At the Equinox • 24 September 2010

It’s in the 80s and dim, dim, dim. The out-of-doors feels like a cozy basement den—greens flecked with amber, softness at the edges of things, sounds muffled in breeze, grasscovered clay earth in the parks still molding our backs like memoryfoam.

A storm rolled in Tuesday night, flashing so bright it roused the Editor, who stood in the upstairs portico while a wall-of-rain advanced from Manchester. Not a summer storm. It roiled in like one, in rumbling phalanxes, but bottomed out heavy in this depression of land. Sweaters and boots are out, soups, squashes, Netflix. Today’s high of 85 flips tomorrow to 58.

The sun has been gone three days, but the full moon chased off the cloud layer both last night and the night before. And I bet it’ll still be full and magnetic enough to part the cloud-waters for many backyard bonfires tonight. Starting around 6, half the households on the Old West Side will burn a few logs from the birch blight. Most blocks will smell of free range beef char mixed with the sage/pepper/gasoline of our hyperactive skunk troupe. But on Hiscock Street (yes), California transplants naked in the Jacuzzi like no big deal, we’ll see how far we can disperse the scent of seared homemade marshmallow.

Wednesday in pitch dark at 6 am, I drove out to Tim’s for practice. Here, 7 minutes—a long commute— takes me from our house two blocks off Main to his sleek, silent, high modern enclave above the racket club. The yoga room is warm and protected, its basement porch opening down in to a wooded ravine. We morning visitors slip out past the Italian hanging staircase and a bathroom redone to match a Tokyo luxury hotel—I’d sooner escape there than Tulum.

There’s a winding route back to the University, through the most understated sublimity—a hilly, wooded neighborhood of gorgeous moderns. Clean lines, heavy materials, deliberate shapes nestled away so as to relate with whatever particular pocket or rise in the land. Houses like advanced practice: so much more interested in the alchemy (or serenity) inside than in being something for others. Or like icebergs, I guess. I put the Honda in neutral and drifted down through them, not really believing the perfection of walkways that disappear on the way to imagined entrances, a Japanese maple set just so against the edge of a roof layered over a hollow. I was so excited that I shouted, but my voice died out like it would on the other side of the wardrobe. How exhilarating to be disregarded by art, when art has its own terms of intimacy and optimality.

Los Angeles does most things very well, but Brentwood’s mansions are all curb appeal: themed Victorians, Tudors, Tuscans and a few Gehrys filed in identical lots, on runways marked in palm pillars. As a neighborhood, it’s postmodern, like other bad decisions of the 90s. The few homes that succeed are the minimal, open moderns built in the 60s or as if. We used to say that my brother’s favorite one, at the corner of 17th and San Vicente, felt like a bunker.

Back here, there’s a Frank Lloyd Wright made of all octagons, terraced and cantilevered in to a corner of the modernist Ann Arbor woods. Legend says its pattern repeats all the way in: even the counters and beds are five-sided. A San Francisco yoga teacher recently bought the place to host private retreats; and otherwise she rents it out for the same.

Hmmm. But also, we have what we need: a seedy space above the co-op grocery, with a grid of dark-wood guidelines laid in to grippy, forgiving floors. A dozen of us, now, pitch in for nominal rent and community practice brings together grad students, professors, a Move On organizer, a carpenter, a nurse, a retired GM engineer, a massage therapist, a Toyota design mastermind, sometimes a moonlighting Iyengi. There are a few new people among us, learning the series privately from me; but mostly mature practitioners in the lineage of Barb Linderman. In other words, these ashtangis—6 am practitionerns in their 50s, 60s and, next month, 70s—are one teacher removed from from Krishnamacharya. It took me a while to feel the depth of the practice roots in this town: secure, don’t care if you know it, not advertised, non-commodified, made for life.

Stuff for later, if remembered: ashtanga’s Northern tendency, a massive ventilation system, people of Toronto, white spider and the root in the basement, parkour (yes), running a nimitta through the med-school’s measuring devices, how Iyengar turns ears inside, Owl Whisperer’s comfort with chaos, learning to belly-breathe and ashtanga’s weird block at the solar plexus, firefly sex as it relates to canoe travel, how the second chakra mirrors the occiput, more about funnels, the dark quarter.