Sunday, December 14, 2008

Yoga Practice and the Books are Shelved

Finally, I made it to the yoga studio. One of my former yoga instructors opened her own studio this past spring. Since early June, I've been promising that I would go by Radiance Yoga and take a class. But each time, I'd talk myself out of going. However, with all things quiet on the eastern front, I finally got to the yoga studio.

I purposely took a slow moving, beginners class, even though my practice level is far pass the beginner's stage. As I became reacquainted with muscles that I have long ago stopped recognizing, I realized that I was exactly in the class that I needed to be in yesterday morning.

My muscles hummed, talked, and even yelled at me. At one point, in a simple warrior pose, my left arm started shaking uncontrollably. That was when I acknowledged that I was woefully out of shape. Having succumbed to working two jobs last year, I realized that I have sacrificed my health trying to survive economically while living in metro DC. So, I have to set my priorities right. It's back to yoga practice at least once per week, back to the pilates studio for my allegro reformer class (I prefer doing this than lifting weights); and I've enrolled in a tap dance class. Hey, don't laugh. I tapped as a child and teenager. When I lived in Ann Arbor, Michigan from 2001 to 2005, I tapped at the community center with a bunch of other middle-aged, college professors. Besides, once you become proficient in tap dancing, it can provide a really good cardio workout, and it is much gentler on the body than running.

In addition to re-committing myself to getting in shape again, I finally shelved the books. Along one entire wall, from the floor to the vaulted ceiling, are my books. A wonderful friend, hearing the "chick cry" in my voice, offered to come over and anchor the book shelves. I owe the brother a crab cake dinner. It took him ten minutes to anchor the shelves. He turned to me and said, "this was easy," and chuckled. He used my drill, but his bits. I noticed that his bits were of a better quality than mine. So no matter how much I drilled, I did not have good bits to get the job done. I own wimp bits! Now I wonder why the guy in Home Depot didn't steer me toward a better drill and bit set.

Shelving the books was like taking a stroll through my past. My life is marked by the books that I read. Also, having to shelf the books again, reacquainted me with books that I have long forgotten I owned. This also allowed me to take inventory of the books that are missing. For instance, I don't know what has happened to my editions of the Marquis de Sade. Don't be too judgmental, my mother gave them to me to read while in undergraduate school, and I don't recall why she gave the books to me, but I am certain it was in response to something that I asked. Oh, yes, there was a play on campus about the Marquis de Sade, and I was surprised that she had copies of "Justine" and Juliette" in her collection.

Nonetheless, I am most intrigued by what I was reading during my adolescent years. So I paid special attention to those books: John Henrick Clarke's "Harlem" that I purchased and read before I entered high school; my high school editions of Salinger's "Franny and Zoey," "Raise High the Roof Beam Carpenters," and of course, the infamous "Catcher and the Rye," which I read every year from the time I was 14 years old until I was 29 years old; and Kurt Vonnegut's many novels that my physiology and anatomy teacher tolerated my reading and chuckling over during his lectures. I really don't know why this teacher accepted my rudeness, except that he would tell me that I was bright, shake his head, and place my A examination down before me. Ironically, I was the only girl who sat at our lab station of four. And perhaps there was only one other girl in the class besides me. In my curriculum, by the 12th grade (which is when we took physiology and anatomy after two years of intensive courses in chemistry and biology) most of the girls had been weeded out and had transferred to another curriculum (usually health and welfare). The three boys who sat at my lab table all went on to be medical doctors (one is a pretty successful orthopedic surgeon who admitted to me about seven years ago at a class reunion to having copied off my examinations; I asked him for a chunk of his salary in return). Perhaps my physiology and anatomy instructor knew the odds were against me if I decided to pursue the hard sciences at the university, particularly if I did not attend an all-woman's college. I never thought about sexism in the hard sciences while matriculating in high school. I just knew that for the most part, the teachers (mostly males, I recall one female biology instructor) simply ignored the girls, or seemed to tolerate us. We were the best and the brightest of the students in Detroit, so they seemed to be a little hesitant to reject our presence overtly.

But, back to the books. I opened a biography of Vita Sackville-West and from the yellowing pages dropped out a letter from a friend whom I haven't seen in 21 years. I sat on the floor reading the letter and recalling our friendship, and how and why we lost contact with each other. Multiple editions of Morrison's books, falling-apart-editions of Tolkien (another author that I read during science classes), and various books in Spanish that were assigned to me in high school that must have suggested that I had a high degree of fluency that I have subsequently lost. Shelving the books and paying particular attention to my books from adolescence reminded me that I have always been doing what I now earn a living doing, that is reading and sharing my love of the book with others. While in an orthodox manner, I am a classroom teacher (even when my job title says, "professor". In a less orthodox manner, I am doing no more than what I have always done my entire life since I learned to read: consume a book, find a group of people who will listen to me, and share my enthusiasm of the book with them. As I anticipate the new semester, I'll have to remember this when the lifting gets too heavy and I just want to quit mid-term.


E. said...

WOW. Do you ever sleep?

M.L. Simms said...

Most of the time, I don't. But I believe that I used to sleep before I was about eight months pregnant with my son. I'm so used to being sleep deprived, I have forgotten what it feels like to be totally rested.