I spent the afternoon Tuesday with two of the men I am closest two in the world, Red and Scott Carrino. It is time, I reluctantly admit, for the next chapter in our friendship, me and Scott. Two years ago, just after Scott opened the Round House Cafe, we began to talk. Scott very much wanted to be a writer, and I wanted to explore a method of movement and spirituality that would help my physical and mental health. So he and I entered in a compact, I would teach writing to him, he would teach me Tai Chi, the ancient Chinese spiritual practice of movement and meditation. Scott is a Tai Chi master teacher, I have written 27 books. It seems like a good arrangement.
In those two years, there was much chatter, bullshit, friendship, little teaching of any kind, hardly any Tai Chi, hardly any writing. We had a good time. We met at his farm, Pompanuck, and mine. We sat outside and talked, made maple syrup, sat with donkeys, had coffee in the cafe, went to dinner. If we didn't teach much to each other, we bonded and one of the rarest things among men, a true friendship, began to flourish. I was kind of relieved that we weren't doing Tai Chi, I didn't think I would like it.
Perhaps we needed to learn to know and trust one another before we could learn from one another. That took awhile, we both have good reasons to mistrust people.
This fall, Scott became more serious about his writing, he has really opened up, publishing on the Creative Group at Bedlam Farm on Facebook and sharing some of his music and song lyrics. I can't say I had much to do with it, but the process of our talking helped to open him up, as it did me.
I kept telling him he didn't need to worry so much about what other people thought of his work, he needed to think about what he thought of it. Like so many people, he had shut down his writing because he thought it was no good and no one would want to read it. Writing, I said, is an internal, not an external experience, it is not about grammar and sentence structure, it is about feeling and authenticity. Writers write, first and foremost. It is not about what others think, it is about what we think. He is now seeing this for himself.
This week, Scott said it was time we honored the other side of the bargain, it was time for me to seriously consider Tai Chi and try and learn it. We had a serious talk about it today. It would be good for me, he said, as I have grown older, he has noticed I am walking more stiffly, my range of motion could be enhanced and improved. It was good for peacefulness centering, there was nothing better for my heart after surgery, he said, than to make walking and movement easier, for me to be more balanced and centered. I felt awkward, I have never been athletic, always lived in my head.
It occurred to me, I told him today, that he was talking about Tai Chi to me the same way I was talking about writing to him. It didn't matter how it looked to others, it mattered how it felt. It was, perhaps, yet another thing I needed to open myself up to. It was internal, not external. If was about feeling, not athletics. It could help me open up my body in the same way Scott's writing has helped him open up his emotions and creativity – he is a song writer and a regular writer.
I saw that perhaps there was a place where our teachings to one another could meet, between my lessons and his. So I had my first real lesson today, it was an hour long, I learned three movements I will practice every day this week. For the past decade, I have undertaken a process of opening up. In my life, my marriage, my work, my photography, my spirituality and sense of self. I am doing all kinds of things I was never open to, and I believe the process of staying open – of keeping my mind from closing, I call that the first death, has saved my soul and enriched my life.
I am resistant to Tai Chi, I'm not sure why, I have a hard time seeing myself doing it. It requires yet more willingness to be vulnerable and change, and I sometimes think if I were any more vulnerable, I'd split like an overripe melon. All the more reason to try.
For me, getting older is not about shutting down and closing my mind to new experience, it is not about squawking about the old days and bitching about young people, taxes and the cost of things. It is, in part, about opening up to things I never could do or was willing to do. Making friends. Finding intimacy. Meditating. Talking to horses. Spirit Dogs. Taking photographs. Entering cardiac rehab. Finding good friends. Finding love. Being authentic. Learning Tai Chi.
I'll let you know how it goes.