Today I am at home visiting my family. Happy Thanksgiving!
I got to do tai chi in my old bedroom this morning — not the one I was a baby in, but the one in which I spent my teen and pre-teen years, and summers away from college. It’s a nice room, a little too dark maybe with brick-red walls which I thought I wanted once upon a time. But there’s a dim echo of the bed in the room; as I was moving around, I remembered stubbing my toe on one of the wheels of the bed. It’s kind of extraordinary that there is this kind of ancestral memory that goes back that deeply in time, more than twenty-five years. But there it is, and my big toe is throbbing at a half-remembered memory from almost three decades ago. How time flies when you’re having fun.
My mom complained about her balance when she saw I was doing tai chi, and said it was something she was working on. I showed her the postures that come up in the tai chi form for improving balance — the Golden Pheasant moves, the kicks, and Stand Like Tree. We did them for a few minutes together, and then she pointed at my leg. “Ha!” she said, “you’re trembling too.” And she put her foot down, and went off to do yet another one of the Thanksgiving-day tasks that she so often complains of, and yet loves doing so much she wouldn’t dream of having the Thanksgiving feast anywhere else but under her own roof.
How to answer that? Yes, of course I tremble. But that’s sort of the point. If my balance was perfect, I wouldn’t need to do tai chi at all. If my balance wasn’t dynamic — constantly shifting as my muscles shift — then I’d be dead and unable to balance at all. We humans (all beings, I suppose) are creatures-in-equilibrium, constantly operating in a dynamic tension with our environments — sometimes with fragments of mostly-forgtten memories, more often with the laws of physics like our balance’s tug-of-war with gravity, and always with the ever-present boundaries of what Western magicians might call Saturnian energy — time, age, and death. Of course my leg trembles. I am carrying out a long fight against gravity, and it is one which my body is destined to lose, as is yours. We will lie in the ground in time, or go to our funeral pyre, or drop beneath the waves as food for the fish.
For now, though, I am glad that my leg trembles. For now, I am glad that my family is gathered under one roof. For now, there is food on the table and food in the pantry. For now, there is wealth enough to have and to share. For now, there is work. For now there is leisure. For all that I have, for all that we have in common, let us feast and celebrate and give thanks.
Tomorrow we die a little more.Today we feast.