Andi Winter

Writer, Reader, Tea Drinker, Chrononaut

Category: life Page 1 of 9

Three for Thursday

Man, it’s been a hell of a week. A screwball schedule combined with some of the strangest summer weather we’ve seen in the Portland area in years*, has me feeling all discombobulated.

So here’s what is helping me get through this week:

1. What I’m reading: First Man: The Life of Neil A. Armstrong by James R. Hansen. You know you’re reading a thorough biography when the author doesn’t get to the birth of the biographee until page 30. Seriously. Because we needed to go over the history of the Armstrong family name (it’s Scottish), and the history of Neil’s great-grandparents, and then his grandparents, and then his parents before they met each other. But I’m learning about Neil (can I call him that? I feel like I’m getting to know him pretty well), and I’m impressed. Getting your pilot’s license before your driving license? Getting into MIT, but choosing to go to Purdue? Playing in a ‘military’ band** to fulfill ‘military’ course credit for a Navy scholarship? Brilliant.

2. What I’m eating: Kettle Brand Kettle-style BBQ Potato Chips. I never liked BBQ chips before: they were too sweet and smoky and just plain funky.*** These are addictive. In fact, I just ate a whole bowl of them. I think. Or maybe the house elves were snacking on them as well when I wasn’t looking. Bad house elves.

3. What I’m drinking: Sunriver Brewing’s Fuzztail Hefeweizen. It reminds me of Rogue Ale’s Honey Orange Wheat, but with less orange (i.e. none)****. Honestly, it’s a perfect summer beer. And I must say, it goes very nicely with Kettle BBQ potato chips.

And now, back to enjoying a fine summer evening. At last.

###

*There was “Juneuary” a year or two back, which saw June all cool and rainy. Lately (by which I mean the past month and a half) it’s been again cool and rainy, to the point of seeming more like winter than proper summer. My basil plants are wilting in the overcast damp chill. Today was the first day in awhile that was actually sunny, and even somewhat warm. Huzzah!

**He played baritone horn—the same horn I played in college marching band. We’re kindred spirits!

***Funky in a bad way. Not funky in a good way, like Earth, Wind, and Fire.

****Sunriver describes it as having grapefruit and lemon notes, so there is a citrus commonality.

Today’s haiku

sleeping fox

one day I’m moving
building shelves, tearing down walls
the next — unconscious

—on monthly energy swings

Permission granted

The other day I stumbled across a relatively new book on meditation. With a title like Bliss More: How to Succeed in Meditation Without Really Trying, I figured I had to give it a try.

I mean, why wouldn’t you try it? With emotional well-being benefits* like:

  • Gaining a new perspective on stressful situations
  • Building skills to manage your stress
  • Increasing self-awareness
  • Focusing on the present
  • Reducing negative emotions
  • Increasing imagination and creativity
  • Increasing patience and tolerance

And then add to that meditation’s ability to help manage:

  • Anxiety
  • Asthma
  • Cancer
  • Chronic pain
  • Depression
  • Heart disease
  • High blood pressure
  • Irritable bowel syndrome
  • Sleep problems
  • Tension headaches

Oh, and it’s free. Why wouldn’t you want to meditate?

I wanted to—desperately wanted to—but I struggled with it. I’ve tried Zen meditation, mindfulness meditation, and some other flavors, but I never came out of it with a happy, blissful surfer-like experience. More often I was tired, my back ached from sitting up straight, and I spent my time so focused on not thinking** that all I could do was chastise myself for thinking, which was more thinking with an added dollop of a feeling of failure.

Awesome.

The practice advocated in this book turns all of that on its head.

What if you were comfortable when you meditated? What if you were encouraged to look at a clock whenever you started wondering about the time? What if you accepted your thoughts as completely natural***, and not Dastardly Enemies to avoid or destroy? What if meditating were actually easy?

Like I said. Radical ideas.

So here’s the meditation technique:

  1. Sit comfortably (with back support)****
  2. Use an easy-to-see timing device (not an alarm)
  3. Calculate your finish time (10-20 minutes)
  4. Close your eyes
  5. Passively think the sound “ahhhhh-hummmm”
  6. Let yourself simultaneously get lost in your thoughts
  7. When you remember that you’re meditating, passively begin thinking “ah-hum” again
  8. Peek freely and often at the time
  9. Once you’re done, wait a minute or two before opening your eyes
  10. Come out slowly

Thre prescription is to ideally, meditate 2x a day (upon awakening, and in afternoon/early evening), and no more than that.

Easy peasy.

I’ve tried it a couple times so far, and so far it feels odd to have permission to let my mind ramble with no curbing it. To sit back and relax, and not keep adjusting my posture and thinking about the position of my head or the ache in my knees.

Just the idea of not trying is a revelation. No effort.

Permission granted to just sit.

Amazing.

###

*Source: Mayo Clinic

**Yeah, try to have no thoughts. And no get caught up in, “Darn thoughts! Why won’t you go away? I’m meditating here!”

***Even the ones you are embarrassed to think.

****How would you sit if you were watching TV? Yeah, do that.

Today’s haiku

nutella toastsign on the highway:

“Spread love thick like Nutella”

—true words to live by

Calm is contagious

I recently started taking a yoga class* and I’m finding it fascinating. There is the immediate attention grabbers, like noticing one hip is significantly tighter than the other or that my flexibility isn’t quite what I thought. And then there are the deeper attention grabbers that work on a more profound level.

Slow down.

Breathe.

There is nothing/no one to compete with.

The instructor is different from the yoga video instructors I’m used to. While she has a similar mellow, relaxing tone of voice, and she is encouraging (“Beautiful!” as we assume a widely diverse execution of downward dog poses), she is not that flexible.

I’m used to Rodney Yee and Barbara Benagh who can tie themselves in knots, with the most serene expressions on their faces as they look off into the Grand Canyon or the beaches of Antigua.

My instructor does what she can in a conference room and says, “Well, it looks like my Tree pose will be down here today,” as she places the sole of her foot against her lower calf.**

The matter-of-fact way that she accepts where her body is in that moment is refreshing, and inspiring.

We move slowly through the few poses. There is no rush, no pressure to perform a perfect or idealized form. I only notice the other students when I check to make sure that my outstretched leg won’t hit theirs.

But the true gift of the class is coming out of it calm. I’m not a zombie or in any way unconscious. I’m just relaxed. My legs aren’t in a hurry to get me to the next place, my mind isn’t racing furiously about from topic to topic.

I’m just doing the next thing.

Calm.***

Which feels really good.

###

*As in going to a live class. This is different from videos and books, oddly enough.

**Yee and Benagh would have their heels up in their crotches for Tree pose.

***Today’s Daily Stoic reading is “Calm is contagious”, and is an excellent reminder.

Today’s haiku

falcon flyingsoaring overhead

the falcon rides the thermals

lazy summer day

-with the extreme heat we’re seeing, the thermals must have been amazing

Today’s haiku

sunny blue sky with leavessunny clear blue skies

I sit in my writing room

the standing lamps lit

-to be fair, it was overcast earlier

Spring is here

camellia in full bloomIt was a long time in coming this season, but my camellia has finally produced a bloom. Well, there were exactly two blooms (when there should have been a gazillion), but I’ll take it.

<doing a happy flower dance>

Haiku movie reviews

Recently I started watching new-to-me movies (having seen all the Marvel movies, some of them multiple times*), and, having been not entirely interested in many** movie releases of the past few years, thought I might try some Academy Award winning/nominated films. Because, hey. They should be good movies.

Well.

A few were outstanding, and a few were the disappointments.*** That said, I’m glad I saw them, and don’t feel like I wasted my time.

So with no further ado, here are my Haiku Movie Reviews****.

Mad Max: Fury Road

biker grandmas and
Tom Hardy in the desert
couldn’t save this film*****

Dunkirk

stunning visuals
but shocking lack of context
so disappointed^

The Hurt Locker

it was intense, yes
fine acting, Falcon, Hawkeye
but lacked a story^^

Zero Dark Thirty

dark, gritty, intense
doesn’t spoonfeed the viewer
and very well done^^^

The Darkest Hour

Gary Oldman, wow
two hours about a choice
totally worth it^^^^

Victoria and Albert

Dame Judi Dench rules,
gets friendly with a Muslim—
tender and heartfelt^^^^^

Police Academy

a screwball premise
Mahoney, Tackleberry
silly ’80’s fun^*

What films have you seen lately that impressed you? Which films are you looking forward to seeing? I’m looking for recommendations, so post your thoughts in the comments.

###

*Captain America and Doctor Strange, I’m talking to you.

**Is it any wonder that TV, in its many-varied splendor, is doing so well?

***I don’t think they were all accolade-worthy. Perhaps the Oscars™ are not the best baseline for quality.

****I initially wrote them as “One-Sentence Reviews,” but some of the sentences became so long and unwieldy that I thought haiku might be a more suitable form.

*****It was a spectacle, but not much else. Can someone explain to me, in this dystopian world, where they get all the fuel for their vehicles? And what is with the flamethrower guitarist?

^Christopher Nolan’s cinematographer does nice work, but not enough to save this flimsy docudrama about the truly gripping rescue of the British and French WWII soldiers facing imminent annihilation by the Nazis. Shame on Nolan for providing no context for just how desperate and stunning this rescue was (just three—3!—sentences at the beginning of the movie, with NO mention of the sacrifice of British soldiers at Calais as a means of drawing off the Nazis, was pathetic), and shame on him for the odd time-structuring of the movie. And shame on Hans Zimmer for providing a soundtrack consisting almost entirely of pounding heartbeats (and minimal music). And again, Tom Hardy couldn’t save this film.

^^Glad I saw it, but damn. Another job I do. not. want. Bigelow can do action, though. And those Marvel actors? They really can act. Huh.

^^^Apparently my knowledge of recent history is sorely lacking. And to learn that Bin Laden was captured while they were filming the movie? Wow.

^^^^Phenomenal. Intelligent, nuanced. Has me itching to read more about Churchill.

^^^^^And now I have to see Mrs. Brown. And wash my handkerchief from crying at the end.

^*Just to see if you’re paying attention. I’d only seen bits of the movie when it was broadcast on TV, so it was interesting to see it in one complete showing. I <3 Tackleberry.

Snow day

A little late in posting, but thought you might enjoy this taste of the crazy (for the Portland area) snow earlier this week.

snowy back deck

the 2nd round of 4″ of snow on the back deck

We still have some snow on the ground, but just the barest hint.

Winter arrived at last!

Page 1 of 9

Powered by WordPress & Theme by Anders Norén