So we’re standing in the lobby at the desk where we check in. I’m waiting to go through the metal detector and fixing my hair (which I always wear in a very high bun when I go inside). I maneuver my hand around for the infamous second wrap of the hair tie and in that very moment it snaps, breaks, and flings to the floor by my feet. This sounds like an inconsequentially small detail, but if you have thick, long, wavy hair and you’ve ever practiced yoga… you know that hair ties are not optional (and also it’s just kinda weird to walk into max with your hair all like… haaay! I’m flowing over here). I look at the CO checking us in with a hint of desperation in my eyes. She reads this look like a pro and offers to get me a rubber band from the little office behind her. With overflowing gratitude I accept this offer and the check-in process continues on without a hitch. We get our radio and head down the staircase. David does the radio check and we hear a distant voice on the other end telling us we’re good to go.
We walk down the staircase to the last locked door and I’m back in little feet pose (if you’re confused, read the previous blog entry!). There’s no CO with us this time and the gym is empty. As we’re walking towards the chapel where we practice, I notice something I’ve never seen before. To the right of me is a small, rectangular room with a sign above it that reads “BARBER SHOP”. This instantaneously piques my interest (I sort of have a thing for the sacred tradition of Barbering) and I make a mental note to ask the guys about what sort of barber situation they have here. Already a million ideas are running through my head. Do I know any barbers that would volunteer their time to come down here and cut some hair? I continue through my mental checklist of barbers I know and file that away in the back of my mind. We’re almost to the chapel and it’s time for yoga.
Big Black greets us with an equally big smile. He gives us a copy of the “Spring Creek Now”—the prison’s monthly newsletter—and beaming, explains that the yoga club was interviewed and he got to write a little description of the yoga they’ve been practicing. Today, all of our crew is here, and we’ve got a new student who is interested in training to be a teacher as well. David leads our open practice today with a 20-ish minute yoga Nidra—also called “yogic sleep”, or the state of consciousness between waking and sleeping—at the end.
We take a little break and then go around the room to check-in about how our practice has been going. A lot of the guys talk about how oppressive the smoke has been down here (it turns out just yesterday they were all on lock down due to very smoky conditions) and then E says something that kinda blows my mind. He talks about there being no escape. Once it’s smoky inside, you’re totally stuck in it. I can’t speak for everyone in Alaska this summer, but all the smoke has definitely been an intense experience. It has felt stifling some days here in Anchorage and imagine multiplying that by being confined to a small cell? I guess you could say it was one of those sobering moments. I thought of the worst smoky day we had in Anchorage and all the things I could do to escape. Go to a yoga class at a studio with an incredible ventilation system. Hide out for a bit in a steamy shower. Shut all the windows in my house and light a scented candle… and the list goes on.
And then it was my turn to check-in. If you know me, you know I’m all about that real talk; I don’t sugar coat or dance around much. So I share that I’ve been slacking hard with my home practice. I haven’t been setting nearly enough time aside before work to practice and connect with myself and I can’t blame it on the smoke or my runny nose or having a migraine or my dog wanting to play or the floor needing to be swept or anything else of the sort. It’s just me, trying to escape myself. And then I start thinking about the guys, carving out time to practice every day (and for some of them twice per day), in their cells, or common areas where they get cat-called in down dog, without access to a beautiful studio with incredible ventilation, and I think to myself:
Wow Darcy. Step up your game.
Class ends and we say our goodbyes. We walk back through the gym and I eye the “BARBER SHOP” sign once again. I asked J-Dubbs earlier about what really goes on in the barber shop and he explained there are no actual barbers that come in here. It’s just other inmates, cutting each other’s hair, mostly doing hack jobs. He says if you want a good haircut you’ve got to find someone who knows how to cut hair and convince them to cut yours (and FYI-that’s when Big Mac chimed in and told us that Goose Creek has a barber school and I thought that was totally awesome). I still have a million ideas running through my head of how to improve this situation, but I get behind that train and let it go on without me. There is so much opportunity for growth and change, but it’s a slow and gradual process and I’ve got to let it unfold naturally (with a little nudge here and there of course).
I stand in little feet pose and look up at the camera while the first door click-click-click slides open. We walk back up the stairs, return our radio and visitor badges, and get our IDs back. I take the rubber band out of my hair and return it to the woman behind the plexiglass window.
“Thank you so, so much”, I say.
I drive the first leg of the trip back to Anchorage. David and I sit in silence for a while before I start rambling on about how amazing it is to realize how much common ground we all have; how much of what we experience every day—thoughts, feelings, expectations, emotions—are the same as what others experience, just in all different contexts. “Same same but different” is the phrase I like to use. We muse on this for a while and then smile at each other. Another successful day inside max and we are already looking forward to our next visit.