Things I (re)learned on my summer vacation…(with inspiration and apologies to Pastor Bey)

I am writing this from Leah’s Desk. She is at work and I am here for my last day in Marion, IA. On my last day, I dried hers and my clothes at the laundry mat, went to The Country Kitchen for breakfast (try the country fried steak benedict, if you ever get here!) Given that she is at work, I am doing exactly what I want to do on my last day: inhabiting her house, feeling her spirit, closing my eyes and seeing her and her kids running around the place, remembering all those moments, fun, crazy, tender, and intimate moments.

I had the opportunity this past week to share in a truly joyous event: the wedding of one of Leah’s closest friends, Amy Lewis. Her husband Scott and she got married on a hot Iowa Saturday at Westminster Presbyterian Church in Cedar Rapids. I had only met the both of them once before, at an Art show a little more than a month before their wedding and had not met their friends. Spending time with them through the rehearsal dinner, the wedding and their beautiful reception shows me how obvious their love for each other is. I was thrilled and honored to be Leah’s guest through this beautiful event.

Some of the things I learned (or keep on learning more and more as I get up into my late 20s):

Be chivalrous in all that you do. When your beautiful partner asks you to get in line again at the buffet line for her because she wants to try the pork loin, do not hesitate. (especially because their may be a nice pork treat for you.)

Love unabashedly. Love wildly. Look into your partners eyes as if you looked into them for the first time…everytime.

Never pass up an opportunity to tell her that you love her.

Never get sick of hearing the words, “I love you.”

Be open, talk through things, grow and grow and grow.

Know in your heart that love knows no bounds, love can overcome distance, age, and time.

Be kind to those around you. Sow the seeds of friendship wherever you go. Allow your differences to be known, accept them as such and rejoice in them. I have had the opportunity to sow the seeds of friendship with people in the Midwest now that will hopefully span many beautiful and fulfilling years.

Be a man… a real man, and know that strength does not come through comparison of others, but through the act of polishing your spirit, everyday, every moment.

Be a man… a real man, and let the tears flow when they come to you. Do not hold them back. Know that it is okay for your loved one to comfort you in your times of trial and in your times of need. Know that it’s okay if she’s not around to still cry and know that if she were there, she would come to you, kiss away your tears and give you strength when you need it.

In a few short hours I will leave will leave the brick lined neighborhoods of Marion. I will leave the rolling hills and greenery of Iowa and go back to California where my wonderful son Steven, my home, and my Job is. Once I am off the plane, I will drive through the middle Peninsula part of the San Francisco Bay Area. I will drive through San Francisco, cross the Golden Gate Bridge, and drive through Marin County. Then I will be back home in the heat of Sonoma County, it’s traffic, vineyards and redwood trees.

I will be back here in a month. Until then I will think of her and consider her in all that I do. I will love her from afar until afar becomes no more. I will love her unabashedly, love her wildly, and never miss the opportunity to say those oh so sacred words to her, “Leah, I love you.” I know that she will never tire of hearing it.

The day before I left, we sat on the couch, Pink’s “A Glitter in the Air” came on. I have thought that it was a pretty song but never spent time listening to the lyrics as I did then. The last verse will sit with me through my trip back home:

Have you ever wished for an endless night?

Lassoed the moon and the stars and pulled that rope tight

Have you ever held your breath and asked yourself

Will it ever get better than tonight? Tonight

Life doesn’t Happen in Hanmi

The shomen at Centerfield Aikido

On Sunday, June 6th I had the amazing pleasure of training at Centerfield Aikido in Occidental California with Mary McLean Sensei. The dojo is a tent structure surrounded by the wooded hillside and at certain times of the day, the trees silhouette the ceiling and sides of the walls. Birds flying overhead provide moving silhouettes as they come over the ceiling. There is a magnificent shomen built by one of her students and lends graciousness and beauty to an already magical environment.

We trained and worked on yokomenuchi koto gaishi. First we we worked on the strike, then the throw, practicing getting off the line first and connecting with our partner and finally executing the technique. There were quite a few things I really enjoyed about her aspect of training:

As uke (the attacker), she suggested that while it’s ok to give your partner something to work with, try to stay balanced so that I can receive anything my partner can choose to do and be ok with it. This means that although I’m giving forward intention, if my partner chooses to do another technique that brings me in a different direction, then I can go there equally as prepared as if he were to do the called upon technique.

She likened this to a conversation. Both as uke and as nage, if we get too enmeshed with the wrist or the throw itself, it’s like opening up a conversation with someone with the only interest of proving your point. When we get too entangled, we don’t listen to our partners and we cannot have a clear conversation. We don’t hear the arguments because we are too embroiled in our own direction to go any other way.

All of this was great. However, I really enjoyed a quote she mentioned from one of her teachers, Terry Dobson, who said “Life doesn’t happen in Hanmi.” Hanmi is a stance used in Aikido and other martial arts. In the most literal translation, if we are about to be mugged or physically harassed in a street situation, we cannot ask our attacker to wait so that we can find our center and get into a defensive stance. By that time we are wounded, robbed or worse.

More often than not, we do not have that opportune moment to prepary ourselves to hear a hard conversation, to get accused, unjustly reprimanded, or be told something unexpected. Hopefully our training helps us be ready for life to come at us in any direction and allows us to find that balance so that we can go with it and act, rather than react, crumple or simply fall.