Stuart’s and my birthdays, a yoga class, a new green smoothie, and Beautiful Whales

by Rob Tiller

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It was Stuart’s eleventh birthday on Tuesday. This is not ancient, but in dog years it is getting up there. It seems fitting to note that he is still the best little doggie ever. Sure, he’s grayer, but he still loves going on walks and being petted, and gets excited (drools) at meal time. He used to love to play with other dogs, but now, he doesn’t. But he’s very skilled at that greatest of dog skills: figuring out what his humans are feeling and making them feel better. He tolerates Rita, Isabel, and Phoebe (the cats).
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The next day was my own fifty-eighth birthday. I normally keep a low profile on birthdays. It just seems awkward, unfair in a way, to get extra affectionate attention for something that demands no skill beyond bare survival. And as will happen, those birthday numbers have gotten bigger. One of my coping mechanisms is to start thinking in the months running up to, say, the 58th birthday, that I’m about 58. Then when the day arrives, I initially think, good God, I’m 59. Then I realize I’m actually only 58, and feel a little better. I won’t be 59 for another whole year!

I don’t think I’m unusually fearful of death, but I’m still keenly interested in postponing it for as long as possible. Regular readers know that I have an interest in taking care of my physical self in a way that, if I observed it in a person I disliked, I might view as wacky. But if you’re in your later fifties, either you’re fighting the forces of entropy or you’re going downhill. I’m still getting up early almost every day and either going to the gym, swimming, doing a yoga class, seeing a personal trainer, or taking a spin class. And amazingly, I enjoy it! I wish I’d discovered how good it makes me feel when I was in my salad days.

Tuesday morning was my usual day for Early Bird Yoga at 6:30 with Suzanne. One of the things I like about Suzanne’s class is it’s always different, and usually fresh and lively.  Suzanne is inspired by ancient Vedic texts, which are not a particular interest of mine, but I’m glad they inspire her, because she inspires me. Her voice is sweet and low, with a lovely Trinidadian British accent. I just clear out my head, listen and do whatever she says to do. It’s simple, in a way, though not easy.

This week she had us go quickly through a typical flow (planks, chatarangas, cobras, down dogs, warrior ones, steps to the front of the mat, rising up, folds, half lift, fold, repeat, repeat again, etc.), then started throwing in side movements, twists, back bends, leg raises, and a series of one-legged balance poses. Then a few lovely minutes of complete relaxation in savasana. After considerable stress, I felt pleasantly calm at the end, and ready for an active day.

After crossing the street and taking the elevator back home, I made myself my usual weekday breakfast, a green smoothie. Each one is a little different. This one had kale and dandelion greens, a little orange juice and soy milk, a little flaxseed oil, a scoop of Vega One protein shake powder, strawberries, blueberries, and a banana. A little ice for coolness and texture. My restaurant grade blender is still working well, though I wish it were not so noisy. The smoothie was, as usual, dark green. I put it in the refrigerator to chill while I took a hot shower.

Back home after work, Sally gave me a birthday card with a male and female cardinal (birds that have strong couple bonds), and three presents: some workout shorts, a portable scales for luggage, and a book. I appreciated the new shorts and will find the scales useful for avoiding excess luggage fees, but I loved the book: Beautiful Whale, by Bryan Austin. It is an oversize coffee table volume with large photos of humpback, sperm, and other whales. One of my big dreams is to swim with these amazing creatures. The book is about as close to that experience as a book will get. The images are indeed beautiful and moving.