So be it

January 31, 2011 § 6 Comments

The first time I ever did yoga was in Bangalore, India on a business school exchange after grad school one summer. Yoga wasn’t quite as popular 10 years ago in SC as it is just about everywhere today. My expectations were that it would be a lot of stretching and flexibility exercises, which it was, but there was also something the teacher kept saying that has stuck with me: “so be it”. Anytime we’d be doing a series of poses that would push us, she would say “if your breathing quickens, so be it.” Her tone was more of a “whatever” or “no worries”…shit happens.

My friend Adair and I traveled around India and Nepal for a month afterward and that phrase became our funny short-hand reply for whenever something would happen that wasn’t quite as planned, which was pretty much a daily occurrence. It was our Indian adventure version of “C’est la vie” or “lo que sea”. It is what it is.

I decided after all of last week’s winter activities that yoga would be the perfect thing to pick up again to work out all those sore muscles. I’ll also be working in LA this week, so yoga is something Boulder and LA have very much in common. So be it.

My aim is to try different forms of yoga and see which one feels right for me. When I did yoga in LA it was very much to cope with a stressful job and to get a little exercise. I didn’t think about it much beyond that. I’d like to pursue it a bit further this week. My friend Alicia, talks about yoga in her blog as a practice. I’m hoping by the end of the week that I might find yoga to be something I see as more than just a little exercise but as a practice I can incorporate into my life.

I think “so be it” can mean a couple of things. Since that yoga class it’s always meant “go with the flow” to me, which is something I need to remind myself of. I think there’s another interpretation of it I’ve gotten a glimpse of in yoga before, which is “just be”. To me, the former is a way to cope with things as they happen to you while the latter is adopting an approach or a philosophy to life. I may be splitting hairs here, but it’s something I’ll be thinking about as I’m doing yoga this week.

I will be starting with Ashtanga Vinyasa tonight at the Yoga Workshop in Boulder. It will be fun to compare Boulder yoga with LA yoga. Something tells me Boulder will be more my speed, but we’ll see!

Winter and I are now on speaking terms again

January 29, 2011 § Leave a comment

This week was a pretty challenging one for me. Winter activities have always intimidated me for various reasons, so I just always avoided them. I was expecting to try a bunch of different things this week and find one or two that I might enjoy doing so I wouldn’t just hole up all winter in the house here in Colorado. At the end of it I kind of enjoyed it all because I just went out with an open mind and decided I would just laugh at myself a bit being out of my comfort zone.

Ice fishing was an interesting one because it was definitely the most fun I had this week, but it’s probably something I won’t be running back out to do again.

It was just a fun, random thing to do with new friends that had me almost peeing my pants laughing so hard at our attempt. It’s hard to say whether you could really call what we were doing ice fishing, but it was a valiant effort.

I expected cross country skiing to be the thing I would fall in love with and it would be my thing for the winter. It was a good way to ease into skiing and I think once I get the rhythm of it down I’ll really enjoy it. We’re heading up to Winter Park today to check out the trails there.  Cross country skiing was the thing I was most conscious of as “exercise”.  I imagine once I get going and get out on longer trails it won’t feel that way but all of the other activities I did felt both fun and enjoyable to be outside.  cross country skiing was a bit more work.

The biggest surprise of the week was how much I loved downhill skiing since I’d been too terrified to try it again for the last 15 years.  I learned a bit about myself for sure. I’ve never liked the frustration of not being good at something and this taught me to just laugh a bit and take it slow. With the lesson it felt like a safe environment and I was surprised that after 1 day, I could ski! I’m learning how to be a more patient person and to not take myself so seriously. Falling down really doesn’t hurt that badly.

In terms of embracing winter, snowshoeing made me realize what a beautiful place it is that I live in.  I was able to go to places I wouldn’t be able to get to this time of year to see how different the landscape looks. It was one of those moments I really started falling in love with Colorado. If you pay attention it is really striking how much the scenery changes throughout the year and the range of colors you can see in it.

Plus, it was fun sliding down hills on my butt like a kid again. I think I even unknowingly said “Weeeeeeeeee!” on the way down.

Aside from the activities, it was interesting to learn more about snow and think a little differently about it. My favorite was the story of “Snowflake” Bentley. Snowflakes are arguably the most interesting designs in the world and I find it fascinating that a farmer in the late 1800s understood that and devised a way to record those designs so they weren’t forever lost.

I now have an arsenal of fun things to do in the winter here in Boulder. Now we just need a little snow so I can sneak up on my husband and have a good snowball fight.

It pays to have a snow scientist as a neighbor

January 26, 2011 § 1 Comment

In exchange for feeding my neighbor Noah some of our delicious leftover goulash, he let me pick his brain about snow.  I was interested to see what I might learn that would give me a different perspective about it.

I love the people I meet in Boulder.  Dr. “Snoah” Molotch (pictured left, red jacket) is a snow hydrologist at INSTAAR and professor at CU.  You can think of him as a real life version of Dennis Quaid’s character in The Day After Tomorrow.

Noah’s particular focus is studying the distribution of snow and ice and its impact on natural resources.  He’s currently interested in how forestation & deforestation affect snow melt.  I learned quite a bit in talking with him, not only about the importance of snow but a few fun facts as well.  I’ll be getting back out in the snow tomorrow but thought I’d share what I learned about it in the meantime.

Snow is important because it acts as a natural reservoir. In the West, it accounts for about 75% of the water supply. Snow melt acts like a steady IV drip for when there’s little rainfall. One of the fears of global warming is that higher temperatures may cause it to rain instead of snow in Winter which depletes the resource when it’s needed later in the year.  I expect that Noah will single-handedly make sure that doesn’t happen.

Now onto the more light-hearted stuff…

Why is snow white? Because of it’s composition of hexagonal ice crystals, it bounces and reflects the entire visible light spectrum back to us vs absorbing various wavelengths we see as color. Noah shared something a colleague of his likes to say to students: “if our eyes weren’t meant to just see visible light, snow would be one of the most colorful substances in nature.” I like to imagine what a landscape might look like if we could detect the colors in snow. The photo above is from a NASA scientist, Dr. Peter Wasilewski, who used polarized light sources and filters to show the color of ice. Even though I probably butchered this whole explanation from a scientific standpoint, his photographs are beautiful.

Most everyone has heard the saying “no two snowflakes are alike”. I always assumed that discovery was probably made in a lab somewhere.  However, the story of how it was discovered is as inspiring as the discovery itself.  In 1885, a farmer named Wilson A. Bentley in Jericho Vermont began photographing single crystals with a microscope adapted to a bellows camera. Seriously.
He would go on to photograph more than 5,000 snowflakes, never finding two alike.  What struck me about “Snowflake” Bentley was his philosophy & appreciation for design: “Under the microscope, I found that snowflakes were miracles of beauty; and it seemed a shame that this beauty should not be seen and appreciated by others.  Every crystal was a masterpiece of design and no one design was ever repeated. When a snowflake melted, that design was forever lost. Just that much beauty was gone, without leaving any record behind.”

Those that might like to share the story of Snowflake Bentley with their kids can check out the  Caldecott medal winning biography.  Sounds like the makings of a great Disney movie to me!

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