08 June 2010

Your one wild and precious life

Who made the world?
Who made the swan, and the black bear?
Who made the grasshopper? This grasshopper, I mean –
the one who has flung herself out of the grass,
the one who is eating sugar out of my hand,
who is moving her jaws back and forth instead of up and down –
who is gazing around with her enormous and complicated eyes.
Now she lifts her pale forearms and thoroughly washes her face.
Now she snaps her wings open, and floats away.
I don't know exactly what a prayer is.
I do know how to pay attention, how to fall down
into the grass, how to kneel down in the grass,
how to be idle and blessed, how to stroll through the fields,
which is what I have been doing all day.
Tell, me what else should I have done?
Doesn't everything die at last, and too soon?
Tell me, what is it you plan to do
with your one wild and precious life?

– THE SUMMER DAY, by Mary Oliver

And thank you to Fiona Robyn for her post where she quotes Ezra Bayda and refers to his "white bird in the snow," which led me – as the Internet does – to this poem.

03 June 2010

Outrageous Delhaize magazine mark-up!

Another Brussels-based post, sorry, bear with me here. But even if you don't live in beautiful BXLS, this will maybe give you a taster of part of life here (for the foreign-born resident).

I was shopping in my local Delhaize recently and happened to spot this Jamie Oliver magazine:
Now, I like Jamie, and Lichfield gave me a copy of one of his cookbooks and it's pretty good, and the magazine seemed full of interesting recipes. So I picked it up and scooted off to check-out. As I waited in line, I happened to notice the price. €7.50 ! I couldn't believe it ! I looked down at the bottom of the cover for the small print and saw it was priced at £3.99 - 3.99 British pounds at today's exchange rate is 4.77 Euros. So what's with the extra €2.50? OUTRAGEOUS.

But it's not only at the Delhaize, as we all know... it's at Waterstones, it's at Librarie de Rome, it's everywhere. The thing I can't figure out is, who actually buys these overpriced magazines???

01 June 2010

At last! Accessible Ashtanga yoga in Brussels

This is the kind of thing I almost don't want to tell anyone because I don't want this place to get crowded. But I don't want to keep the news all to myself, either, and Barbara, who created the space and teaches and does goodness knows what else, deserves to see her efforts flower.

Brussels is a funny place. While Ashtanga yoga has flourished across the US and in other European countries, it doesn't seem to be big in Belgium and certainly not in this city. The one place I found on the chaussée d'Alsemberg in Uccle was mysteriously closed whenever I used to walk past, and/or never answered the phone. (In all fairness it seems to be a bona fide Ashtanga studio. Maybe the management's changed.) Fortunately, when I first came to Brussels I was lucky enough to practice with Susannah, who lived in the Parvis St Gilles, at the top of a four-storey maison de maître: no one who ever practiced there will forget those stairs! Then I began going to classes with Susannah's colleague Elisabeth, who taught in French, and was, like Susannah, affiliated with Sampoorna yoga and its founder, Yogi Hari. Elisabeth taught a rigorous, very Ashtanga-like class (which I had started doing when I was pregnant with Helsinki - but that's another story), and I carried on practicing with her through my pregnancy with Clover, right up until Clover was born. I think I may have taken Clover to a couple classes afterward, too, when she was still small enough to sleep through it all in her maxi-cosi. But then I lost touch with that particular branch of the yoga world.

Fast-forward to lunch a few weeks ago. A new colleague of mine remarks that she is doing yoga, Ashtanga yoga; that a woman is giving Ashtanga classes up in the loft at the top of her house in Woluwe-St. Pierre. So I get her to send me the link. Incredible - but true! The website is welcoming and my god, there seem to be drop-in classes (another innovation Brussels can't seem to get its head around). I decide I have to got to take a closer look.

An introductory class is just starting up, with a 3-hour workshop to get things going on the weekend. Even though I'm not a debutante, I figure this is a good way to re-familiarize myself with the flow of postures, not to mention the fact that I might learn something new. Strike when the iron is hot, as they say...

Not me... from the Yoga Loft website

Well, I highly recommend it. I've done a lot of yoga, in a lot of different places, and what Barbara has created here is really special. Her story: originally from southern California, Barbara recently spent some time in San Francisco, where, she said, "there's a yoga studio on every corner." When she came back to Brussels she missed being part of a yoga community. So she decided to start one. She transformed the loft of her home into a beautiful space where people can come and breathe and stretch and feel good together.

The Yoga Loft opened in December 2009 and appears to be thriving. There is a full schedule of classes, options for private practice, and upcoming workshops and training, stages for kids (check out the website, www.theyogaloft.be). And, only three flights up this time!