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Even though the sun has been rising later and later, I’ve been pretty good at sticking to my early-morning walk routine all through the summer. In June, I’d need my sunglasses at 6 a.m.; nowadays, not so much. Still, most days I am able to catch the rising sun gleaming off the underside of airplanes descending into Philadelphia, making all jets look like red-bellied Southwest planes, metallic birds with torsos aglow.

However, not all mornings are ideal for the outdoors, including today. With the remnants of Hurricane Isaac drifting toward the Northeast, today started drizzly and gray, a reasonable and seasonable temperature of 70° but the suffocating humidity ruining any notion of comfort (or straight hair). Mother Nature had decided my morning workout: Today I would dance.

Leaving my sneakers in the porch and remaining barefoot, I lit an orange pumpkin-scented candle, bowed my head to the flame, and began to flow.

It’s hard for me to dance first thing in the morning without some kind of guidance, so I made sure to compile a playlist before diving in. One might think that starting with a high-energy techno or rock beat would help shake off the sleepies, but I always prefer to follow 5Rhythms’ gradual build-up structure of Flowing, Staccato, Chaos, Lyrical, and Stillness.

The 5Rhythms structure is kind on the body, the way an opulent meal is to the senses: Flowing is a bit like a glass of wine before the appetizer of Staccato, which is then followed by the hearty and chow-down main meaty course of Chaos. Finally, there is dessert, sweet-like-blueberries Lyrical, the prelude to the final course of Stillness, that moment at the table when you’re sipping coffee with eyes half-closed, smacking your lips, and inhaling the memory of your fulfilling meal.

Here’s the music I chose to represent those sensations:

  • Warm-Up: “Damascus,” Conjure One, featuring Chemda
  • Flowing: “To Zion,” Trevor Hall
  • Flowing: “La Guitarra,” B-Tribe
  • Staccato: “Black Velvet,” Bonnie Raitt
  • Staccato/Chaos: “Drumming Song,” Florence and The Machine
  • Chaos: “Greg Didge,” Music Mosaic (from the album Didgeridoo Trance Dance 2)
  • Lyrical: “While My Guitar Gently Weeps,” Carlos Santana, featuring India.Arie
  • Lyrical: “Pequeño Vals,” Marlango
  • Stillness: “Singapore (….),” The Candle Thieves
  • Stillness: “Swelling,” Sarah Jaffe

Most of these are songs I’ve danced to in other classes; I find that once I’ve experienced the music in a class setting, it has more weight, the same way hearing a song in a movie soundtrack makes it 10 times more intriguing. For example, every time I hear “To Zion,” I imagine gliding around the wheat-colored carpet in Kripalu’s Main Hall during Dan Leven’s Shake Your Soul class; the frenetic didgeridoo song brought me to the floor, the wall, my feet, and back on the floor again during a mid-summer night’s Dance from the Inside Out class. I remember waltzing around the spacious floor of Studio 34 with an imaginary dance partner to “Pequeño Vals,” and well, hell, I just love Florence. She had to be in there somewhere.

The sweetest thing about the practice was that after an hour of dancing, the flickering flame of the candle I had lit at the start of the dance was being upstaged by something greater: the sun!

This day—filled with thunderstorms, flash floods, and tornado warnings—had about 60 minutes total of scattered sunlight; I am happy to have experienced at least 5 of them as a sweaty, satisfied mess of a body sprawled out on the living room carpet.

”Dance is important…. It can be a reason for a person to get up in the morning”
~ Jeanguy Saintus

Oprah always made “aha!” moments sound so inspiring and colorful and uplifting, but sometimes an “aha!” moment makes you feel like crap.

My depressing “aha!” moment happened the other day, as I was expressing to a friend my great interest in airplanes:

“The funny thing is, I am obsessed with big planes but I’m actually afraid of flying.”

The enormity of this sentence hit me as soon as the words escaped my mouth. Was I actually talking about Lufthansa and FedEx jets, or was I just exposing a deep, shameful layer of my inner being, that I am obsessed with grand ideas but too much of a scaredy cat to get them off the ground?

After all, “planes” is “plans” with just one extra letter.

The parallels are almost frightening. Take the airplane thing. I love the structure of planes, their sleek design, the technology that allows them to take off and land, to straighten themselves out on a windy day. The choreography of flight patterns, the ballet of metal birds in the clouds, a giant football play sheet in which the Xs and Os are instead 737s and DC-10s.

I learn the lingo, expand my vocabulary, noting that the call sign for U.S. Air is “Cactus” and how the final three steps of an airplane’s arrival are termed “downwind,” “base,” and “final.” My Netflix history shows that I’ve watched documentaries about American Airlines and Air Force One, and I’ve confessed to hiding in a corner in Barnes & Noble, a magazine about commercial airliners between my legs.

But when it comes time for me to fly, I clutch Bryan’s hand as we barrel down the runway and dare not breathe when the plane’s wheels leave the ground. I don’t get sick over flying, but I don’t necessarily enjoy it, either.

I wish I could say I plaster myself against the window and spend every moment in the sky being utterly amazed that, well, I’m in the mother f****n’ sky, but the truth is that I peek out the window with trepidation, afraid that me shifting a few inches to the right will somehow cause the whole aircraft to lurch, and soon we’ll be spiraling out of control through the clouds, all because of my natural desire to fully enjoy the moment of being in flight.

My real-life planes plans are not much different. I think of yoga, how when I was first introduced to it in 2005, I fully immersed myself in all things asana. I subscribed to Yoga Journal, reading each article several times in an effort to memorize the lingo, the Sanskrit that holds the practice together. I attended workshops and master classes, admiring the instructors and their effortless poses, taking notes, itching to become an expert.

I was in love with the details, the schematics. I went to flight school (yoga teacher training). How I loved being around all these seasoned pilots! My fellow students and I talked the talk, stayed up late into the night to share notes and fantasies of flight. We doodled our own flight plans, imaging how one day we’d soar to new heights.

But then when it came time for my test flights, I always felt like I was sputtering and swinging aimlessly between clouds. The feeling of ascending was not as gratifying as I had envisioned. The moment I got my pilot’s license, I already knew deep inside that I didn’t want to fly.

It’s not much different today. I think, I could organize a lunch-hour dance party at my office, I could learn to teach dance to older adults, I could do this training and make movement my second career.

I have surrounded myself with books and blogs and images of dancing, scurrying off to class after class, fascinated with the details, colors, and nuances of movement, painting pictures in my mind of my body as an airplane, a bird, an angel far above this earth. Sometimes during a class I rush across the studio floor and take off, but the flight is never more than an out-and-back.

I feel like somewhere in my notes and doodles and vocabulary there is a flight plan for a trans-Atlantic journey, but the question is whether I’ll ever work up the courage to sit down in the cabin with courage and allow myself to look out that window without fear of falling out of the sky.

Descending into Lhasa, 2006

It’s time to trust my instincts
Close my eyes
And leap…

It’s time to try defying gravity
I think I’ll try defying gravity
And you can’t pull me down.

~ “Defying Gravity,” Wicked

(Note. This post is dedicated to Meg from Spirit Moves Dance, who is already on her way to 35,000 feet and has no intention of lowering her landing gear anytime soon. :-))

I blame my friend Jaime for planting the shopping bug in my head. On Friday during our lunchtime walk, she had mentioned the desire to go shopping that afternoon. The notion excited me as well; I’ve been trying to give my credit card a break since Christmas and so the majority of my purchases these past two months have mostly been for gas and groceries.

It wasn’t until I was walking through Philly yesterday afternoon when I started to get the itch…bad. It was a sunny, mild afternoon…I had just come from a really fun dancehall class + postclass meetup (more on that to come!), the streets were full of dog walkers and musicians and happy shiny people, and I just so happened to be walking down one of the trendiest retail districts in the city…and, before I knew it…BAM!

• My heart skipped a beat when I realized that Athleta was in town. They used to be an online-only retailer, and I only knew about them because I have an Old Navy credit card and all of my coupons are also good for the Gap, Banana Republic, and Athleta. When I went to Athleta’s website, I died. It’s like Lululemon but without the cultish undertones and overly wide-eyed salespeople. Beautiful yoga/dance/sporty wear, beautiful dresses, beautiful scarves and tote bags and everything I want my wardrobe to be. Picture a luxury health and wellness cruise to the Bahamas for a surfing lesson with a stop at St. Maarten for some hiking, followed by an on-ship yoga class, a modern dance party at night, and green smoothies for everyone. This is Athleta. I never bought anything online because I don’t trust sizes until I physically try stuff on. Today was that day. I limited myself to only two items, because–just like a luxury health and wellness cruise to the Bahamas–it’s expensive. I got a lightweight gray jacket that I envision myself wearing on those somewhat-chilly May mornings at the farmers market and The Best Pair of Pants in the World. I used to think L.L. Bean’s Perfect Fit Pants held that title, but they have now met their competition.

• On the left are some duds from City Sports, which I had never been to before either. I tried on a lot of things, and most looked great but, seriously, how many pairs of black yoga capris do I really need? (Even though I swear they all feel different and carry a story of their own, but Bryan will never understand this.) So I skipped the pricey capris and opted for pricey prAna instead; that would be the pair of black pants on the left. But they are full-length pants with a little flowing skirt attached. I saw those pants, and they whispered to me: “5Rhythms.” As did the purple shirt on top, which luckily was on clearance. It’s a relaxed fit, longish lightweight hooded shirt that has the perfect amount of give for a 5Rhythms class. The Toesox are also intended for 5Rhythms, mostly for the classes in Princeton in which the floor is always somewhat slippery. I do own a pair of Gaiam yoga socks, but I felt like the rubber nubs on the Toesox were a bit more durable and hardier.

• The other half of my City Sports loot is on the right, but it’s all swimming stuff: a pair of hand paddles so I can work on my stroke technique, a Lycra cap that won’t tear out my hair, and a nose clip so I can declare myself Geek of the Pool (and do flip turns without inhaling nasty pool water all the time).

• A trip to Center City isn’t complete with a stop at the Rittenhouse Barnes & Noble, where I picked up a new magazine (for me) to give a shot: Spirituality & Health. Something I flipped through but did not buy was this:

You know how there’s always some creepy dude sitting in the corner of B&N flipping through a girly magazine? OMG, I was that guy but my p*rn was a periodical about Boeing 777s. What is my problem?? I can’t help it; I love planes!

• Finally, with nothing in my stomach since a Clif Builder bar at 2 p.m. (and now it was going on 8), I stopped at Fuel for dinner to go. The Hulk juice (spinach, cucumber, lemon, and apple) was a refreshing companion for the train ride back to Jersey, and I devoured the Fuel Stacker panini like a ravenous bear once I got home. It was one of the best sandwiches I’ve had in a while: portabello, eggplant, zucchini, squash, tomato, house-made mozzarella, and pesto. The fresh mozzarella was the key ingredient; I’m so used to a slab of deli cheese on my sandwiches that the gooey white blob protruding from the wheat bread was a welcome sight. I urge Fuel to come to the other side of the river soon…this girl can’t afford to always go into the city for a decent sandwich!

Did you indulge in any retail therapy this weekend? Alternatively, tell me what classifies as your Best Pants in the World!

I don’t go on Facebook often because I hate getting sucked into the Facebook time warp, you know, when you go to look at one person’s profile and suddenly three hours have gone by and you’re 11 friends removed from the original person you were searching for, staring at wedding photos of a complete stranger. When you finally come to, it’s like waking up from an eating binge, except instead of being surrounded by discarded food wrappers and empty cookie tins, you’re plagued by the semi-pornographic images and inane wall posts of Jerry and Chris and Freida and Helen and Robert and Steve and Sue and that guy with the weird tattoo and pet chameleon. What the…? Where am I? Who the hell are these people, and why did I spend nearly all of my free evening with them?

However, this past Friday night I learned that YouTube has the same time-suck qualities. It started innocently, with me browsing Tokyo Disney’s website (a normal activity for a Friday night, right?) and seeing that the park’s Enchanted Tiki Room features Stitch. I love Stitch, so I went to YouTube to find a video of the attraction.

I found one, but then out of nowhere I thought, “Hell, I’m on YouTube now; let me search for a video of Southwest’s Shamu plane taking off!” (Like you do.)


And I did. Two and a half hours later, these were the things I had watched on YouTube:

• Southwest’s Shamu One landing and taking off at various U.S. airports.
• A plane landing during a snowstorm in Montana.
• Various videos of planes landing in a crosswind (woah).
• An airplane getting struck by lightning.
• Various videos of approaches and take-offs on difficult/unique runways (e.g., Kai Tak in Hong Kong, Tegucigalpa Honduras Toncontin, Gibraltar, St. Barts, St. Maarten [about 8 separate videos for St. Maarten, because it’s INSANE]).
• Cockpit-cam videos of take-offs and landings.
• The Boeing Dreamlifter taking off and landing.
• Giant-ass planes (e.g., UPS cargo jets, 747s, A380s) taking off and landing.
• Various children dressed as Wall•E for Halloween (+ one dressed as an Axiom hover chair).
• The real-life talking/walking Wall•E at various events.
• Several videos of the before-it-broke Yeti on Expedition Everest (it used to move; now it’s just illuminated with a strobe light).
• A complete POV ride-through of Expedition Everest (even though I have physically been on the ride myself like, 20-something times).
• Spaceship Earth ride-through…with a night-cam!!
• Ride-through of Tokyo DisneySea’s Journey to the Center of the Earth (awesome!).
• Don’t forget the ride-through of Tokyo’s Tower of Terror!
• And Tokyo’s Monsters Inc. Ride and Go Seek!
• Ride-through of Indiana Jones at Disneyland (half night-cam; half with the attraction’s lights on).
• Behind-the-scenes videos of both the T-Rex and velociraptor from Jurassic Park.
• Video of some dumb kid jumping into the landing zone of the Jurassic Park ride at Islands of Adventure to grab his hat.

I finally broke free from the YouTube bubble slightly past midnight–not good for a girl who was eager to catch up on sleep. I felt disgusted with myself, spending an entire Friday night sitting in an IKEA Poang chair, hunched over a laptop, clicking on links that read “Expedition Everest Yeti Up Close Pics!” and “These Are Some Damn Good Airline Pilots 2!”

The morning after was not as bad…only a few minutes watching cats riding on Roombas, Roombas bumping into sleeping dogs, and a baby riding a Roomba (inspired by watching the “DJ Roomba” episode of Parks and Recreation the previous night).

Now I’m ever-so-curious…What embarrassing/geeky/guilty-pleasure videos have you sought out on YouTube??

One would think that having 4 days off from work would lend itself to large chunks of time devoted solely to blogging, but I seem to have been too busy eating my weight in various forms of carbohydrates to sit down and commit myself to the keyboard. I’ve had blog post ideas stored in my brain for the past week (things I’m thankful for! 5Rhythms recap! yoga weekend!), and now they are all just melding together like the sweet potatoes, corn, and stuffing on my holiday dinner plate. That said, consider this my “Thanksgiving plate” post–a whole bunch of everything, all mashed together (and hopefully you’re not one of those people who can’t stand their food touching).

Four Days of Consumption: 2 pumpkin spice lattes, 1 hot chocolate, 2 green juices, 1 full Thanksgiving dinner, 2 mini cupcakes, 1/2 giant chocolate peanut butter cupcake, 1 full diner breakfast + 1 full homemade breakfast, 2 glasses red wine, 1 margarita, 1 mimosa, pumpkin pie, plus a burrito thrown in to make it an international weekend. A random slice of pizza, too. And several Tums.

Looking Forward To: going back to eating soup for lunch. And not feeling like I have to walk 3 miles after every meal to keep my pants from popping.

I’m Thankful For ___: the random stranger who pulled over as I was walking to inform me that I dropped my glove a few yards back; road-widening projects that require the cutting-down of the PITA sycamore tree outside our house whose roots back up our sewer and whose gangly limbs scare me ever since one fell through my car window; not being in college (a thought that crossed my mind as I watched Felicity via Netflix); the New Guy at work, because as much as I loved working with eager-to-learn interns, their impermanence in our office was a bit tiring; closely reading our new car insurance paperwork, during which I discovered that instead of taking Bryan’s old/dead car off our policy, they took off MY car, you know, the one I had been driving every single day (all fixed now–whew!); choosing to skip swimming in a crowded gym pool on Tuesday and going on Wednesday instead, because Evening Before Holiday = Empty Pool.

One Geeky Thing I’m Totally Not Doing Right Now: Tracking PHL arrivals via FlightStats.com as airplanes fly over our house.

Before Setting Up FlightStats, I Totally Wasn’t: Planning out a hypothetical 2-day solo getaway to Disney World at Christmastime for next weekend.

Living Room Conversation Piece: This guy:

Buddhst dharmapala, whose terrifying appearance is actually meant to frighten forces of evil.

I Fear: that my cellphone is dying. I hate getting new phones, especially because they’re all smartphones now, and I’m 80 so that scares me.

TV Series Recently Completed on Netflix: Twin Peaks.

TV Series That Will Forever Give Me Backward-Talking Nightmares: Twin Peaks.

Appropriate decor for a Halloween party

Non-Edible Products That Smell So Good I Kinda Want to Eat Them: pumpkin-scented soy candle from the farmers market (seriously, it makes the living room smell like a bakery for two days after it’s extinguished); gingerbread-scented Method countertop cleaner.

Approximate Weight of the Newspapers + Black Friday Circulars Sitting on the Kitchen Table: 3 pounds.

Gatherings and Meet-Ups This Weekend: Thanksgiving dinner with Bryan’s family; breakfast meetup at the diner with 3 high school friends; holiday tree lighting with my favorite toddler ever and her parents; burritos and margaritas with our favorite double-date couple; and Thanksgiving weekend breakfast with my family.

Silly Photos From Said Meet-Ups:

Silliest Emma picture EVER.

Sisterhood is serious. Or we’re just super-bloated from four straight days of non-stop eating.

Nonsensical Notes From Last Friday’s 5Rhythms With Some Explanation in Parentheses: synchronicity (I asked the universe for a certain dancer to attend class, and the universe obliged); traveling amoeba (we all huddled as a group, back-to-back/side-to-side and just allowed our little jumble to move around the room on its own accord, like a traveling amoeba); tipping point from subtle to full-blown run-around-the-room Chaos, unleashing! (because sometimes I start Chaos with very small and subtle movements and then out of nowhere, there’s a tipping point of energy, and I go from standing in place to leaping across the studio as though I’ve been thrown over the edge of a cliff).

One Day I Will Totally Write About: the yoga workshop I took last week with Rudy Peirce.

So it’s been about one week since I left my happy place.

Not gonna lie…it hasn’t been easy. Despite this being my 12th trip to Walt Disney World (and 13th Disney trip, if you count last year’s Disneyland), I still come home with a bad case of PDD (post-Disney depression) that leaves me unable to watch Disney commercials or listen to Disney music for a solid month without immediately tearing up. Coming home from vacation is hard enough, but when you’re going from a land of pixie dust and parades and nightly fireworks to, well, New Jersey, it’s slightly more difficult than just returning from a week down the shore.

Leftover caramel-glazed apple pie for breakfast

Instead of getting "the finger" on your morning commute, you get "the hand."

9 a.m. meetings are replaced with morning photo shoots

This is your home for a week

The view from the pool during your morning swim

International amigos

Outpouring of love

Where monsters aren't scary

On the set of a fairy tale

Unlimited milkshakes

Dance-offs with dogs

The only time you're actually happy to see a mouse in the house

Because it’s geographically and financially unfeasible to visit my #1 happy place on a regular basis, I’ve spent the past week trying to figure out where my closer-to-home happy places are, places that don’t require airline tickets and a week off from work. They may not include all the bells and whistles (and parades and fireworks) of Disney World, but they make me smile and are my go-to places when I need some everyday magic.

Happy Place #1: My Living Room Floor

Although I absolutely loved our rustic-feeling hotel room at Disney’s Wilderness Lodge, it was very tight on space and I had little room to do my morning/evening stretches and wake-up routine. Sun salutations took place in the narrow entrance way between the bathroom and the closet, and to do viparita karani (legs on the wall) at night (a necessity after days of walking anywhere from 8 to 16 miles), I had to squeeze myself between the TV cabinet and table, the only wall space available.

At home, the living room floor is my stretching oasis, the place I go to every morning to twist and stretch and rock and roll. I can do downdogs and warriors without banging my hands into the wall or on the ceiling lamp, and I can lie on the floor in cobra without being skeeved out about who (or what) was on the carpet before me.

Morning routine: Pee, brush teeth, roll

In addition, my living room allows me the space to DANCE! 🙂

Happy Place #2: Poang Chairs

When I’m not dancing or rolling around in my living room, I’m seated comfortably in one of our IKEA Poang chairs, in front of the TV.

Shhh...it's a pack of Poangs!

I’m not particularly a fan of the boob-tube, but I do love our Netflix subscription that allows us to watch streaming shows and movies via our Nintendo Wii system.

Instead of watching TV shows in real-time, Bryan and I have instead been plowing through entire series of shows through Netflix streaming. That way we don’t have to wait weeks in-between episodes or feel like we lost 6 years of our life if a show ends badly (::coughcoughLOSTcoughcough::). Most recently, we completed the 202 episodes of 24, a series that had us glued to the Poangs for months. I became very attached to the characters and screamed, shouted, and cried along with them. It was a very emotional ending, almost as heart-wrenching as leaving Disney World! Mickey Mouse, Jack Bauer…I love you both!

Netflix is also my source for rare, hard-to-find movies and documentaries. Sure, I’ll watch Tangled the week I return from the World (gotta catch up on my Disney princess knowledge), but this same week I’ve also watched Fat, Sick & Nearly Dead (Christmas is less than 100 days away…juicer, please?!), half of the PBS special Doctors’ Diaries, and–OMG, the cutest movie in the world–Gotta Dance.

PHOTO: Gotta Dance & NBA Entertainment

Remember that documentary a few years ago, Young @ Heart, the one about the group of seniors who sing contemporary music? Well, this is the same thing…but with DANCE. The movie documents the inaugural season of the NETsationals dance team, a group of 13 seniors ages 59 to 83 who dance hip hip for the New Jersey Nets (in the photo above, their jersey numbers indicate their age). A few had amateur dancing experience (ballroom, tap), some had danced recreationally, and none had ever done hip hop before. These folks are living proof that age is just a number and old dogs CAN learn new tricks. Heartwarming, uplifting, inspirational…this movie a shot of the warm and fuzzy feel-goods without the overly sappy chicken noodle soup for the soul. I stood on my feet and applauded the TV during their first live performance! I could watch this again and again–and probably will.

Happy Place #3: Red Bank Battlefield

I am fortunate to live near several parks (all very nice, too!), but my favorite by far is Red Bank. It’s a national park, so it’s well kept and clean; it attracts a lot of cute older couples (I once witnessed an older husband and wife unwrap a particularly challenging Werther’s Original candy together); and, being directly across the Delaware River from the Philly airport, there are PLANES! Lots of them! As I’ve written again and again, I am obsessed with plane watching. I will say I don’t care, but then I’ll hear the roar of a jet engine, and immediately my eyes go to the sky. I’m particularly fond of Southwest jets (one, they represent our transportation to Florida; two, they are the most colorful of the liveries), cargo jets (HUUUUGE!), and planes that are taking off in my direction.

Sometimes I’ll go to the park before work (quiet and peaceful), other times after work (more traffic but interesting characters), and sometimes on the weekend with Bryan for reading-under-a-tree time. A loop around the park is a little over a mile, and nowadays you can almost always spot a deer or three, which have become acclimated to human beings and don’t even bat an eyelash when you’re walking their way. The other morning I walked past six deer (including two males with giant antlers), one only inches from me!

It’s a good thing I appreciate the solitude of the park in the morning, because soon that’s the only time I’ll be able to go; the park closes at sunset, and as I much as I pray that it won’t happen, there will come a time this year that I leave work and it’s dark out. Where to go when my Disney World closes at dusk?!

So those are my non-Disney World happy places, accessible within minutes. If I’m willing to drive a little longer and pack a few more things, next on the list are (a) my gym, for a solo swimming session; (b) the yoga studio, for a 5Rhythms class; and (c) the Jersey shore!

What places do you return to when you need some magic?

About the Author

Name: Jennifer

Location: Greater Philadelphia Area

Blog Mission:
SHARE my practice experience in conscious dance and yoga,

EXPAND my network of like-minded individuals,

FULFILL my desire to work with words in a more creative and community-building capacity;

FLOW and GROW with the world around me!

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