The Sunday review
A Teacher of Tai Chi Chuan reflects upon a lesson
Emerging from the cool interior of the house onto the terrace, I shield my eyes against the brightness, treading carefully on the hot pink surface, carefully, to let my bare feet adjust to the searing heat without burning. I reach the lounge chair opposite Gloria, and sit back. Within a breath or two my muscles relax under the soothing warmth of the afternoon sun, penetrating deeply despite the cooling of a gentle Atlantic breeze.
Gloria semi prone has one long brown leg stretched out, one raised at the knee, her head in shade, eyes closed, and exquisite profile clearly outlined against the azure blue of the sky. Gloria is still…. Everything is still
In the distance, 30, perhaps 40 kilometres away, the furthest mountains are bright jewels, with every tiny detail clearly visible. Brightly jewelled waves topped by a foaming crest of snowy clouds emulating another range of yet larger mountains. In the searing spotlight of the sun, contrasting sharply with the nearer hills in deep purple shadow, a small group of sentinel wind turbines proudly stand to attention, shining like freshly polished teeth. Yet, at this moment, on the nearer mountain range where my friendly local group of sentinels stand guard, or accompany me in patient cloud hands, they are apparently off duty, and totally invisible in the contrasting shadows.
Overhead smaller vapour-ish clouds, nebulous and itinerant skip about the blue, playing in the occasional breeze, as the stand of Eucalyptus across the way sways rhythmically. Their movements larger and longer than the stubby olive trees they so closely match in colour.
I close my eyes and soak in the peace and stillness…slowly the lilting ebb and flow of the breeze rustling through the Eucalyptus, the lazy warmth and freedom from ‘things which must be done’ recalls a summer day on an empty, windswept North Norfolk beach. A few stolen moments spent releasing the demands of three simultaneous careers as the soothing rhythm of waves echoed the ebb and flow of the Dao, reminding me that I am still, and always, a part of nature.
Opening my eyes, for a moment the swaying olive grey of the Eucalyptus has become the swelling and sinking North Sea, prolonging my reverie, until suddenly a bunch of chattering Goldfinch clatter past in their eternal territorial disputes, and beside me, a soft wispy shadow detaches itself from the shade of a rusty upturned wheelbarrow on the tin roof of the shed next door. Seemingly blown by the wind, it drifts to its favourite resting place amongst the upturned tiles and tin, all a familiar soothing terracotta colour and becomes part of them, lizard no longer, simply pattern within colour, safe, still.
Across to the east a charcoal grey column of new smoke gradually becomes a smudge, smeared by the same breeze that rocks the Eucalyptus. Gloria, gently stirring, recalls that yesterday, I described her technique of turning inside a led horse which unexpectedly jumps, spooked by a suddenly glimpsed anything or nothing, as perfect Aikido, it was! The horse becomes the centrifuge around her, she remains, still yet revolving in the centre, a perfect demonstration of not resisting, but merging for yesterdays student. Gloria asks what would be the difference with Tai Chi, would we have let go? No, simply circle and change direction, leading off, exactly as she did. Yesterdays lesson reviewed, we enjoy the sounds of the valley quietly returning to its gentle activity.
I hope your Sunday is enjoyable
Keith has studied the Chinese Internal arts for over 40 years. He lives in England and Portugal with artist, designer and writer Gloria Dean and teaches in Portugal and the UK.