Gaelynn Lea: Voice and Violin

“Where have you been?” you might ask, when I tell you about the amazing singer/songwriter/violinist Gaelynn Lea.  I know, I know– I’m a little behind when it comes to cultural trends.  She’s been around for a while, on NPR and Ted Talks.

In the car, waiting for my husband at his appointment, I tuned in to the On Being podcast.  Krista Tippett was interviewing Gaelynn Lea.  In her introduction, Tippett mentioned that Lea had a genetic disorder (osteogenesis imperfecta) that made her bones brittle, even before birth, and that she’d been in a wheelchair since age three. As they talked, I was captivated by Lea’s music and her realistic, spiritual take on life.

            Lea won NPR Music’s Tiny Desk Contest in 2016.  You can watch that performance here:

            Lea is also an inspirational speaker.  When I got home, I listened to her talk on why she chooses Enrichment over Progress. She’s an advocate for people with disabilities as well.

            It’s been a long time since I’ve wanted to listen to any contemporary music, but I bought Lea’s album, Learning How to Stay, that includes the songs I want to hear again: Bound by a Thread, Someday We’ll Linger in the Sun, and Moment of Bliss.  I’m intrigued by the way she uses the “looper pedal” to build a whole backup for her voice. Her lyrics offer sparks of beautiful language. 

Our love’s a complex vintage wine
All rotted leaves and lemon rind
I’d spit you out but now you’re mine

-Someday We’ll Linger in the Sun

            Check out Gaelynn Lea, if you haven’t heard her already, and let me know what you think.

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Hello, and welcome to

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Thank you for subscribing to my blog. As I am already an introvert, the isolation of caregiving and hiding from the corona virus have really impacted my opportunities for connection. So—you’re readership is greatly appreciated.

The most important things in life are the connections you make with others.

–Tom Ford

The Honey Pot Ant

The honey pot ant of Australia

stores nectar in its abdomen.

Distended transparent droplets,

suspended in the tunnel,

glowing globules of juice.

@realDonaldTrump (2014)

The U.S. cannot allow EBOLA infected people back. People that go to far away places to help out are great-but must suffer the consequences!

In the short rainy season,

the worker ants collect

plant sugar to fill

the living receptacles

(CNN) …President Donald Trump, who judging by his Twitter feed remains focused almost exclusively on his election loss rather than on the deaths occurring on his watch –

Who hang,

tiny black head and thorax,

golden beaded belly,

waving antennae

in a life of sacrifice.

(…a president who is incapable of empathizing with the anxiety of others, appreciating their burdens, or thinking about anything other than himself and his fragile ego.

In the long dry days,

the workers stroke

the honey pots

with their feelers,


mandible to mandible

and receive eucharist.

January 6

If the Second Coming was at hand,

would he,

my partner of the muddled brain,

recognize Jesus?

As the chaos spread appalling

across the screen,

he wondered if Raphael Warnock

was the new president,

and why

angry white men

smashed the Capitol’s windows.

When Trump told his supporters

to go home,

he laughed.


as has been said—

dementia is a new day,

not like the now infamous

January 6.

Police in riot gear,

shifting foot to foot

behind plexiglass shields—

he’ll forget the vision

in a moment.

“Who is the new president?”

he asked six times,

anxious about his visit to the neurologist,

who might test him.

That the leader of the country

is a mad man

only troubles him

for as long as the image

stays on the screen.

What is it like,

inside that mind?

Soft and clean,

like a new pillow?

A fearless place to rest?

Or could it be a dark, roiling ocean

of anxiety and confusion,

a reflection

of the events

on the bigger screen?

Focus on the Breath: Pranayama

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In this time of COVID-19, it is especially helpful to attend to the breath.  Breathing exercises have many benefits, one of which is strengthening and cleansing the lungs to make them more resistant to illness.

About three months ago, when social isolation and reduced activity began to affect my emotional state, I resumed practicing hatha yoga daily.  I’ve been doing various styles of hatha yoga on and off for many years.  The practice I do now is taught by the International Sivananda Yoga Vedanta Centers.  I studied this style in 2011, when I became a certified yoga teacher at the center in London.  It was one of the most challenging months of my life.

But back to pranayama. 

In the yogic tradition, the breath is seen as the outward manifestation of prana, or vital energy.  Gaining control of the breath by practicing breathing exercises—pranayama—increases the flow of prana through the body, which literally recharges body and mind.  Aim to practice pranayama for up to 30 minutes daily, before or after asana practice.

-from p. 178, Yoga, Your Home Practice Companion published by the Sivananda Yoga Vedanta Center

Sivananda-style yoga originated with Swami Sivananda (b. 1887) who was a medical doctor.  He gave up his medical practice to become a renunciate, eventually settling in Rishikesh and entering monkhood.  He opened the Sivananda Ashram, established the Divine Life Society, and started his teaching organization, The Yoga Vedanta Forest Academy.  His disciple, Swami Vishnudevananda, brought the teachings to the West.

But back to pranayama.

I do two types of breathing exercise. Anuloma viloma (alternate nostril breathing) is good for balancing the nervous system.  Kapala Bhati cleanses the respiratory passages and increases the capacity of the lungs.  I like this exercise because I can actually feel my lung capacity improving.

Here is a good tutorial for Kapala Bhati:

Pranayama is not hard to do and doesn’t require a lot of time. 

A last word from Yoga, Your Home Practice Companion:

Although the language and imagery of pranayama may appear quite mystical, in practice its effects are concrete.  Whether you are a beginner or a more advanced yoga practitioner, pranayama trains the respiratory muscles, develops use of your lungs’ full capacity, and improves your body’s supply of oxygen while reducing its carbon dioxide levels.  It also helps to relax and strengthen your nervous system, calm the mind, and improve concentration.

Try it!

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The postcard of California

is from his son in L.A.

He reads aloud every word on the map.

“Santa Rosa—I lived there.

Eureka—my family came from Eureka.

Then we moved to San Francisco.

I think I lived in Santa Barbara once.

Have you ever been to California?”

he asks me,

showing that another piece of memory

has broken away,

gone sailing off

into the dark ocean of oblivion.

“I grew up there,” I answer.

“What part?”

He used to know this.

He used to say he was from the north

and I was from L.A.

and we had to get special dispensation

to marry.

He used to—

But now he rereads the postcard.

“Have you ever been to California?”

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The Body Shop

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Last week my wrist wasn’t working right, so I took my arm to the Body Shop.

            “What seems to be the problem?” Dr. Scott asked.

            “It hurts when I start in the morning.  Sometimes it just locks up completely.  I’m having trouble lifting things and opening jars.”

            Dr. Scott manipulated my wrist. “Hmm, I’ll need to get in there and have a look,” he said.  “We’re kind of backed up here today.  One of the techs called in sick.  Can you leave the arm until tomorrow?”

            “Uh, not really.  I kind of need it for holiday cooking.  Can you give me a loaner?”

            “Sure can, but this is all I’ve got left,” Dr. Scott said.  He reached under the counter and brought out a man-sized arm.  It was covered in curly black hair.  The underside was tattooed with a skull and lightning bolts.

            I eyed it with distaste.  “That’s all, huh?”

            Dr. Scott shrugged.  “Yeah, sorry.”

            He helped me snap the arm into my shoulder socket.  My sweater barely stretched over the bicep. A few inches of hairy wrist stuck out below the cuff.  I had planned to stop at the deli on the way home, but decided to avoid the embarrassment.

            At the house, my husband was reading in his recliner. 

            “Well, did he fix your wrist?” he asked without looking up.

            “Not today.  He gave me a loaner.  Look.”

            “Whoa, that is some heavy duty arm you’ve got there,” he exclaimed.  “Cool tattoos.”

            “Not cool,” I said.  “I’m off-balance.”

            “Hey, let me see you flex that thing.”

I obliged with a scowl.

He grinned.  “Wow! That’s some bicep! I bet you could help me replace the bathroom faucet,” he said, pushing out of his chair.  “Let’s try it.”

            Sure enough, the loaner arm had more than enough strength to loosen the rusty bolt.  We fixed the faucet.  Then I hefted three forty-pound bags of water conditioner salt from the car into the basement.  I poured one bagful into the tank. After that, I carried the thirty-pound frozen turkey from the basement freezer into the kitchen. 

            “I don’t know, honey,” my husband said, “that arm is pretty useful.  Maybe you should keep the loaner.”

            “Right,” I said.  “And I bet this arm can strangle a spouse pretty well, too.”

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