Lengthening Shadows


I lit two candles with the wooden matches from the cigar shop. Even with the fog veiled moon hanging over the hill glowing through the windows, the room was dim. It would take a few weeks after daylight savings time to get decent light into my attic again. Two more candles helped.

A few stretches and a (premature) sun salutation and I was ready to begin my tai chi practice. There was no clock but I knew what time I climbed the bare wooden steps. I would have fifty minutes to do my forms-including the sword and cane which had recently been added.

The last conscious thought I had was the word “now…” trailing off to silence swallowed by a deep emptying exhale. As far as I could tell, the first-the short-form went well. It was my strongest having known it the longest. Sometimes, with my mind unavailable to keep track, my body would lose its place and I’d run over the same section again and again like a record needle stuck in a groove. That didn’t happen this morning. As far as I could tell.

In the space between the long form and the sword-when I had to break to pick up and unsheathe the weapon-I felt a little winded. Which was typically not the case in my tai chi practice. This was measured, deliberate, contemplative movement. If I wanted “winded” I go back to sparring or the bag.

My mind wandered to the book I was reading. Haruki Murakami’s writing is to be lingered over. It doesn’t come to you in the words-but in the spaces between. I think there is a notation in music that means “pause” or “breathe”. I can’t guarantee that because the only music class I ever had was in the fifth grade and barely remember. But pauses are as important as anything else. To make space. To allow for slow, total absorption. Lately I’ve been reading too fast; feeling my eyes flowing down the page, running like raindrops down a windshield.

Slow down. Outside the moon was dipping below the front hill but the morning was brightening as the sun rose over the tree line in back. Slow down…even saying it made my heart beat a little faster. Maybe I should masturbate, I said, startled to hear my voice. Living alone I found it sometimes difficult to separate thoughts from words and am surprised when the room echoes to silence after a thought.

I find self-gratification an excellent soporific-not as long lasting as Xanax or some other big-pharma concoction but on the plus side, doesn’t make me crave cold Chardonnay after an hour.

Downstairs the clock told me that all four forms had taken less than forty minutes. Was I running? I made a cup of strong coffee and sat in a chair in the dim house facing away from the sunrise.

“Are you going to work today?” my father asked from the next room.

“Go away”, I ordered. “No ghosts this morning.”

The shadows lengthened.