I finally started aikido last week, on Thursday. I had a blast, especially getting thrown by the advanced students toward the end of class.

This isn't quite as strange as it sounds. Everyone except the teacher spends as much time in aikido practicing ukemi, getting thrown, as they do practicing the throwing (the Japanese term for which now escapes me). And the way you get thrown in aikido is by executing special falls and rolls that dissipate the energy so you don't get hurt. I learned the forward roll on Thursday, and I was so happy to not be banging my brain around in my skull any more, and I wanted to practice it, that I put myself in for many minutes of constantly attacking advanced students and being tossed past them onto the floor. (My problem with these things is that I habitually don't curve my back enough, so instead of rolling there's a bit of a fall, all two or three feet of my torso crashing down; in a forward roll this thunks the base of my spine, and a backward roll thunks the base of my neck. Both send shock waves that rattle my brain more than just hitting my head would, and after four bad rolls I did have a bit of a headache.)

There are lessons to be learned in the fact that falling down is a constructive activity if performed properly so that the energy is redirected for another use. Not just motivational speaking, either: aikido embodies a lot of deep principles of Zen, things like wu wei/action-nonaction, the idea of unity between you and whoever is in front of you, and others whose names I forget. Things that I fall into easily.

And fall out of. Any understanding of these things does not imply sainthood, or even necessarily respect and common courtesy.

On the bright side, I'm sober tonight. Aikido class tomorrow, and I figure it's a good thing to clear my head now and again.

I've been burning incense in a bowl of sand for years now. It's the cleanest mechanism to make sure you catch the ash, I think. I've had a couple of different bowls to do it in, but the sand and ash always got messed up whenever I moved, which was once or twice a year through the dorms at Skidmore. Now, I've been living in this room for three solid years, and my incense bowl is aromatic and filled with stubs of incense sticks, and long rods of ash that fell off all in one piece.

I am not all in one piece. I can feel that as clearly as I can feel anything, although it doesn't entirely make sense to me. That's okay. It's a start.