Wednesday, October 18, 2006

For No Good Reason At All

Yesterday I seemed to breathe in melancholy with my first waking breath and did not manage to dissipate it altogether until late in the evening some time between "Beat the Tiger" and "Descending Palms."

At first I blamed the melancholy on waking up to find morning had not dawned. It is charming to be able to see Orion's belt and the stars below it so clearly except when the clock says 7am. My biological clock does not reset without the sun. I did some chi qong stretches which usually restore my spirits but without the sun my effort was lackluster and any chi that might otherwise have been awakened slept on. The house was cold--not the desperate cold that makes the tips of your fingers and toes itch and go red and get tiny cuts like paper cuts (my personal description of a word I thought an anachronism until I found "chillblains remedy" in the chemist's shop today)--just a nagging chill in the air compounded by my dread at the prospect of more cold and dark before the return of the light.

Many years ago in Indianapolis I experienced a full eclipse of the sun at high noon. Even though modern civilized man knew exactly what was happening, and CNN told everyone how to make pinhole cameras, nonetheless it made everyone a bit edgy. Imagine that kind of darkness for about two months. Last year Morris took me to the southern hemisphere to avoid it. This year I want very much to be with my daughter and grandson at Christmas. Chicago in winter is not exactly a prime holiday spot, but the weather there does not seem as cold as here. In Chicago, the cold can be stymied or held at bay with enough layers. In Caithness, there is no contest. The cold is unchallengeable. No amount of layering can defeat it.

Perhaps I have overspent myself struggling to write a post about homesickness. I went to a recently discovered blog,, and found a post about the drive from Chicago to Indianapolis. The recollection of that familiar territory started the melancholy twitching like a dousing stick getting closer to water. Nostalgia is a particular flavor of melancholy or a kind of amnesia, according to Milan Kundera. I think nostalgia is more like selective memory. It allows me to imagine Indiana in July or on a gorgeous Indian Summer afternoon. More likely, it is 50 degrees and raining, there are construction delays on 65, and at least 4 fender benders or bumper to bumper traffic on the interstate.

Finally I had to conclude that I felt blue for no particular reason at all. This conclusion was vaguely reassuring except the melancholy just nodded sullenly and hung around. So I carted this melancholy into tai chi class with me. Because it is a school holiday, there were only 5 of the North Shore Internal Arts club there. On a full class night, there are probably about a dozen of us. For Caithness that is a pretty good turnout. Population density is 8 people per square kilometer. the teacher and at least one other student come all the way from Betty Hill, about thirty miles away, where they have crofts (small farms that have charm but rarely are economical to operate).

With so few of us in the room even the enthusiasm of all the folks there just barely lifted my spirit. We did our stretches, then our chi qong and still my mood puddled around my ankles. The music reminded me of distant friends and dinners in a favorite Chinese restaurant. I pulled my mood up and tucked it into my belt to keep it out of the way as we moved into the new exercises. "Beat the Tiger" is a Jackie Chan photo opportunity kinda pose--you have one fist atop the other and legs in a modified horse stance, I think. At any rate, I began to lose myself in what I was doing, which is the idea of it. The next move was Swirling Hands. I could imagine Jackie Chan in a waiter's uniform using those large trays to fend off the bad guys with all the panache of that classic scene in which he performs with a fan and is rumored to have done it 400 times before he finally decided it was good enough.

After the warm up exercises, we did the 24 moves of the modified Beijing style, which is the style of my current instructor. I am the newest one in the class and so struggle with the last few moves. It took me a year to learn the form I studied in the States and starting over again with tai chi was just symbolic of the whole move--I could find a tai chi class but it was different. Everything was pretty much like life through a looking glass--driving on the left, light switches upside down, and tai chi form sort of like the one I knew but sort of not.

I negotiated Golden Coquerel stands on one leg with steady balance and managed a fair stretch for Snake Creeps Down. Both poses familiar to me from the old form. By the time we finished I was smiling on the inside. And then mostly just for me although the others didn't mind, we did the 24 moves to music. It was a graduation party for me. By the time we sat down to conclude the class session with a meditation he called either "Loop the Loop" or "Heavenly Circuit," I was imagining first a carnival ride and then a Felix the Cat cartoon. In other words, I was back to normal.


At 7:58 PM, Blogger The Curmudgeon said...

Greetings Landgirl and thanks for stopping by my blog.

I've just had the chance to read a few posts here -- I usually like to look at the early stuff, and the recent stuff, and I'll catch up on the middle as necessary.

But I have to disagree with you on the cold in Chicago: Oh, sure, in December and January, when it's 10 below and bone dry you can hold back the cold with layers... but now, in the Fall, when it gets 40 and rainy and windy, I can't imagine there'd be anything quite so cold anywhere....

Of course, I feely admit that I have no experience of Scotland (other than from watching movies like Tight Little Island).

Now to address your questions today:

"What do you consider your craft? I'm not being cheeky."

You have internalized the local argot, haven't you? But I suppose, for purposes of the Blogosphere, my "craft" would be writing. It sure isn't billable legal hours....

"The amorphous nature of blogville gives us a lot of freedom but not much in the way of traditions typically associated with a craft."

True, but we're sort of making it up as we go, aren't we?

Are you writing for publication or to have a conversation with interested people?

Is "yes" an acceptable answer to both questions? Now, I'm not being cheeky: I'd like to develop a publishable but still authentic "voice" and, if I could find a way to sell what I've done already, so much the better! But I also like the conversation aspect -- because people pop up here from all sorts of places and it's a fascinating way to learn about the world.

Oh, and one last thing: On behalf of our Chamber of Commerce (and speaking as an entirely self-interested taxpayer -- tourists help keep my property taxes down, you see) let me just say that Chicago is always a prime holiday spot, Summer or Winter....

At 8:36 AM, Blogger landgirl said...

Hello, Curmudgeon. I thank you and no doubt the Chicago chamber thanks you as well.

I take your point about 40, rainy and wet cold--which is more argot for saying "Yup." Nostalgia sneaked into my view even when I was watching.

I thought you might say yes to both questions, which is perfectly acceptable to my logic unit. For many years as technical writer and as teaher of technical writing I preached "purpose and audience" as the alpha and omega of writing but I have left that persona behind--or mostly anyway.

My husband laughs that I am doing more for tourism than any of the agencies whose mission it is when I invite people to come visit but your family would enjoy it, I think. I have not seen Tight Little Island. I will check that out.

Yes, blogging is making it up as we go along. I started blogging at my daughter's suggestion because I wanted an extended conversation with all the friends and acquaintances I had left behind but I also wanted to write myself into this new landscape. I did not think of it as 'real' writing tho I strive for that in some of the essays. The discipline of writing regularly has been good for me and now you have me thinking about what more to do with that discipline and all the ideas in my head.
Now I have to pull on my wellies and go to work on the farm.


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