Dip your wheels
“Be good to yourself. If you don’t take care of your body, where will you live?”
- Kobi Yamada
I went to my first Shaolin Kung-Fu lesson last Monday night. After 15 minutes, I was sweating. I think it was the full-body push-ups with feet up on a bucket and bare knuckles on wooden planks that did it. When the master reminded the group to touch noses to the floor with each push-up, I nearly passed out. “Is this natural?” I thought to myself. “This isn’t natural!” (Answering myself seemed the most expeditious solution).
When he let the group get water after 40 minutes of quad-busting lunges and v-shaped sit-ups (or, more appropriately, struggle-ups), I was the first one to the water cooler, spent, old, and painfully aware of the need for life insurance.
Imagine how exhausted I would have been if I were actually in the class and not just observing it, empathy-sweating at the very idea of all my ab muscles so tragically unprepared.
At the water fountain, the kung-fu master approached me. “You doing okay?” he asked with that concerned you-look-like-you’re- having-a-heart-attack face that I get a lot from my teacher in Pump class at the YWCA. Hey, we fair-skinned (former) redheads turn purple with the least provocation. He was a smiling, double black-belted Master Bob, his stylish black kung-fu jacket and little ponytail still in pristine shape after that boot camp. “That was quite a grueling class!” I chirped in that fakey “I’m okay” voice that eeks out when the sound of your heartbeat is almost all you can hear and you can’t figure out the appropriate way to address an honest-to-god Kung-fu Master having never come in contact with one before. “Oh, no, M’am,” he said with great pity and using that terrible middle-aged “M” word. “That wasn’t the class. That was just the warm-up.”
Oh, my. Oh. My.
“Silver Sneaker” water aerobics with 90 years olds in flowered swim caps is looking real good right about now. Except, of course, that this option would entail a…bathing suit.
I was actually only at the Shaolin Kung-Fu Center as Chauffeur. My older daughter, Emma, is the burgeoning kung-fu master. “That’s awesome!” she said afterwards. “In ways you cannot fully understand,” I replied, longing to be 13 and flexible again (except for the hormones, science projects, awful bitchy girl gossip, and awkward boy/girl parts).
Besides Pippi Longstocking and Daddy Long Legs, my absolute very most favorite book growing up was a well-worn copy of Handmade Houses: A Guide to the Woodbutcher’s Art. It’s here somewhere; I know without a doubt that through all my moves, it has not been downsized. There is just no way I would let go of it. Since I was 14, many hours were spent marveling at the lives I imagined were lived in those quirky structures, houses inhabited by people who eat granola and drink hot tea! Hot tea! Just imagine how exotic that seemed to a young girl raised on Lucky Charms and Wink!
It was full of gorgeous odd houses of golden wood carved and split and built into trees and on stilts with twists and turns and small reading alcoves under stairs made of logs, with wood stoves and stained glass and granny square quilts—hippie living that captured my imagination, living as I did eating Swanson chicken pot pies in a ranch house in a subdivision in a square yellow bedroom with sliding closet doors and yellow curtains that matched my yellow bedspread with the raised up chenille popcorn on it [well, the curtains matched before I set them on fire that one time when I was experimenting by throwing matches into the trash can full of newspaper, and okay, I’ll admit it was a pretty big flame by the time my brother figured out something was up when he saw me running silently from the bathroom sink to my room (not moving my head, of course, to indicate any form of panic), but the fire was almost containable and by the time the fire truck got there with all those nice firemen on it, it was fairly well out except for the part where it spread across the valence and onto the ceiling, too high for me to reach with my cupped handfuls of water].
This book was a touchstone of my imagined life as an adult, a beacon to another life, one where I’d be sleeping with stars visible overhead through a skylight – imagine the extravagance!—in a house where nothing matched, how bohemian, how wonderful, how utterly unlike my life of little Ruth Original smocked dresses and crocheted toilet paper holders to match the fuzzy toilet seat cover, and shoe trees.
Why did this book come to mind? It was the quote I started with that reminded me of it, long in my past and yet so vivid in my memory: “Be good to yourself. If you don’t take care of your body, where will you live?”
If my body’s a house, I want it to be a fantastic handmade, eclectic, crafted one warmly polished, one that is all my own doing, of my own design.
I have decided to bike across the continental
I will do this to celebrate my birthday in four years, the one that brings me perilously close to the age at which my father died, the one I never really believed I’d see since he barely did, my 50th. The inspiration behind this goal is a woman I’ve never met – and probably never will.
Jean is a cyber cipher, a member of a storytelling list serve who posted last spring about a trip she was readying to take—58 days of biking across country with women aged 50-72. She celebrated her 62nd birthday on that trip, a journey that began by dipping bike wheels in the Pacific Ocean at San Diego and ended with a dip of those same wheels (aside from the replaced tires along the way) in the Atlantic Ocean at St. Augustine, Florida.
It’s the beginning of a whole new house. Tomorrow, I’ll start pouring the foundation.
~*~ 37 Days: Do it Now Challenge ~*~
Do an inspection of your body-house, that space in
which you’ll live until you don’t. Check out the structure, the foundation—is
it waterlogged? Are the shutters falling off? Is the paint peeling? Is it
moldy? Is it an interesting structure, strong and warm? Will it last the
course? Can you see the stars? Polish the wood floors. Clear out the cobwebs, Make your house what you want it to be.
Dip your wheels. Take your body on a