Where in world...?

An old friend phoned the other day. He never phones. But this time he just had to know: "What are you doing living in Florence?"
He thought I was in Florence, Italy. I told him it was Florence, Massachusetts.
Here are some answers -- my occasional wanderings through Florence, MA and the surrounding Pioneer Valley.

Monday, January 30, 2012

Yoga Sanctuary at Mid-Winter

We're supposed to be in the depths of winter, though we are lucky enough not to have the piles of snow that we had last year. The days aren't always sunny, and the warm air has yet to really settle down with us again. These are the days that create Vitamin D deficiencies in New Englanders. Luckily Florentina has a safe haven that has a kind of sunniness that warms up everything for the rest of the day. For the last six months or so, Yoga Sanctuary on the top floor of Thorne's Marketplace on Main Street, Northampton, has been this place for Florentina. 

Before moving to Florence, Florentina's yoga practice had fallen off. That's about five years of no yoga, after a number of years where yoga and long-distance biking had been really central to what made the world work. Now we're getting back to where mind and body are working together again in a great space with great teachers (such as Anna and Brandt) and classmates. This is where Florentina met her yoga buddy, Jeff, and through him, her sushi buddy, Lori.

Thorne's Marketplace.
First hour of parking is free.
A class in the big studio, painted with the colors of a mango.
(from Yoga Sanctuary's Facebook Page)
There is no photo available to show you how the individuals doing downward dog in the photo above would be facing a gigantic window looking across the street to old brick buildings and blue sky. In fact, this window is sometimes too bright during practice, threatening to blind Florentina while doing tree pose. 

Anusara yoga is the style practiced and promoted at Yoga Sanctuary. Its continual interest in alignment comes out in many ways. During the poses, physical alignment of body parts, muscles, and other anatomical details, receives detailed descriptions such that it's often incredible how much the teachers know about the body and its ability to make small adjustments with ease. There is also a kind of emotional alignment that happens, too, as practice causes the body work with the heart, and whatever is going on inside, so that those things can start to get sorted out. Bad habits of physical and emotional posture are involved every time.

The winter will be made shorter now that we are in possession of the Shri Card from Yoga Sanctuary. It's a swipe card that allows Florentina unlimited yoga for $99 per month. This could pay off; this summer it was possible to hit eight classes in a month's time, and that wasn't even a serious effort. 

Tuesday, January 17, 2012

The Snowy Path Less Taken

The covered bridge where all bicyclists
must dismount and Yaktrax are attached to boots.  
It's a moody day today, after a small snowfall last night.We have had two small snowfalls in the past week, and the inches of white stuff are adding up slowly, with an icy crust between some of them. (Think of Morbier cheese, with that layer of grapeleaf ash between the morning milk and the evening milk.) Today it was not only snowy but actually warm enough to take a long walk with the dog. Joey's dad and I took Joey out to Look Park where it appeared that few dogwalkers had made their appearance this morning. This is a popular spot for dogwalking and dogwatching, where you can make lots of new friends very quickly if you're a dog. Because I didn't quite trust the paved surfaces this morning, I tried to walk exclusively on the snowy sections. This proved quite easy, as I just followed Joey and his dad in the snow. Along the way I could see where the squirrels and rabbits had already tracked through the snow earlier in the morning.
The field was a huge sheet of untouched snow.
This photo is not upside down.

I was bundled up quite well, and even well padded because of my new red parka from Land's End. After many years of living in Wisconsin, I still love walking in the snow. But after slipping once, it was declared imperative to put on my Yaktrax. At the covered bridge we found a dry space where Joey's dad helped me pull them onto my winter boots, which already had very deep treads. But ice is nobody's friend, so it's always better to get some traction whenever possible, especially when the temperature is just warm enough to create a little melting of snow and ice. While this temperature is great if you want to get some ice skating practice, it's not so wonderful if you're just out for a walk. Here is a photo of my boots post-Yaktrax. 

Thursday, January 5, 2012

Florentina, Flu Fighter and Knitter

Hi everyone, happy new year! Sorry I've been away, but there's a good reason. I hope you all were at least conscious for the holidays, as I was barely aware of them passing by. The flu had me in its grip, and just when it seemed to be loosening its hold, a ferocious sinus infection came along, happy to take advantage of an extra-lowered immune system. A round of antibiotics and some cough syrup laced with codeine help in these cases. Even with their help I'm only just coming back to the world. There are a number of things that I honestly don't remember from the last month because I was so ill and out of it. Even the fact it is a new year seems weird to me, as I didn't go through the normal passage of time, it seems. If we can count the passage of time in terms of boxes of Kleenex, then I might be better suited to recognize it's the new year.

A big part of bringing me back to the world has been my old hobby, knitting. I have been knitting since I was a little girl, and I don't even remember when I first learned it. All I know is that I practiced the two stitches for a long time, and put it away for years. In 2005, I came back to it again as a stress relief, and learned how to put a sweater together. Now I try to produce a sweater, a scarf, or a hat from time to time, so if you're in the market for a knitted item, let me know. I always wish I could be knitting for someone else, as I can't envision making all those knitted things for myself and filling a closet full of them --it seems a bit selfish. During my illness, I've been working on a couple of hats, and it's kept my brain functioning at some vaguely decent level.

Don't be fooled. It's a yarn paradise inside.
Northampton is a knitter's mecca in the Northeast because of Webs, America's Yarn Store. It's located in an unassuming place near the highway, and doesn't look like much from the outside, as seen on the left.

But when a knitter walks in the door, the yarn craziness descends. It's an explosion of color, which is especially welcome in the New England winter, and the salespeople are really very friendly. Unfortunately the lovely photo below doesn't show any of the salespeople who are always available to talk about yarn and knitting, as well as other related fiber crafts (weaving, spinning, crocheting, for example). I was greeted so nicely when I walked through the door yesterday, on my first day of decent health in about three weeks.
View from seating area (for non-yarn folks and dogs).

The yarn craziness usually pulls me into the warehouse in the back where bargains abound. Luckily I usually go into Webs with a specific project or need in hand, so I'm buying only enough to do that work. Otherwise I would be in really huge trouble in the warehouse (photo below), where some of the nicest yarns are sometimes discounted. Savvy shoppers keep their eyes on their twitter feed or their blog for more specials.
Hard core yarnage here. I have been known to lose it here.

A number of years ago, Florentina took her mom to a yarn store in Connecticut. This part of Connecticut where Florentina's mom still lives is rather wealthy, and the yarn store had her fuming. If you added up the cost of those fancy yarns, and the emotional cost of having to sit there with leisured women who don't have to work and stress out about their leisure time, a sweater would cost well over $200.00. Webs presents the sane alternative for a hobby that was originally meant to help cut costs, at least in my family. These days it also provides some comfort, as I can go in there with places where I'm stuck with my knitting, or just need to talk to someone about our love of knitting. I'm scheduled to take a class in sock knitting in April, and I can't wait!