BY STEPHANIE BARBÉ HAMMER
July 1, 2015
Being a Whidbey writer means that you can work in your pajamas, or in your slippers. Or both.
Here, in Coupeville, my neighbors are gradually getting used to seeing me in PJs ’til lunchtime, or not seeing me in the morning at all. I make my husband answer the door, generally, up until noon. Mornings are when I write and think. And by morning I don’t mean when the sun rises at 5 a.m. (or earlier). By morning I mean more like 8:30 am.
I take my cup of coffee, go sit in a chair on our porch and look at Mt. Baker if it’s visible and at the fog if it isn’t. Or at a boat passing if there’s one or at the water and the trees if there isn’t.
Since it’s June I tend to see deer and deer babies (aka fawns) jumping around in the backyard. But since I’m not a gardener I can just watch them eat the grass. I don’t have any flowers. Which was lazy of me. But also lucky, as it turns out.
My friend Janet recently moved down the road; she’s a triathlete. So is her husband. I am personally more of an avid non-sportsperson. Still, sometimes you gotta busta move, as the kids say. Or as they said about 20 years ago.
So I go over to the Nordic Hall on Jacobs Road in Coupeville, and I take a Tai Chi class with some nice people, who are led by Lynne Donnelly. I took Tai Chi years ago in Riverside Calif. with Harvey Kurland (who is originally from the Pacific Northwest) and—while I’ve forgotten just about all the moves in the Yang short form—I can recognize when someone can really do them. Lynne has that soft energy that makes her movements liquid and relaxed.
She’s a great teacher. I spend most of class trying to learn how to raise my arms, and turn my right foot inward, after shifting weight over to my left foot. Then I do something called a “ward off,” which Lynne explains is what you do when a bunch of 6th graders try to leave the school building at the same time, just as you’re trying to enter it.
Tai Chi instructors tend to have a wry sense of humor. One time Harvey talked to the yoga instructor who was just finishing the class ahead of us and asked “how much energy do you use in yoga?”
Proudly, she answered, ‘30%.’”
“Oh,” he said. “We use about 10.”
After class my husband takes me to bayleaf for lunch outside. We observe that we need to have a business meeting soon, but it’s not going to be now because the sun is shining and our sandwiches taste too good. I go inside to pay. A group of people is ahead of me in line and the guys keep thinking of new things they want to buy.
“I’m sorry we’re taking such a long time,” says one man.
I could tell him “no problem—although I DO need to get home to try to figure out if there’s any way to make time travel, magic, Judaism, Christianity, Islam, Shinto, and the commedia dell’arte all work together in one novel about 17th Century France.”
Instead, I just say, “take your time…”
Stephanie Barbé Hammer‘s debut novel, “The Puppet Turners of Narrow Interior,” was published this spring by Urban Farmhouse Press. She is also a published poet and authors scholarly studies and creative writing books. A University of California professor emerita, she teaches at writers’ conferences and associations, dividing her time between Coupeville and Los Angeles. Read more about her work at www.stephaniebarbehammer.net.
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