Sorry for the delay! Its been busy and fun
Part VII: Satellite Beach, FL – Let’s Talk About Life
Monday morning, I took off further south for Florida to meet J, a good friend from IG. She has two teenage kids who are definitely teenagers. Over the two nights I was there, we had a lot of great conversations about growing up and life and so much more.
Monday night was mostly spent hanging out, meeting the peeps, having dinner and chatting, plus, a little walk to show me how I could get down to the beach the next morning for sunrise. Early on Tuesday, I got myself up, out, and down to the beach in time for sunrise which was, of course, absolutely lovely. Clear sky with just enough clouds to add some color. The only downside were the no-see-ums which bit my ankles all up – they still itch a little! Later in the morning, we drove up to the Canaveral National Seashore and the Merritt Island National Wildlife Refuge to see the scrub land and some other coastal ecology zones that are out there. It was hot and sunny and mostly quiet, but I did see some lovely birds – cranes, ducks, ospreys, spoonbills, and more! After checking out a couple trails, we went to a beach to spend a little time cooling off in the ocean (surprisingly warm) and do a little beach yoga, of course!
That evening, J and I went to a yoga class in Melbourne (a short drive and not half the world away), which was a lovely, gentle flow. After, I flew her and another lady from class briefly while we talked to the teacher. We got dinner and then we were home and I was asleep so I could get going early.
Part VIII: Fort Walton, FL – Gulf Coast
Wednesday morning, I was back on the road, heading west, to meet a friend from college who is now an air force midwife a little east of Pensacola. (I hope that means she gets to catch babies fall from planes, too.) It was probably tied for my longest drive on this trip so far with Chapel Hill to Atlanta by way of Asheville, but it went quickly and smoothly. Plus, when I arrived, I went straight to a beech on Okaloosa Island! Pretty darn great way to end a long drive, if I do say so. All of the beeches I enjoyed in Florida this round had incredibly fine sand. More fine than granulated sugar and almost as fine powdered sugar. Plus, the sand on Okaloosa was about as white as sugar, too! It was just beautiful and the water felt great. I met S, my college friend, at the beach after she got off of work to swim. Then we went for dinner at a tapas place in town with some really fabulous scallops, among other delicious dishes. Back at her house, we watched The Bachelorette. To be honest, there is little I enjoy making fun of more than reality TV shows. To make it better, her boyfriend is good friends with one of the contestants. Drama is funny when I’m thoroughly distanced from it and nobody gets hurt.
Part IX: New Orleans, LA – NOLA
Thursday started with a relatively short drive from Fort Walton to NOLA. On the way, on a suggestion from S, I stopped at a biscuit place – The Greenhouse on Porter – next to Biloxi, Mississippi. It was a pretty damn amazing biscuit. If you’re in the area, I highly recommend it.
Then, I continued on to New Orleans to meet up with more folks. First, I met up with a “C” a good friend from our church community in Baltimore who came down here for college and has stayed down to work for a start-up for now. We met for lunch at a pretty dang hipster restaurant in St. Claude called the “Sneaky Pickle” – obviously hipster with a name like that. But they also serve mostly vegan/vegetarian fare in a place like NOLA, so that status is solidified. And it was delicious! It was also great to catch up with some I haven’t seen in probably a decade!
After lunch, I found the guy I whose apartment I would be staying in while in town, another Baltimore family friend, “J”. J came down to work the oil rigs in a more supervisorial role after college, but has unfortunately been laid off recently as happens. Lucky for me, that means he has more time to show me around. Thursday afternoon, we walked from his place in the Garden District down to and around the French Quarter and back. Saw most of the important stuff. There was street music, lots of homeless folks, beignets from Café du Monde (now available 24/7, if you didn’t know), and chargrilled oysters at the Blind Pelican. Both delicious. In the evening, we drove over by the Audubon Park, Tulane, and Loyola. The parks around here are beautiful and have some lovely trees! The shaggy hanging moss is so definitively south and very stately.
On Friday, I found an Ashtanga studio and went to their Mysore class. After a couple pictures, with some of these beautiful trees, I was back at the apartment to clean up before breakfast. We went around the corner to great little place that is packed, has local art on the walls for sale, and hardly enough space for the all of the tables in there. Simple and delicious with lots Cajun inspired breakfast foods. After food, we walked to the National World War II Museum and spent several hours there. It was heavy, dudes. Heavy. The two main thoughts that I came away with are the resiliency of human kind in the face of unimagineable horrors and the tragedies which result from not recognizing the humanity of people different from oneself. It’s well made, though. Lots of personal stories and a lot of information. Five hours there, and it was off for more food. Thankfully, our server was an absolute sweetheart who called everyone “my babies”. Got myself an oyster po’boy – tender fried oysters in chewy, crusty baguette! Yum! A little more walking and we made it back just before the rains.
Part X: Houston, TX – Entering Texas
The drive from New Orleans to Houston was a fairly uneventful one. The clouds darkened and drew close as I approached the boarder and there was plenty of rain to drive through (and a massive puddle in the rest stop parking lot), but once I arrived things started to clear up. I went to Sugar Land immediately to meet up with a few IG yogis who I was somewhat familiar with and a few more I didn’t know at all for a small meet up to play with a little acro and some inversion and hand balance. It was a blast, as it always is. Got some people to fly who don’t typically trust enough to do so and some who are usually bases. I had missed the class they all attended before play time, so after everyone went their separate ways I got to stick around and practice on my own – a slow, stretchy flow which was exactly what I needed.
One very entertaining thing happened just as I began to practice by myself. We met up in the yoga room of a large, popular fitness center in Sugar Land, of which I am obviously not a member, and they had me enter by a back door. During my first sun salutation, the door to the room, which I had closed, opened and in came a staff member with a small group touring the facilities. It was apparent neither one of us expected the other to be there, but I just kept on practicing as he discussed the use of the room and the classes available to members. I was grateful my face was away from the group when the guide said that I “was doing chaturangas and things” because it seemed like such a silly situation and I couldn’t help but giggle.
After practicing and taking some pictures, I cleaned up and found my way to a meeting point for dinner. A few of us met at a very large movie theater in Richmond, TX which has columns like the Roman Coliseum. It was a very grand exterior (everything is bigger in Texas, right?). Inside, there was a food court, bowling alley, arcade, and bar. That’s right, bar in the movie theater. Brilliant, right? The bartenders, who were two of the yogis from playtime, said that when Magic Mike came to town, business was very good. Seeing alcohol served in everyday locations is still slightly strange for me because in Baltimore, liquor licenses are difficult to come by, so it’s not available in things like gas stations and movie theaters, not to mention the drive through liquor stores which are popular elsewhere. From the theater meeting point, we drove into downtown for their favorite Asian restaurant, supposedly Vietnamese themed, but offering everything you would expect at an American Asian restaurant. It was certainly tasty and loaded with vegetables, which is always a hit on the road, plus the conversation was delightful.
One of the yogis graciously offered a couch for me to crash one, which I took too gratefully. The next morning, I was up and on the road early.
Part XI: Austin, TX – Bhakti Yoga
Houston to Austin is a quick drive, maybe 2.5 hours. I was there with ample time to get to a 10:30a class with a highly recommended teacher. It was wonderful and choosing to go to that class at that studio set up much of my brief visit to the city.
Being there significantly early, I saw a large group gathering outside the studio early as well. It turned out they were a YTT (yoga teacher training) class who would be there for the day. One particularly friendly member introduced herself to me and we had a little conversation, and then after class she invited me to join her and others at a Bhakti Yoga Kirtan nearby that evening. And then, at the Kirtan she invited me to crash at her place. The universe works in simple and beautiful ways. Put gratitude out there and everything you need will come to you.
Back to the yoga class, it was awesome. The teacher has a very strong room presence and gave an insightful and entertaining dharma talk to open the practice. The flow included a lot of longer holds and lot of time focusing on one side at a time. No poses that were too crazy, plenty of modifications, and it felt great. Good for the heart. I would definitely recommend Erinn Lewis and Sukha Yoga if you’re in Austin.
Before the Kirtan, I had several hours to burn, so I ate a little, relaxed in the parks along the river, and reorganized and cleaned up my car/home a little bit – it was definitely time. Being a Sunday afternoon, there was a lot going on big open green, which was where I stopped. I didn’t realize until later how much more of the parks I missed. Austin would be a city worth returning to explore much more deeply, despite how busy it is.
In the evening I went to an apartment on West side of the city for the Kirtan. Bhakti yoga focuses living one’s life for Krishna, one of the Indian gods who is really THE GOD for them. (Whatever I write here comes from a very cursory understanding of the practice and study.) Everything you experience, you experience for him. They physical world is not real because it is temporary, not permanent – think of waves on the ocean. The ocean is real because it is permanent, but the waves are not because they are only temporary. They physical world has been created because we want to provide experiences for Kirshna (or something like that… it gets tricky only hearing it once or twice.) So, devotees to Krishna will dress beautifully, surround themselves with good smelling flowers, eat things that are sweet and delicious, and chant all for Krishna to experience. So, at the Kirtan, we chanted/sang, had discussions on Bhakti yoga, which was my first real exposure to it, and then ate a meal together. The people were delightful, the food was delicious, and the chanting was a little challenging because it is a kind of call and response, but when you surrender to the song and let it flow through you, it is powerful and moving.
The thing that strikes me most about all of these different paths to enlightenment, to Samadhi, to god, to heaven, to whatever you want to call it, is that they call claim to be the only way to get there. This often leads to getting way too caught up in the path to either actually live your life or to move beyond the path, whichever path it may be. Besides, they all teach mostly the same thing at the very core. Live intentionally without attachment and without expectations of rewards for doing good. Live with compassion and truth for yourself and the whole world around you because that is how we should live. At least, that is the impression I get so far.
At my new friend’s house, I ended up staying up late talking to her and her neighbors about life and their lives. I also met a cat that likes to rub its face in your armpit while it drools. So that was fun. The next morning, I was up and out early again, on the road to San Antonio.
Maybe I’ll be able to post on Sunday or Monday this time – we’ll see