October 9, 2009: A Kind of Warrior

The other day, after many weeks of absence, I returned to yoga practice in my home town of Winterset. With my rolled yoga mat tucked under my arm, I scooted over to the little studio that is less than a block from home.

Once on the floor, legs folded in front of me, I looked around the room, enjoying the familiarity of its details: the scroll design of the sheer curtains on the wide windows, the artwork on the walls, and the reassuring presence of my teacher Tia at the front of the class.

As all yoginis know, the goal in practice is to concentrate on one's breath, ridding the mind of distractions. My thoughts wander, though, and that day, as we moved from pose to pose, I considered their names and what each signifies. 

In Bridge, I thought of bridges—how they span divides, enable travel, connect people. In Table, I envisioned tables, spread with meals, spread with paperwork, spread with fabric and thread.

As Tia coached us through our Warriors, I thought of distant battles and their fighters, conflicts more intense and overt than those we face daily in a small American town. My mind returned to my recent trip to Scotland, when my husband Mark and I visited a museum on the Isle of Skye. Posted on one wall was a poem in Gaellic, written in 1411, a pep talk for McDonald clansmen who would be at war next day. Beside the verse, a translation in English was provided.


In my life, living all my years in a peaceful land, I have been on no real battlefield. I have pointed no sword, aimed no gun at fellow man. But courage welled up, expanding my heart, as I read line after ancient line, just as it does each time I stand in Warrior on my yoga mat.


The Incitement to Battle
Harlaw, 1411

by Lachlann Mor MacMhuirich

O Children of Conn, remember
Hardihood in time of battle:
Be watchful, daring,
Be dextrous, winning renown,
Be vigorous, pre-eminent,
Be strong, brave,
Be valiant, triumphant,
Be resolute, fierce,
Be forceful and stand your ground,
Be nimble, valourous,
Be well-equipped, handsomely accoutred,
Be dominant, watchful,
Be fervid, pugnacious,
Be dour, inspiring fear,
Be ready for action, warrior-like,
Be prompt,
Be exceedingly, recklessly daring,
Be prepared, willing,
Be numerous, giving battle,
Be fiery, fully-ready,
Be strong, dealing swift blows,
Be spirited, inflicting great wounds,
Be stout-hearted, martial,
Be venomous, implacable,
Be fearless,
Be swift, performing great deeds,
Be glorious, nobly powerful,
Be rapid in movement, very quick,
Be valiant, princely,
Be acting, exceedingly bold,
Be ready, fresh and comely,
Be king-like,
Be eager, be successful,
Be unflurried, striking excellent blows,
Be compact in your ranks, elated,
Be vigorous, nimble-footed,
In winning the battle against your enemies.
O Children of Conn of the Hundred Battles.
Now is the time for you to win recognition,
O raging whelps,
O sturdy heroes,
O most sprightly lions,
O battle-loving warriors,
O brave, heroic firebrands,
The Children of Conn of the Hundred Battles,
O Children of Conn, remember
Hardihood in time of battle.

Today's Fortune Cookie Fortune:
You will admire the Scottish.

Posted on Friday, October 9, 2009 by Registered CommenterMarianne Fons | CommentsPost a Comment | References5 References

September 1, 2009: Chicago Agent Orange

My daughter Mary is immersed a year-long "art/life" project, primarily because she is a living artist, but also because she has been intrigued by the works of artist Linda Montano. In addition, Mary's husband is away for a year of training in the US Army Reserves. Her art/life project is a lively diversion that might also be a bit restrictive for a full time roommate.

Mary describes art/life in full on her blog PaperGirl, but one aspect of the year involves wearing a single color each month. She started in June with yellow. July was blue, June purple, and today, September 1, she transitioned from purple to orange.

I traveled from Winterset to Chicago Sunday because an examination under aneasthesia was scheduled for Mary Monday at Northwestern Hospital. Apparently, she has a tiny leak in her new internal plumbing system, one that her doctor repaired with, well, glue.

Yesterday afternoon, while Mary was still groggy in her hospital bed, I went on an orange clothing shopping mission on Michigan Avenue. Mary's sister Rebecca made a first foray Sunday, hitting sale racks at Gap, Banana Republic, H & M, and others, returning with fantastic orange shorts, a great scarf, and a flowy maxi dress. I went straight to Macy's at Watertower Place.

Shopping for one color only is an unique experience. Stepping off the escalator, you scan the retail horizon, hyperfocused. The blacks, grays, and deep reds of your entire shopping history are invisible to you. Interestingly, you can cover an entire floor of a huge department store in under ten minutes.

I found a darling tie-dye dress, a peasanty print blouse, and the perfect T-shirt, all at 70% off.

Heading back to the hospital for show-and-tell, I exited to the Magnificent Mile via American Girl Place. Strangely, as I bustled through with my shopping bags, I scanned the racks for tiny, orange doll clothes for a moment or two, then pulled myself together.

Mary is home today, dressed in juicy orange.

Today's Fortune Cookie Fortune:
You will find some bargains.

Posted on Tuesday, September 1, 2009 by Registered CommenterMarianne Fons | CommentsPost a Comment | References3 References

August 31, 2009: Comin' Through the Rye

My husband Mark and I left the US for our recent trip to Scotland from Washington Island, Wisconsin, rather than Iowa. For various logistical reasons, the car available to take to the Green Bay airport was my little two-seater.

In planning our trip, Mark set up the air travel; I arranged hotel accommodations and rented a car. We would be making a giant loop through northern Scotland—Glasgow, Edinburgh, Inverness, Isle of Skye, and then back to Glasgow for the flight home.

About to click on a standard transmission (the norm in Europe), mid-size vehicle, I noticed the "luxury" option a few lines down on the Orbitz chart. For not that much more, Hertz would rent us an automatic transmission Mercedez-Benz! Thinking about the hundreds of miles we'd be driving on the right hand side of the road, from the right side seat of the car, I splurged.

As we sped along the M-way from Glasgow to Edinburgh, we developed our new mantra: stay right, look left, stay left, look right. Mark, who drove a right-side-drive standard-shift VW bug in the US his senior year in high school, kept his cool. In the left seat, I navigated us to our Edinburgh hotel, along major thoroughfares that changed street names almost every block.

Over our nine day journey, sorry to say, I declined to learn a new skill. With the ability you'd expect from a former commercial B-757 pilot, Mark negotiated incredibly tight turns in pouring rain enroute Inverness, kept us safely in unbelievably narrow lanes enroute the Isle of Skye, held steady through single-vehicle underpasses on each leg, and did not flinch when meeting Scottish lorries and double-decker tour buses. The Mercedes hummed.

Back in Green Bay, we loaded the luggage into my little red car. Now the designated driver, and using all six forward gears, I brought us home to Winterset. With one suitcase strapped on the arm rest between us, Mark couldn't see much of me. Instead, he gazed out the window at the beautiful shoulders of the standard American highway.

Today's Fortune Cookie Fortune:
You will appreciate the ability of others.

Posted on Monday, August 31, 2009 by Registered CommenterMarianne Fons | CommentsPost a Comment | References3 References

August 23, 2009: From Glen to Glen

Here in Scotland, the sound of bagpipes is common. In the tourist town of Edinburgh, opportunistic pipers clad in Highland dress stand on many a corner, playing for tips. During the famous Military Tattoo, which we watched on Thursday night with thousands of others, several hundred magnificent, kilted bagpipers played in unison during the Massed Pipes and Drums performance.

In Inverness, we found Castle Street lined with kiltmakers' workshops and Scottish souvenir shops, strains of "Commin' Through the Rye" beckoning from every open doorway.

Yesterday, my husband Mark and I took a boat tour down the River Ness and onto Loch Ness. During the three hour excursion, we sat at a comfy booth in the cabin playing Scrabble, frequently walking out on deck with our binoculars to enjoy the gorgeous countryside along the Loch and to scan the dark, frigid waters for Nessie (no sign).

I noticed a printed instruction placard on the cabin front wall that seemed to illustrate steps for bagpipe playing. Toward the end of our cruise, taking a closer look, I found the photos were not at all man squeezing his pipes in Highland dress, but a stout lady demonstrating proper use of the boat's life vest.

We decided that, in Scotland, combination life-vest-bagpipes would be perfect. You could inflate your vest by blowing into the pipe. While treading water, you could play a lively air to simultaneously entertain yourself and call for aid. And, should help not arrive, you could go under for the third time, piping yourself out to the final notes of "Auld Lang Syne."

Today's Fortune Cookie Fortune:
You will not try haggis.

Posted on Monday, August 24, 2009 by Registered CommenterMarianne Fons | CommentsPost a Comment | References4 References

August 22, 2009: My Special Alphabet

On Friday, enroute Edinburg to Inverness, my husband Mark and I stopped in the port city of Leith to tour the royal yacht Britannia. Launched in 1953, this beautiful ship served Queen Elizabeth for 44 years until its decommission in 1997.

Prior to our tour, I thought "Humph, why should taxpayer money foot the bill for a monarch's personal boat?" After learning the history of royal yachts (Britainna is the 83rd in a long line stretching back to 1660), and walking Britannia stem to stern, my attitude changed to nostalgia. The gorgeous ocean vessel is now maintained by the charitable organization Royal Britannia Trust. Lunch in the tearoom was scrumptous.

Displayed on a rear deck was the NATO international radiotelephony spelling alphabet. The alphabet assigns a code word to each letter of the English alphabet so that critical combinations of letters can be pronounced and understood. As a career US Air Force man and then a commercial pilot, Mark has used this alphabet most of his life. He turned his back on the display board and rattled off all 26 code words to me. When he finished, the tourists within earshot applauded politely.

On the drive to Inverness, I practiced over and over until I do them all in order: Alpha, Bravo, Charlie, Delta, Echo, Foxtrot, Golf, Hotel, India, Juliet, Kilo, Lima, Mike, November, Oscar, Papa, Quebec, Romeo, Sierra, Tango, Uniform, Victor, Whiskey, Xray, Yankee, Zulu.

Today's Fortune Cookie Fortune:
You will have memory problems.

Posted on Sunday, August 23, 2009 by Registered CommenterMarianne Fons | CommentsPost a Comment | References3 References