Coming out of warp

There are still a few weeks left for the skies to open up and sift a foot or two of snow down upon us. This would allow Steve and I to adequately prepare for the ski event we’re doing in late February without having to travel every weekend and/or expose ourselves to hordes of speedy ski racers at the fake-snow-covered racetracks here in town.

sweet potato chips
Chippy!

However, the relative lack of snow this year has been instructive for me, reminding me that I ski for fun, not for exercise or to feed a need to push myself. Since the skiing (nordic, downhill, and snowboarding) isn’t happening, I’m … sitting down! It feels to be the healthy thing to do: take a break from my normal pattern of squeezing so much exercise into my week that: I greet our sofa just once a week, I’m forced to have my glass of wine so close to bedtime that I don’t sleep well, and I’m usually at a sizable calorie deficit by 9pm.

Some things I’ve discovered that lead me to believe this is a healthy thing to do:

  • I sleep better if I avoid alcohol for the 2-3 hours before I go to bed.
  • If I avoid alcohol altogether for a week, my skin feels much less dry – go figure, in a Minnesota winter, we already have very dry air.
  • I’m finding larger chunks of time on weekends, so am cooking more. This means that Steve and I are eating out less, which makes for generally healthier eating. We received some new cookbooks around Christmastime this year, so have enjoyed some experimentation with Mexican, Italian, Moroccan, and vegan cooking.
  • I discovered a second food that I really don’t like to eat: celeriac. Oddly enough, this makes me feel normal. My short list of lima beans just seemed too unlikely, though I suppose it’s fair to add Spaghettio’s and pizza that has no vegetables. If you know of a way to cook celeriac that you find tasty, let me know.
  • With the celeriac discovery, I discovered the delicious treat of roasted sunchoke. Yum.
  • Also on the tasty discoveries front: oven-baked sweet potato chips, as pictured above. The recipe needs refinement (maybe just a longer bake), but they’re darn near as good as the commercial kind, but cheaper. Warmer. With pepper.
  • Cooking continues to be my creative outlet, for the most part. It may not be as crafty as some of the things I’ve been posting to Pinterest, but cooking really is a craft: you make something, it’s pleasing to look at (usually), and you use it. Shortly afterwards, it’s all gone, leaving room in the house for the next creation.
  • Pinterest is possibly an even faster way to lose a half hour than Facebook, but I’ve just realized that it really is a great inspirational tool, for my work as a User Experience specialist, as it brings my attention to physical experiences a little more effectively than magazines did (though not as affectively as traveling or even going to the mall). Now, fewer trees die, I get ideas from friends and complete strangers, and I’m less likely to end up broke.
  • The couch is an even more enjoyable place to be, now that we’ve had the windows in front of it replaced with more energy-efficient ones. It’s warmer, and more light comes into the room.
  • The act of getting some windows replaced has me on track with my personal goal to make improvements on the house, steadily. There is a saying: you never achieve goals unless you set them. It seems a little surprising, then, that the act of setting them allows a person to settle down and take the steps required.
  • I’ve gotten somewhat regular facials, over the last several months. I used to do it every 6-9 months or so, if at all. I’m not sure if this new frequency is because I’m over 40 and starting to see the signs of aging that I’m supposed to fear, if it’s because I have the cash for it, or if I’m simply a lush. Regardless: I’m finding these 60 minute sessions of steam, thick creams, refreshing spritzes, hot towels, scalp message, and lovely aromatics to offer more lasting and enjoyable relaxation than massage or pedicure. These appointments force me to take a day off from exercises, usually.
  • This was greatly aided by a recent trip that offered six hours of airplane travel and several days of hotel lounging, but still: I’ve read six books in the last two months. The list-keeper and pile-observer in me is pleased to see the pile get smaller, but enjoying those books offered more opportunity to physically unwind: I took short breaks to watch that adorable pair of ducks outside our hotel room window. Most was escapist fiction and fantasy, though one was informative non-fiction: The Secret Life of Lobsters. From it I learned that lobsters can voluntarily eject limbs, most of which grow back normally. So, my imagination got some stimulation, as well – my dreams, also aided by better sleep, have been vivid and varied. Some have even put a smile on my waking face.

It’s possible that these changes seem subtle: my husband still queries me regularly on my schedule, as its complexity and density often confound him. However, my winter 2011-12 exchange of calorie-busting, competitive fire-fueling, and often socially-stimulating activities for restorative stillness is allowing me some time to assess, to plan, and to appreciate.

My friend Alisa Holen, who is a talented ceramics artist and educator, was recently profiled in a story here on al.com. There was one quote in it, a dialogue between her and a mentor, that resonated for me, when I read it, a few weeks ago:

Holen and Illian were having a critique one day and Illian asked, “Do you ever sit still?” “I probably should,” Holen replied, “but I don’t.”
“You should make pots that make you sit still,” her mentor said.

Now that I re-read the article, I’ve been remembering it a little out of its original context (which was lovely, especially if you check out her work here or even better, if you can go see it). Still, I appreciate the notion that stillness is something to savor and to willingly facilitate.

Of course, as a yoga student and teacher, this is not a new concept: rare is the yoga practice that does not include savasana, or corpse pose, for at least a few minutes. It’s just perhaps more valuable and instructive, when it sneaks its way into your life.

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