Saturday, April 18, 2009

The Scorpion

Yesterday, I had lunch with a dear friend whom I see way too infrequently. Lunch stretched into an entire afternoon without a moment lost on small talk (except for the brief and necessary exchanges that are required after not seeing someone for a year. Me: "I love your short hair. When did you get a Prius?" Her: "Your hair is so blond!")

Michelle was one of the first people I met when I moved to Sacramento. She's also the reason that I started practicing yoga. I went to her Saturday morning classes at a downtown studio near my apartment and I was hooked. I don't know exactly when our friendship began to evolve outside of the studio. I married, had a baby, crossed paths with Michelle at another studio in town, separated from my husband, heard through the "yoga grapevine"that Michelle had opened her own studio, put off going to see her for a full year, read that she was having a one year anniversary party at the studio, and packed B up that morning to re-connect with her.

After the anniversary celebration, our friendship began to bloom. We planned yoga road trips and hit the road together in search of great yoga classes and vegan restaurants. We attended a conference together and exchanged notes and ideas after each session. We drove to Ojai and experienced a weekend that was sublime in every sense, from the magical yoga setting to the over-the-top food and endless shopping. It seems like we talked non-stop, on the drive there and back home and every moment in between (that is, when we weren't eating!).

I could devote an entire post to my gratitude towards Michelle and the awe that I have in her ability to draw people into her warm grace. She's talented, wise beyond her years, and genuinely engaged and interested in her large circle of yoga devotees. I always walk away from my time with her feeling inspired. Such was the case yesterday.

Towards the middle of our afternoon together, Michelle told me about a yoga retreat that she recently led in Costa Rica. Twenty-one people came together in the remote jungle at a secluded retreat center to practice twice daily and to enjoy quiet meditation and reflection, as well as the beauty of Costa Rica. Michelle coordinated the logistics, planned and taught the yoga classes, and dealt with all the complaints and issues that inevitably come up while traveling within a group in a foreign country. "And I had my own drama..." she began.

She went on to tell me that the accommodations, while being very adequate, were extremely open. That is, open to all the critters and creatures that inhabit the Costa Rican jungles. I personally love this about Costa Rica. Sure, Maui has beautiful beaches but have you ever seen a howler monkey outside your hotel room in Hawaii? Not likely. Costa Rica is a country to behold for its wildlife. From a safe distance, that is.

Michelle told me about the frogs, lizards and bugs that wandered into her tent cabin at all hours. And I should clarify here that a tent cabin is definitely not as rustic as it sounds. She even had her own private bathroom.

Anyway, here's the crux of the story. Michelle is taking her shower one morning before the day's first yoga class and her gaze wanders to the area above the faucet where she thinks that she sees a frog. "That's an interesting frog," she says to herself and turns around to grab the soap. Turning back toward the faucet, she casually glances up and as she puts it: "nearly shit my pants!" There, basking in the warm steam of her shower, is the "frog," which has morphed into an enormous scorpion, tail and all, in the space of a moment.

Any other female may have screamed bloody murder and ran out of the shower, shampoo still lathered up. But not Michelle. Keeping an eye on the scorpion, she quickly finished her shower, managing to get all the shampoo out of her hair (but I'm quite sure that she didn't do any kind of deep conditioning treatment!) and was on the yoga deck, ten minutes later, ready to lead class.

Michelle reported the scorpion siting to the retreat owner and then returned to her room in the afternoon to locate the spider. Gone. As easily as the scorpion had entered her life, it had slipped away.

Several retreat attendees took sympathy and offered to share their insect-free rooms for the next few evenings. She accepted their offers and was able to sleep more restfully.

Upon returning to her own room, several nights later, Michelle sent out a little telepathic message to the spider. Knowing Michelle it was something poetic and eloquent but let's just say it went something like this: "Look Scorpion, I know you're here with me. Let's just exist on our own sides of the room and respect each other's space."

Michelle didn't see the spider again until her birthday, which happened to fall on a day during the retreat. The retreat owner brought her an envelope. "Here is your gift," she said. She then added, "But you can't keep it."

Perplexed, Michelle looked in the envelope. I don't need to tell you what was inside.

The resort owner told Michelle that the spider had been killed earlier in the day and that it was, indeed, the largest scorpion that she had ever seen. "You wouldn't have died if it had bitten you," she stated. "But," she went on, "it would have been very painful."

I came home yesterday thinking about the scorpions in my own life and how if I can't get rid of them, I have to learn to peacefully co-exist with them.

Right now, there are a lot of hairy, nasty, ugly scorpions in my life. The whole situation of my mom moving in is kind of like a scorpion. Not that she's the scorpion, but it's less than ideal and certainly not how I envisioned things to be. B is definitely a scorpion right now. No question about that. Any child who gets up before 5am and spews venom on his tired and well-meaning mother is right up there with the most heinous of spiders. Romantic relationship (or lack thereof), financial struggles, demanding clients...they're all scorpions, in one way or another.

As is always the case, Michelle shared some of her brilliance with me and I came away with a piece of her in my heart and a lesson to be learned.

I'm going to go practice my Scorpion pose now. It is, in fact, the hardest of all yoga poses; one that I've never mastered but to no surprise, it is a pose that my friend, Michelle executes perfectly.

1 comment:

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