Art Where Weird is Normal: Asheville

This is another double dip from my Instagram takeover.

If you’ve never been to Asheville, North Carolina, go now! Given things may have changed, but at least in 2007 the motto I kept coming across on t-shirts was “Asheville, where weird is normal.” Hello, Mothership!

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Just trying to follow the motto. 2007

Asheville was a stop on a tour that started at Graceland to visit Elvis (I need a vintage velvet Elvis),

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Leopard print and gold lame seemed like a Graceland requirement.

headed for the Smoky Mountains and ended at the beach. Back before my BFF and eternal Adventure Buddy had kids, we did a lot of extended road trips.

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Downtown Asheville features a two story Woolworth converted into a collective of local artists. I picked up prints by Sarah Faulkner, and photographs on barn wood by Rebecca Tolk  at Woolworth Walk. However my bank breaking , original piece that I picked up was at the Southern Highland Craft Guild on the outskirts of town. I splurged on Greg Magruder’s stained glass piece, feeling a little broke after buying it.

IMG_E7017It’s okay to buy big every once in a while. I feel like so much of my collecting reflects where I was financially in life. I have a lot of “it was affordable” pieces; they are small but mighty and still bring joy.

  • Artist: Greg Magruder
  • Title/year: untitled (Because I can’t remember it!) 2007
  • Materials/size: stained glass and metal,  9 -1/2 x 18

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I believe the title – if I could unearth it- had something to do with sunrise, but when I look at this window,  I see a reflective orange moon rising through the trees. Those tree silhouettes remind me that I’d rather be hiking and breathing in the smell of pine. The blue glass makes an amazing dark stripe across the room in the early afternoons which, of course, my super model felines position themselves in.

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Art & Procrastination: New Orleans

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Our introductory selfie for the takeover as is right and proper. Earrings by LinesNShapesJewelry over at Etsy.com

This past week I was guest host on an Instagram account called @columbus_collects. It asks locals to share their art collections and what drew them to the various pieces. The goal is to “demystify collecting”; collecting art does not have to be an expensive or high brow endeavor. I love adding new pieces to my home. I’m not particularly looking for any deeper meaning other than I was attracted to it—oooohh pretty, must have now—-, and it makes me happy to look at this piece in my house. Kind of like the characters in Portlandia, if you “put a bird on it,” a moon or some other natural element, I’m typically in favor of it.

I volunteered to take over back at the end of June which means I should have started writing and photographing things then because I was full of ideas and had complete sentences rattling around in my head. As established though, I am an expert at procrastination and basically waited until August 30, to start writing. Thank goodness, I had made some organizational notes in June. This lead to some late nights this week, digging up artist information and trying to find and remember dates. There was this feeling that I was going to disappoint, on so many levels, the woman who runs the account; many of the guest hosts seem to have way cooler photographs of their art and know more about it beyond “hey, pretty!”

Despite procrastination and performance anxiety, I got positive feedback and made some artists happy to have their work talked about and shared. I also realized that I spent a lot of time writing so, dagnabbit, I’m going to double dip here! (Forgive me.)

I chose to organize the beginning of my feed with stories about collecting while traveling since we were just coming off a long weekend and people are still in that “what did you do this summer?” mode. Being on an adventure and finding a piece  of art along the way only makes that piece more special.

New Orleans: In 2012, three Adventure Buddies and I headed to New Orleans for a long weekend. We did not have the drunken stereotypical “girls trip” that every movie suggests. Puking is not fun. Instead we ate well, toured everything we could, listened to music, and looked at the local art. (I could spend ALL my time in New Orleans eating and looking at/buying art.)

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We spent a good part of an afternoon in Jackson Square looking at what the local artists had to offer. One friend was looking for “swamp art” but at this point I don’t remember what that meant.

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Jackson Square, New Orleans

Jackson Square is where I found Laura Welter’s fabric nudes on display. The majority were all from behind or slightly profiled with the same twist at the waist and cocked hip. Twenty years and 50 pounds ago, I was a much more naked person, so I have a certain appreciation for a naked, confident, sassy ass. I could also appreciate Welter’s use of fabric remnants to paint on. Both of my grandmas were quilters, so playing with leftover bits and pieces of material was something that I grew up around and still feel driven to do. The large flower print seemed like something straight out of one of their sewing boxes. Plus she’s got a flower growing out of her bum! I love it! To do the takeover, I tracked down Laura’s current version of her nudes; they have evolved since 2012. I would happily return for more of them.

  • Artist: Laura Welter @welterarts
  • Title/year: untitled 2012
  • Materials/size: fabric and paint, 9×20

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Our second morning in New Orleans found us at Surrey’s Cafe and Juice bar on the edge of the Garden District, getting breakfast before heading to Jazzfest. We were seated at a table where, according to the photo on the wall, Matthew McConaughey had once sat. We were the luckiest little girls in the world.

Also on the wall was a magnificent display of brightly colored, crooked, quirky little houses. They were modeled after the shotgun style houses in New Orleans. Based on what I could dig up, Fortenberry used mirror shards scavenged after Hurricane Katrina to create the windows. There seem to be a few NOLA artists who make these, but I found that my tiny house and others attributed to Fortenberry have a raised, but hard to read maker’s mark on the front stoop. This is an example of me being attracted to a piece because of its surroundings. I too wanted a wall full of tiny houses! I often run into this problem with small pieces clustered together. Do I love it because of the context of all the pieces around it? Will I feel the same if I take it as a solo piece? No worries, my tiny lavender house found a space with other “small art” and has a happy home.

  • Artist: Casey King Fortenberry (?)
  • Title/year: untitled 2012
  • Materials/size: plaster, acrylic, broken mirrors 3 -1/2 x 5

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I almost included the water meter covers designed by Edwin Ford in the 1920’s  in my takeover. We mostly saw these in the Garden District and were told by our guide that there were so few because people stole them due to the design. However local artists have used the design in jewelry, and prints. I purchased a t-shirt with the design. It really is the prettiest meter cover I’ve ever seen.

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“When life gives you lemons…throw them.” Yoga and Axes

 I’ve done a lot of “yoga and…”

Yoga and:

In keeping with my own trends and those trending culturally, I can now add yoga and axes.

“When life gives you lemons…throw them.”August2019

I’ve thrown an axe unsuccessfully before under the vague tutelage of a viking horde at Lilyfest. Viking Advice: Hit the target.

During this session, I got just a little more guidance. We did an hour of yoga on the indoor turf of the football bowling field…somehow my mat migrated a foot to the left during the class. GoYoga provided an excellent, bendy start to the day.

Fully flexible, our Throw Nation hostess, gave us a quick tutorial on throwing form.

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Turns out, form helps. However, I did much better when I didn’t overthink it. Nothing like axe throwing to make you really look at your butt.

What you’re not seeing are the 20 million tiny video clips of me completely missing everything.

Adventure Buddy and I agreed that we could see the appeal; there was the impulse to keep throwing again and again to try to get it right. However, we only used about 45 minutes of our allotted throwing hour and much of that was spent standing around wondering why on Earth anyone would add alcohol to this environment. Yes, to ideally be on trend you’re supposed to add drinking to the “and axe throwing.” Alcohol fueled competitiveness, and coordination plus deadly weapons. Bingo.

Part of the standing around in a  state of “meh” was also due to our hostess. She didn’t want the dozen of us to touch any of the other throwing lanes which meant lots of waiting, and was not inclined to organize any games. Basically, she seemed unprepared for the event, and kept saying things like “there’s not a manager here today” and “mmmmm yea that game is not open right now.” But OMIGOD she is going back to college this week! Squeeeee!

So we threw axes. It was okay. We are badasses….in theory.

Check mark. No major need to repeat this adventure.

 

 

C’mon, Shirley!

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This is Shirley. She makes some bad fucking life choices. Jeeezus, Shirley.

To back up 5 minutes….

I kidnapped Adventure Buddy on a coffee trail and park exploration day because we were on the right side of town to check out the eagles at Pickerington Ponds. We started at the viewing area with the most convenient bathrooms because per usual, I had to pee. It is my life’s work.

Wandering along the edge of the pond, AB started yelling about a snake. She may have had her bifocal contacts in or none at all, and could just make out the elongated neck. Shirley is actually a soft shelled turtle and resents being yelled at and called a snake. Maybe this is why she ignored everything we told her that day.

Shirley was camped out in the sand and gravel viewing area busily flinging dirt with her hind legs. She’d already made quite the depression.

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We speculated on what was happening and decided on laying eggs which Google said could take Shirley up to an hour. Evidence around the viewing area suggested that Shirley was merely supplying a buffet for local predators. There were holes down the entire fence line with empty eggshells trailing around them.

We pointed this out to Shirley, and made suggestions about alternative locations, but she was determined that this was her hole.June20196Deciding to give Shirley some privacy we wandered away, eventually filling in the only other people there who were heading Shirley’s direction. By the time we circled back, the youngest of the party had christened her Shirley. The other option was Terry so we think she lucked out.

Shirley appeared to be wrapping things up. How did I know AB inquired. Well, Shirley’s booty was going through the same undulating movements as my cats’ backsides when they poop (sadly, you sometimes need to monitor your fur kids’ poo) so I was fairly certain that something was coming out.  Shirley finished, covered her eggs, and hauled turtle ass back to the pond. I have never seen a turtle go that fast!

Good luck, Shirley!June20198

Little Adventures: Tourist for a Day

Summer plans started with a book, a list, ana pamphlet this year. The book is Secret Columbus: A Guide to the Weird, Wonderful, and Obscure by Anietria Hamper. It’s a collection of two-page spreads that use a mix of history and sightseeing to make a reader want to start wandering the city a little bit more which is where the list came in. The list trustingly titled “KStew and [Adventure Buddy’s] Best Summer Break Ever!!!!!” is a collection we started of “Hey, we should do that sometime” type of stuff. Adventure Buddy was just bored/motivated enough to put it all in a calendar complete with links. One of those sometime things was the Columbus Coffee Trail. We got the pamphlet in our Craftin’ Outlaws swag bag; and if we visit four of the coffee shops, we get t-shirts! We seem to be driven by tangible rewards at the end of ridiculous tasks- see the entire winter hike series.

Want to start your day drinking a honey latte in a blue velvet alcove surrounded by a wall of live plants? Yes, please.

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Well-caffeinated and slightly disoriented by multiple trips to the underground parking garage, we took off to walking points of interest.

While The Peanut Shoppe was not on our list of stops (it probably should have been we passed it like three times), it is included in the book and features the original neon from the 1930s (Hamper 32-33).

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Our first “tourist” destination was the Rhodes State Office Tower  which has “the best open-air view of Columbus” (Hamper 28-29). According to the book, there are views from all four sides of the 40th floor which is open to public visitors. This works if you count the view of the LeVeque Tower and Vets Memorial from the tiny window across from the elevator; this side is otherwise taken up by offices.

We checked in with our driver’s licenses in the main lobby, got i.d. stickers to wear, and were escorted up 40 floors in a very swift, but shaky elevator by security personnel Andre. Andre gave us a few stats, pointed out the set up, tried to gawk at window washers with us, and basically said that if we weren’t down in 20 minutes, someone would come looking for us. We are suspicious characters.

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The view kind of looked like this:

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This is coming out really small on my screen. I hope it is view-able.

Fortunately, there were signs at each window clearly labeling what the heck we were looking at because for the most part I was clueless. We made sure to find Adventure Buddy’s husband’s building and obnoxiously text and wave at him.

It seemed to be raining much harder outside the 40th floor than it had been at ground level and the wires for the window washer platforms kept swaying. This is high on the list of jobs I never want to try. We must not have outstayed our welcome because Andre did not come looking for us.

Back at ground level, we took time to look at the portraits and read the profiles for the displayed Faces of Addiction project which is on tour. It is terrifying how easily people can slip in to lives fed by addiction and how daunting get out is.

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Re-orienting for our next locale, we had our mouths set for a Reuben at Katzinger’s in German Village, but on the way back to the car, I saw a sign. An “AH-HA” clouds parting sign from another page in the book.

I was certain that I had read about the Ringside Cafe, oldest bar in Columbus (Hamper 70-71). Goodbye, Katzinger’s.June20193

It was hidden away off Pearl Alley. Tiny, dark inside and we had it to ourselves! (I assure you it had filled up a bit by the time we left. That seems important.)

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Because we are gluttons for punishment…or just gluttons, we ordered the Buster Douglas. Even split, it is a monster! Thankfully, the kitchen cut it in half for our sharing needs. I have never paid $28 for a hamburger. I’m not sure whether to be embarrassed or blase.

We also replaced one of the two order of fries it comes with with an order of onion rings. The onion rings were perfect. That ridiculous thing where the entire onion slice slides out of the ring of breading on the first bite never happened. They were all crispy little rings of joy!

Adventure Buddy said this was my look of determination before I went all wrinkly nosed, wild animal on it. Not sure what’s up with my tongue. Limbering up I guess.

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Our server said we “won that round” which I think translates to “you have consumed several thousand fatty calories that you don’t need and should walk to your next destination.” So we did.IMG_5325

I had never visited either the downtown branch of the public library which was mercifully quiet like libraries should be, or the topiary garden in the park behind it. The garden was another item on the list and a spread in the book. It has “fifty-four life-size topiary figures” recreating a Seurat painting (Hamper 74).

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The topiary garden was a peaceful little pocket in the middle of construction and busy roads. I think some of the people needed a trim, but it was an impressive endeavor to capture all the details.

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We wrapped our day by transitioning back to the Coffee Trail and ended up at Pistacia Vera in German Village where I was reminded that macarons seem like a brilliant idea until I bite into them. There’s a weird texture thing there for me, but the flavors are delicious and their ham croissant is yummmmmm.

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Blogger fail: Forgot to take a tasteful before photo.

I would recommend all of today’s experiences. We had a flexible plan, logged a lot of steps, ate good food, and saw cool stuff. Nobody almost died.

Look an MLA citation! My students act like this is an impossible task even though there are a billion websites who will create the citation for them; don’t get them started on the impossibilities of in-text citations. Eye roll. I used to have how to write this shit memorized!

Hamper, Anietra. Secret Columbus: a Guide to the Weird, Wonderful, and Obscure. Reedy Press, LLC, 2018.

Little Adventures: Bird Nerd Edition

At the beginning of April, I decided to visit the eagles on the river. I had heard that they were back, had added to the nest, and had at least two eaglets. However when I arrived the male was on the nest and no fuzzy baby heads were visible. I amused myself watching the variety of birds arriving at the suet cake some avid birder had placed by the viewing site.

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mockingbird, cardinal, downy woodpecker, red-bellied woodpecker (I think)

In addition to the suet cake, the birders added a sealed envelope and notebook for people to add dated entries about the eagles. Pretty cool. After standing around for a while listening to the bird gossipseriously, this is how I learn now– the male eagle started screaming. Mom eagle came back empty-taloned, and then they both screamed about it for a bit. Nature is amazing.

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Part of the gossip I picked up was about the owlet in the cemetery.

Bird Woman who showed up with three kids: “I’m taking the kids to see the owlets next.”

Alpha Bird Woman (she is so the one in charge and her camera is massive):”You know it’s branching.”

I recently learned that “branching” is when fledglings take adventures outside the nest. That determined my next stop for the day!

Out of the nest! Boom! At one point a car drove by and his/her little “horns perked up.

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Look at the floofers on this dude!

DSCF4086a*** I started writing this on April 30 and it’s now June 5. Queen of procrastination! The “eaglets” have now filled out to their juvenile feathers and I need to visit before they leave! I think my master plan with this post was to add in two April adventures. Here goes!

Two weeks later, I took off on an early morning whim to re-visit the eagles. Miraculously, I was the only person in the tiny parking lot! Just me and some eagles.

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Me, some eagles, and this downy woodpecker who did not care that I was three feet away.

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I wasn’t alone for long and my best shot showed at least one fuzzy head popping up.

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Again on impulse, I decided to travel from there across town to another nesting site that I had seen a number of posts about: Pickerington Ponds. Given my current location, I was only 25 minutes away instead of the regular 40.

This park is a cluster of ponds and a bird mecca. I actually saw one of the eagles there land in a field as I drove towards the park entrance.

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Swallows…I think, a red winged blackbird, cormorants and a Canada goose

My first stop yielded lots of small birds, a couple who had no idea where the eagle nest was, and a terrifyingly long water snake.

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I was more successful at the next pond. This nest has… probably HAD at this point… 3 eaglets.

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Fortunately, it was beautiful breezy day and I spotted a fellow bird nerd in the form of  a tiny woman with binoculars and a mission. Not being familiar with the park, I trailed her around the pond to a prime viewing spot for the eagle nest. I am terrified and too paranoid to go into parks alone (Thanks, MomBert?). You’ll never find me hiking by myself; and if you do find me, it’s probably because you are the horribly violent, assault minded creature that I fear lurks on lonely paths. Even being alone on what was an open, sunny,  but isolated path would not have happened had it not been for my impromptu adventure buddy.

We chatted about the eagles and our various sightings. I shared my borrowed giant “moonoculars” with her,  and she gave me some tips on focusing. Another traveler stopped to talk to us about the eagles and said that he had just passed a giant turtle on the path. I asked what kind it was and he said he didn’t get close enough. I try not to roll my eyes and sigh at people I don’t know, but I’m pretty sure turtles are known for being SLOW.

Me: “Did it look like a dinosaur that wanted to eat you?”

He still didn’t know. From their size and slitted eyes to huge claws and spiked tails, I feel like snapping turtles are really easy to identify. Fuck it. I announced that I was off to see a giant turtle!

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It’s a leftover dinosaur! It was about 18 x 15 inches not counting tail length.

When I looked back, Adventure Buddy was behind me on the path. Based on the guy’s directions it took longer to find the turtle than I thought it would, but finally there it was by the path. We both admired it and talked to it about its turtle life choices: “Why are you so far out from mud and water? Do you need a hug? What’s going on with your left eye? If I hugged you and carried you to the pond, would you promise not to bite my fingers off?

Finally, I asked the really big question: “Have we been taking pictures of a dead turtle?”

The turtle had not visibly moved, blinked, or hissed, and I noticed that there were ants walking in its neck folds. This seemed bad.

Adventure Buddy offered to touch it and we both stepped back like we had found an exploding turtle. She tentatively tapped the turtle booty with the very tip of her tennis shoe, and the turtle immediately rose up about an inch and then went back to its position.

Relieved that we had not been talking to a dead turtle, we backtracked to the eagle nest, spotted an osprey in flight, and totally forgot to tell the park ranger we met about the turtle. Bird brains. Ugh.

Going by units of animal measurement, that was a four eagle one giant turtle day which is a very good day!

 

Cave Yoga: Keepin’ it weird

September was my month for weird places to do yoga. I signed up for both goat yoga and cave yoga after a fairly daunting hot yoga class that left me feeling a bit out of it. (I later realized that I had neglected to take my pills the night before. Hello, crazy town.) Much as I bitch and complain about Facebook, it does clue me in to local events; and without its stupid algorithms, I would not have found either class so easily.

This definitely falls into the little local adventures category as I had not previously visited Olentangy Indian Caverns despite driving by billboards for it for years. It appeared to be a kid focused tourist trap. From where I parked, I could see a maze, jungle gym, outdoor games, mini golf, and a petting zoo that disappeared ominously into the woods. As one of the women there for the class said, “Oh, I can give my son $3 and he’s off for hours.” Babysitting courtesy of tourist trap.

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It was surprisingly hard to round up an adventure buddy for this particular event. They all voiced the same concerns that I had used over the years about goat yoga, but after a brief but positive conversation regarding the cave yoga, there had been silence. I wasn’t sure if I was flying solo and was relieved to pull in to the lot by a friendly face.

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Adventure Buddy and I entered the little brick building covering the cave entrance and prepared to descend 75 feet down 55 narrow, wet steps. Above ground, the day was sunny and temperate, a perfect fall morning, but the temperature dropped immediately inside the cavern entrance. For whatever reason, my right knee decided to age 90 years in two minutes as I tried to grip my mat and the railing, navigating the slick steps. Each step sent hiss worthy pains shooting through my leg and knee. I let Adventure Buddy know that I would probably use her to cushion my fall.

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With great relief, we made it to the cave without anyone squishing anyone else and followed a trail of tea lights into the main cavern.

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The Olentangy caverns were inhabited caves. Our yoga instructor who used the stone table as her area to direct the class, assured us that it was a work area and meeting point for the tribe members. While she was centered on the table, other yogis had to find spots in the pathways that branched off from the table area.

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We had been told to bring an old beach towel because the “cavern floor can be damp and somewhat muddy.” What should have been said was the cave floor is wet as hell and you need a garbage bag.

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I wasn’t concerned for my mat. It had migrated to the status of “outdoor mat” long ago and still had some chicken poo on it from goat yoga. What I didn’t realize was that as the practice progressed, water would seep through the mat particularly in the spots where I consistently placed my feet. Unfortunately, I was very conscious of the dampness. In a normal studio, placing my hand or foot off the mat would be no big deal. Here it meant cold, wet mud which I confirmed by firmly planting one ass cheek in a puddle. ****Side note: Cave mud does NOT just wash out of yoga pants. Soaking required. A garbage bag under the mat might have been better than a towel.

Also while I was sweating under all my layers, my body never really loosened up. It was, as predicted, about 55 degrees in the cave. Talk about being conscious of your breaths, I could see mine.

If you squint with one eye, you can kind of see a cloud of steamy breath during this pose.

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While there were tea lights and candles placed in various nooks and crannies, at no point did the the glaring overhead spotlights dim or go out. I was really hoping that at least during Shavasana, we could just relax by candlelight. I’m assuming it was a safety issue and there was no turning them out, but, damn, that would have been cool.

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Of all my adventures so far, this is one that I would probably not repeat unless another adventure buddy really wanted to try it. I don’t mind getting dirty and I’m certainly glad I tried it, but it was not the most comfortable yoga experience I’ve ever had.

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