The first wintry gusts are sweeping down my street. The weatherman’s frenzied exclamations prompted most businesses to close by noon today. The MBTA will stop running at 3:30 pm. The governor has declared a state of emergency; the National Guard has been deployed, all cars must be off the roads by four, and non-essential employees must stay home. I love the term ‘non-essential’, a litmus test of our self-esteem. Who wants to consider themselves superfluous, especially when the going is about to get tough?
How do we prepare for a winter storm? Most locals react by emptying grocery store shelves. Depending on our social-economic proclivities, we can tangle with the police officer directing traffic at Market Basket’s snarled parking lot, stand in register lines five deep as Star Market clerks scan items with their customary lethargy; grab a bunch of the dwindling 19 cent bananas at Trader Joe’s, where more customers only augment the cheerful chaos; or shoulder among the put-out clientele at Whole Foods who simply must have fresh oysters, lemon aioli, and an apricot glazed tort to compensate for the storm’s inconvenience.
Others, prospective recruits for survivalist meet-ups, collect email weather alerts issued by area cities and towns and replay recorded messages from NStar until they have memorized all the 1-800 disaster numbers. They know what to do in event of a power outage or encountering a downed power line. Forget the old fashioned idea notion of having a few candles on hand, these folks review the maintenance instructions of their generators, check fuel and exhaust lines, and make sure they have plenty of gasoline to rev up their snow blower.
As for me, I began considering myself non-essential years ago; I always have work to do but rarely have work that has to be done that day. I don’t go near a grocery store before a storm, which I consider to be nature’s nudge to clear out my freezer. I have a trusty snow shovel and many candles; any storm aid that requires gasoline only squelches the romance.
Last night, I prepared for the storm by attending a reading by Susan Cain, (Quiet) at the Harvard Book Store and then lingering with a friend over an Italian soda at the Algiers Café. This morning I woke early and knowing that, should the storm shut me in for a few days, I will miss yoga more than bananas or oysters or a generator or anything ‘essential’, I decided to do a double.
I have done a handful of back-to-back yoga classes in the past few years; perhaps the only thing better than 90 minutes in the hot room is 180 minutes in the hot room. The first class should be just like any other daily practice, but it is not. Committing to the studio for several hours throws a leisurely cast over the entire experience. I am at greater ease and, as often happens with yoga, the less conscious I am about my practice, the deeper it goes.
The second class is very different. I turn Gumby during the warm-up; already loose from the inside out. During half-moon I am ravenously hungry; I always practice on an empty stomach and haven’t eaten a thing yet. But the hunger dissipates and I appreciate my hollowness when I wrap myself into eagle. I am dizzier than usual, class has a dream-like quality, my limbs so loose they seem disassociated from my body. The sense of order that usually accompanies the Bikram postures evaporates. Everything is more acute the second time around; I bend deeper and stretch further. My mind wanders far afield while I remain hyper-aware of my particular position in each particular moment. Class slips by fast, even as time itself is suspended.
I cycle home as the first fine snow litters the sky. My mind is at ease, my legs spin, my body floats above the pavement. If the storm peters out I will practice again tomorrow. If it turns out to be as ferocious as predicted, I am fully prepared to withstand the blizzard.