up front, as often as i can keep them in my mind:

Be grateful.
Have no fear.
Inhabit your life.
Maintain your belongings.

These have seemed to work very well for me for the past 14 months. Number one and number two are fairly easy to parse, and both have reverberated clearly since that night.
The third is really about envy, or haste, or that feeling we may carry around, of always looking forward to the next thing—i have tried to relax and be here, in my life, my house, my marriage, my work, and my town, not rushing through these, not regretting, not craving some other life, not thinking about change.

Strangely, number four has been the richest vein-—maintain your belongings. Not just what belongs to me but also: what i belong to.  Taking intense pleasure in cleaning out a drawer, fixing a broken anything, bringing a box of clothes to the thrift store, getting rid of books, taking the time to PLAN maintenance too–taking quiet delight in visualizing all the important steps.

The most amazing things happen: i decide to mend a hole in a dear old cashmere sweater. i decide to put it on the car seat beside me and drive to delectable mountain quilts in downtown Brattleboro to find just the right color thread. when i enter the store, jan, the owner, is leaning over her counter listening to a beautiful piece of female music. she is crying. i lean over and listen too. when the song ends, she says, “do you want to hear it again?” i say yes, and we listen.

Now we are friends who share music. Now I have brought her a cd of songs that speak in the same way to me, and now our friendship has hit a whole new level. Not just cloth and thread, but music, too, and the mutual appreciation of the place where women sing from.

When we decide to live in a different way, taking the time to take care of what belongs to us or what we belong to, we open ourselves to a revolutionary way of being in the world, which flies in the face of our history, of north american conquistador/militaristic materialism. Since pioneer days, we have moved on to new fertile ground after we have fouled the place we’ve been. We leave our unportable junk behind. That’s how we have behaved in Iraq, in so many places…

A great feeling of peace comes over me when I stop and say, I could fix this, I could maintain this, I could work on my relationship with this acquaintance i see coming down the street toward me. I could clean up my email inbox. I could sort through the boxes of papers under my bed. I need to tie up the pea plants: instead of trying to hack apart this garden string with a shovel blade, i could gently lean the pea plant against the fence, put the string down and go into the kitchen and get a knife. i could walk slowly and breathe deeply while doing this. i could stop in the kitchen and have a drink of water on the way.

The key word is “belonging” and imagining all the different aspects of that word. Maintaining the whole web of relationships we belong to… It’s become a whole new way of living, for me. I don’t have to retire my ambition, in order to be this way. I have to take the time to consider quality in my actions, visualize it ahead of me and in the path i leave behind me.

It’s the way I want to be, now.

~Peter Gould, 2010