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CAOS Nudi lecture: BEST thing I've done for me in a long time!!

Cashing in some Personal hours this afternoon to attend a lecture about nudibranchs at the California Academy of Sciences was definitely the best thing I've done for me in a long time.  So great and refreshing to do something completely different with my brain!   So exhilarating to be immersed in marine biology!  Today's experience confirmed me as a HUGE fan of the Academy of Sciences.  Really, I'm a little starry-eyed in love.

The only goofy thing about the lecture was its title, ham-handed in its halliteration: "Sneaky Sea Slugs: Three Tales of Tidepool Thievery."  The presenter, Dr. Rebecca Johnson, a marine invertebrate zoologist who has studied nudibranchs extensively, was fantastic - the perfect combination of knowledgeable, passionate, approachable and funny.  If you don't know why someone would devote their career or 1 1/2 hours of Personal time to delight in sea slugs, check this out: David Doubilet's remarkable photographs from a recent National Geographic magazine.

Aaaah, the calm of taxonomy: understanding what makes a Mollusk a Mollusk, a Gastropod a Gastropod, an Opistobranch, a Nudibranch.  I love the classification, the definitions, the relationships.  I love knowing the four kinds of nudibranchs, and observing their peculiar and delightful little bodies and knowing now the names of their various parts: gills (really, that's what those are!), rhinophores, cerata.  And of course that they're simultaneously hermaphroditic, even more fun: each nudi is simultaneously male and female so any individual can mate with any other, like land snails and slugs to which they are very closely related.  

But the whole point of today's lecture: to revel in the remarkable tendency of nudibranchs to retain and use features of their prey -- nematocytes (stinging cells) from anemones or toxins from chemically-defended sponges -- for their very own defense. Or how about the kleptoplasts, sea slugs who actually harvest the chloroplasts (organelles that conduct photosynthesis) from the algae they eat and in whose bodies photosynthesis continues for months, making them solar-powered!  It's so crazy that if you made it up, people would scoff.  And it's real!  

I'm signing Joe and me up to go on a tidepool excursion to Bolinas at the end of May that was advertised at the lecture. For $10, we'll wander along with a naturalist or two and look for nudis and other delights. I can't imagine a better place to be at 7:30 am on a Sunday morning, honestly, that ambling along with some fellow nature geeks on the look-out for treasure.

Today was so great.  I can't wait for more!


The Final PET Scan?

Today's the day Joe has his we-hope final PET scan.  We haven't talked about this very much, if at all, beyond the two of us, since the very thought that they'll find something throws us both into a whirl of despair.  And we've been trying to enjoy the springtime and Joe's recovery from the chemo and return to his old self instead.

They'll be looking to see if the spot on his right tonsil that still showed up on the PET scan three months ago -- meaning it was resisting the chemo -- is still there.  An ultrasound since then didn't provide too clear a picture.  Despite the oncologist's assurance that it will be gone, we're on pins and needles waiting to know.

Waiting to know if we're done.  If the shadow's gone now, if we can fully emerge out from under this and move on.

OK, so if they find something, then Joe will be scheduled for a tonsillectomy, since they'll need the tonsils in order to biopsy the Something and figure out what it is.

If they find nothing, then the party is On.

I'm voting for Party.  But am braced for anything.  And will make the best of leaving work early today to drive Joe to his appointment, read in the waiting room, drive him, glowing with radiation and avoiding pregnant women and babies, home again.

Party, please!


Land of Dreams

I'm freshly home from Saturday morning yoga class + mandatory class-extension at Cibo with my delightful yoga posse, the gangstas as Nancy calls them.  The time sitting together and talking and laughing over delicious coffee and food is so super-special, has become such an essential part of my weekend, that I can't imagine a Saturday without.  So funny how I never thought I'd have all these friends in my life, this abundance of love and joy.  Aaaaah, yoga: so much good has it brought me.

So I'm driving home from there, thinking about the conversation I was in this morning, listening to people originally from the East Coast talk about what it is they like about living in Marin County now.  And thinking about how really, on Saturday mornings, I always realize that I live in the Land of Dreams, an utterly stunning place that offers so many opportunities to live richly and fully, fed on open space, trees and gardens, great eats, so many people seeking a beautiful life.  Where driving home I marveled at a dazzlingly white egret slowly flapping its way over the highway, hyoid bone tucked back (OK, I don't really think they have one, but they sure work their skull loop when flying!), gargantuan-seeming and terradactyl in its loveliness.

Who would I be if I hadn't met and fallen in love with Joe and this Land of Dreams across the Golden Gate that he grew up in?  How would I live if I hadn't found yoga and this brilliant community of delightful people I have the supreme pleasure of calling friends?

All I know for sure is that I do live in a Land of Dreams.  Every weekend reminds me, opens my eyes wide at the beauty in me, in others and around me, at the enormous potential we all have to make simple miracles (and sometimes not so simple) happen just by being in this place at this time.  Together.  With Delight.

So wonderful!  So tasty!

PS This is what I mean about the skull loop on Great White Egrets.  Yay!


The Power of Love, and shoulder loop!

This week's focus in class has been the Power of Love, stabilizing and opening the heart, in honor of healer and Anusari Scott Marmorstein who nearly died this week from a congenital heart condition.  He had a heart attack on Monday at age 31, and was at death's door for a couple of days, on life support, intubated, unable the breathe on his own, his heart repeatedly crashing.  The way I hear the story, he didn't slip into a coma but was in and out of consciousness.  Meanwhile, someone sat at his bedside and relayed to him the hundreds and hundreds of messages of love and support pouring through the internet, through Facebook, from all of the people who have been touched by him in one way or another.  Late Wednesday, Texas-time, after another full-day of last-ditch invasive surgeries, his heart-rate stabilized. And has been stable ever since. The doctors will be using his case as a teaching tool, because a recovery like his just doesn't happen, they say.  The doctors are calling it a miracle.  

So yeah, this week is all about the Power of Love.  And boy, don't we feel it in our community at times like this, when everyone comes together and there is this deluge of love and support.  How not to feel buoyed, carried along, uplifted on this big, big wave we all make?

Last night was the 5th in the 7-class Shri Series Laura has been teaching on the universal principles of alignment.  Last night was, fittingly, shoulder loop, which is all about creating the stability behind the heart so that it can open, open, open in a safe and supported way. The practice itself was technical, heavy in partner work, lots of hands-on adjustments to the shoulder blades to get the feeling of their tips moving forward, urging the heart open.  

I have to admit that this week has been touch-and-go for me emotionally, with what was happening with Scott.  I kept remembering that our own crisis, Joe's cancer, was not long behind us, that really, we're not exactly done with that darkness, until we get results from the PET scan that's scheduled for Monday, May 3.  I kept remembering how gigantic was the outpouring of love and support we felt going through cancer and chemo, how we were never alone on the journey but carried lovingly by our friends.  How much strength and joy that gave us both, to feel so loved, so surrounded.  The Power of Love, indeed, is an awesome thing.  

I am so grateful for the practice, for the opportunity to have more love than ever in my life, for the particular tools it offers to grow the potential of body, heart and mind.  Mostly, this week, I am so grateful for Love, for Scott's recovery, and for Joe's.  Long may we remain on this earth together, using our shoulders judiciously, opening our great big hearts to each other and everything life has to offer.

Om Namah Shivaya!


Oh, Sara Crewe, how I still love you

I'm continuing my Frances Hodgson Burnett binge with a new Puffin Classics copy of A Little Princess, a book I adored and read repeatedly as a young person.  I still wish for the copy I read so many times which lives, most likely, at my parents' house, but for now am contenting myself with this lovely little paperback.

I cried and remembered myself as a kid when I read these final words in the chapter, "The Diamond Mines Again," the chapter in which Sara loses her beloved father and becomes a pauper, an equal to Becky, the scullery maid with whom she is friends:
"Oh, Becky," she said, "I told you we were just the same -- only two little girls -- just two little girls.  You see how true it is.  There's no difference now.  I'm not a princess any more."   
Becky ran to her and caught her hand, and hugged it to her breast, kneeling beside her and sobbing with love and pain.   
"Yes, miss, you are," she cried, and her words were all broken.  "Whats'ever 'appens to you --whats'ever -- you'd be a princess just the same -- an' nothin' couldn't make you nothin' different."
So much comfort in these words when I was a child, so much solace and inspiration.  No matter what the grown-ups do, how they treat you, how they talk to you or regard you, you can still be a princess inside, the only place it matters.  For me, it still has all the power of a manifesto.

It's wonderful to re-read, to take in the details, to realize how much my image of Sara is influenced by the Shirley Temple movie which I also adored and waited for eagerly when Channel 44 ran old movies at 10:30 on Sundays.  How lovely to realize that Sara actually had dark hair and green eyes, not blond curls, dimples and blue eyes.  How lovely to remember that she is a precocious 7 year-old,  not even a tween.  How lovely to be on this journey with her again, all these years later, and delicious to know the sweetness that's coming her way.  It's as good as it was then, maybe even better!

Oh, Sara Crewe, really, so glad to be with you again, in your attic room, a brave little soldier making the best of a terrible situation.