It used to be that I'd be winding down this time of year, creatively speaking. I used to not be able to write anything during the summer, because I've always done my best work after dark, and dark doesn't come until bedtime in the warm months of the year. And sewing? Who wants a lapful of silk when it's 90 degrees and humid enough to snorkel?
Anyway, something seems different this spring. Maybe because I'm planting stuff. Maybe because I'm not beating myself up trying to get ready for a Con over Memorial Day weekend.
It's funny how outside influences can spark motivation. For instance, my kung fu teacher is temporarily out of work--they closed the store where he worked, so he's raking in severence pay, making up forms, completing articles he started writing two years ago, and leaning on all of us to start a school in his name. His excitement is contagious. I've been trading time-favors with him: I house-sit for them when they go on vacation, which they will probably do in the early summer, and in return he's giving me private sword lessons.
Learning a new tai chi form uses ALL of your brain--hand-eye coordination, pattern recognition, spacial relations, sequential memory. Nothing else I have ever done makes me feel so smart. And for me, at least, it's very stimulating. It makes me feel confident, because I can do it, and it forces me to stop several times a day and rehearse what I learned, because even I am not so perfect that I can pick up a sequence of moves after one repetition and remember it for a whole week, without rehearsal. I also feel a little smug, because this form is HARD. Sit says it's the most complex of all the major tai chi styles' sword forms. It's long, and it's complicated, and learning it now I can tell how far I've come, both in my abilities as a student and in my personal growth.
See, Sit tried to teach the class this form about five years ago. I was only coming to Sunday class sporadically at that point; I couldn't afford to take all three classes each week, and I think I was working part-time on Sundays that year. And that sword form intimidated the heck out of me. It does everyone. I think only the SP and one other guy learned it all the way through that year.
I'm not afraid of it anymore. I can't really say why, except I'm in a place now where I don't really have to worry about anything. Sit doesn't intimidate me the way he used to, the other guys in class don't intimidate me the way they used to, I don't have the stresses at home to distract me or the money strain to keep me away.
And frankly, I like learning the form by myself. It forces me to rely on myself, and I can go at my pace--I don't have to worry about lagging behind that guy or being held back for my remedial classmates. Sit gives me more details when it's just me, and I can ask questions.
Don't get me wrong--I'd have to work my butt off to be really good at this sword form. Most of it is physically easy for me, because I'm lean and limber, but there are nuances upon nuances, motions and gestures that do not come up in everyday life, and four butterfly jump-kicks that Sit basically told me I'd have to teach myself. They look similar to this, except you do them with a sword in your hand.
I think I can do it. I found some excercises to practice, which are easy in themselves. One of my kung-fu brothers took gymnastics and he says he can help. It gives me something to work on and work for. For years I've wished I could do that kick, and I think this year I'm going to figure it out. But the important thing is that I have learned the form. I can perform it, I can remember it, I can pass it on. It feels good to be entrusted with that kind of legacy.
Ironically, learning this sword form has taken up relatively little of my time this month (maybe 90 minutes a week), but the mind-expanding benefits of it are far-reaching. I've been making a Harley costume on order, and the customer asked me to make some minor changes, which were no big deal, but they turned out so great I sat back and thought, "Huh, my kungfu's pretty good!" I then promptly started brainstorming other patterns/designs I could make up, document, and sell--a Batgirl cowl, for example, and a Wonder Woman bustier.
Why? Because I can. And I want to see how I would. Hey, I've built corsets and top hats. Doing superheroes is merely a matter of changing the curves.
But that's all hypothetical. I could do those in slow steps, over many weekends--in-between watching my tomatoes growing, and practicing sword in the backyard.