Pro-Aging

BIG NEWS. We’re all getting older every day. We will never be as young as we were yesterday. Our bodies are changing shape and form and biologically speaking, are on the decline from the moment we are born.

This is not to depress or to ignite anxiety, but rather an honest assessment of the physical reality that our bodies, these beautiful vessels, are in a constant state of change. Expanding, shrinking, strengthening, weakening. Yet there is an active attempt to thwart this organic process, to reverse the effects of growing older, basically to slap mother nature in the face.

Isn’t it a curious phenomenon that we have culturally decided that getting older is something abhorrent and that beauty is most pervasive in our earlier years. We’ve drawn a line in the sand and once we cross, we no longer fit the standard make and model of attraction. And yet, the years of plumped skin and agile body are intended for cultivating experiences so that we have a surplus of wisdom and a deep capacity to love that we can then share with the world as we grow older. To try to freeze this process of development, of mental, emotional, and spiritual progression, is to deny ourselves the enjoyment of the aging process. Why must we make wrinkles and silver hair akin to disease when these are but the shadows of stories? How saturated our bodies become with the narratives of our experience, that to attempt to combat seems absurd.

Our aging process is reflected by our journey during yoga practice. We begin slowly, in a state of stillness, breathing intentionally at the start. We move through the childhood and teenage years of the practice, generating heat and power as we move. We find a peak pose, the point of practice where our bodies are most open and primed for maximum intensity. From this point, the latter part of our lives, we begin to settle body back down, finding our way back lower to the ground to prepare ourselves for the ultimate treasure of yoga: an open body and receptive mind ready for meditation. When we reach the close of practice, when we enter into our golden years, we are finally ready after much physical preparation and discipline to receive the benefits of that experience. To sit and to revel in all the effort we have given, connected to something greater than the self, something that surpasses physicality.

The inevitable experience of growing older is not villainous, but rather magical. Instead of anti-aging creams and wrinkle reducers, we can stand in reverence of eyes that crinkle from the weight of all they have seen and all that they know. Let’s start a cultural shift in perspective. Let’s revere those who’ve weathered time, life, love, and loss to stand with us and share experience.

So, let’s make the effort to reach out to someone whose weathered time and experience and let them know the impact they have had on. Perhaps it is an older relative, a neighbor, the man from the grocery store, or a stranger that chances to sit down next to you on the subway. Whomever it is, let’s them know that their story is treasured, that he/she is revered for their experience. Let’s begin the pro-aging revolution.

Mental Green Juice

Detox is a buzz word. So is cleansing, eliminating, reducing. All of these words that connote an idea of letting go of those things that are not serving us. Most often these words find themselves on labels of cold-pressed juices, highlighted on weight-loss blogs, and spanning the cover of popular health magazines. Detox diets is one of the most popular searches on Google in the past two years. All the attention does not come without reason, for ridding the body of toxins is a practice that when done healthfully can have myriad benefits for one’s overall health.

What a lot of popular product, professionals and media outlets fail to discuss is the importance of detoxing the other invisible bodies within which we operate. As much as it is important to rid the digestive tract of harmful bacteria and lingering gunk, it is essential for us to put into practice routine mind and soul maintenance. A diet for our mental and emotional states, a cleansing for the interior subtle self. It is the chattering mind and overstimulated nervous system that are in need of some tender love and care.

We do not realize it, but the unconscious mind is constantly analyzing, absorbing, calculating, producing, and reacting to the world around us. We are sponges that take in energy and information and either turn it into something we use or pile it up to be used at another point in time. Even if we consider ourselves extreme optimists, it is part of being human that we experience negatively, guilt, shame, doubt, pain, and suffering and such emotions have lasting effects. Just as it is wise to transition our bodies from season to season through cleansing, so too is it advised to hit the reset button (the one next to the preferred snooze button) to wipe the slate clean and make room for those thoughts and feelings that are substantial, that serve us and enhance reality rather than detract from self-image and experience.

Luckily detoxing the mind does not require a membership to a boutique fitness studio or a stamp card at the latest juicery rather it is a simple matter of gaining awareness and developing our ability to listen. We start to observe the ways in which we talk to ourselves and the quality of our thoughts. When we notice the negative self-talk and overactive judgmental voice, we can work to counter it with positive affirmations.

Creating space between ourselves and our experiences allows us the distance needed to choose how we respond to a situation. Instead of reacting with fits of emotion or rash actions, we acknowledge the way something affects us, and then decide how we want to move forward. By infusing mindfulness into our actions, we become the pilots of our experience rather than passengers carried along via emotional streams. It’s the pause and reflect before the acting that releases a dependence on initial emotional responses that come from a place not indicative of our highest self.

Meditation practice is certainly a way to detox the mind. For those that are daunted by the idea of sitting meditation, take comfort in the truth that meditation can be done anywhere at anytime. It is simply a quieting of the mind and an intent focus. We concentrate on one point, one thought, and let the everything else in the mind clear away. Meditation can be done walking, commuting, waiting in line, a few moments before eating, laying in bed, or virtually anywhere else. If you can pause for one minute or longer and pay attention to your breath — watch the inhales and the exhales — you are meditating. You are pressing the reset button for the brain. Meditation is the ultimate green juice for the mind.

Whenever you feel yourself starting to get overwhelmed, anxious, or bogged down by the complex pressures of being a human being, know that you have the power to release yourself from these mental and emotional strains. In the same way that we physically exert ourselves to strengthen the body and de-stress, so too can we undergo mental practices to relinquish unnecessary suffering that is consequence of habitual thought patterns. When we actively work to detox the mind, we make the choice to wake up, to notice, and most importantly to choose how we show up each moment, armed with the power of positive thought and clear mind to take on this beautiful, tumultuous life.

When We Say Happy, What Do We Mean?

Happiness has become a popular topic in the past few years. Scientists are studying the effects of positive psychology, businesses are implementing more happiness boosting policies in the workplace, writers are featuring the topic as content and we as readers are taking it all in. We are make gratitude lists, explore the inner landscape through meditation, devote hours to physical fitness and impeccable healthy eating, try and see our friends as much as we can, and fill our pinterests, instagrams, and newsfeeds with inspiring quotes and images. All of this in the name of tapping into, and sustaining an all encompassing happiness.

It’s our innate right as humans to find happiness, right?

Well, maybe. But the problem with the pursuit of happiness is that often we miss a major component of the formula: giving meaning to our lives that is outside of ourselves and our own interests. Most often, the call of popular happiness trajectories ask us to become self-consumed in our wants and desires. Of course, there are times to be selfish and self-serving, and those words should not always take on a negative context. But, the ways of seeking out and holding on to happiness that contemporary culture has become well-versed in do not carry longevity nor are they deep rooted. Going to a favorite fitness class four times a week makes us feel great, alive, fit, confident and all of the other benefits that come with physical movement. But like the endorphins they trigger, the experiences passes and we must wait for the next one to reawaken that unique joy. The reason this as well as other solely self-devoted pursuits are not substantial enough, even in large quantities, to form sustained happiness is because they are isolated, individualized experiences that do not afford us connection or contribute to a greater good.

What makes us as human beings feel like our most optimum selves is when we are able to connect with and impact the the lives of others. What this in turn comes down to is the human desire, the intelligent design of our consciousness that makes us search for a greater meaning. A meaning that lies outside of our own experience — physical, energetic, emotional or otherwise — and joins with others to work toward something bigger than our selves. There is nothing more powerful than feeling that you are a piece in a larger puzzle, especially when that puzzle forms an image that resonates with your personal values.

At its foundation, being a “happy” person tends to be aligned with the idea of taking while living a meaningful life is associated with being a giver. The two tend to overlap in many circumstances, but focusing on the latter offers a distinct taste of pleasure and joy that can be maintained over a lifetime.

It’s the difference between a quick-fix diet and a lifestyle change. Both can bring about results, but which serve our best selves, which can we share with friends and incorporate loved ones in on the journey?

Naked Yoga: Strip Down and Get on the Mat

Published in YogaCity NYC Nov 2013

Nudity is one of those rarely discussed topics. It remains covered, hidden under the societal blanket of inappropriate expression reserved solely for private experiences.  And yet why is it off-putting to some in this progressive twenty-first century?

Even in all-accepting yoga, nudity can cause quite the concern, and yet shouldn’t it be the opposite? Take the recent comments of Lululemon’s founder, Chip Wilson, about women’s bodies “not fitting” the clothes.” Besides being ridiculous, Wilson unknowingly reveals  an alternative to striving for the “thigh gap” that enables a person to squeeze themselves into the sausage casings that are yoga pants – take them off.      

Naked yoga is not a new concept. It is practiced in India by a spiritual group called the Naga Sadhus who see it as a reflection of their rejection of all material possessions.  Still there is a heavy skepticism that surrounds the practice of naked yoga today, and it is often criticized as a means to provide erotic and sexual experiences under the guise of self-expression

Luckily for this inquisitor, clad only in curiosity (writing this in the buff to further advocate the au natural cause), there are a handful of yoga teachers around the city who are upending established social propriety by offering spaces for students to explore their birthday-suit-yoga-practices. More than that, there are practitioners who openly believe strongly in naked yoga’s unique benefits, those that go beyond what can be gained in stretch pants and a tank top.

As Joschi Schwarz a senior teacher at Le Male Yoga, the premier naked yoga studio in Chelsea offering mens-only class, said  “Letting go of the clothed self is a metaphor for the more challenging work of removing the intangible costumes of the ego, which conceals the true self.” A student cannot hide behind anything when such exposure occurs. It is a catalyst for really facing whatever it is that is going on in a person’s life, he added.

For Cindee Rifkin, a devout yogi who offers co-ed naked yoga classes to pre-screened students, the impact that the practice can have on a person’s day to day life is worth  trying it at least once. In fact, those who are most resistant to the idea often benefit the most. “There are people who attend that are dealing with body issues, shyness, and trauma.”

Isis Phoenix, considered by many to be a foundational and inspirational naked yoga teacher, articulates the connection between naked yoga and self-empowerment in a visually gripping way “Naked yoga reduces the amount of barriers and armoring that we have not only against the world but those barriers and boundaries that we have to our self.”

The word “healing” arose in conversation with many of the teachers in the discussion. Schwarz says, “the experience of trust and community that exists in a group of naked people can be deeply healing.”

Beth Nolan, founder of BNaked Yoga, has had only positive responses from even the most adamantly opposed to the practice. Once she is able to convince students to try it, the response is a positive one. “The feedback is usually why did I wait so long to try this?’”

For Rifkin and Phoenix, the nurturing and healing of their own nude experiences on the mat are what inspired them to dedicate themselves to offering it to others.  “I used to have a distorted image of myself and I resented the body I lived in. To reconnect with my body I learned daily practices of self-care revolving around acceptance, self-love, and compassion.” Supported by Phoenix, I came to this practice because I found healing and self acceptance in it. My intention as a teacher is that those who practice it benefit in the same way,” explains Rifkin.

She believes deeply in the remedial effects of the practice, particularly for those dealing with self-consciousness. “In the group setting you realize that everyone has their own issues, and really, no one is staring, nor caring about yours. What a relief that can be! We feel and examine our habitual patterns while in poses, pranayama and meditation. Within one to five minutes [of a class] there is a shift in mind and body…Everyone is fascinated by how differently and how much better they feel.”

There is no doubt that negative body image and unrealistic physical standards have produced an epidemic of self-loathing among women and men, particularly those that participate in the culture of New York City. Perhaps, as Rifkin suggests an antidote to this body distortion already exists, and it lays naked and waiting on a yoga mat.

Despite all the positives of the practice, one concern that surrounds naked yoga is the sexual connotation and the implications of it. Jess Gronholm, co-founder of online yoga resource Dirty Yoga, is skeptical of alternative agendas of those that may be selling sex for profit in the form of yoga. As he notes, “ There do seem to be several naked yoga classes, claiming to help the self-conscious, that are offered at midnight on a Saturday night, and that can’t help but make you wonder.”

Is it possible for a teacher to create an environment for students that is void of sexual implications? For Nolan, the answer is – why would we ever want to? As a teacher, Nolan makes space for sexuality in the tantric yoga classes she offers, aimed to promote sexual healing and self-empowerment.  “How can we deny we’re sexual beings?. It’s what makes us human. We as a culture have so much shame and judgment around sexuality. We can sell beer, cigarettes even pharmaceuticals in the name of sex but we can’t educate and teach people about sacred sexuality without judgement.”

Whether or not sexuality is brought into the picture seems to be a personal preference of the teacher. However, all the teachers with whom I spoke agreed that a pre-screening process is an important part of offering classes, particularly in an urban environment.

Another question that arises is whether or not to separate classes by gender.  Though Le Male is exclusively for men, some teachers provide co-ed experiences and do not see a need to separate.  As Rifkin advocates, “co-ed integration is key in total healing and freedom…there is such strength born of this vulnerability, and you can only know this joy and relief when you choose to experience it.”

When Phoenix wanted to open the doors for women to practice naked yoga, she had to create a class herself, as the classes offered in NYC were male-only. Though she understands that initially opposite sexes can feel trepidation when considering mixed-gendered classes, she spoke from her years of experience about the humbling power of a co-ed experience. “We come to discover that we are simply humans who have bodies male or female and then beyond that we are simply human.”

There exists some dispute as to whether or not yoga teachers require additional training to successfully guide nude classes. Schwarz and Nolan also agree that the asana’s are the same, and so no additional standardized training should be required, only an expected level of sensitivity.

Rifkin however believes there should be standardized training for teachers who wish to offer naked yoga due to the need for teachers to respect students vulnerability, and she is composing her own 50 page manual of curated training tips, advice, guiding principles, and insights.

Phoenix is also a proponent of specialized training, “I hope in the future there can be a naked certification, like one gets certified in prenatal or kids yoga. Some background in counseling or psychotherapy would be useful — not that an instructor becomes a therapist but there is a certain about of space holding that stretched beyond normal yoga classes and yoga teacher responsibilities.”

At the end of it all, whether a skeptic or not, the question becomes why would a student chose to strip down? The answer might simply be, why not? Why not see if the benefits claimed from the mentioned teachers resonate
Take it from me, an admittedly skeptical yogi. In preparation for this piece, I attended a co-ed naked yoga class. Walking into a room filled with 17 men and only two other women was terrifying at first, but my curiosity got the best of me and I stripped down and stayed. And I am very glad I did.

When stripped down to your most vulnerable state, pinching and scrutinizing becomes irrelevant, along with clothing personal stories of inadequacy fall away. Concern with shape gives away to meditative movement and expression. Yoga nurtures the scars created by consistent self-flagellation, spurned on by heckling comparison. I say, give it a try. You have nothing to lose but the discomfort of spandex.

From Asana to App

Published in YogaCity NYC September 2013

On the surface yoga and modern technology seem paradoxical. An ancient Eastern practice that preaches being fully present in the moment — drawing awareness to the subtleties of breath and body movement — opposes the experience of the virtual world that requires instantaneous attention. And yet, visionaries are constantly looking for ways to take advantage of the accessibility and popularity of modern tools in order to share information about healthy living with a broader community at much quicker speeds.

Lara Land, owner of Land Yoga in Harlem and founder of the children’s yoga brand Chloe the Yogi, has found a way to successfully capitalize on the rapidly evolving and increasingly popular realm of iPhones, iPads, and Apps, bringing her knowledge and experience  as a yoga teacher into the laps of children and around the world.

Meet Chloe the Yogi: The Amusement Park, the first of five editions of Land’s interactive app. Designed for the iPad, it consists of a twenty page narrative that follows a little yogini named Chloe on an adventure through a theme park, mixing asana with entertainment. Each page is equipped with an interactive feature that gives instructions on how to do the same yoga poses as Chloe, so that readers can combine moving and breathing with learning.

Land’s app aims to make yoga easily accessible to her tech-savvy demographic of pint-size yogis in training, ranging from 4-7 years old. For example, chair pose, is playfully transformed into Chloe’s ferris wheel pose and upward plank pose.

One of the exciting parts of the Chloe the Yogi app is its adaptability to school settings. Many elementary schools are utilizing iPads and Smart Boards in the classrooms, replacing the classic spiral bound lesson planners and composition notebooks.  When teachers want to physically engage their students, giving them a break from their desks, they can turn to the Chloe the Yogi and offer a read aloud alongside a brief yoga class. “Kids need ways to release energy throughout the day,” says Land, “So many schools are using smart technology, and so our app steps in and helps to channel that energy in a fun and beneficial way.”

Parents are encouraged to join their children when using the app at home, unlike many of the popular apps that are intended for an individual user. “A lot of parents were asking me what goes on in a child’s yoga classes and wanted to be a part of that experience,” said Land about her motivation. “Now they can participate with their children and gain a better understanding of the benefits of yoga for their kids.”

Land’s dream of creating a way to bring yoga classes for kids into the mainstream started years before the app was a possibility. She had conceived of the idea for widely distributable electronic kids yoga books alongside of her Chloe the Yogi Brand, but needed technology to catch up to her vision. “I wrote the story about three years ago but the project had to go on the back burner. The technology wasn’t there for what I wanted to do.”

Besides creating the app, Land has dedicated much of her time and energy to creating and continually developing her brand. “Chloe the Yogi is Lara’s baby,” as business partner and friend Nikoa Evans-Hendricks acknowledged at the recent launch of the app. “She has been carrying this idea around in her heart for a long while, and now it is finally here. It’s a big step and we expect big things to come, and are all so happy to be along for the ride.”  Once the app technology had sprung into the mainstream, Lara gathered together programmers and front end developers to help her make it a reality. When asked if the process of Apple approved was daunting or cumbersome, Lara replied that she is grateful to her tech team for helping make the in-betweens of conception to product as smooth as they could be. “The app was rejected once due to lack of screen shots, but we quickly fixed it, sent it back, and it was instantly approved [by Apple]. I would say there would have been much more trouble had we not had someone [on our team] who really understood Apple technology.”

Chloe the Yogi part of is Land’s line of children’s yoga classes. She offers her vast experience teaching kids yoga to schools around New York City, and offers private classes, birthday parties, and workshops. To learn about Chloe the Yogi events, click here.

Land hopes to keep updating the app with more features, including adding more original music.  Like Chloe, Land’s followers are excited to see where she takes them on her next yoga adventure.

 

What the heck is Vedic Astrology?

Published by YogaCity NYC September 2013

“I see from your chart that you are an Aquarius with a moon in Cancer.”

“What?”

This opening statement from my first astrological reading from renown Vedic astrologer Alan Annand made me a little skepticism. An Aquarius? According to every horoscope I had ever read, I am an Aries true and true.

But before going to the reading, I had done my google research on Alan and he had impressive creds:a physicist turned successful writer and astrologer, accredited by both the British Faculty of Astrological Studies as well as the American College of Vedic Astrologers. He has been conducting consultations for over thirty years, has written numerous articles about the subject and published multiple novels. Thus despite my initial uneasiness, I knew that Alan was a professional and so I tried to hold back judgment until I knew more.

Alan explained that Vedic Astrology, or Jyotish as it is historically referred to, differs from Western astrology in a myriad of ways, and it is considered to be the source from which popular western astrology arose. Jyotish uses the sidereal zodiac, or the stars, to determine what the position of a planet means in relation to a person’s birthday whereas western astrology uses the tropical zodiac which is based on the sun. So, five times out of six there will be a difference between the reading of a western astrologer and a Jyotish astrologer. The latter, Alan assured me, has more tools in his arsenal, an older and more complex tradition, and therefore can conduct a reading that produces top quality, applicable results.

Jyotish focuses on the moon and the sun and the visible planets — Mars, Mercury, Jupiter, Venus and Saturn – and each of these has its own set of characteristics and associations. Though all of them are considered during a reading, it is the Moon that bares the greatest importance, as it is the stellar body that moves the fastest.

The charts Alan and other Jyotishis use in their readings are called harmonic or divisional charts, and known as amshas or vargas in Sankskrit. “The simplest way to characterize them is to say they’re like musical harmonics, fractals, or holograms, wherein each sub-division contains a relation to the whole,” explained Alan.  He added that the charts themselves can get very complicated and reveal a deep level of a person’s subconscious.

These readings also differ from western readings in that the latter places a heavy emphasis on the psychological consequences and meaning of the birth chart, often times projecting states of mind and serving first and foremost as a tool to self-motivate. “[Western astrology] assumes anyone with adequate effort can make the best of a bad situation….[Jyotish] recognizes that karma comes in three forms — fixed, unfixed, and mixed — and that some people are inherently lucky or unlucky no matter what they do while others are capable of tipping the scales in the direction of their efforts” wrote Alan recently.

What is perhaps most interesting about Vedic Astrology is the dueling nature of the planets. For example, in my birth chart both Saturn and Mars have very strong presences. For me, Saturn’s position lends to the characteristics of organization, a knack for planning, and overall caution. However, at the same time Mars’s presence suggests that I am inclined to be a risk taker, a leader, with heightened ambition and a desire to get things done quickly. The strength of the two planets lends to an internal tug of war. My Jyotish reading illuminated a truth that I experience daily: I am simultaneously inclined to hold Warrior 2 until my legs quake, and surrender into child’s pose immediately, both on and off the mat.

Jyotish also addresses a person’s dharma and what careers a person would excel at. This is one of the biggest draws for many: the desire to be pointed in a direction and professional choices validated by the stars. When asked the ways in which a Jyotishi determines a person’s calling in life, Alan explained that it was about “finding a theme, like the grain in a good piece of wood…we look for a combination of planetary influence that act like a compass saying, ‘go this way because it is the right thing for you to do’.” For me, I would do best in a field where I can use my aptitude for personal relationships combined with my creativity. Alan suggested a career in public relations or communications would yield professional success.  Well, I am a writer and so it was nice to hear that.

It was during this portion of the reading that the “houses”, the divisions relating to different aspects of one’s life, came into play. Like the planets, each of the 12 houses has a capacity to be strong, weak or ordinary, and each has a different impact on an individual’s personal characteristics.  Each person’s combination will be unique to them, and it is possible over multiple readings to delve very deep into the subdivisions of the charts in order to achieve higher specificity. In some cases, Alan will bring in palmistry to his readings, asking clients who cannot meet in person to send them pictures of their hands.

Though an initial skeptic, the reading proved an educational experience, and by the end Alan took on the role of supportive life coach, offering advice on how to achieve balance and personal fulfillment based on my chart. He recommends that every person undergo a Vedic reading, and parents should obtain an “astrological profile” of their child at age fourteen, in order to be able to more successfully guide and support them.

For yogis especially, undergoing a reading can prove valuable. “ Vedic Astrology addresses all four needs of life: Artha, Karma, Dharma and Moksha…More specifically for people in a spiritual practice, Jyotish can comment on various issues that arise in our practice,” said Alan.

I realized that consulting a talented Jyotishi such as Alan is worth the investment. If nothing else it will give you a reason to be exactly who you are, as it is written in the stars.

For more information about Alan Annand and to set up a consultation, click here.
Alan has written eight novels and published mutliple articles on many different spirituality and wellness topics. To view some of his work and learn more about his life as a writer,  click here.

 

What I’ll Tell My Children about The Little Island and Its Grey Lady

I know this little island. A slice of land that once belonged to a whole. One day, way back when the sea glowed green, it grew restless to explore and to find the place where the water met the sky. It shook and it rattled and it pulled and it pushed until finally it broke its way free. Floating on its back and sending so-long waves to the rocky coast it left behind. After some time it could no longer see land, what was once its home. It felt empty and sad and terribly alone, out there in the cold dark water. It was a still night and the little land, the island, floated on its back and thought about what to do next. It didn’t want to go back, admitting it was wrong, that it was too small to be out there in the ocean all alone. No island wants to be an island.

It was a grey morning and the little island let the fog settle across its belly, swirling around its corners and growing heavier with the day. It was comforting to have the fog there as a blanket or a silent friend. A little while into the afternoon, a boat happened to wander onto the bank of the island. It was a fishing boat that had untied itself from its dock and drifted out to sea. The boat apologized for running into the little island, but the little island didn’t mind in the least. It was happy to have company, and the little boat became its first friend. Soon after another fishing boat appeared, having heard about the little island from the song of the waves. This boat was much bigger than the last, and it carried in it a fisherman and his beautiful wife. She was modest and wise, with a smile that never left her lips. The most enchanting part about her was her waist length silvery hair that glittered like the moonlit water.

She was known as the  Grey Lady. She and her husband settled down on the eastern side of the island. She wanted to always be able to see the sunrise, and he wanted nothing more than to make his wife happy. He himself was a fierce man who spent 10 years of his adolescence aboard a whaling ship, chasing what the captain called “The White Devil” sperm whale. The island was overjoyed to have them there, and the Grey Lady and the whaler loved the little island right back. So much so they wrote to their family at home and told them to come to see the island. The wrote on a piece of parchment paper that the Grey Lady tied with a strand of her hair. They slopped it in an old glass bottle and sent it out to sea. The little island promised to have its waves deliver it safely.

The Grey Lady and her husband saw a bright future ahead. They could build their homes and raise their children in the middle of the ocean, and the men, they would surely become legendary for the whales they caught.

Soon more people came to the little island. And then more. They built their homes by the water and soon the laughter of children could be heard from shore to shore. The Grey Lady and her husband built a school and planted the first garden on the island. And the little island was overjoyed.

But after months of hungering for the sea and his spear, the Grey Lady’s husband could not resist any longer and announced it was time for a second whaling adventure. He had heard whispers of an even greater monster than “The White Devil” and was determined to hunt him down.  The Grey Lady begged him not to go, fearing for her husband’s safety. But his mind made up, he kissed her goodbye with his stony eyes already sunk down deep into the sea.  Before he left he ran his hands through her long shimmering hair one last time.

 

The Grey Lady was heart broken. She knew the dangers of whaling, especially when mixed with the ghosts in her husband’s eyes. She watched him from the coast as his little boat faded into the sky. It looked as if he was swallowed by the setting sun, and her fear was salty in her mouth. In her distress she ran back to her home, now as wind beaten and weathered as she, and called upon her neighbors for help. She asked them to bring planks of wood, hammers and nails, for she needed her house to be taller — she needed a way to see her beloved as he returned.

Working all through the night she erected a tower atop of her little home, a landing where she could stand and peer out to the see, her eyes straining for any signs of a little whaling boat. Often times her eyes would beseech her heart, tricking it into believing she could see a mast bobbing against the horizon— they were the happiest moments that were then followed by the crippling heartache when the rest of the boat failed to appear.

The villagers wanted to help their Grey Lady. The farmer down the road came with his son and joined the basket weaver and the baker. Together they added a little deck with a railing on top of the roof where the Grey Lady could climb too and see for miles.

And the island watched his Grey Lady. She didn’t sleep, but rather took to pacing atop of her home, searching by moonlight and praying to the stars. Time drifted by and the island grew cold. Snow dusted the trees and still she walked, back and forth, steady like the rocking of the sea.

Still, she waited. Her skin like seaweed wrapped around brittling bones. The life of the Grey Lady dimmed as her heart continued to break into bits of shells.  Her twentieth winter of waiting atop her home shook the Grey Lady with a fever from which she would not recover. The neighbors came to wash her feet and and hands and rub cooling balms into her temples. Still the Grey Lady longed to climb the ladder and look out to the sea.

 

The little island wept with her, as she pulled her hair and screamed with what was left, sending countless days of rain to pour over the mourners of their Grey Lady and her love. The evening she passed, all were silent. They tied her long grey hair, still with its silvery sheen, atop her head in a regal bow and pinned daffodils around her crown. They brought her up to the top of her home, the Widow’s Walk they named it, and said a prayer that she may finally find peace after her long wait.

 

The little island tried not to cry, as it wanted to be strong for his lady as they carried her down to the shore. They placed her in a small canoe, a single candle alight on its bow. They added a hand woven basket filled with the island’s red berries to sustain her on her trip. She would never have to strain to see the sea again. She would meet her beloved, where the ocean met the sky. They waved to her from the shore, the little island calling the waves to hold her and keep her safe as she floated further out to sea.

In honor of the Grey Lady, the villagers traveled to the most northern part of the island and spent many weeks laboring to build her a tall tower. At the top of the tower they made a fire, so that the lady could always have a light to guide her back to the island. They named it the Great Point and made sure it was forever lit.

Today the little island has changed. From one coast to the other they have arrived. They built a school and a local market. They paved the roads and planted crops. They built a town center and held meetings to discuss the growth of the island. Decades passed and  word spread about the island, and more and more people traveled to visit the little land, separated — it seemed — from time.

And yet even after centuries of comings and goings, they memory of the Grey Lady lives on. Only the little island carries her visage, but it is said that on a rare night when the moon is just right in the sleepy town of Siasconset where the Grey Lady first stepped foot, you can look toward a Widow’s Walk and see her there, pacing back and forth, her ghost gazing out into the black water and calling for her beloved to come back home.