The Pastor's Kids

The Pastor's Kids

Thursday, February 22, 2018

So Are You to My Thoughts As Food to Life

Shakespeare's Sonnet 75
In the late 1990’s, I took a calligraphy class in which the teacher suggested we use Shakespeare’s Sonnet 75 as a final project. In my favorite, quite poor Uncial, I lettered the sonnet onto a thick piece of white paper, posting it on the wall when I was done. And there it was, the title for the series of books I was beginning to think about. I had already met the person who was to my own thoughts as food to life. I wrote that I wanted to “plan some big work, amorphous, capacious, which is full of my particular conundrum. To be finished only in twenty or so years, when I shall no longer worry what the world thinks.”

It is now twenty years later, and I’ve begun to outline the last book in the series, entitled So Are You to My Thoughts. It makes me extremely happy to have gotten this far. The penultimate book, A Moon Every Night, is written, waiting for its last edits, and I’ve gone ahead with planning the last.

The books are full of characters, but they tell the stories of three protagonists, Line, Marty and Paul Mikkelson. I’m interested in how the arcs of these three stories play out as over against each other. It isn’t exactly planned. It is just how things happen. One person may be in a dynamic situation which energizes and grows them, while another is in a quieter part of their life.

Line’s story is intense at the beginning, when she and her husband are impacted by the violent student protests of the late 1960’s while quickly having four kids. She is able to do much good as she gains experience working across many spectrums of health care. Later in life things settle for Line, and keeping track of her kids, who make the most of their excellent educations and resources, occupies her.

The reverse is true for Marty, who doesn’t blossom until later. Though she has good jobs and a lively intellectual life in San Francisco, she has married an emotionally deprived man, who never really recovers. Only in the last books do we see the full flowering of her abilities and her taste for beauty, when she finds a partner who loves being a father to his four kids and needs her to complete his family.

Paul’s journey is steady. He successfully settles in wilderness places he wants to study. His achievements turn to ashes in his hands, however. His beloved wife does not live long and he finds himself back where he perhaps wanted to be in the first place: resident at Lake Michigami, the lakeside home built by Mother and Dad, with the long-term help of family and their hard work. He is left with his own task of getting to the bottom of things, his own search for truth.

In all of them, the Mikkelson values for balance and a sort of human ecology can be seen. Excellence often comes at a cost, skewing everything around it and often requiring many people and resources to shore it up while one person gets the glory. Though each of the Mikkelsons is unique and takes their own path (just off the mainstream!), their aims are often modest. In their family culture, Dad’s insistence on right relationship, to God and to all of his creatures as well as each other, is of the highest importance.

I try to look at these stories, which are of course those of me and my family, though fictional, from the outside. They are a saga, an evolving tale of what was possible in particular cultures in the second half of the 20th century in the United States. It is a time when technology, particularly communications, accelerated. The Mikkelsons grew up in North Dakota, with 19th century technology and only each other to entertain themselves, however. They have grown rich and fertile inner lives with which to combat Baudrillard’s “desert of the real,” which makes up life in the 21st century.

I hope that the books are anthropology, as well as story. E.O. Wilson’s great salvo on socio-biology, On Human Nature posits that “soft core” altruism, as opposed to “hard core,” is the key to human society. “The genius of human society is the ease with which alliances are formed, broken and reconstituted. There is in us a flawed capacity for a social contract, combined with a perpetually renewing, optimistic cynicism with which rational people can accomplish a great deal. Human behavior is the technique by which human genetic material is kept intact. Morality has no other demonstrable ultimate function.” The Mikkelsons, keeping themselves simple and their minds open, are the proverbial “salt of the earth.”

The idea that I would have to give up worrying what the world might think about the project was prophetic. I publish the books myself under the imprint Lightly Held Books. But I have had some wonderful comments. On Amazon.com, a “Concerned Citi-zen” writes: “With her photographer's eye, poet's mind and compassionate disposition, Kronlokken steps into and guides us, book after book, through the intimate intricacies of her character's lives and times. Weaving a tale often more akin to a symphony than a story, her novels are rich with a zen-like sensitivity that leaves one quietly fulfilled, yet wanting more. Highly recommended.”

Saturday, December 23, 2017

A Return to the Classic Mode

It is just past the solstice, when, from the point of view of earth, the sun’s daily path reverses direction and begins to go the other way. This powerful change is welcome to those of us in the northern hemisphere, who are ready for more light!

I just put the next to the last chapter of my current book, A Moon Every Night up for my early readers. I might finish the last chapter before the end of the year, or I might not. It is the sixth in my series of novels about Line, Marty and Paul, and there is only one more to come. I’ve been giving this work as much attention as I can, partly to finish before someone, or some thing, stops me! I will need three or four edit cycles to finish the book, of course. It will probably be published some time in February. At any rate, I am feeling accomplished.

Northerners, photographed by Peter Taylor
The solstice reminds us that in human cycles too, change is inevitable. One, probably old-fashioned and literary, way of thinking of how we are as people is in terms of the romantic versus the classical modes. A quick definition might be that the classical mode sees the underlying forms, shapes and order of things, proceeding by reason and natural law; whereas the romantic proceeds by intuition, creativity and inspiration, seeing things as they immediately appear. Alain de Botton, a Swiss-born writer, defines these modes here, and notes that the classical mode of life is “ripe for rediscovery,” after almost 250 years of the domination in the Western imagination by romantic attitudes.

Frederick Turner, a Shakespeare scholar and poet, has written a book entitled The Culture of Hope, a New Birth of the Classical Spirit. This wide-ranging critique of the prevailing culture comes from his background in both the sciences and the humanities. He feels our culture is in crisis at many points, particularly in academic circles. He describes here how the humanities have been subverted by an interest in power, while at the same time the sciences have become less determined, more interested in evolutionary development and emergence.

I’ve been watching for cultural change for a long time, perhaps because I’ve often felt myself swimming upstream in my relationship to culture. I’ve been interested in “real matter,” those things we can perceive with our senses but which have a spirit indivisible from that matter. I’ve been interested in the family and how it cradles each of us in a net both sticky and sustaining. And I’ve been trying to sort out values of wholeness and balance, rather than needing to express every last personal idiosyncrasy. I’m not sure that what I am working on gets into my books, but that is the intent.

Readers of this blog will have noted my fascination with the theories of wholeness propounded by the architect and mathematician Christopher Alexander. I’ve been very much inspired by the scientist E.O. Wilson’s recent books and his plea for consilience between the humanities and sciences. I look for change in our artists too, seeing it in the widespread success of such things as the musical Hamilton, in authors such as Ruth Ozeki and Arundhati Roy, and in the ongoing interest in the lyrics and life of Leonard Cohen. What is the structure, the underlying meaning of life? Who can tell us?

In addition to working on my series So Are You to My Thoughts, I’ve kept up my blog about women characters, both fictional and real. By this time, I’ve written about more than forty women whose stories have something valuable to tell us, which you can read here. These pieces point to the longer stories of each. Women continue to present an enigma which baffles everyone, including themselves!

In the blog I portray wonderful mothers and domestic partners such as Aline Renoir, Sally Hemings, and Kristen Lavransdatter; artists and seekers such as Nedra Berland and Tina Modotti; adventurers and poets such as Dalva Northridge and Elizabeth Bishop. Some are real people and others are characters in fiction. What are the patterns of growth for women? What does a grownup woman look like? What are the values women share? Why are women so interesting?!

Every one of us is making culture, from the earliest talk between mothers and their babies to the dignity with which we present ourselves to younger people as we grow older. Some of it gets captured in media. Some doesn’t. But how we tell our stories is a matter of choice. As Frederick Turner says, “It is story that opens up the world, that truly represents the world as branchy, free and full of surprises.”

Thursday, September 14, 2017

Asian Arts

Anyone who lives on the Pacific Rim generally finds themselves more related to Asia than to Europe. Over the almost fifty years I have lived in and around the Bay Area, it has certainly happened to me. I probably read Okakura’s Book of Tea almost as soon as I arrived, and have remained committed to its simple aesthetic ever since. It is the aesthetic of wabi-sabi, as described by Leonard Koren, “the beauty of things imperfect, impermanent and incomplete; of things modest and humble; of things unconventional.”

The way of tea, or Chanoyu, is a ritual coming together of people to prepare and drink powerful green matcha, in artful utensils and in rooms which demonstrate the host’s values. It is a celebration of life which comes out of an earlier Chinese style, but has been refined by the Japanese. When I’ve been present, the constraints of the ritual release unexpected meeting points and joys in the people sitting on tatami together. The Japanese tea ceremony is well-represented in the Bay Area by the Urasenke Foundation, which traces it lineage back to the 16th century tea master Sen Rikyu, who simplified the ceremony, democratizing it.

Akiko Crowther, Calligrapher
Like the way of tea, calligraphy rightly done is accomplished with the whole body and mind. I was introduced to this modern art by Linda Race, who worked with me at an architectural firm. She was captivated by it, deep in the tradition that was developing in the Bay Area through The Friends of Calligraphy and The Center for the Book, both of which provide classes. I took a brief class with Kathy McNicholas, who had us make a little accordion book, covering its boards with paper and calligraphing a long Algonquin word on the page: “chargoggagoggmanchauggagoggchaubunagungamaugg” which was said to mean, “you fish on your side, I finish on my side, nobody fish in the middle!” Of course we were using uncial script. Nothing very Asian about uncial!

Linda had been talking about Brody Neuenschwander for quite a while and one night in 1996 he turned up, a totally engaging speaker. He had been working with filmmaker Peter Greenaway on Prospero’s Books and was currently working on The Pillow Book. Greenaway said, “I am certain that there are two things in life which are dependable: the delights of the flesh and the delights of literature.” The body is a book, in this case. How would a book speak? The evil publisher destroys the metaphor, makes a book out of a body. Taking the metaphor too literally, he must die. The movie, when I finally saw it, was perverse, but gorgeous.

Neuenschwander has gone on to become a considerable artist. On his web page, I found his current thoughts on calligraphy: “It would have made things easier [if I had been born into the rich Arabic or Chinese traditions], but a lot duller. Their tradition is too well established, hard to budge, patriarchal and stiff. There are some great modern Arabic calligraphers, but their innovations are not on the scale of contemporary Western artistic production. I am actually rather happy with the idea of pushing this particular envelope, helping to create a new calligraphy.”

I gave most of my free time to tai chi in the 1990’s, but I also worked full time and devoted time to writing and film-making. This culminated in finishing the film Tenth Moon, about the similarities between tai chi and calligraphy, in 1999. I had always imagined walking around the woods and coming upon a poet who engaged me in writing haiku. Tenth Moon dramatizes such an encounter.

Linda Race played the calligrapher and wrote out all of the texts. Emilio Gonzalez played the tai chi master. The other major players in this short film were Don Starnes, cinematographer, and Dick Bay, who wrote and produced the music. We made the movie in 16mm on Angel Island, with Kodak film, a mostly analog process. It still looks wonderful to me. You can see for yourself here: Part 1 and Part 2.

Looking back at all this activity, I see that what is really exciting is the meeting of East and West. What does a Norwegian/Danish person straight out of Minnesota do when she meets Eastern traditions? She jumps right in. Wabi-sabi is certainly a Norwegian value, as well as a Japanese one.

Saturday, August 5, 2017

Summer's Bounty

Having finished a first draft of Chapter 12 this week, in a book (A Moon Every Night) with 25 chapters, I feel justified in claiming that I am almost half finished. A minor milestone. When this book is finished, only one will remain in the series So Are You To My Thoughts. Since my method is to try to stay close to the time about which I’m writing, I am sometimes surprised by what gets into the book. In this one, in particular, I am impressed at the cultural richness, matched of course by family depth, which I find in the lives of the Mikkelsons.

Line moves to Edinburgh, as her historian husband is doing a lectureship and research at the university for two years. The interest in gardens, herbs and healing is even greater in Scotland than what she found at home in Santa Cruz, California. Her daughter Fern is caught up in archaeology and the subtle drama of the dig. Line’s other kids are all developing their own passions, Christy for politics, Heather for viticulture and winemaking and Ivy for textiles. Pleased by these young adult involvements, Line and Stephen follow as best they can. Poppa, Stephen’s father, lives in Santa Cruz and runs a film club, which a local theater supports.

Marty has immersed herself in the practice of tai chi. Master Liu, who comes out of a powerful Chinese lineage, is developing teachers who continue to study with him and also have their own students all over the world. She is learning many sets, including weapons sets and two person applications in a setting which supports a complex social network as well. She is introduced to the five arts of the Chinese gentleman, poetry/calligraphy, music, medicine, martial and painting. Marty continues to work at a large architectural firm in San Francisco, and falls in love with a winemaker, learning the all-consuming poetry of wine.

The charms of the North Woods do not disappoint Paul. He and his wife live and work in Ely, Minnesota, at the edge of the Boundary Waters Canoe Area. His many family ties bind Paul, to Mother in particular, who is getting on in years. And to Marie’s daughter, who marries and has five kids in quick succession! Living near the Mikkelson home base also ties Paul to his sisters: Hanna, whose partner Faith, runs a cheese-making operation in New York; Ellie, the eldest, who teaches English in St. Paul; and Kristen, a nurse married to a farmer. He finds he must also pay attention to his legs, since he had polio as a child and has been active all his life.

At our house in San Rafael there have been lots of things to watch this summer. One day recently I found the mother rock dove or pigeon and her two scrawny fledglings sitting on a fence not five feet from my front door. We’ve been aware of them, as the nest was in a gutter at the edge of the roof. Last night I walked up the hill a little ways with the doe and her two fawns we’ve been watching just ahead of me. The fawns still have their spots! I saw a jackrabbit, with its incredibly large ears at the edge of a stand of manzanita, which pleased me. I hadn’t seen one for a while. We also love the crickets, who begin to sing in the middle of July and continue into November. A few owls are around too, as the moon comes into its fullness.

I’ve been re-reading the entries Virginia Woolf’s husband Leonard selected from her voluminous notebooks and published in 1954 as A Writer’s Diary. In late November of 1932, she conceived what she first thought of as an essay-novel and finally became The Years. She was terribly excited by it, wanting to write into it some of the things she felt about women. “It’s to take in everything, sex, education, life etc: and come, with the most powerful and agile leaps, like a chamois, across precipices from 1880 to here and now. That’s the notion anyhow, and I have been in such a haze and dream and intoxication, declaiming phrases, seeing scenes, as I walk up Southampton Row,” she writes. It is a wonderful book and has been of much inspiration to me.

Monday, July 3, 2017

Wisdom and Information

"When I took office, only high energy physicists had ever heard of what is called the Worldwide Web ... Now even my cat has its own page." Bill Clinton in October 1996.

The 1990’s was arguably the decade in which communication technology grew by leaps and bounds, spreading into all corners of the world. At the beginning of the decade, I worked in a small help desk company called Computer Hand Holding. It was sort of a computer lab, hiring geeks involved in both hardware and software. I was the only woman my boss could find to hold her own in this environment. I could take phone calls, answer the easy questions, passing the harder ones on to my colleagues. And I did have a few women melting down on the other end of the line, happy to talk to me.

Our boss encouraged us to get on Compuserve, an on-line provider that allowed people to sign in to their servers (located in Ohio) via a modem, and leave messages or participate in forums. “I am about to become a ‘lurker,’” I write in August 1992. I didn’t do much of that, as there were few forums on literature and I wasn’t much for gaming. A woman in my writer’s group had been given a subscription to the Well as a present. The Well hosted conferences on writing as well as many other topics, but these things were expensive at the time. I also insisted to myself that I was more interested in wisdom than the information computers could provide.

I did love the email that came with Compuserve, private conversations with friends and relatives who were far away. By the next year, I had an IBM computer with a modem in my home for the purpose. On Compuserve, you paid for the time used. When AOL showed up in the mid-1990’s, people shifted over because AOL used monthly rates. About this time I left the country for a year. When I got back, I worked in a big architectural company which was Mac-based. I bought a small portable Mac computer and got an email address from my Internet Service Provider. Service was still too slow to send photographs easily. When free email service came out, from Microsoft, I was quick to get a hotmail address, which I still use.

People had used answering machines for quite a while by this time, to take phone messages when they weren’t at home to answer their phone. I waited until AT&T added centralized messaging. How wonderful it was to come home, pick up the phone and hear the tones which indicated someone had left a message! Sometimes I would play and replay a message, just to hear the person’s voice. You could pick up your messages from a pay phone as well, which I sometimes was impatient enough to do. The concept of store and forward, for both voice mail and email was new and helpful when people were so active and running around.

Mobile phones really got going in the 1990’s also, using second generation networks with digital technology. Not being a freelance worker, or one who traveled to different sites, I didn’t get a mobile phone until much later. Working in administration, however, I had a drawer full of non-working ones at the office! They were heavy and clunky, but it was a status symbol. All the principals at the firm had to have one. I recall when the president of the company came to me in 1996 and explained that his phone was fine, but he wanted to replace it with a tiny “clamshell” phone, the Motorola StarTAC. He demonstrated how big it was and how he would put it in his pocket! He wanted to be the first to have one.

Working for a big international firm, we sent a great many documents back and forth. At this time I developed my theory that people always trusted the next to the last technology the most. We were all using email, but didn’t trust it as much as the fax machine! People would follow up an email with a phone call to see whether one had gotten the item, and often fax it as well! A fax could also provide a signature that an email could not.

Though the World Wide Web got going in the 1990’s, sophisticated searching, blogging, sending photographs, video conferencing and streaming were all to come. They arrived as transmission rates increased and storage capacities grew. Websites such as MSN and Yahoo for news, Amazon and Ebay for purchasing things, and Google for searching began in the 1990’s, but they came into their own in the following decades.

I feel lucky to have experienced this growth, while at the same time remembering what it was once like to wish that you knew more about something contemporary, to laboriously look up articles about it in the Reader’s Guide to Periodical Literature and then hunt down the referenced magazines in some cardboard box in the dusty library stacks! At the time, the idea of Google or Wikipedia would have sounded like Wonderland to me. It is still up to me to process information into wisdom, but perhaps a little more information helps!

Monday, May 1, 2017

On Food and Eating

For many people, the 1990’s in California were an extravaganza of good food and a growing understanding of how to eat well. They certainly were for me. I had just moved back to San Francisco after a decade in the East Bay and it turned out that many of my friends were food connoisseurs. It wasn’t that we had a lot of money, but that we knew how to spend it!

Sean Thackrey, courtesy of DineGirl
Dinners turned into a discussion of each item in front of us, including its provenance, how it was being cooked and why. The food was often simple, in the Italian manner, relying on produce and meats from the organic farms which had grown up in response to the needs of Alice Waters’ Chez Panisse and other restaurateurs. We drank the Orion and Pleiades blends of the great Sean Thackrey, still one of the best winemakers in our area, as Michael and Chris told us everything they knew about them. Chris worked as the sous chef for Robert Reynolds’ Le Trou and I shared several wonderful meals there. Reynolds was a born teacher who wanted people to “cook, taste and think for themselves.” He served Edward Espe Brown the radishes featured in Tomato Blessings and Radish Teachings.

Many delightful restaurants surrounded us. In my journals, I find this about an evening at Café Jacqueline, a tiny place on Grant Avenue where Jacqueline Margulis herself still finishes every soufflé served: “Sharon chooses a glass of cote du Rhone that isn’t on the menu. The soup is spinach with a thick ladle of cream on top. Both Sharon and I know that the cream is what makes the soup. When the soufflé comes, the waiter carefully loosens it around the edge. It is Gruyere made with leeks, like ambrosia to me. We eat every bit of the soufflé, scraping the brown edges from the bowl.”

Another group of friends introduced me to Zuni, the quintessentially San Franciscan restaurant from whose wood-fired brick oven come perfect roasted chickens, gratins and savory tarts. I loved the feeling of the odd triangle-shaped building with the beautiful windows and its many levels and locations providing a perfect atmosphere for talk. These friends also hosted many Chinese meals for the shifting group of tai chi scholar warriors, teaching us to love the light Shanghai food of the best Chinese chefs in the city.

In the second half of the decade I lived on Russian Hill, a neighborhood full of tempting, intimate restaurants, such as Zarzuela, Frascati and the very Italian Amarena where we ate luscious pasta dishes such as homemade ravioli stuffed with butternut squash, sage and ricotta. We often went to I Fratelli, “so homelike with its blue checked woven tablecloths, strings of lights in the trees, delicious, unpretentious food.”

Cafe Jacqueline, by John Storey
But Hyde Street was also a good place to cook. Farmers’ markets were thriving and I tried to go whenever I could, buying organic produce for the sake of health and taste. I also loved the Real Food Company, a couple of blocks down the hill. I learned to bring my own cloth bags to the store and bought my first All-clad pan. In my notebook, I write that I served “fish steaks with baked celery root in olive oil with lots of herbs. Also winter salad with asiago cheese, toasted walnuts, sliced pear and fennel.” In the spring I served “penne primavera (asparagus, baby carrots sautéed in olive oil with garlic, fresh thyme and oregano) with Pugliese bread, Sauvignon Blanc from Sonoma County and a favorite salad of butter lettuce with fresh mushrooms, avocado and pistachios.” It was all new and exciting.

As my understanding progressed, I also tried to buy local things, preferably from within 100 miles of where I lived to save the environmental cost of shipping. This was easy to do in the Bay Area, though I still hold out for a few things, Italian pasta, certain cheeses that are made better in Europe. But there is no need to buy wine from Europe, New Zealand or Chile when you live in California!

Real, organic produce. Grains and legumes sold in bulk. Artisan breads. Local wines. Tea from leaves bought in Chinatown. It became a healthy platform upon which to build when I married Don Starnes (who cares even more about food than I!) at the end of the decade.

Sunday, March 12, 2017

Tai Chi

I started practicing tai chi in October of 1989. Very quickly it became the answer to needs I didn’t even know I had, and the antidote to the obsessive word spinning which has been both gift and weight for me. I picked out two tai chi groups to investigate, but once I watched a class which was taught by students of Master Kai Ying Tung, I did not even visit the second one. The simple structure of the class, which began with a slow set and then moved on to pushing hands and other sets, did not betray its depth. Senior students taught beginners, everyone at different levels of accomplishment, one’s involvement ultimately up to the student.

Master Kai Ying Tung, ShanShui-TaiChi, 2012
MasterTung has taught thousands of people all over the world, knitting his teachers and students together with banquets, workshops and camps at which he is a friendly, accessible presence. In his words: “The goal is not to demonstrate strength, power or violence. The goal is to attain serenity, tranquility, and the discovery of oneself. It is truly an exercise of the mind.”

When I started, Emilio Gonzalez was usually the leader of two evening practice sessions during the week, and exuberant Saturday morning sessions in the ballroom at 50 Oak Street, San Francisco. Other senior students taught as well and there were often twenty of us, working at different levels. Master Tung did not encourage competition, telling us that the person who began tai chi first would always be ahead of the one who had begun practice later.

At the beginning I strove to practice every day, often going to the arboretum in San Francisco as soon as I woke to do the sets that I had so far learned. I was thrilled with the poetic names for the movements, from “white crane spreads its wings” to “two birds parting” and “cloud hands.” Many of the movements were counter-intuitive, such as placing your weight on one leg and turning on that weighted foot; keeping a “channel” between your feet for stability; and the roundedness of every movement, during which one’s whole body is “full,” pushing out in every direction.

Learning took a long time. Often as you worked to gain mastery of one thing, you lost the previous thing! Only continued practice allowed you to gather up all the pieces into one fluid set. For myself in particular, tai chi helped with emotional problems, such as the fact that I “over-identified” with others. In the grid in which we stood to do tai chi, each person was related to his own source. “Energy comes up from the ground, gets directed by the waist and expressed in the hands,” we were told.

I found that the intense physical efforts we put out, often finding ourselves wringing wet at the end of class, grounded me in my tumultuous emotional life. The early years of practicing tai chi was a time of great opening for me, in which I understood myself better and achieved at least some mastery over my intensity. Practice became the discipline which allowed me to keep to the aspirations I had set for myself.

By the time I began tai chi practice, I already felt that Taoism was the religion closest to the way I saw the world, particularly in the sense that spirit and matter are so closely intertwined as to be inseparable. John Blofeld’s charming writing, particularly in Taoism: The Road to Immortality [1978], was my guide. I also read Deng Ming Dao’s romantic The Wandering Taoist [1986], which, though discredited as to its authenticity, described a Taoist education. The meditation method I’ve used ever since, based on the microcosmic orbit, I learned mostly from this book.

Tai chi itself cannot be learned from books, however. Only with reputable teachers in long, earnest practice does one study tai chi. Over the years, in the dynamic Kai Ying Tung Academy, I learned many sets, both fast and slow, including weapon sets and two-person sets. After much intense practice, my body was light, flexible and anxious for more! Though we all knew the health benefits of full-body circulation, the way the sets stimulate the energy or “chi” which flows through the meridians in the body, there was no way to compare it to what one would be like without it!

Despite what I gained, I learned that you must give yourself to the practice. People who tried to make it into something they thought it should be did not succeed. It is, in a way, a method of learning not to have intention, to experience “choiceless awareness.” I also found it impossible to write about tai chi! Or to watch it if one is not a student! The fact that tai chi is a primary experience is one of its gifts.

Though my practice is no longer as avid as it once was, it is still sustaining. Involved in the lives and experiences of many fine students and teachers, I have counted myself lucky to be part of a tai chi community which points the way both in practice and in life. It is impossible to come to the end of practice. There is always more.