Yesterday was Chinese New Year. Year of the Monkey. A few friends gathered in a local restaurant to celebrate. All of us students of Tai Chi. Some of us instructors. But still students. That is part of the joy of Tai Chi – there is always more to learn. You are always a student. And, as an instructor, you soon learn that, if you stay aware, your students are the ones that will teach you.
As we ate our way through a succession of dishes. Enjoying each new addition of sweet or savoury, sour, spicy, delicate or substantial. As we talked, enjoying each other’s company, sharing stories, observations and memories, we were all conscious that we were all there because of one person – a teacher we all shared – the late Jenny Smith. We had all been introduced to Tai Chi by Jenny. Jenny had started the tradition of gathering together to celebrate the New Year. This was her restaurant of choice. So, part of the intention of coming together here was in order to honour her memory, to recognize the debt we all owe her.
Jenny introduced me to Tai Chi. She was my first teacher. She became a good friend. I miss her greatly. Recently, going through a jumble of old Tai Chi resources, I came across an unmarked CD. I played it and was delighted to hear Jenny’s voice talking through the Tai Chi set. It was a joy to hear her – that familiar rhythm and tone: steady and calm but absolutely focused – demanding your complete attention. Jenny was passionate about Tai Chi. It imbued her whole life. Everything was Tai Chi and Tai Chi was everything. Which is not to say that she was a Tai Chi bore. She was never that. She was far too interested in people. Far too well read. Far too curious. Far too mischievous. Far too alive to ever be a bore. Life around Jenny was always exciting and interesting. She had that sort of energy. She made things happen. If she decided that something needed to be done, it would be done. Most people only get as far as imagining, “What if …..” If Jenny imagined something, then she would make sure that it became reality. No matter what anybody else thought. In this respect, Jenny reminded me very much of my father: he was that kind of person too. He made things happen. Had little time for rules and regulations. Would cheerfully ignore those that seemed superfluous or misguided. Wasted no time seeking permission. Trusted his instincts. Upset and exasperated many people. Inspired and enriched many many more. I like those kinds of people. Jenny & Jim. Teacher & Father. Two excellent role models, in my opinion. I consider myself very lucky to have been close to both of them. It was an honour to speak at both their funerals. I hope that I did them justice.
This year, I want to write more about both Jenny & Jim. About why they are so important to me. About them and their influence on my life. It seems necessary to do so – to make some kind of record. So, look upon this as an introduction. A starting point. To break the silence since my last post way back in December. To get things moving again.
I feel excited.