im leaving Montreal today and returning home. Tai chi has been mostly a sketch rather than a full-on painting these last few days. I’m looking forward to getting home.
The hotel room is dim at this time of day, with my partner still sleeping. When I do tai chi, I can see my hands but not my feet. The only thing that alerts me to their position is my own kinesthetic sense, my own self-awareness of their position and their movement. It feels more shadowy and unreal this time of day, as my hands ghost over the television on box ears with fists, or reach down to grab a sock on grab needle at sea bottom. In the back of my mind, I know that soon I have to convert this room to a mostly-pristine state, like a Boy Scout establishing a Eave No Trace perimeter around the campsite. All the clothes, back into the suitcase; all the cases, into the car; the car and occupants, back into the States. We hold these truths to be self-evident.
The tai chi I practice today is not on what Gordon calls turangawewe: a place where one stands tall. It’s a personal practice, an effort to create something meaningful in the face of shredded reality where things are not particularly normal, in a place one doesn’t feel connected to the earth or the people. But it’s the tai chi of a man who is aware he’s away from his home ground, and is looking forward to familiar walls and even familiar trees and yard.
True fact: every time my lady and I saw a crowd of people at a distance, we’d try to guess what language they were speaking: “this group of teens in slouchy hoodies and tshirts, carrying book bags, sporting California surfer hairdos… These are Anglophones.” Or “this couple — he in a smart button down and beautifully knit cardigan with big wooden buttons and she in an elegantly tailored suit-dress with knee high boots and a long fluttery jacket of gossamer knit, they’re francophones.” We were wrong. We were wrong every single time. We were never more wrong than the family who sat down to dinner one night, to converse easily in German and Arabic with English and French loan-words and phrases sprinkled liberally through their discourse. Disorienting — even my hotel is set up in such a way that it’s challenging to beginning my tai chi practice while facing east.
It makes one’s tai chi unsteady.
I tend not to get overly woo about tai chi in this blog. Footwork, breathwork, moving through water. That’s about the extent of it. But chi, which could be described as prana or spiritus or nwfyre or one of a number of other words, flows through us and around us and out of us. And when we don’t feel connected to the local flows, it’s harder to do good work. Not impossible, just more difficult and requiring greater attention.