Monday, December 22, 2008

Happy Birthday Chet & a Lily Update

Well, the holidays are almost upon us. The year winds down hopefully with family, cherished friendships, and a renewed commitment to Ueshiba Osensei's Aikido. There are a couple of things I want to share with you. First, tomorrow is Chet Baker's birthday. He was born in Yale, Oklahoma December 23rd, 1929. I recently went online and ordered a copy of the 1988 documentary film(Lets Get Lost by Bruce Weber) which is about Chet's career and immediately on what turned out to be the last year of his life. Juxtaposing the later Chet with clips from his incendiary youth, it is a fascinating film on art, aging, fate. It focuses on his life as an artist. It reveals many sides of a man who was a genius and very complex. At the same time you
can see how intelligent he was and sense the Chet Baker cool. And behind it all there is the spectre of his drug addiction.

A couple of things I didn't know. In addition to being voted the top jazz trumpeter 2 years running in the '50's, he also tied Nat King Cole one year for top male vocalist. According to his mom 2 weeks after taking up the trumpet he was playing "2 O'clock Jump" along with Harry James. So Happy Birthday, Chet.

I also want to give a Lily update. I want to thank all those who have expressed interest in her return. One can only imagine how it was for her to be without shelter and regular food for two and a half months. After I adopted her she took up hunting. I was told that her previous family did not let her out. She is spending a lot of time inside, although she is going out more and more. She is eating a tremendous amount of food. She was very thin and I believe dehydrated when I got her back. So she is so happy to be back, to have her own space, and to have the comforts of regular food and loving attention. I have lost so many friends(cats) over the years that I think it is a miracle that she was able to return. So she is in a sense a Christmas present from the universe.

I put together a video of her. It was shot one morning with a
phone camera as we were both getting up. That background that keeps moving and shifting is my leg under a blanket. The background is a trumpet solo I did in September in Sebastopol. The song is Tenderly, one of my favorite Chet pieces. From my standpoint I was exploring phrasing, shading notes, spacing musical phrases. No background music, just me.

Friday, December 19, 2008

2007 Santa Cruz Retreat DVD

The 2007 Aikido Retreat in Santa Cruz was a momentuous event. It was a chance to co-teach with Anno sensei, one of my teachers from Japan, and with dear friends Linda Holiday sensei and Mary Heiny sensei. At the time it was advertised as Anno sensei's last visit to America, which, unfortunately, remains true at least to this date. And the venue was shifted from its usual location at UC Santa Cruz to the Santa Cruz Civic Auditorium. In addition, it featured a public demonstration with important seminal teachers who started aikido in Santa Cruz, along with instructors participating in the Retreat.

It has always been a moving experience for me to spend time with Anno sensei. Modest, even unassuming, patient, loving, yet at the same time powerful, I feel he is one of those best embodying Osensei's message. In his public demo he went from uke to uke, radiating a blend of grace, explosiveness, and beauty. I had the honor of driving him to and from the venue, and I got to spend private time with him in the instructors' room.

And what can I say about Linda Holiday and Mary Heiny sensei's. They are among the top aikidoists on the planet. They are both dynamic and powerful leaders. It was a privilege to be included with them in the event.

What was my sense of the event. Personally it was a complex and somewhat difficult experience for me. Often times when there is a great gathering of power as there was in this event a lot of stuff may come up. Training is not just about having fun and doing pleasant things(although there was a lot of this, too). It is often about working through parts of oneself that may unexpectedly surface. The art is to some degree designed to be transformative. And often times there is no transformation without a certain amount of tension. Much of this in retrospect was self-induced. But in the end everything has worked out.

One of the wonders of modern technology is that those of you not able to attend or time travel back to the event may get much of what went on by getting the official dvd of the event titled "Aikido no Kokoro". You can cut and paste the following link:

I am including a youtube clip from this video:

Tuesday, December 02, 2008

Lily's Incredible Adventure

Those of you that have gone to the dojo website's dojo friends link know about Tiger. My current companion is a female tortie named Lily. The above photo was taken just after I got her in early 2005. I had at that time a cat named Angel, also a dear friend, who had gone missing. I spent months looking for her by going to animal shelters and checking to see if she had been turned in. On one of those searches I met Lily. I was being guided by various cages with cats. As I passed one a little paw reached out and touched me. I noted that the cats name was Lily. Further searches for Angel proved unsuccessful. Finally I noticed that Lily had been put up for adoption and I adopted her.

Somehow the memory of her reaching out to me(literally) moved me to bring her into my life. I got her on a Friday and then immediately left to go teach in Sebastopol.
Upon returning I found her wheezing and laboring to breathe. I waited for the next day, Sunday, and took her back to the shelter. I was told she probably had a viral infection in her lungs from being exposed to other cats at the shelter. I was given antibiotics to give her. And with the medicine she recovered and was fine.

She had been put up for adoption by the family who had her. This must have been very traumatic for her. It took both of us awhile to warm up to the other. Her age was listed as 3 years, although the dojo vet Ron May-Pumphries(Tiger's vet) later examined her and said she was probably much younger than that when she first came to me. I was told that she was strictly an indoor cat and had never been outside. After a couple of months I slowly introduced her to the outside world(I live in the hills of East San Jose). There is plenty of room for her to safely roam. She became so independent I hardly saw her at times. She learned how to hunt, still came in for food. She would only eat dry cat food. She couldn't be bribed or controlled with soft cat food or people food.

She would generally be outside during warm weather, only coming in for food and/or contact with me. Colder weather she would spend more time with me inside. Every pet has certain unique things you only do with them. Tiger certainly had his with me. With Lily is that we take walks together. Late at night. Where we stay there is a good space to walk late at night. A long stretch of road. Even down and back up a hill. There is little traffic then. And there are street lights. So Lily would walk with me, sometimes even following me up and down the hill. It became "our" thing.

When I would go away for an Aikido event or something like my trip to Europe, I usually had her stay with my friends Michael and Brigitte in the Summit area of the Santa Cruz mountains. In September I spent a week in Sebastopol dojo and house sitting for Betsy Hill. I left Lily with my friends as usual. She went missing a day before I got back. She had a collar with a tag bearing both my phone number and Brigitte and Michaels. Searches proved futile. Visiting animal shelters and looking at photos online were also unproductive.

The most unusual facet of this all was that when I got home I immediately felt her presence. In fact it was as if I could see her. I could point out to you where she was and what she was doing. Often times this is a sign that a being has experienced physical death and crossed over into the realm of spirit. And being spirit she could be anywhere with me at anytime. I slowly got used to the fact that she seemed to be here even if not in a physical body. In the car(I would sometimes take her for rides), visiting friends out of town, she could be with me at any location or during any activity. So I resigned myself to having a "spirit" pet.

Now one thing about this is that beings in spirit usually cross over. They stay around for a bit and then go back into spirit. Most I believe re-incarnate. Some like Tiger remain in the energy yet retain soul awareness. But somehow Lily was different.And she was remaining with me for much longer than the usual time. And of course I would tell her that I missed her physical being and presence.

Well imagine my surprise on Sunday when Brigitte called and told me Lily had returned. She had made her way all the way from their place to down town Los Gatos. She had been eating out of cat food left outside. The people putting out the food for their own cats assumed she belonged to someone in the neighborhood. Then finally they notice she had a collar and tag and called Brigitte's number. So Sunday night I picked her up and took her back home. She has lost a lot of weight. And after being gone 2 and a half months she was constantly by my side, spending Sunday night asleep on my chest. I observed her for a day, noticed she was getting her energy back, and let her outside today.

So what was the explanation for the psychic phenomenon? Can my cat spirit travel? Is this something we can all do? After having reflected on this for a bit, it is a mystery and it is probably best to leave it at that. One possibility, however, is that she and I have a very strong connection. It is possible that something chased her away from Brigitte and Michael's and she got lost. I think she may have decided she was going to go home to where I was. And she must have pursued this with the unbending intent of a true warrior cat. What I was picking up was possibly her onepointed desire to be back with me. And I would treat her spirit or energy self as if it were really her. I would talk to it. Pet it. She loves to lie on her back and let me scratch her tummy and I did all that. I think my responding to her that way gave her the strength to survive and create a way back to me. Or perhaps it was a joint venture.

Anyway, I am very happy she made her way back. Tiger went missing for about a month at the old dojo in Japantown. He was picked up by some people who dropped by Jtown once a month or so to shop. He seemed to be a friendly stray so they took him with them. He was probably about 7 months old. When they came back to shop they saw posters I had put up and called me. So that was Tiger's adventure. But Lily, surviving alone for 2 and a half months, staying connected, and finally making it all the way back is quite a story. Below is a photo I took on Sunday, her first night back. I think that this also validates what Don Juan told Castaneda, that unbending intent alone is not enough, true sorcery has to have yet one more thing in the mix: love.