Pandemic Yoga

The studios shut down mid-March. In the beginning of April, a couple of friends asked if I’d be willing to guide a socially-distanced outdoor yoga class for them, so I started teaching one or two mornings a week in the park near my house. It was amazing to be together in that way, at that time– such a relief. Outdoor yoga is different. The earth beneath us is uneven, sometimes sloped. There’s noise, wind, sun, rain. One time the park sprinkler system drenched us. Practicing under the canopy of an enormous live oak, I got shat on by a bird.

My friends were generous. Paula, married to a baker, supplied me with an abundance of artisan bread. Giant salty pretzels. An accomplished grill chef, she brought me a jar of smoked olives, a rack of ribs. Clayton gave me a medallion of St. Roch, the patron saint of plagues.

It felt primal, post-capitalist, both medieval and futuristic to be compensated thus. A book of poetry from one friend, a fern from another. Bags of vegetables from Michele’s farm.

Things began to change. Summer came. The world contracted, expanded, contracted, expanded. We kept going. My friends invited other friends. Neighbors noticed us with our mats and asked if they could join our practice. I reached out to a few of my favorite students from the old studio who live nearby, and some of them came too. People traveled, tentative and defiant, and missed a week or month of classes. They brought me back tokens: an ancient fossil from Lake Michigan, a bottle of Colorado wine. Someone got COVID and had to quarantine. Annette quit smoking. Birthdays came and went.

Autumn arrived. Winter looms. The election happened. Andy, who won the position of judge, joined our practice. We’ve gotten into a routine of Mondays early and Thursdays later. People mostly Venmo me cash for the classes for the classes now. I appreciate it very much, almost as much as I appreciate their presence, the opportunity to be together in a safe way, sharing energy, moving energy through our bodies.

I want to remember the charm of the barter. I’ll make a list to help me do that. I’ll forgot something, of that I’m certain, but here’s a stab.

A pedant of St. Roch/a bottle of wine/so many loaves of incredible bread/smoked olives/a rack of rib/giant pretzels/gift card for fancy cheese/Petosky stone/cash paper clipped to a poem/a Pema Chodron book/a hanging plant/a cranial sacral therapy session/a seven-day cleanse/a hakomi-acupuncture session/a gift card for Madewell jeans/a volume of Marie Howe poems/two squares of THC-laced chocolates/a nonfiction book called Why Fish Don’t Exist/tincture for immunity/bags of farm vegetables/a healing energy bracelet/a huge pile of dried sage/ love/ friendship/ money/ gratitude/support/a reason to leave my house/a purpose/companionship/clarity/hope

What if

instead of the ugly sign prohibiting swimming or climbing on the enticing rocks that make a very walkable bridge across the lagoon, there was no sign? If someone climbs on the rocks, who cares? Instead of that sign marring the scene what if there was an entity that noticed if someone entered the water, whether from the rocks or from the grassy shore, and loudly announced that there was a person in water?

If the person needed help, the voice (think Irish female Siri if you’d like) would make anyone present aware of that. If the person climbed out the voice would thank them then go quiet. If the person stayed in the water (which in this case isn’t terribly deep, though we all know it only takes four inches of water in which to drown unconscious face down) perhaps the voice could ascertain the weight of the person– or object, maybe there’s a way for the voice to tell if the thing in water is alive or not– using displacement (eureka!), and a few different scenarios could play out.

If the (living) object was under a certain weight, an alarm could sound. 911 could be called, by the voice. But the tableau to which I’m partial is one where the voice calmly explains to the bather that this is not water to bathe in. As a retention pond, its purpose is to drain and filter stormwater. The water in the pond likely contains harmful bacteria, toxic chemicals and possibly parasites. Please get out of the water now to preserve your health.

Now the problem becomes, what if the person has no health worth preserving?

The sign exists in the first place not to protect the public from drowning or becoming infested with e. coli, but to protect the property developer from lawsuits.

What might a post-capitalist legal system look like?

I Confess to Being Flippant About Bruce Jenner (though I’m not planning to apologize).

Over their usual beige dinners, my boyfriend’s teenage daughters were having an inane conversation about Kim Kardashian. Is there any other kind?

“Do you know who the original famous Kardashian was?” Chris, their father, asked no one in particular.

“Kim?” said one of the girls.

“Lawyer for Nixon?” I said.

“Lawyer for OJ,” Chris said.

“It’s his ex-wife who married Bruce Jenner, right?”

“Caitlyn Jenner,” the girls corrected me.

“Right! That happened. It’s so funny– back to the 70’s when he was considered an icon of masculinity. His picture was on Wheaties boxes!”.

“You’re supposed to say ‘her” picture,” I was told. “That’s the correct way to refer to a transgendered person even before they became outwardly trans”.

“Fine, but in the case of Bruce Jenner, whose photograph was on Wheaties boxes as a symbol of rugged masculinity, I’m going to make an exception,” I said.

I was being flippant, sitting at the counter with a bowl of green Thai fish curry that I’d made earlier. They took offense and started to clear the room.

It drives me nuts when they do that conflict-avoidance bullshit, so I got flippant about that, too: “Ooooooh a minor conflict, oh no, better run.”

Chris spent 45 minutes upstairs with them unpacking all of that while I finished my curry then penitently scrubbed the kitchen clean. The last thing Chris needs is more drama or another tangle to unravel. To my relief, when he came back down, he was amused rather than annoyed. We leashed up the dog for a long walk through the cool night and talked about other things.