Wednesday, October 28, 2009

Yoga and Carotid Arteries and Plumbers, Oh My!

Last night, I went to my semi-regular Tuesday night vinyasa class (formerly taught by Dan the Man--a great, if predictable in his routine, yoga teacher), but it was strange. It was not vinyasa, first of all, plus the weather was terrible (cold and rainy, which made my recently-broken leg ache). Also, Leslie, the teacher (coincidentally, Dan's wife), had just been in a car accident, and she was--very understandably--shaken up. She was not hurt, but she, like her car, was a wreck.

During this long, very slow class, I felt like we were just randomly, without flow or cueing, putting ourselves into stiff asanas, and that the Sun Salutation very nearly went on forever. Certain parts were even  skipped, and it was jarring, in the way where you know a very familiar song but someone else covers it and changes it--stretching it out interminably in parts, glossing over others--and it's just hard to accept, and you don't really like it.

To make matters worse, we did the fish pose (which I've always hated, and I don't hate much in yoga), and I put my head back so far I was worried for a few minutes that I'd severed my carotid artery--which I've heard can happen in the salon, for example, if you tilt your head too far back in the hair-washing sinks. I actually had thoughts that I might pass out or die.  

Then we were lying down in preparation for savasana when all of a sudden, Leslie remembered we hadn't quite finished the Sun Salutation! So we stood up, blearily, dizzily, and put our hands over our hearts, and then we got down on the floor again. 

Like I said, it was strange.

I got home late, because class was so slow and surreal, and my children were waiting up for me (WHY CAN'T THEY PUT THEMSELVES TO BED?) and hadn't bathed, hadn't brushed teeth, etc. At this point, it was pretty late.

I fell asleep in my daughter's bed, as I often do, because I am so tired at night that I just drop right into unconsciousness after reading a story. Then I awoke, as I usually do, about three hours later, and could not get back to sleep at all!  

I am beyond tired right now, and I still can't sleep.

I should take the advice of my yoga teachers, all of whom advocate breathing in rhythmic patterns to still the mind.  Why don't I remember to do that? If ever I needed to do that, it was yesterday.

I was up all night, thinking about annoying stuff--how someone flashed some obnoxious gesture at me yesterday as I drove (no, really, I am a good driver). How I know I didn't deserve that, and I felt especially outraged because I was Innocent.  How plumbers never return my phone calls, and how annoyed that makes me. How I really need to buy more dental floss. How SEPTA (Philadelphia public transit) is threatening to strike and if they do, then my husband won't be able to get to work because his car is in the shop and so he is currently dependent on the trolleys.

About 11 years ago, I  had a yoga teacher (I actually called her the Yoga Pill, because she was really not very friendly, unlike most yoga teachers I've met) who said something that has always stuck with me.  "Put your hand on your heart," she instructed.  "Feel that? That's your life.  Everything else--all the errands you have to run, the paperwork you have to do--that is not your life. Only this (the heartbeat) is your actual life."

I should think of her advice, too, when I can't still my mind, when I worry and can't sleep.

Tuesday, October 13, 2009

The Menace of Moose Heads

Who, in this reading audience, hates moose and thinks they should die, should be wiped off the face of the Earth? (Sarah Palin, put your hand down.)

Moose aren’t typically seen as evil—they’re innocently goofy-looking, slow lumbering, vegetarian beasts. They’re even mildly cute in a gangly, too-big-for-their-own-good sort of way.

Think about Bullwinkle, and a certain sweetish, inexpensive Canadian beer. Consider how a fine rack of antlers may be a prized possession, handed down for generations. Maybe even imagine gulping down a steaming bowl of Moose Chili, stirred by Sarah herself, in her Wasilla kitchen (even though I’ve read that she doesn’t really cook).

Moose are associated with many reasonably good things, aren’t they?

I’m sure that if you’ve ever hit a moose with your car or been charged by a seven-foot-tall, three thousand pound moose during rutting season then okay, you might not think too charitably about moose.

Still, moose are not the natural enemies of people, nor our first, most hated creatures. Moose are not quite like snakes or sharks or even crocodiles.

But moose (especially moose heads on walls) are my ten-year-old daughter’s primary fear.

I’ll be honest: she has a short list of phobias, but most of them have to do with taxidermy, particularly stuffed heads of moose nailed to wooden plaques, staring down with brown, glassy eyes and bulbous (if velvety) noses.

I remember speaking with a psychic when my daughter was around two. My daughter has a very unusual name, but the psychic nearly guessed it (yes, without ever being told). Then she asked about moose.

“I see moose,” the psychic said, in a dreamy, monotone voice. “Lots of moose heads.”

I had no idea what this famous psychic was talking about. It sounded bizarre, implausible, and yet, it was so odd—moose heads? Wha?—that I didn’t discount it.

I’ve heard psychics say, “You will take a trip over water,” or “I see you attending a funeral,” but predictions of moose heads? No. Still, moose, at that moment, meant next to nothing to me.

This conversation with the psychic happened a couple of months before my daughter formed her moose phobia. Then we took a trip to a family resort on a small, Minnesota island. There, on that island, to my surprise, moose were the mascots. Cute, fuzzy, cuddly moose toys were all over the place and even pinned to trees.

My daughter didn’t seem to have a problem with that—but maybe Minnesota is where she first formed her moose fears. I thought the mini-vacation went pretty well, but who knows how it felt to her?

The following year, we ate in a restaurant in Florida that had animal heads tacked on the walls. A lion, a giraffe, maybe an elephant. I don’t think they were real (though they were rather frightening to my three-year-old daughter who averted her eyes and seemed to be nervous).

In the next room was a moose head. When she saw it (on our way to the bathroom), my young daughter screamed like in the shower scene from “Psycho.”

After that, it was downhill. Moose were a menace. My daughter had nightmares about moose. She hated—still hates—to even see the silhouette of antlers on cars’ stickers. Any antlers of any kind set her to trembling.

To no avail, I described to my daughter how I once saw two baby moose in Glacier National Park, and they were soooo cute, the way they cocked their heads at me, peered at me from behind some pine trees and seemed to be sort of smiling. They were curious, innocent, adorable creatures, I explained.

“Don’t talk about moose!” shouted my daughter. “I hate them! Moose! Aggh!” My daughter nixes all talk of travel to any national park, to Canada or even Maine--all because of the possibility (however remote) of seeing moose.

Her moose phobia (although we live in Philadelphia) has even become a bit of a local problem. I have to check each and every restaurant and some hotels and other institutions for moose heads before my daughter will walk in. This gets tiresome. It seems crazy. Sometimes, I rebel.

“You know what? You are being ridiculous,” I told her. “You’re out of line. Afraid of moose heads? We’re in the city, honey. There are no moose in the city. None. What are the chances of seeing a moose head around here?” I firmly steered my child into a restaurant.

Boom. Right in front of us, a horned boar head glared from the wall. My daughter fled in fright, stifling a scream.

So you’d think I’d learn my lesson at this point: you never know where there could be a moose head, or any sort of animal head with big horns attached to it.

Wrong. You may never know where there could be taxidermy, but people’s propensity for hunting trophies—that’s utterly unpredictable and seemingly insatiable.

We tried another restaurant with my firm assurances that the chances of animal head d├ęcor had to be nil. They had to be. Right? This restaurant had nothing to do with the North Woods. Its name included the word "fish."

Try four moose heads. Four. One on each wall.

I thought we might need a sedative. Industrial strength.

“Why do people do that?!” my daughter wailed.

Why, indeed? And why haven’t I learned yet that you just never know where there’s going to be a moose head?