Williams Bacall Iyengar

cheers geniuses

It was just after midnight on a Tuesday. I had been out at our local bar, drinking good beers, talking about the eccentricities of life with my beautiful husband and our favorite bartender.

Then, when I slipped into my jammies at home, I found out about a third tragedy—after Robin Williams, after Lauren freaking Bacall. Another great loss to mankind.

B.K.S. Iyengar.

Dammit, I lost it. I finally, finally cried because I couldn’t do anything else. I should have gone to bed. I needed to get up for work the next morning.

But suddenly I was charged with emotional energy to write this little piece. My mediocre tribute to these great people.

I made myself some tea, put my headphones on, and started writing. Shit, this is epic for me. To lose all of these gorgeous souls within a week…brace yourselves.

 Robin Williams – Monday, August 11, 2014

Lauren Bacall – Tuesday, August 12, 2014

B.K.S. Iyengar – Tuesday, August 19, 2014

I sobered up enough to write this post. I promise it will not be my most eloquent work, but I felt compelled to write something. How could I not?

ROBIN WILLIAMS

Courtesy of Wikimedia Commons

Photo: Wikimedia Commons

I avoided the Robin Williams tribute because I was floored when I heard the news, and I knew I couldn’t do a magical man like him any sort of justice. I grew up with him, as this sort of distant uncle who seemed to know everything I didn’t.

He portrayed the mysteries of life through acting with a dedication and grace that I have never seen before—Dead Poets Society, What Dreams May Come, The Birdcage—these are films that genuinely capture the human spirit.

They are brilliant, and Robin was a key player in that brilliance.

I had just returned from a romantic weekend in Seattle with Mr. H and I felt peaceful, loved, and hopeful. Then, the next day at work, a coworker of mine came dashing over with the news. Robin was gone.

I didn’t believe her. How could he?

My first boyfriend (and my first kiss) killed himself during my Sophomore year in high school. Right on the baseball field…a bullet to his lovely head. Suicide is not something I take lightly. I’ve known those who have threatened loneliness and I’ve known those who have acted on true alienation from that which we call the “norm”.

It’s scary. It’s heart-wrenching, It’s out there.

I wish it wasn’t, believe me. If I could figure out a way to absorb this from anyone…I would.

LAUREN BACALL

Courtesy of Wikimedia Commons

Photo: Wikimedia Commons

Right after one of my film heroes—Mr. Robin Williams—Bacall followed a day later. The pretty songbird that I had known for so long had left my window. She was gone and it was so eerily quiet.

Bacall was, quite simply…beauty. She was an effortless woman, with her infamous voice and come-hither appeal. Beyond the exterior, Bacall’s acting was top-drawer—always provocative, smart, and moving.

I’ve been a classic films aficionado for a good decade now. I respect Grace Kelly, I adore Audrey Hepburn, and I caved in to the charms of Marilyn Monroe.

But, Bacall. Just listen and watch. She was a force, a damn gorgeous force.

B.K.S. IYENGAR

Photo: Yoga Journal

Courtesy of Yoga Journal

Where do I begin? Iyengar came to me much later when I was pursuing my Yoga teacher certification a year ago. I know what you’re thinking…big whoop. “Light on Life” by Iyengar is typically a required book.

Honestly, I didn’t want to read it. I certainly didn’t think I would like it.

On the cover was this man with bright white hair and matching eyebrows, smiling in a red robe, seemingly important and happy. Because he was important. Because he was happy.

He was Iyengar, the man who brought Yoga to those of us who truly needed it most…those of us in the West.

Last October I wrote a post called “I Am Still Learning”, which was inspired by Iyengar’s humble wisdom. I was a lost adult in so many ways until I found Yoga, until I connected with this man from another part of the world, a man who didn’t know I existed but didn’t care.

In some weird way, he was there for me when I needed him.

I’m not a religious person, but I am deeply spiritual. My faith belongs solely to the exquisiteness of mankind. Iyengar provided a connection to this realization and I will forever be grateful for that.

Williams, Bacall, and Iyengar left us. I can’t explain it, but I felt a strong kinship with all three of these incredible humans and I must say this…

Robin…thank you for your amusement, your intelligence, your cool.

Lauren…thank you for your loveliness, your emotion, your grace.

Bellur Krishnamachar Sundararaja (B.K.S.)…thank you for your influence, your spirit, your love.

If I had it my way, things would be so different. But there will not be an official holiday for any of these magnanimous souls. And so we will all go our separate ways—some will mourn, some won’t feel a thing.

I will forever know that these strangers did something special…and that they meant something very special to me.

The Life Enthusiast Chronicles with Andrea

Last month John Grant, aka Meticulous Mick, shared the importance of nature, travel, and culture to make one feel truly alive. In my monthly series, The Life Enthusiast Chronicles, fantastic humans from all over the world explain why life is so incredible to them.

Today I’m excited to present Andrea Stephenson of Harvesting Hecate to you all. Andrea’s blog exudes mysticism and playfulness and is always a phenomenal one to read. Often I feel that I am seeing the world like a child again when I read her posts. She marvels at the world around her, especially mother nature, and her beautiful way with words shines brightly every time. This gal’s been on my list of Life Enthusiast prospects for some time, so I’m pleased to finally have her over.

Connect with Andrea on Twitter

Wow us, Andrea…


bird in meadow

When Britt asked me to contribute to her life enthusiast series, I thought: ‘who me?’ I was honoured and not a little nervous to be counted among this group of inspiring bloggers.

And I haven’t always been enthusiastic about life. Years of sporadic depression and difficult life events in the last decade have seriously tested my enthusiasm.

But what has always propelled me forward and the reason I could never give up on life, is curiosity. 

It’s easy to forget how miraculous the world is. We often take it and our existence in it for granted, when the fact that we’re here at all is a miracle in itself. Whether you see our existence as god-given or a happy accident, here we are, living and breathing and enjoying all of the things the world has to offer.

nature

I began this post in the heart of the forest, surrounded by small miracles. 

Above my head, nestled in the eaves of the veranda, is a swallow’s nest. An astounding feat of engineering, moulded from dirt that seems precariously positioned.

The parents are relentless. You can watch them in the distance, swooping for insects. They return every few minutes, for hours, perching on the edge of the nest to feed their chirruping babies. They never miss, flitting in and out in seconds as the babies become more vocal. And then I have only to look before me to see other small miracles: the trailing larch with its delicate branches and ruddy fir cones, waving grasses, luminous buttercups, luscious orchids. 

I’m at my most content, my most ‘me’ surrounded by nature. Wandering through a forest, or along the coast, with a dog at my side is perfection.

dog in woods

group walking on beach

And though I could simply soak it up and be content at its beauty, there’s always that part of me that is curious about what I see. You’ll often hear me mutter to myself ‘I wonder what that is’ and I’ll head over to have a look and make a wonderful discovery. More than anything, I’m curious about how all of this came to be and why it is so varied. Why not just one species of fly, one species of bird, one species of mammal?

The world is a cornucopia of beauty. Every single thing has purpose and sometimes it stops me in my tracks when I remember how amazing it is.

I would enjoy nature knowing nothing about it. But knowing the little that I do: how well everything works together, the continuous cycle of life and of the seasons, gives me added enjoyment. I love mystery, but I also love to know what something is. I’m curious not only about how things work but about what will happen next…where will I be in ten years time, what will I live to see, what experiences will I have had?

meadow

I think life is about exploration. It doesn’t matter whether you explore the world or you never leave your home town, it’s about exploring the wonders of life. And we all have interests that prompt that exploration.

And yes, this world can be cruel and horrific.

Sometimes being curious might seem like a disadvantage, because it causes me to think deeply about the terrible things that happen too. I rarely just accept, instead I question and rail against. Not always a comfortable state of being. But this does mean that I connect, with the good and the bad, and that makes for a fuller experience of life. 

I’m creative because I’m curious. If I had no curiosity, I’d have no desire to follow a story to its conclusion or to continue brushing paint on a canvas. 

The easiest way to be unenthusiastic about life is to lack curiosity. So if you’re feeling apathetic, my advice is to find something you can be curious about.

Elegant Attitudes in Seattle

Seattle squid sculpture

Marijuana and fried fish intermingled with the gentle breeze. Aggressive construction in the growing city was outmatched by rhythmic waves and the soft creaking of the delightful ferris wheel.

Seattle ferris wheel

Gulls soared lazily above the pier, occasionally taking a dive to retrieve a salty snack. People decked out in their summer duds crowded around the white-aproned fish mongers launching fish across the stalls. The healing flavors of raw oysters and cold beer tasted like the best parts of earth.

We were somewhere else. Seattle.

Seattle waterfront

Mr. H and I hadn’t gone out of town since we moved to Portland at the end of March. Truthfully, we hadn’t been on vacation in almost a year, since our awesome road trip to Montreal last September.

For me this year has been an eventful one with my mom’s breast cancer recovery, a cross-country move, a touch of unemployment, and my third book release. When I say that we needed this little getaway, good grief do I mean it!

Seattle cuddling

An easy three-hour drive listening to the genius of Pearl Jam with the windows down made for a solid start to our weekend as we finally traveled together to a city we had always wanted to, our Mecca of grunge.

Mr. H and I were fortunate enough to spend our adolescent years during a renaissance of rock, a time when Seattle birthed grunge music. Though we grew up in completely different parts of the country, our love for music traveled parallel paths.

Naturally, Seattle was a no-brainer decision for a getaway.

As mentioned in the intro, we headed to Pike Place Market along with many other eager tourists. We ignored the frivolous, mile-long line at the original Starbucks in search of oysters and beer, which we happily discovered in a tucked away courtyard with a bird sanctuary.

Crowds aren’t our favorite but it was worth it to catch the waterfront vibe, a peaceful retreat from the rapid construction all around the city as it tries to keep up with the Pacific Northwest population boom.

We stayed in the artsy neighborhood of Fremont, which was way more our speed and reminiscent of our homey neighborhood in Portland. However, we waltzed into our AirBnB flat as planned to find the place still disheveled from the previous guests. We shrugged, unpacked, then sipped on exceptional local beers on the deck.

beer on the patio

Our host rounded the corner with his dog and gawked at us. He thought we were scheduled to arrive the next day and spewed a series of apologies while pacing nervously. Being the easy-going couple that we are, we told him not to sweat it and our host tidied up as we continued relaxing outside.

When he bounced back out, he calmly said: “You have an elegant attitude. That spirit will take you far.”

That was perhaps the best compliment I’d ever heard and it made me smile.

Ballard Locks

Ballard Locks explorer

The next day we ventured to Ballard Locks, another touristy spot, but an educational one that is very free and very fun. Here curious bystanders get to watch millions of dollars of boats get squeezed into a concrete alley, which then turns into a fascinating elevator.

A complex intersection between the salt water beyond and the fresh water of the canal, the lock waters are manipulated to allow the boats to travel back and forth. We watched this grouping of boats start at our level, then slowly drop down 26 feet.

See the shadowy characters on the bottom right of the pic below? That’s us and a bunch of other grinning tourists staring and taking pictures on the sidelines.

Ballard Locks boats

Being on display for the tourists while being in the hands of the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers must be quite the sobering half-hour for these summertime boaters. I imagine they’re pretty damn happy when that bridge door opens and they are free to go.

Ballard Locks bridge opening

After the locks we went in search of more oysters and decided to splurge at a restaurant that Bon Appetit included in their Top 20 Most Important Restaurants in America. We accidentally scored the best seats at the Walrus and the Carpenter, right at the oyster bar with the patio doors wide open behind us.

The Walrus and the Carpenter oyster bar

Between our sensational Moscow Mules, oysters, and small plates, we talked about nothing and everything. We reminisced about our late afternoon at Ballard Locks and discussed the incredible salmon ladder.

Besides the boats, the locks provide a critical passage for the salmon heading upstream. A fish ladder with 21 steps allows the salmon to climb to the freshwater side.

We lucked out with our August visit, the best time to catch King Salmon, and had the honor of watching these beefy, stoic fellows passing through in the underground viewing room. It was very awesome to witness these prehistoric-like creatures floating by us before they continued their long journey upstream, up a watery ladder of all things.

We stood there and marveled at the beautiful perseverance of the mighty salmon. To think, they go through all of that trouble to do one thing…spawn.

The Observer

Pittock Mansion

I taught movement for a long, long time. Ten years of dance to students of every ability and every age, followed by a Yoga teacher certification which launched me into another rambunctious nine months promptly after that.

At the end of March I moved across the States to the gorgeousness of Portland, Oregon. I haven’t taught since then, since early Spring.

Sure, a lot of it had to do with that effortless trauma that accompanies any move, or should I say a more uncomfortable word? Uprooting. But I’m not a good liar and I’m certainly not going to lie to you guys. The reality had nothing to do with that.

It was time for me to stop being the teacher. It was time for me to become the student…the observer.

I learned and grew so much from teaching, absolutely. Yet somewhere along the way I lost my own practice, the sweetness that comes with delving into the mind, body, and soul. The energy for myself was pushed aside to give to my incredible students.

I loved every beautiful minute of it—please, don’t get me wrong. But what is a teacher who is not able to pause and observe? Shit, not the teacher that I want to be.

I haven’t talked much about Yoga in the past year, not because writing has been more prominent with my book release but because I have been quietly observing my physical side.

My emotional and physical beings are deeply connected. As are all of yours.

The time has come to take the same approach with writing. To step away and give to myself by observing all that I can and once again become the humble student.

I’m determined to stick my little nose in as many books as I can. I’m beyond excited to dedicate time to reading again, rather than squeezing books into my packed schedule and feeling rushed.

So much of the past few years of my life has been dedicated to my work. I have self-published three novels and kept up a weekly blog which I pour my everlasting love into.

Every novel is the very essence of me. Every blog post is painstakingly created with attention to detail and undying tenderness.

I have three solid ides for my next projects—two novels and one short, a challenge I’m curious to explore. Unlike other times in my life, I’m not setting a timeline for lift-off. I’m gonna write when it’s right.

Now is not that time. Now is about observing the bits and pieces of life, absorbing that damning beauty we are all so fortunate to experience. 

Before I used to teach any of my classes, whether it be dance or Yoga, I used to get so freaking nervous. My heart would race wildly, sweat would decorate my brow and my back, and I’d often consider ditching the class with some mediocre excuse.

Not because I didn’t cherish my students. Because I was terrified that I had nothing to offer…nothing to teach.

Through writing I learn incessantly about every moment, every breath, every heartbeat. I press the pause button on my personal chaos to record eccentricities, emotions, and events…but, what the hell do I know?

I’m only a student. And it’s time for me to observe.