I can’t wait till I get home, fall in love again, practice some yoga and have some fun.
Every day I drive three hours to and from the community college where I teach painting. With Texas temperatures usually in the three digits, the albums on my summer playlist help me survive the heat radiating from the pavement and the foolish motorists around me. The highlights this year are songs from an album titled “Stephanie and the James” by one of my favorite yoga teachers and her husband. Stephanie Carter sings, plays the sitar, Hammond organ, guitar and ukulele. Her husband, James Carter, writes all their lyrics and tools around on the drums, base and everything else. He is an intelligent storyteller and they make a great team.
The album cover sets the tone for my drive: a light and summery photograph of a blouse with a print of birds on the wing, hung off a line against a blue sky with poufy white clouds.
In the first ten minutes of my commute, I hug the concrete barriers of a cloverleaf intersection like a luge and get squeezed between eighteen wheelers. I start up the music from my iPod. The highway is being resurfaced and the tires of my banged up Toyota rolling over wash-boarded asphalt shake my teeth dampening my listening pleasure. I crank up the volume of my number one favorite song this summer, “Hanuman,” in which the female protagonist wakes up next to a monkey. The road surface smooths out and permits me to enjoy how the song begins, all bright and fizzy.
The singer finds herself with Hanuman by her side, ready to go off on wild adventures. I pretend I am off with them-that it is not Monday any more, I do not have to teach this week. The bad yogini that I am, I escape the present moment because “Hanuman” provides a much better alternative.
As the great monkey prepares to take his famous leap, the music swells to an energetic rhythm a-la James Bond, thus juxtaposing the ancient simian daredevil with a contemporary action hero. I start to imagine Hanuman in wild car chases, surrounded by beautiful women, leaping through fire balls, triggering his newest gadget. The lovely Gayatri mantra is sung beautifully towards the end, a soothing refuge after wild behavior.
I travel pass more construction. Lanes have been rerouted and temporary lines in the road force me to curve causing the car to bounce over ruts where the old lines were gouged out. One tire sticks in the rut, the car lurches over to one side but ahh…the Gayatri mantra again! “Hanuman” makes me feel like I am deliciously far away instead of in this hell car. I am unable to curse while soaking in Om Bur Bu Vaha Shivaya.
Having endured another long teaching day, I climb back into my overworked Toyota. On the way home I swing onto the interstate, directly into heavy traffic. The 104° is defeating my car’s A/C. But these beastly road hazards are no match for the upbeat tunes of “Any Time is a Good Time (for love),” which makes this icky stuff bearable. Optimistic, the song encourages the listener to grab love with both hands when it is offered. Never turn it down.
To the twang of a funky ukulele I hear “Falling in Love,”which seems to be what the protagonist of these lyrics does best. How fun is that?! She is not equally skilled, however, at staying in love and ditches her boyfriends. I am really good at falling in love too, just haven’t done it in a while since I have a husband. Note to self: fall in love all over again the next time he kisses me. My face is smiling at the thought. I am totally fine with the world.
Stephanie’s easy breezy voice elevates my happy quotient. The jerk creeping into my lane doesn’t even get a rise out of me. I’m listening to “Weekends to Monday,” in which a serious daydreamer drifts a thousand miles away just as I drift into the right lane. Note to self: daydream later in my hammock with a cold beer and a lime. In this song, “weekends turn into Mondays much too soon.” Isn’t that so true?
In the real world, traffic is slowing down to a painful creep. In the song, however, time is still flying by; mornings only last till noon. The Hammond organ interrupts the lyrics with a melody that swings playfully back and forth. You can hear their dog howl with pleasure at the end!
My drive is less than playful. Three miles and twenty minutes later, I wonder if there has been an accident or if there is more construction. What will I get to see? It turns out to be a bunch of rubber-neckers and a tiny hatchback with a flat tire. As I accelerate, finally, my mind slips into the story of the next song: “I Don’t Want to Say I’m Sorry.”
In this song the protagonist prefers to lie, even blame someone else. The music starts with a gently strummed guitar but as turmoil sets in, the vocals raise the tune to a higher, tighter pitch. The dissonant notes of the sitar vibrate in the air for a long time, increasing the sense of unease. I can relate.
I marvel at Stephanie and the James’ ability to communicate the complex fears of speaking truthfully so spot on. Summer for them is not all bright skies and lovely blouses. They do not disregard the thunderhead clouds which can build up unexpectedly and rain on us all. I feel understood. They too must surely get stuck in long hauls on the interstate.
I drive by the large ugly Taco Bell/Kentucky Fried Chicken sign which lets me know my exit is next, at last! Stephanie and the James have kept me in a good mood. I can’t wait till I get home, fall in love again, practice some yoga, and have some fun.
I swing off I-35 and slow down to 45 mph. I decompress to “Para Amor” in which Stephanie bops on about beautiful mornings which promise the magical mysteries of love and James riffs on the drums. Woot! I turn the volume up, blast the air conditioning and smile.
Victoria Suescum is a yoga-loving painter. Her artwork has been exhibited at the Biennale’s of Venice, Cuenca and Panama among others. You can see examples of her work at www.victoriasuescum.com. Victoria hosts a FB group called Yoga Kitchen, a spot where members post pictures of their latest attempts at healthy eating and support ethical living. If you want to join, message her on FB. Exciting news which currently makes her smile include: balancing in handstand for a split second, her parrot, getting ready to paint in the brand new beautiful studio which she and her husband built themselves, friends, a new 4×9′ box of dirt for planting juicing stuff, and fun that is funny.
Editor: Sarah Winner