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Backbending

Come dance with the west wind and touch the mountaintops.  Sail o’er the canyons and onto the stars.  And reach for the heavens and hope for the future, and all that we can be, not what we are.  John Denver, the Eagle and the Hawk

In the wee hours of Thanksgiving morning, I dreamed that I arched my back into a full wheel bend, and, with my heart wide open, faced upward to the sky.  And from this expansive position, one that has never come easy to me, even as a child, in my waking life, I  lifted off and floated above the ground.  Up off the ground!!!  And it was natural in my dreamstate to bend backwards and to float like this, free from the constraints of gravity and the limitations of what I thought was humanly possible.

And I’m not sure why my sleeping self conjured up this floating backbend of a dream.  Perhaps it was because Cam and I, after landing at Denver’s International Airport the day before, had driven north then west through Wyoming to Laramie as the sun was sinking low, and the sky, the huge all-encompassing sky of the high plains, lit up for us with a sunset that was beyond anything we had ever seen.  White fluffy angel wing clouds and peach and lavender swipes of a watercolor’s brush gave way to bold fuchsia mackerel backs and flaming rainbows tucked within the billowy horizon.  In the passenger seat, I craned my head in one direction, and then another, oohing and ahhing as the ever-changing show entertained us for well over an hour.

Perhaps that was it — this wide western sky, so much more expansive than the forested one than I am familiar with in Michigan’s Upper Peninsula — perhaps that was the reason that I floated, back bent with the flexibility of a Cirque de Soliel performer, in my Thanksgiving morning dream.  Or perhaps it was something else; maybe it was the pot of gold at the end of our rainbow-sunset-drive along I-80 that brought me into a state of heart-opening flight.  And, indeed, it did feel like a pot of gold on Wednesday evening to open the front door of our son and daughter-in-law’s home in Laramie and to be greeted by Pete and Shel who we adore and our four-and-a-half-month-old grandson, Viren, who lifts us over the moon.

And although this baby sweeps me up when I sweep him up, and I feel myself swooning on a baby-induced high, perhaps it was his on-the-floor antics that inspired me to bend backwards and float above my bed in the Fairfield Inn in the early hours of the next morning.  We weren’t in the door more than a few minutes on Thanksgivng Eve when our grandson showed us some of his power-baby moves.  Although he is one forward motion away from crawling, and this is his greatest passion, it was the lying-on-his-back yoga pose that really impressed his yoga-savvy grandma.  It’s one of his specialties, a yoga move extra-ordinaire, to lie supine, looking skyward, to heave himself up and arch his strong little back, to thrust himself forward, again and again, from this back-bending position.  And I certainly took note of my yogi-of-a-grandson’s strong back, and that might have made its way into my uplifting dream.

I think it’s more than this, however.  I think I was getting ready for lift-off days before we lifted off into the air on that jet carrying us westward for a Thanksgiving weekend with our son, daughter-in-law, and the baby.  These past few weeks, I’ve been taking my own flying lessons, my own heart-opening lessons.  It was my theme in yoga classes; it made its way into my monologue at November’s Joy Center Out Loud, this notion that we can argue for our limitations, focus on what is lacking, or we can dream the possible into being.   And what better time to practice this expansive way of thinking than around the holidays?!?

It’s easy for me to focus on holidays’ past, on those childhood Thanksgivings when the six of us — mother, father and four kids — piled into our old rusty ’57 Chevy and headed south three hours to the Boston suburb of Wayland, to the sprawling house of our aunt and uncle and cute older boy cousins, to a weekend of family feasts that included the aunts and the uncles and the great aunts and great uncles and all the cousins and the grandmas and grandpas.  The love in those Thanksgivings was as sprawling as the house we all called home for the weekend.  And the later Thanksgivings, when our boys were small, the years that we traveled to Cam’s parents’ home in Grand Rapids, the years of perfect turkeys and Cam’s mom’s stuffing, and Cam’s dad’s raw oysters, of a love that was also palpable, those memories are easy to hold my focus as well.  And the more recent Thanksgivings, the ones where we gathered in the towns of our boys, with Cam’s mom and his sister and her two kids, those are precious in my mind.

So this year, when our son, Chris, and his girlfriend, Diana, decided that what they needed most was a relaxing camping-type Thanksgiving with their two dogs in the wilderness mountains near their new home of Knoxville, and when Cam’s mom also decided to celebrate closer to home in Grand Rapids, I admit I had a moment or two of honing in on what was going to be missing in this year’s celebration.  And that’s where my flying lessons came in, my practice sessions of focusing on the possible.  It didn’t take long to envision the sweetness of a small family gathering, of a quiet Thanksgiving with the new parents and their baby at their home in Laramie.

And I carried this sweet sense of the possible with me on the plane to Denver last Wednesday.  I wrote the words in my journal as we flew west over Iowa and Nebraska, bold brave words, that this was going to be the best-feeling weekend I’ve experienced thus far.  These words are pregnant with the possible.  They are as wide as the Wyoming sky.  And they hold it all — the memories of Thanksgivings’ past, the appreciation of loved ones both living and no longer in body form, both present in the flesh and camping in the Smokies.  These words hold it all, and they hold it in the glorious present moment.  So it was a wide expanse of sky that was on my mind when I slipped off to sleep on Thanksgiving Eve and a baby who lights up a room with his smile and a family who I adore and more friends than I could possibly count and a heart that was bursting with appreciation and thanks giving.

And that feeling of opening up so wide, of a heart so light that it lifts me right off the ground, I want for that to stay with me.  I want to remember that it indeed is possible.

Shel and Viren after her running race: Thanksgiving

Pete and Viren on Thanksgiving morning

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