Well, I’ve joined the ranks of Covid initiates. So many of us in this no longer exclusive club. And that is a good thing, feel like I’ve contributed to the possibility of herd immunity. No cake walk for me though; it was pretty challenging, even given the ingenious medical boost. So grateful for that and for the return of breath as each day brings a bit more energy. The isolation may have been an amazing retreat if I had only felt well. But in the quiet challenge a bunch of long view reflection kept surfacing. This writing is only a pie slice of that.
Fifty years ago. Berkeley. Rented a walk in closet just big enough for twin mattress and suitcase. A place to lay my head when I wasn’t finishing my physical therapy internship. The last hoop to jump through before being set free in the world. Back when a bachelor’s was all you needed to practice. A doctorate required now and I’ve been grand-mothered in. Most of my expertise never came from books anyway. In such a hands on profession being thrown in the deep end is the best education. I certainly had plenty of deep water.
Except for one thing. The hours invested in anatomy education never cease paying huge dividends. Those 20 weeks in lab, 8 hours a week…forever imprinted on my soul. 11th floor, UCSF. Huge windows overlooking Golden Gate Park, bridge in the distance. 10 cadavers stretched long on plinths, breathlessly waiting. Me, three classmates and one dead body…bonded for the duration. At first, it took everything I had to hold back the gag, not sure if I was going to make it. The formaldehyde alone felt like a deal breaker. But it’s strange what you can get used to.
After week one, my curiosity got the best of me. I was totally hooked. All the other lab-learning required X-ray vision to imagine what was happening below the skin. And what a world it was underneath! Sectioning out each unique muscle and life-giving blood vessel, teasing out those message-sending nerves, peering directly at origins and insertions on white bone. Me and Gray’s Anatomy were one. That fifty year old dog-eared copy is still my every day go to.
In 1992, twenty years later, after touching countless live bodies—hands a bit more enlightened now—I was invited to return to that same lab. In the company of other intrepid seekers and my original teacher, a now wizened Mrs. Nordschow, I spent all day deep in exploration. Asking questions about deep rotators and flexors and joint spaces that only a hands-on adventure could answer. I surprised myself by slipping right back in, like no time at all had passed.
Could be that the intensity of these experiences account for my utter obsession with all things anatomy. It is so friggin’ geeky. And I totally indulged that geek-iness this year in a way I absolutely never thought I might. On September 20, 2021 I taught a Roll, Release, Align class on feet. Prepped by spending all the time I desired diving into bones and muscles and joints, what it means to weight bear, mechanics of gait, trouble we get into, solutions for the most common owies. A 90 minute class initiated with screen share so students could actually see what was underneath the skin. It was a full body class but we just kept bringing our attention back to feet.
Since that day, every Friday morning, I’ve let my geek flag fly. And I’ve adored this year of systematically working through the entire body. A few more classes remain to wrap up the shoulder, arm, hand unit. Then a unit on the head will bring the year plus to a close. All in all, when complete, a fifty plus class library is available. Feels like kind of a legacy and I’m really proud of the work. But more satisfying really is how a whole lifetime, beginning in that cadaver lab 50 years ago, led to this endeavor. And I am so grateful that the shape of my relatively cushy life has allowed me to indulge this depth of investigation. And beyond thankful for the students who actually came along for the ride and appreciate this embodied path of learning.
I am very grateful to you!” L.N.
It’s interesting that Covid came when it was relatively convenient: cancelled a camping trip, no dance until September, a handful of re-scheduled patients. Thank you universe. Also, in case you didn’t hear, Ritual/It’s All Yoga has closed. So I had some quiet time to re-imagine the venue/date for Tending Your Aging Body. It will be live at Clara, four consecutive mornings in October. Whether you are an on line experienced practitioner or a novice curious one…you’ll love this series. Because it covers all the best self care bases and will inspire you to no end. Promise. Trust the geek.
Yours in quiet reflection.