Monday, October 16, 2023

Giving Thanks for the Difficult Work

A tale paraphrased from "Seva and Sadhana", a lovely essay by Pujya Swami Chidanand Saraswatiji in the Nov-Dec 2011 issue of Tathaastu:

Once there was a devoted man who spent a great deal of time each day in meditation and prayer.  One day in his meditation he heard God’s voice commanding him. 

“There is a large boulder in the field just opposite your house.  I want you to push that boulder with all your might.”

So the man got up immediately and went into the field.  He pushed and pushed, perspired and perspired, but the boulder did not budge.  Finally, exhausted under the dark sky, he returned home.  The following morning before sunrise, eager to complete the Lord’s bidding, he was out in the field again, pushing and pushing.  Still the huge boulder did not move in inch.  This went on for many days, and then the days became weeks, and the weeks became months.  Still the boulder was firm.

Finally, one day the man collapsed in despair.  He called out loudly, his voice choking with tears.  “My Lord, I have failed You.  You gave me such a simple task and even that I was unable to fulfill.  I am useless and unworthy of Your favor.  Please forgive me.”

The Lord responded lovingly, “My child, I never asked you to move the boulder.  I put it there, and thus I am well aware that it cannot be moved by human might.  All I asked was that you push against it.  In pushing against that boulder for the last several weeks, look at how your arms and legs have strengthened.  Do you see the firm muscles where loose flesh had hung before?  There is a shine to your skin now, strength in your step, firmness and flexibility in your body.  This task was not about moving the rock.  It was about molding you.  If I wanted the rock moved I would have moved it myself.  What I wanted was for you to experience physical labor, for you to feel the sun shine upon your skin, for you to know the fatigue of a hard day’s work and for you to see how much more potential your body has than what you imagined.”

(Previously published 2/21/2013)

Wednesday, August 16, 2023


 Thank you for visiting India Henson Yoga.

This post is to let Google know I don't want Google to delete this account when domains move to Squarespace. ~~sigh~~

Sunday, October 9, 2022

Orbs, Orbs, Orbs

Blog repost from the 2009-- Happy Halloween!

“In a world where carpenters get resurrected, everything is possible.” 
-----Katharine Hepburn as Eleanor of Aquitaine in The Lion in Winter 

     Orbs are photographic phenomena that show up as round transparent, translucent, or opaque hovering spheres usually in digital photographs. They can be large or small or even overlapping. With the right frame of reference, they can be downright mystical: angels hovering about, or the opposite, demons menacing about. Or they can be energy fields produced by the spirits of past departed checking in on loved ones left behind. Or just friendly spirits who enjoy your company. Or spirits who are curious. Maybe they are doors to another dimension. Perhaps they are manifested by the sheer vibration of a room. You know the feeling when you walk into a room and can immediately sense the tension or excitement or despair, etc.

     Or they can just be dust: dust that reflects an off-focus image from the flash of a camera. It's probably a good idea to consult a camera specialist, but the explanation has something to do with the shortened focal length between the camera lens and the chip that records the digital picture. The focal point will be in focus, but other points (dust) brightened by the flash will be out of focus, causing the orb effect.

     I can handle this information however primitive and poorly understood. However, after seeing all those orbs in the photographs of Yoga classes on winter days shortly after we opened at PH Balance,  I'm inclined to think I might need to clean the place thoroughly--dust, vacuum, clean blinds.

     Which, of course, makes me prefer the mystical explanation much more.

There is a passage in the New Testament book of Luke where the evil religious leaders tell Jesus to forbid his followers from praising him. It's Palm Sunday. Jesus replies with some of the oddest words. "If these were silent, the stones would shout out." (Luke 19:40) This didn't make much sense until a guy at our church lots of years ago explained this verse through the theory of quantum physics.  While I'm no Einstein, I did grasp that quantum physics describes a much different reality relating to waves and particles that do not function within our reality as we understand it. It's all about a vibrational energy that keeps the universe from, well, not being the universe, and if one were to look at the sub-atomic particles in the stones, one might see a great deal of activity that, under the right circumstances, could cause sound, maybe in the form of shouting.

     So I write all this to say that if we are created from the dust as stated by the Yahwist writer, who is the oldest reference in the Torah (Genesis 2:7), who's to say whether or not a bright flash of light can bring momentary life to a speck of dust, liberating whatever wave energies might be bound in that particle? Who's to say that ashes to ashes, dust to dust is just a mere explanation of the time we experience in relativity and that quantumly speaking, our ashes and dust have a whole other experience?

Thursday, July 21, 2022

The Grief Quilt

I spent the summer of 2021 cleaning up, mending, and quilting Aunt Ola's quilt top. My mom gave it to my sister, Jann, after Aunt Ola died. Jann gave it to me on a trip to Birmingham during Covid.  The quilt was a mess, these diamond shapes created from hexagons.  The layout created a parallelogram with borders that were uneven.  It was obvious that the quilt brought Aunt Ola grief as she had tried to cut some of the designs along the edges to make some sense out of the sideways-leaning design. I thought it just needed some love.  I'd always been a sucker for lost causes.

Aunt Ola hand pieced the hexagons with white and black thread along with some stitching with what might be kite string.  Many areas had some damage or had come unstitched.

I went to the Quilt Shop in Hendersonville and bought some unbleached muslin for the backing.  I chose not to use batting, making a lightweight quilt. I bought some quilt needles and thread.  I had to cut the muslin in half to create the backing.  On a trip back to Birmingham my sister, Jann, sewed the two halves together on her machine so that the backing would fit under the quilt top.

As I worked on the quilt, my own grief was on the mend. It had been a year since my partner died. I quilted each hexagon except the black ones around each design and mended the seams and damaged pieces as I quilted.  And as I quilted I thought about Aunt Ola, my mother-in-law, Jewell, who taught me how to quilt.  Both women have passed. I wondered what my Aunt Ola had made with the scraps that created this quilt. I thought about my grandmother, who I never met, but whose quilt hangs in my bedroom along with a specially-made-for-me quilt hanging from Jewell.  I thought about all the women who saved scraps and created beautiful quilts for families and friends, all the unknown artists whose creations have long been forgotten.  I hoped Aunt Ola was watching and smiling. I knew Jewell was rolling her eyes at these uneven stitches.

I realized that to square the quilt, I would need two right angle triangles to fill in the spaces caused by the leaning design.  But before that, I had to decide where the quilt would begin and end.  The places that had been cut off, leaving irregular edges, had to be cleaned up.  So I made those decisions after lots of observations and measurements, carefully taking out stitches, removing partial patterns. I finally finished the quilt top by the end of summer and folded it up for the cedar chest until I moved to Montevallo. I really could not make a decision how to square up the quilt, and making a border was something I couldn't even consider.

In the sixth month after my move, I pulled out Aunt Ola's quilt with the intention of finishing it. I would just dive into it and finish it, border and all. I went to JoAnn's and spent time looking for that fill-in fabric for those right triangles. I didn't go in with any other idea of what I wanted other than small-design fabric. The quilt was bold enough in its original form.  I just depended upon my instinct to find the material.  After looking at many bolts of material, I came upon the scattering-stars-in-the-night design.  It reminded me of all the star quilters who had been scattered around the world and whose spirits scattered the night sky.  Even the lady who cut my yards from the bolt took a double take when she unbolted the material.

It wasn't until I was working with the fabric that the black background seemed appropriate for the black hexagons.  I really didn't intend to get black fabric, but it worked with the quilt top.  It blended with the black hexagons, which made it easier to attach them to the fabric.

So. I measured and measured. I didn't have a giant protractor to figure accurate triangle shapes, so I just trusted myself to get it close. I cut them. I sewed their edges to the folded black hexagons. The result was giant triangular spaces. I had to do something about that, so I used pieces of the quilt that were leftover and appliqued them to the triangles.  Tried to get them somewhat even.  Looked ok.  Thought maybe after the border was on, I'd see how it looked, and maybe applique some more scraps later.

The border was a nightmare.  There wasn't enough material to simply fold over and sew the border, so I started using what I had left over from the muslin for the border.  Measuring, measuring. Cutting.  Ironing folds. Bloodying my fingers as I stuck pins into them, by accident, of course.  As I started sewing the border, I would adjust, tug, try to even it up.  It's ok.  But far from perfect. Far from even. But square enough. Like an impressionist painting, the quilt should be viewed from a comfortable distance; no close examination. 

Even in the struggle with the border, my own healing process accelerated.  Aunt Ola's grief led her to abandon her quilt, but then the quilt helped me embrace my own grief as it witnessed the better part of my own healing.  The quilt is beautiful to me, mostly because it is so imperfect and full of intuitive decisions, meditative struggle.  It's a metaphor for the imperfect beauty created by grief.

Thank you, Aunt Ola.


Tuesday, June 15, 2021

Happy Father's Day!

Congratulations to my son, David, who celebrates his 13th Father’s Day. I am honored to be his Mother. 

David was one of those very rare kids who cried at Disney World but was given the balloons at the end of the parade by the “one and only” Snow White. He had a crush on her for months after. 

He won a trip to Six Flags Over Georgia in a Go Bots contest. 

He was nearly hit by a car. 

Broke his foot on the seesaw. 

Didn’t pick up his clothes and toys often enough.
Read books.
His kindergarten teacher said he was the most well-adjusted kid she’d ever seen.
His fourth-grade teacher said she’d be reading about him in the papers. Years later when David was in high school, I saw this same teacher at a workshop. I reminded her of her prediction, and she was correct. The Huntsville Times published an article on his rising star in track and quoted him on many occasions.
As a teenager David met Hindus and Hispanics, helping the way Christian teens do on mission trips.

In high school he suffered difficult physical problems from acne to scoliosis to multiple shoulder dislocations and corrective shoulder surgery. Consequently, he was rejected from his high school basketball team after a stellar show in middle school basketball. 

And, yet, he still owns the Alabama High School Athletic Association 4A State Record in the 300-meter hurdles. That was in 1999. 

He graduated Salutatorian from his high school. The Valedictorian never darkened the door of his high school. 

His school counselor said he would never get a scholarship from Samford. He was awarded Samford's highest scholastic honor, a Presidential Scholarship, and kept it for four years. 

Editor of his college newspaper and magna cum laude graduate.

He majored in journalism at Samford University. In his first journalism job after college he earned an Alabama Press Award which the Scottsboro Sentinel still houses.
All of this experience paved the road for fatherhood. 

He walks in the essence of God, making his vocation in the Episcopal Priesthood. 

He has never, ever spoken a harsh word to me or raised his voice in anger toward me. Though, on rare occasions, he has torn through my heart with a specific kind of glare in his eyes. And, probably, rightfully so. 

The children who have him as a Dad are so beyond lucky, so beyond graced, I cannot even imagine what it must feel like to have a parent with that kind of heart. 

Happy Father’s Day, David. I am honored to be the Mom of B’s and W's Dad.


Tuesday, April 9, 2019


     Some years ago, my brother-in-law, Carroll, bought a 1960-something Austin Healey. He and my sister brought it by the house, and, of course, the first thing Carroll did was explain how it's not in the greatest surface shape, but the engine was sound. He got a good deal, buying it from a guy in ... and so on.  I don’t remember the rest.  The car was extraordinary in spite of the dull and scratched green paint, making the vintage car look old and tired inside and out.  I’d never seen an Austin Healy up close—only in some of the older English films, so I was impressed, nevertheless.

     A few months later I helped my sister, my brother-in-law's wife, with a garage sale. It rained that day, but we sold anyway. As we were winding down, packing things up for a yard sale my cousin would have in a month, a couple of guys walked up and asked if we were selling any guitars. No, we weren't. My sister offered that Carroll had a guitar, but he probably wouldn't part with it. Then the guy asked the oddest thing. He asked to see the guitar.

     My sister called Carroll from her basement and said to bring his guitar. Carroll is a wise husband and obeyed without arguing. In his defense it was an unusual request, and Carroll is one to accept adventure in its many forms, especially in relation to music.  He’s performed at the Tannehill Opry with other musicians, and often he and my nephew will jam together on holidays when the family is together.  He’s backed me up on his banjo when I’ve been coaxed to sing one of the two ridiculous songs I wrote back in the 80s.  And he’s also an accomplished watercolorist. 

     When Carroll brought the guitar down and saw the men in the basement, it was a grand reunion. Handshakes. Hugs. How-are-yous, and there was some talk about “the good old days.” One of the guys took Carroll's guitar from him. He started tuning it. Then he played and sung a sweet bluegrass hymn he'd written. Other songs followed. My sister told me he’d written tunes for some famous country singers. After a couple more requests and the offering of a composition he was working on, the other guy asked Carroll what kind of car was under the cover, nodding toward the Austin Healey and trying to guess before the reveal. The surprise was resting under a car cover, some mattress pads and foam along its sides to keep anything or anyone from touching the car during our rainy-day sale. (Tight quarters since everything had to stay inside.)

     Carroll started removing the layers of protection, and when he lifted the final cover, I could hardly believe my eyes. The car had been completely detailed from the front to the rear in a two-toned scheme of British racing green and cream with shiny chrome wheel covers. The top was down and the new two-toned leather interior was pristine. The car was absolutely stunning, simply gorgeous. I knew it was the same car, but the detailing brought out a whole new appreciation in me. 

     The three men stared at the car approvingly.  Life is in the details, as they say, and nothing seemed truer to me standing there, watching those men and that car—how breathtaking a vintage love can be and how stunningly enduring our relationships can be under all those years of wear and tear.