The studios shut down mid-March. In the beginning of April, a couple of friends asked if I’d be willing to guide a socially-distanced outdoor yoga class for them, so I started teaching one or two mornings a week in the park near my house. It was amazing to be together in that way, at that time– such a relief. Outdoor yoga is different. The earth beneath us is uneven, sometimes sloped. There’s noise, wind, sun, rain. One time the park sprinkler system drenched us. Practicing under the canopy of an enormous live oak, I got shat on by a bird.
My friends were generous. Paula, married to a baker, supplied me with an abundance of artisan bread. Giant salty pretzels. An accomplished grill chef, she brought me a jar of smoked olives, a rack of ribs. Clayton gave me a medallion of St. Roch, the patron saint of plagues.
It felt primal, post-capitalist, both medieval and futuristic to be compensated thus. A book of poetry from one friend, a fern from another. Bags of vegetables from Michele’s farm.
Things began to change. Summer came. The world contracted, expanded, contracted, expanded. We kept going. My friends invited other friends. Neighbors noticed us with our mats and asked if they could join our practice. I reached out to a few of my favorite students from the old studio who live nearby, and some of them came too. People traveled, tentative and defiant, and missed a week or month of classes. They brought me back tokens: an ancient fossil from Lake Michigan, a bottle of Colorado wine. Someone got COVID and had to quarantine. Annette quit smoking. Birthdays came and went.
Autumn arrived. Winter looms. The election happened. Andy, who won the position of judge, joined our practice. We’ve gotten into a routine of Mondays early and Thursdays later. People mostly Venmo me cash for the classes for the classes now. I appreciate it very much, almost as much as I appreciate their presence, the opportunity to be together in a safe way, sharing energy, moving energy through our bodies.
I want to remember the charm of the barter. I’ll make a list to help me do that. I’ll forgot something, of that I’m certain, but here’s a stab.
A pedant of St. Roch/a bottle of wine/so many loaves of incredible bread/smoked olives/a rack of rib/giant pretzels/gift card for fancy cheese/Petosky stone/cash paper clipped to a poem/a Pema Chodron book/a hanging plant/a cranial sacral therapy session/a seven-day cleanse/a hakomi-acupuncture session/a gift card for Madewell jeans/a volume of Marie Howe poems/two squares of THC-laced chocolates/a nonfiction book called Why Fish Don’t Exist/tincture for immunity/bags of farm vegetables/a healing energy bracelet/a huge pile of dried sage/ love/ friendship/ money/ gratitude/support/a reason to leave my house/a purpose/companionship/clarity/hope