September 6, 2013

Roots Remembered: Red Neck Yogini.

“You know you’re a Red Neck when…”

This humor was an integral part of my childhood, and I relate to those sentiments. I’ve witnessed gardens growing under the hoods of broken down cars, and have seen my fair share of buckets catching water from a leaking ceiling, and I’d be lying if I said I’ve never seen chicken wire used as a fence, where there were no chickens.

I’ve seen Jim Beam bottles stacked for target practice. “You know you’re a Red Neck when…,” a cousin hits on you at a wedding reception, or in my case, a family reunion.

And yet, every summer I join an esteemed batch of writers for a prestigious study-abroad writing program. Some have earned Pulitzer Prizes, others National Book Awards, McArthur “Genius” Awards and other such accolades I have no clue about; I only know that those folks write good stuff and have been given highfalutin awards for their work.

Then there’s me, the Red Neck Yogini, who never felt such shame that she would cut her roots, or try to hide them as though they never existed, and as my Mom, sometimes Mama, and, more recently,  OM (the source of all creation) has said, “Never forget your roots and you’ll fly with your wings.”

So now I pay tribute to those roots, and fondly remember the days when I scraped the butts of lightning bugs onto sidewalks. I’d press their tiny behinds into the concrete and write my name, wanting to see, “Krista,” all lit up on those summer nights, with no thought of ahimsa, or non-violence, as taught in the Eight Limbs of Yoga, codified by the great sage Patanjali five-thousand-some-odd years ago.

Now, I’d never think of capturing bugs and stealing their flaming rumps (asteya, non-stealing, another moral precept defined in the Eight Limbs). The lights out of the bug’s body never belonged to me, but then I didn’t know about yoga, even though I sang that 70s tune every time it came onto the radio.

I sang the word not knowing its meaning, much like the lines I learned from William Blake’s poems in grad school. “If you’re not into yoga, and you have half a brain… If you like makin’ love at midnight…,” I’d sing that song as we jumped off of Big Rock in Cherokee Park. I’d sing it even though I’d never had a Pina Colada.

Marijuana plants grew from the cracks of that gigantic boulder, the same one my great-grand parents had jumped from as children, into the same muddy creek to cool off on humid Kentucky summer days.

None of us had pools, so we snuck into pools, especially the one at E.P. Tom Sawyer State Park, named for a relative of the famous Kentuckian Diane Sawyer. We’d lick our hands and press the rich kids hands onto ours, to imprint their hands’ stamp onto our little pool craving ones. Didn’t think of non-stealing, or asteya, (“a stay away from my stuff,” was the way we remembered it in my first yoga teacher training).

In Kentucky, surviving as a poor red neck meant stealing our way into the public pools. Doing so was more glamorous than jumping off the same rock my great-grand parents, grand parents, and Mom had leaped from every summer 

Non-violence, non-stealing, truthfulness, conserving sacred energy (not sleeping around with every “Tom, Dick, and Harry,” as my Mom-Mama- Om would say: I had that one covered, being raised Catholic and all,) and then non-possessiveness, or non-hoarding, are the first of the five limbs of the yamas, or moral precepts of the Eight Limbs of Yoga.

As I look back, my life was filled with killing lightning bugs every summer for their taillights. I was untruthful in that I lied to my Mom about how I was “gettin’ in,” to E.P. Tom Sawyer. She never would’ve let me go had she known I was sneaking in by lickin’ my sweaty hand so a more affluent kid who paid his/her way in could press their stamped hand onto mine. The only hoarding I did was coveting. And this is one I am still guilty of, as I rub shoulders with all those esteemed writers every summer in Prague, with their numerous published books, not just mere articles like I’ve written.

Heck, as a Red Neck Yogini, I am tickled pink by having a regular place to share my heart and hopefully touching another along the way, but I do find my Ego self coming in, coveting, wanting to possess their clout, their skill to publish books and have people come to sign them, to hear them read their own words to a captivated audience, listening in awe of their accomplishments; but that’s not me, I’m simple.

I remember these roots of mine.

I come from the salt of the earth as some call it, but I don’t know if that’s true or not; what I know is that my “real,” father, not to be confused with my beloved step-father, died in a trailer park, then was buried next to a ditch on a street called Dixie Highway. He wore a Louisville Cardinals ball cap and t-shirt in his casket, a casket my six siblings and I had to pay for even though he was a deadbeat dad who gleefully gave up all parental rights when I was too young to know his middle name. To this day, he has no marker on his grave. There’s been talk of “pitching in” for it, and I’m sure I should be a good daughter and pay it forward, but this time I’m practicing contentment, santosha, as Patanjali called it. I’m content with having helped paid for the casket of a man who chose not to help raise me, for the man who helped to create me, and later, the same man who compelled me to identify as a Red Neck Yogini. 

So where are you my Red Neck Yogini Sisters? I see plenty of the Lululemon sporting gals able to buy their matching Lululemon mats and clothing, but what about you, my salt of the earth, sweaty yogini’s with similar stories as mine. I want to see you in yoga classes, too, because by gosh, by golly, as my Mama says, we deserve a little peace, too.

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Ed: Sara Crolick

{photo: via The Knowles Gallery}

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