Purple against green, my yoga mat lays on the forest floor, over roots and dirt, on a slight uphill slant.
My hands raise to a prayer high over my head and above me, a circle of sky through the tops of the trees.
I dive down to the mat, fingertips placed for a moment as my ears hear the bees buzzing happily in the August morning air.
I shift my legs to a wide parallel second and lower down to stretch my back, and gaze at the world upside down.
And take it in, releasing my head, releasing my spine.
Before me the trees, before me the sky, before me the life of the campsite as I flow in my breath, and this dance to waken the body.
Thank goodness. I was starving.
Last week I sat in the company of Tony award winning Broadway and TV/Film actress Joanna Gleason. I was invited to a brunch with her and two other playwrights, and swooned over her stories and beautiful energy.
As she shared her history between writing, acting, singing, and teaching, I asked her which form of creative expression she loved the most. Her face lit up with her quick answer:
With over 20 years of experience, she told us what her first assignment is for her students:
Roasting a chicken.
“Actors today are suffering from sensory deprivation. I give them this simple answer to get them back in touch with their senses. They roast this chicken and come back to the class so alive with so much to talk about. Then we begin working on their songs.”
As my fork dived into crisp pear slices with fresh arugula, I took a moment to take in the taste and texture, remembering how rewarding it was the first time I roasted a chicken, alongside leeks and apples.
The meat fell off the bone, and was a delight. My apartment smelled glorious and I felt some accomplishment in a new area.
I felt I had grown.
At the time, I was also having a blast as dance captain in a new show and loving the experience. I had never considered the correlation.
Joanna shared her inspiration for the Baker’s Wife in Steven Sondheim’s Into The Woods was all on the page. She simply took what was given and used it. This performance garnered her first Tony award, and a long and fruitful career on stage and screen.
But how did she know how to translate the words on the page into such rich acting?
Did this begin with her love of cooking?
Arriving late on Tuesday night, I joined my family vacationing at a campsite over an hour from my alma mater, Penn State. I climbed into bed in the dark, after a long day of travel, including waiting for a bus in the blazing sun on West 34th Street for two hours. I was exhausted, frustrated, and really worried about my skin.
On my feet, arms, and legs, were several raised red large bumps. My purse housed Benadryl and alcohol swabs, in efforts to soothe the itch and discomfort of these incessant bug bites in the late summer humidity.
Constant in the past few weeks, a new bite was arising almost every day or so.
I woke up Wednesday morning to a pretty swollen right foot, while the other bites were starting to go down. My body was really reacting to something.
What was going on?
I’ve always been allergic to mosquito bites, but this has been a throwback to my six year old days in Kansas, with bites as large as my back.
After dousing myself in bug spray, my family and I went out for a hike, and I could feel my shoulders relaxing, as we took in the dam, mountains, and barn swallows swooping over our heads in playful arcs.
Before me the path lined with pine trees, and sunshine shooting through the branches, creating yellow squares and rectangles of warmth as we walked in the canopied shade.
We walked down into a clearing, a valley of green, and all I wanted to do was spin and sing,
The hills are alive….with the sound of music…
We enjoyed grilled chicken for dinner, and I stared deep into the campfire after devouring s’mores, while my nephew serenaded us with his guitar.
My sleep was deep, and my dreams vivid.
Waking on Thursday morning, I allowed extra time to sit in meditation, and then looked at my yoga mat rolled up and decided to give it a go. I’d been given the the green light by my chiropractor, and after two dance classes was feeling my back was ready.
The swelling in my right foot had come down considerably and the former red welts had disappeared on my arms and legs.
I found a spot to roll out the mat and began my practice, loving being outside and feeling the temperate air.
It wasn’t until I was getting dressed for our day that I realized I had been outside on my mat with no bug spray.
I also had no new bites.
My mind returned to the roast chicken and Joanna’s vibrant eyes, talking about how much she loves singing to opera, or writing her screenplay, or watching her students add specific behaviors to their scene work.
Looking around, I knew this was my kitchen here, in the tall pines and rolling hills, and the frustration and block of my travel day felt miles away.
In this space, all I wanted to do was create.
And my body reflected the shift.
Where are you starving?
What feeds your senses?
Where is YOUR Kitchen?