Two weeks in our new home: the pool has been drained and chipped out. A crew of about six men arrived Wednesday at 5:30, and were gone before noon.

A large effort was made to dispose of cardboard and newsprint at the recycling station on East Speedway, freeing up a lot of space in the garage. More boxes were unpacked, most of all dozens of pictures to be hung on our walls.

The issue of working from home, and the impending start of distance learning for all three kids, present problems to work out. We opted to make the foyer into a home office. Lewis purchased a special teak desk he found a great deal on—a legacy piece—and a painted silk screen. He also fetched his office chair and two monitors from work. Julia and I removed the remaining baubles from the light fixture, cleaning it off, and restoring the subtlest of bling.

We await the arrival of our new iron doors next Tuesday. We’re a bit flummoxed over receiving them under social isolation. The instructions state you need three people to be present to receive the doors, and they need to be stored a particular way until installed. Installers are booking weeks out, so for now, we cram a blanket under the door to fill in the 2 inch gap. We’re looking forward to seeing this project realized.

The pool systems technician Ray came out to assess the job of bypassing the hot tub. We’ve had holes drilled in the in-ground hot tub with the broken gas heater, and the crew threw chipped out pool plaster in the bottom half, still leaving the bench seats exposed. We’ve explored a variety of options for what to do with this octagonal feature. Rather than $ for more pavement, we first talked about fish pond, then planter. Now Ray has suggested a sunken fire pit. I’ve set a bunch of examples in my Pinterest board.

We celebrated Amrita’s seventeenth birthday at the start of the week, Monday the 27th. Fruit salad and Costco croissants, and an arrangement of Julia’s cookie press sugar cookies plus birthday cake cake pops from Starbuck’s, arranged by Jack.

My brother and I chatted a few times, especially during his commute. He’s been working at the Clearwater Marine Aquarium, installing AV equipment. He shared the webcam and we got to see Winter the dolphin with her tank mates and a few humans in scuba gear. Matt says she’s just been moved from the east coast, so she’s pretty distressed. His work is affected by this.

Gosh, Julia is just keeping us on our toes. Some nights she stays up later than we do. Trust me, this is not our wish. Our Aunt Betty celebrates her birthday today, August 1. Julia used her Hermes Rocket typewriter to write a poem. It was an all-day endeavour. “You don’t know how hard this work is for a kid,” she said. She’s gone on now to write a novel: “Chickpea Longstock.”

Last Friday, I completed a google survey for the kids’ school, in which we were given a choice of 100% distance learning, 50/50, or 100% physically present school. By answering 100% distance learning, we were giving the school owners and team permission to opt for safety for all. The numbers in Arizona and the country continue to track high, with AZ appearing as a hotspot on the map. TUSD has enacted a plan to provide for all by offering choice of distance or present, but I believe that plan is temporarily on hold. There’s a lot of confusion, I dare say we feel we’re scrambling.

I’ve had interesting conversations with the kids about their personal school preferences. while Julia is clearly in favor of the Montessori method, with its collaboration and choice, hands on learning materials, and especially the rules and expectations around fostering a productive, respectful learning environment. Most of all, she looks forward to working with friends.

Jack is a fan of Canadian public school. He appreciates the sense of tolerance for what he calls special students. While Canada has mainstreamed special education, his concept of diversity includes neuro-atypical students and English Language Learners. These schools are well-funded, the teachers are well educated, and the teachers are well supported.

In Tucson,

white people doing yoga

In Waterloo yoga studios, I missed chanting invocations and mantra as part of yoga class. In one studio, we couldn’t even get up to say namaste to our teacher’s face. Rather, we stayed in savasana and said namaste to the ceiling, only if we wanted to. It seems there was a hard line between yoga as a form of fitness and the pseudo spiritual stuff that makes Westerners uncomfortable. If you want to meticulously inquire into whether you are appropriating Indian culture by doing yoga, please read this blog. But if you don’t want to, I’ll save you the trouble and let you know that you probably are not.

Why is it that westerners who go to yoga asana classes avoid some of the more esoteric practices? As a case in point, I met my husband in a yoga studio. He was leading a Buddhist Sound Healing or Nada Yoga session one night a week. The yoga class would end as his session was about to start, the yogis would leave, and a completely different group of people would filter in for the sound healing. Those of us who crossed over the threshold from asana studio to sound yoga studio were few. He loves to tell the story of how I would look through the glass door, considering whether to enter. Do you know how much convincing it took? After meeting him, I was attracted by a poster he created that was inspired by Russian avant garde art, and then, I had to be informed by an article in the Tucson Weekly that the events included a classically trained cellist and a cranio sacral therapist, all performing by donation only. What a great deal!

Sahaja Yoga Meditation was like that for me. I found them with google. I could walk to the free weekly meetings in ten minutes’ time. But it wasn’t until my neighbor gave me a newspaper clipping of the writeup in our Weekly paper that I decided to give it a try.

A few minutes on the bike, and up the flight of stairs to the second floor of the Button Factory. A few rows of chairs were put out, and usually a dozen or no more than twenty people were gathered. There was a general structure to the meeting: the poster depicting the chakras and energy channels was hung by a podium. The leader would speak, and instruct the same basic process of raising kundalini, balancing energy with a few simple hand gestures, the efficacy of foot soaking, and a bit of question and answer. A projector was used, and meditation music was played.

A cheerful young man, who was a very well spoken Indian national and an academic (mathematician or physicist), gave the introduction to the practice. Halfway through, he invited another man to speak, whom I gathered was the person that had spoken to the paper for the article I read.

We were instructed to feel for a sensation of a cool breeze on our hand somewhere above our heads. I attended a few sessions that were very structured like this. But then one day, in the absence of the academic, the other man lead the group a very different way. After running through the steps, he indicated that he was throwing caution to the wind by suggesting that we do some energy work on each other. There were young people there, college students I assume, who were ready to jump right in. I had the sense that this group leader knew he was bypassing some rules and limitations that others would have imposed. At the least, I think the instructor could have walked participants through some introductions and procedures for obtaining consent.

But I closed my eyes and sat in my chair while an unknown stranger worked on me. It so happened that it was an Indian man with a very dark complexion, whom I had always noticed sitting silently in the last row. I didn’t realize who it was until probably some time had passed. I felt a great deal of movement of energy, and especially towards the end, the energy coursing out of his palms was like an electric wind. I never saw the academic who first led the group again. And when I tried to attend another time, I strode in for the aftermath of the meeting only to realize that I had not adjusted my clock for daylight savings time.

The more reckless group leader and an older woman with an australian accent were saying that empires were like chakras, and that Great Britain was connected to the heart chakra.

If you were lucky enough to get an OM, it was weak and meek sounding. And I just couldn’t make sense of the conventions in one of the more popular studios, where you were not allowed to make any sounds in the studio. The silence went along with a strict “power down your cell phone” policy. The students routinely entered the hot yoga studio to set up early, positioning their heads towards the front of the room to lie in savasana. This practice, as I understand it, is given to be a sign of respect to the teacher. I learned this at one of my first Buddhist teachings, when a student pointed this out to me. Then I read The Words of My Perfect Teacher, which gives many such instructions for how to conduct a spiritual practice. We must keep our feet tucked in, rather than sitting in a comfortable western position with our feet sticking out. It’s a common practice in Asia, which is sometimes adopted in Western studio

Daily Practice

  1. Diaphragmatic Breathing
    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=DZlZ4MsQQk8
  2. Bhastrika Pranayama, four cycles. I built my practice from a workshop I attended with Jessica Robertson at MODO Yoga Waterloo, Ontario in September, 2019. Watch my favorite youtube video demonstration of a bhastrika pranayama master! However, for less experienced westerners, lie down, use props, and breathe through your mouth if you need to. Do what you feel comfortable with.
    Reclining, on a bolster or pillows if you like,
    Inhale/exhale with lower abdominal muscular contractions: 40 breaths, followed with a deep exhalation, hold for up to 60 seconds–until it becomes a strain to hold the breath out. Then inhale and hold the breath for up to 60 seconds. Breath normally, then repeat. Do four cycles.
  3. My teacher’s suggested quarantine practice (See Chris Coniaris Yoga)
    Makrasana 8-12 breaths
    Sphinx 8-12 breaths
    Seated easy pose Ujayi 1:2 inhale/exhale 8-12 breaths
    Seated Nadi Shodhana 8-12 breaths
  4. Sahaja Yoga Kundalini raising preparation for meditation.

Social Distancing at Cave Creek Ranch

My high school teacher used to enjoy telling us a favorite quip (in a mild Texan accent): “When you assume, you make an ass of u-m-e.” My own limited interactions in these days of social distancing seem to be giving me plenty of examples of this.

This weekend, we are taking a family getaway to a remote birdwatcher’s paradise, which is reopening this weekend. The governor just announced the extension of corona virus restrictions through May 15, and there are currently fourteen known cases in this county. Those of us who practice the social distancing, wearing masks and carrying disinfectants, seem to be in the minority in Tucson. Out here in Portal, Tucson is considered the big city.

There is a thin man who runs this lodge, and he cut a special deal for my husband when he booked the lodge on Friday. We failed to note that the lodge does not welcome pets. There’s one bad assumption.

Our large cottage shares a kitchen with the office of the place, and contains a special sink where hummingbird feeders are cleaned and refilled everyday. The children had been romping, and then we were playing a boisterous game of four-person UNO, with Julia cracking jokes, when the dog woofed at the proprietor, who was doing his feeding duties. I peaked in, where the man uncomfortably stood far to the side, and inquired, “Hello! Are you social distancing?” My way of acknowledging his discomfort, to which he snapped, “We don’t allow pets.” Instant discomfort, and I begin apologizing profusely. There are very tame deer that wander the grounds, and plentiful bird species, it’s really spectacular. So he gives a stern warning, “The dog cannot run off the leash.” Also expressed concern for the cat:
“Oh, we have a cat at home, she’s used to cats.”
“Well, he’s never met a dog.”

The thing I do so well is trying to calm and appease the other person. It wasn’t working.

I returned to the family table, and we all cringed and commented about our error. I recall checking the faces and remarks of the others, trying to align myself with a position that would feel better, letting off steam, and also checking another’s remark or attitude if it might seem too cavalier. I would take responsibility for the dog and for making it work.

I do recall having the insight that this business has gone without income for some time, and blurting out, “He is desperate” when thinking of how we had come into this uncomfortable situation. What obnoxious city people! The Stone Cottage was the perfect, more modest size, and would have offered a private kitchen. What were we doing in this spacious, rambling beautiful ranch house with this odd birdfeeder arrangement?

I was feeling all sorts of uncomfortable feelings, thinking, these animals are so tame, it’s not right. And sure enough, the next morning, the man is working away, flinging birdseed around, filling feeders, lugging the hummingbird feeders, and feeding the herd of local deer also.

His fat tom cat was black and missing an eye.

Our docile family dog, our delightful golden achiever pup, has been with us and closely supervised, mostly kept indoors, and just minimally annoying when she barks for a bit of playtime or a meal.

The kids played in the creek, and really enjoy hunkering down in the luxurious two story ranch.

So coming to the point about the assumptions. I’ll forgo sharing all of the shameful, judgmental chatter that goes through my mind as I check both my own thoughts and actions, and others. But, the next night, Lewis got some new information that made everything seem quite different.

Turns out our host is an animal lover. Consistent with all apparent observations. When Lewis apologized for the mistake of bringing the dog, the man said, “Oh no, I love your dog! You don’t understand, I’ve seen horrible things. The coatis will tear a dog apart, and herds of javalina kill dogs. You’d better carry a big stick with you when you walk around here.”

Lulu and I were a bit antsy, and so we went walking in the late afternoon. We splashed across the creek, past the old outhouse, and to the edge of the grounds where the gate leads to the hiking trail. We ascended the stunning face of the mountain through a variety of desert rock and foliage. It reminded me of the beauty of the Flatirons, but with much fewer people. In fact, this trail seems seldom used. Getting higher, different species of plants appeared. I snipped a few juniper shoots that were growing over the trail, then turned back. By gaining just a bit of altitude, you’re able to view the entire valley opening up to the small cataract at the east side. The dry slopes turn lush, green, and thick in the valley.

Later, Lulu and I left the grounds through the service entrance and walked a little ways down a dirt road. The road passed a house and dead-ended at another house surrounded by a wall, and it all felt deserted. You could hear the occasional car drive over the cattle grates on the main road just beyond the thick brush, over where the power lines were. But the brush was tangled and thick, and I felt fairly terrified as the dusk came on.

Dear Realtor

We’re renting our realtor’s furnished home for six months. She had rented her house out for Gem Show in Feb-Mar, so was willing to work this out for us as well. It’s just perfect, a 3 BR 2 BA ranch brick home just overlooking River Rd. You can’t actually see the road, but you can hear the traffic. We’re located behind the old El Corral steakhouse of Camino Real and Caminito de los Ranchos. I love it here. Somehow we lucked into this stunning spot with about 270 degrees of desert views, all the mountains visible, wildlife, and lovely interior, very suitable for our family and desert living.

That said, Janelle is sending us listings, and Lewis has gone to check out about two of them. We’re not sure what the market is going to do in this pandemic situation, but we have a little time to think about it and not stress.

A listing came up at Milagro Cohousing that we were interested in. Even excited. Our friends lived there, so we know the place well. The homes are beautiful, sustainable, solar powered, situated in a beautiful desert, and it’s an intentional community. Just lovely.

I have friends who bought a house in Golden, CO about a month ago. They did the same as us–leased a house for six months when they moved in January. Though we’d like to quarantine and social distance, people do have to do life.

In Waterloo, we gave notice for the end of March. New tenants were found for April 11. The wife was expecting April 24. And state of emergency started about March 15. There were chains of people affected–they gave notice in their home, were new people moving in there? We asked to push our move back, they agreed to give us a month. We imagined all sorts of scenarios: what if the border closed, what if state borders closed, quarantines could be required across any state line. Lewis’ boss in AZ was encouraging him to get down to AZ, even though everyone’s working from home. You can imagine, we were imagining anything could happen. We could be stuck in Canada for months. And it would be better! Summer, Air BNB, who knows? We weren’t going to Toronto, although we had a small apartment we were told we could use on the West side overlooking the Humber River. No one was inviting us to their home or anywhere else. Would it be possible to see Tobermory? Or would it be better to be close to our family doctor in Waterloo, and familiar surroundings?

To be completely honest, I hated paying rent to our landlords. I wanted to be done with them. But I was terrified of leaving. I felt I needed to do everything–pack the whole house up, pack for thirty days for the four of us and two pets, and keep in mind whatever weather we would be encountering, plus food.

Yes, all that’s behind us now.

In Arizona it’s optional to do social distancing. The governor called hair salons, nail salons and massage essential services at first. You know, you have to touch people when you provide those services. There was quite an outcry. The mayor of Phoenix was passing her own measures. And apparently this state’s rights position of the Republicans is going strong. President and his inept clown task force say whatever they want to say, and pass the blame, pass the buck, and take no position, or a confusing one, contradict, can’t be… I can’t be bothered to talk about that. It’s the governors’ responsibility, and our Cold Stone Creamery budget balancing governor, I’m told, or the legislature gang, were really giving it to the mayors hard, telling them they couldn’t run the show around here. You know Rahm Emmanuel’s book about mayors running the world? Well, no Democrat mayor woman is going to run the show in this God-loving state. Tucson is just a mess, with Raul Grijalva and all.

OK. I had been trying not to pay attention to Arizona until I was a day away. From the Santa Fe hotel room, I saw this alarming news item, and wrote a finger wagging letter to the governor. “You’d better get this social distancing thing right by the time we get there! We learned to do social distancing the right way in Canada, and my husband works for Tech Launch AZ at your school, U of A!” I vowed that I would raise hell and write a letter to the governor everyday. Three weeks later and I have had no response.

Our mandatory fourteen days of self isolation quarantine represented a depressing time of not being able to see friends or go to the grocery store, while coming down from the adrenalin rush of a lifetime. We would wait to see if any of us picked up the virus on the way down from Canada. Fortunately no one did!

We celebrated on Tuesday April 21st, and then kept on with the quarantine.

OK, so Thursday is when Lewis went to view the gorgeous Milagro 4 bedroom. BTW he had designated himself the go-getter. He declared that he needed me to take care of anyone who got sick, so he would do the shopping. Of course, on my first day out of quarantine, I went to Trader Joe’s, and they just do social distancing right, like everything else. It’s so fun to shop there!

Well, here’s the real estate story. Previously, on Friday I got a letter from Janelle with Long Realty masthead stating Covid-19 rules for showing homes. It was quite clear and strong, but I didn’t think it protected agents. There was no mention of wearing masks. What if agents were feeling they had to uphold a sales image or something?

I was going to go view the Milagro home on the following Friday, but instead I wrote this blog:

Dear Realtor:
Please arrange a showing of the property at Milagro Cohousing. Would you mind setting up a time when the owners are not present? Lewis said the woman who was there made a show of holding up her Viennese Carnivale mask, which leaves me to guess that they might not be taking it seriously. Would it be too much to explain our position, since we have been passing through areas where there are higher infection rates and more densely populated areas?
We’re so fortunate to live in a state where it’s dry, sunny, and spacious. We’ve had relatively fewer cases. We are also quite dependent on our cars here. It’s really a privilege to have a car and live here! We happen to be very fortunate to live in an environment that doesn’t encourage the spread of Covid-19 like other places.
I spend a good deal of energy thinking about this since traveling through the height of the pandemic with my children. I was living in a country with coherent centralized leadership that is taking a much more serious, responsible approach when the pandemic reached North America. It’s being shown that countries with centralized response and consistent protocols are keeping numbers down. I suppose pushing social distancing when there is a single payer healthcare system would make good financial sense because the government is financially responsible for the well-being of its people; whereas in our country, people are workers who keep the economy healthy.

A day or two before writing this, I had literally spent the whole day writing a letter to the governor. I struggled to see the point, but I did it anyway.

And, I had some conversations with our realtor to get clear on what’s up with social distancing and these people hanging out in their house during showings. Lewis mentioned they also had a son, about fifteen years old, who was shirtless, in sweatpants, and showed him his room.

Yup, I just wanted to make a point of asking Janelle to ask if they could show the place but go take a walk or something. Let’s just say, I wasn’t feeling it.

Day 15

Today, we celebrate our health. Janelle stopped by today to pick up mail and a few things (we are renting her home for six months), so she has told us it will be 97 degrees on Thursday and boom, we’re done. Indeed, we have had a nice adjustment period and it’s about to get hot.

There was a bit of complaining in the afternoon about the ambient temperature in the dining room. Mm, I suspect bread baking may soon taper off.

The children got online this morning. They’re mostly interested in playing the math game prodigy. I left after giving Julia a lesson on the input/output machine.

It was a long-anticipated return trip to Trader Joe’s. My aunt had given me her notes about all of the grocery options and their protocols for social distancing, with the highest rating for Trader Joe’s, and they did not disappoint. Most of us were wearing masks in the store.

I did enjoy comparing prices and reveling in the delectable availability of choices, although no TP. Social distancing was run like clockwork by the crew, but the parking lot where the line up was starting to form under tents on the western perimeter was bopping with music and cheerful workers, and I savored the sunshine.

Amrita joined us for the celebration in the afternoon, and worked on her Pre-Calc homework. Jack has advanced from Level 47 to Level 55 on Prodigy Math in one day. He’s obsessed with the game, and wants to reach Level 94. He thinks it would go faster if I paid for a membership, and he would get more pets. He tells me, “There’s a lot of things you can do with a membership. A LOT.”

Julia and I worked on Input/Output machines with Prodigy this morning, but she doesn’t have the same kind of drive to reach new levels. She’s hanging out in her bedroom, where the kids have built a new fort for a new week. The fort looks like a spider web around her giant bed, and includes a “kids only” section. She’s able to do “Listening to Reading” on the iPad, and says she is enjoying the old tales. I’ll try to do some sort of analytical writing with her tomorrow. We were able to stream these stories today thanks to the local library and the fact that I found my card, and it still works!

Sugar the cat got out when it was dark out. We watched the RBG movie, which was ultra inspirational. The cat being out is a terrifying notion. Amrita was the hero who spotted her eyes reflecting light under a tree in the yard. Sugar stayed in place and allowed us to rescue her. As we reached the tree, Sugar watched many moths fluttering towards the light. The kids have been using two nets with telescoping handles to catch the many moths that come into the house at night. And, the homeopathic allergy remedy just might negate my reliance on Zyrtec. I’ll be on Day 2 with no Zyrtec tomorrow.