Meet the Author….Mary Padilla, Ph.D., D.V.M By Sheila Smith-Drapeau
May 6, 2013 Alexander Technique (AT) teacher and local veterinarian Mary Padilla recently sat down to discuss her first book, Free Agent; Learning to Teach by Teaching. The technique itself is a thoughtful means of redistributing muscle tone to ease the excess strain which people unconsciously put on their bodies and minds every day. Dr. Padilla is one of the few people in Westchester nationally certified to teach the Technique. She has given book talks and presentations on AT around Westchester, including libraries and the Music Conservatory of Westchester and she will be speaking tonight, May 6, on this subject at the Mount Pleasant Public Library at 7:30 pm.
How did the idea of writing a book germinate?
In general, I write to find out what I think. It’s a similar process to having to be clear about the essence of something before you can teach it and it’s because of this that writing about beginning to teach really helped me pull things together simultaneously on both levels in a synergistic way. It was the transitional summer before the last term of my three-year teacher training program and I blocked out the time to devote to a practice teaching-writing project.
Why AT and not a book on your veterinary experiences or other aspects of your life?
Before I got involved in AT I was going around giving a talk on the sensory worlds of different species and how each sort of animal had its own “umwelt,” meaning it lived in its own world depending on what it could perceive, and acted and thought accordingly. The AT has been an extension of that, taking the concept of embodied thought into our own experience. My interest in this area stems from a fundamental concern with epistemology – how we know what we know. This led me to initially pursue science, where propositions were subject to experimental disproof and no credit was given to truth by assertion.
How did you decide on the format and voice for Free Agent?
Initially, I requested of everyone who received a free series of ten lessons that first summer to give me a single page, in the medium of their choice, exemplifying their experience with me and AT. I didn’t know, at that time, what I was going to do, and I didn’t know of course, what the students’ would come up with either. With that rather nebulous goal in mind, I’d sit each week that summer, overlooking a nearby pond and under a mosquito net, and write longhand whatever entered my mind. I’d seen a photo of a gazebo in Elmira, NY where Samuel Clemens would write his books every summer and that was in my head somehow. When the lessons and the summer came to a close, the student work began pouring in and it was so original and individual I knew it had to be an integral part of the book. Among 18 different takes there was always something that would be likely to resonate with every reader and help each one to get a feel for the Technique. I put the chapters and my art on the workbench together with the student pages and just shuffle them around until they came into their final form. Then I wrote the introductory and summary sections and went looking for a printer.
What aspects of AT do you find hardest to describe?
To paraphrase Isadora Duncan, one of the major pioneers of modern dance, “If I could say it, I wouldn’t have to do it.” The AT is a kinesthetically based experiential discipline based on thinking. It’s “trying not to try,” if you will. The difficulties in understanding this may stem from the fact that we have to use the brain to comprehend itself, or for example, thinking without thinking can be a circular process.
How does the AT factor into your every day life, beyond teaching it to others?
Rising up to meet what’s already there. Current neuroscience suggests the main function of consciousness is to rationalize the decisions already made by parts of our brain not perceptible to consciousness. The AT seems to be a way of enabling us to get out of our own way and stop interfering so much with the intrinsic capacities that allow us to function better, more easily, with less tension on many levels. There have been a few times in my life when I’ve given myself up for lost and stopped trying, only to have something within come to the fore and maneuver me out of a potentially fatal situation. Through my study of the AT I have a clearer sense of how to access that now, and I live closer to that state the rest of the time.
Dr. Padilla teaches AT locally at Alexander Technique at 144A Bedford Road in Armonk. To learn more about the AT and her practice, www.alwexandertechniquearmonk.com.
Bismarck, photo courtesy Louise T. Gantress.
An Ice Tail
By Louise T. Gantress
Per usual I was running late getting home from work. My son needed (his choice of word) to go into New York City to visit friends. He had to catch the 5:40 train, which meant I had to drive him to the station. The dog needed to go out. Son hadn’t figured out that one. First things first: attend to dog. A recent storm left ice that was smooth and slick on the hills that pretend to be our backyard. Being winter, it was already dark. Dog was in no hurry to fulfill his obligation. He sniffed the night air, he ventured forth, albeit gingerly. I tried to encourage him with the “hurry, hurry” phrase that the trained suggested. Obviously, our pet’s command of English was lacking. He’s a hound, you know, a little one, a mini in fact, but a hound nevertheless. Dog finally assumed the position and prepared to oblige when—like a cartoon character—he slid down the hill. I laughed. I called him. He struggled to climb, but could get no purchase. I stopped laughing. This was serious. He slid farther and disappeared behind a fir tree. I saw him search out another route, but the ice was too smooth, too hard for him to obtain a grip. He slipped from the path and fell down steep slopes into the deep woods behind our house. The dog was lost, without a sound. I heard my son call; could we leave now?
He had waited all day for her to return, and not just to “go out” either. There was also dinner. And yes, he could play with her and be petted and cuddle on the sofa while she read or watched TV. Go out! Yes, the night air was cold, frigid in fact for his short hair coat, but there were scents in it he had to investigate. Why didn’t she understand that? He was a hound, and the hound in him rejoiced to be out. He must explore! He picked his way across the level snow and ice towards the extreme edge, where the hill fell off sharply. This was his favorite spot. What is she saying? Just about to obey the command when he falls down the hill. His nails do not give him purchase into the ice; the ice is too hard, too smooth. He hears her calls and tries to obey, but it is futile. He exerts himself only to remain in place. He looks up at her and decides on another route, one remembered from the summer. Ice also blocks that path, and he slides farther down, past boulders left from a glacial age, into the forest. The ice hurts him, cuts him. He slides for a long time, unable to grasp or gain a foothold. He bounces like a pinball off rocks and trees. The steep slopes down lead to a river. Can he avoid that route? He comes to a stop, and wonders if she will find him, but does not call out to her.
It was bitter cold, the ice was treacherous and it was dark as well, no moon in the night sky. The woman before him explained it had been hours since her little dog had fallen down the ravine, and she only heard him bark after 10 PM. Yes, she said, she was certain it was her dog’s bark. No, she hadn’t heard a coyote or a raccoon. It was now midnight. This is why I studied animal rescue, he told himself. To save animals. Just didn’t expect it on a night like this when I’d rather curl up on the couch in front of the fireplace. Good thing I brought crampons and a pike. The night was still and the frozen air hung like an oppressive blanket, hostile to one’s lungs. Now he too could hear the dog’s plaint. It was erratic. “He’s weak, probably hurt. Dachshunds aren’t big on baying, not American bred minis anyway. Probably why he didn’t call out sooner.” He didn’t want to say the dog might be injured, since he was barking now. Tough situation for any dog, but especially a designer lap dog. He thought of his own dogs, large and with thick fur. Even they were no match for this ice. All in all, it was unlikely the dog could survive in this weather, with temperature close to zero. Amazing the little guy has lasted this long! From the sound of his barking, he was about a half mile away from the house and weak. They drove to the neighbor’s; called the police least the neighbor assumed it was a break-in. The animal rescue man did not wait; he attached the crampons to his boots and took the pike with him into the woods.
At least the AWD holds on this ice! I drove up onto an ice ridge and pointed the headlights into the forest to give him as much light as possible. He was not familiar with this area and a misstep could be disaster. Can’t lose him down the ravine. After waiting uncounted minutes, I heard the dog snarl and bark. Could he attack his rescuer? I saw the man return from the forest, holding the dog in his jacket. He’d taken off his jacket to wrap the dog! I turned up the heat. The man performed an examination and pronounced the dog sound, despite a bloody belly and paws. “Did he snap at you?” I asked. “He’s afraid. He’s been out a long time.” Then he added, “Nothing seems injured, as far as I can tell. Keep him warm. He’s a lucky little dog.”
Carmen Celentano Captures Moments By Amanda Boyle
June 19, 2011 Photographer Carmen Celentano has been an Armonk resident since 1982--"Town was so different then, there was barely any traffic on Main Street!" she joked--but she says she looks forward every year to her annual big trip. She has just turned photos from her trip to Guatemala into a beautiful photography book titled "The Way of the Maya", View it here: www.blurb.com.
For Celentano's company Captured Moments--the place to turn for family
and senior portraits, and capturing weddings or bat/bar mitzahs--she
primarily uses digital photography, but for her personal use she uses
both film and digital, and "The Way of the Maya" has a mix of both.
Celentano predicts that film will make a comeback, because it has a
When she arrived in Guatemala she said, "I fell in
love with the country, the people are so warm and inviting."
At the same
time, she described being "dumbfounded by the poverty." She went about
documenting the life there, with breathtaking photographs of mountains
and lakes, and intimate portraits of the people.
already planning a similar book on a recent trip to Cuba, and in fact
one of her photographs from that trip has been chosen to show in an
ongoing show at the Bendheim Gallery in Greenwich, Connecticut. For her
next trip, Celentano is hoping to visit Vietnam. She says she often
likes visiting small towns. She'll travel with a guide, and ask them to
introduce her to a family or a school, to get to know the community
This level of personal attention is what makes
Celentano's photographs so special. She often shoots portraits of young
children, and she says it's best to get down there with them and engage
them, get them joking around and giggling. A mother herself, she
doesn't want to just be shouting "smile!" and get some unnatural
grimace. Celentano's natural artistic abilities are evident in not just
"The Way of the Maya", but her entire portfolio. And we aren't the only
ones who think that: she just won an international competition at Agora
Gallery in Chelsea.
Though I’m not an Armonk resident (I live in the Eastern District of North Castle), Armonk has always been a part of my life. Among my early memories is the tame bear which was tethered outside Mr. Tagliaferro’s honey stand on Old Route 22 in the early 1930’s. Seeing the bear (and getting the honey) was a rare treat, as was watching the planes taking off and landing at the airfield, where the Business Park complex now stands. The American Legion used to hold clambakes there, too, and I remember my father taking me once or twice.
When I was in college, I took dates to the old Log Cabin Inn a few times. My father told me that this rather run-down place had once been a big drawing card for couples who would drive up from the city.
In later years, when I’d taken up free-lance writing, I frequently used the North Castle Free Library for research, and Town Librarian Chris Ansnes graciously invited me to give a talk there.
As a writer, I deal in non-fiction, mostly science-oriented. I write on topics that interest me, with the result that I became a generalist rather than a specialist. I find that doing the research on my topics is the most fun, for I learn so much from it. [Of course, I forget most of it after the project is wound up, but that’s life.] Getting the words down on paper is the hard part: getting the thoughts in the right sequence so that one leads into another; choosing the best word for the situation; making sure that I don’t distort the facts, etc. Grammar and spelling are no problem—they come naturally to me.
While I am writing, I think, “ This stuff is awful! This is dreck! No one will ever want to read it!” But when I read the finished product years later I think, “This is pretty good. Did I really write it?”
How do I get my ideas? Some have come to me from free-lance projects I worked on; others come from newspapers, magazines, and TV. Some have been suggested by editors, which was fortunate because then I didn’t have to struggle to pitch the idea.
Like many a person I know, I did not start out with the idea of doing what I now do. When I started college, I yearned to be a chemist, exploring the mysteries of how atoms and molecules interacted with each other. Freshman math did me in. Being good at languages, I then thought I’d try for the Foreign service. I flunked the orals twice. Finis to that career. How about teaching? As a student teacher in a good high school, I found myself sympathizing with the students rather than with the administration. You can guess how successful I’d have been on my first real-life teaching job, stuck with the worst, most resentful students.
I finally found my niche when, through a family connection, I got a job as copy editor at Collier’s Encyclopedia. On the next job, also a reference work, I found that I had to do an immense amount of rewriting the god-awful stuff our contributors sent in. This eventually led me to strike out on my own. I was able to survive as a free-lance writer with a wife and four children thanks to an inheritance.
In my writing, I try to inform and entertain. Making the material interesting for the reader is vital—even the most informative and accurate account is valueless if no one wants to read it. But I don’t want to sensationalize or vulgarize my material. I think a good story can tell itself without hoking it up.
I’ve probably said enough by now, so I’ll just encourage you, gentle reader, to visit my Web site at www.peterlimburg.com. Thanks for sticking with me.
Armonk Fire Department's Ambulance, 51-BZ 2002 Ford. Photo courtesy Armonk Fire Department.
Surprise Ending By Louise T. Gantress
A year ago this month my husband and I were driving to the Burns to see a Russian film, perhaps Uncle Vanya. We were going south on Route 22, with the green light, approaching the entrance to 684 north. I noticed a too eager car on the other side but thought the driver was just positioning himself to turn to take the ramp. When he didn’t stop I thought, “No, this can’t really happen. He’s going to hit us!”
He ran the light. My husband tried to avoid the other car, but that was impossible. They say that in such situations the action moves in slow motion. Perhaps that is not exactly the best way to describe it. We knew it was inevitable that he’d hit our vehicle, but there wasn’t time enough to react other than to try to avoid a collision by moving to the right. The other driver seemed to track us, almost aim at us. The impact—with a loud noise of metal compacting—was to the driver side wheel, fortunately not to the driver side door.
We were hit, with a force, and driven off the road. Just a few months prior I had a bad fall that injured my back, so this sideways motion worsened my condition. While trying to avoid the other car my husband was also aware of the large metal posts holding the traffic lights and tried to avoid being pushed into them. He succeeded, and we landed in the soft earth between the two pillars. Just in front of the entrance ramp. Two other cars stopped, and one of the drivers called the police.
North Castle’s finest soon arrived. They told me to stay in the car, because I wanted to get out and leave. Shock, they said. Soon the Armonk Fire Department ambulance arrived. The volunteers were in gear, but I recognized one and called his name. He came over to me and asked how I was. There was a series of questions after which it was decided to put me on a plank for transport to the hospital. To be safe, the put my husband on a plank as well.
It is not comfortable to be tied to a hard board, your head braced secure against any motion. Your vision is fixed, straight up. To be sure, it is necessary to stabilize an injured person for transport and to prevent any further injury, but it is not a pleasant experience. The volunteers loaded us onto the truck and sped away to the hospital.
On board we each were tended to by a volunteer who took readings to give to the ER staff upon arrival. The woman who took my readings was a new resident to Armonk. It is an indication of our town’s community spirit that new residents are motivated to join the volunteer corps. It is not just hopping on a truck, but serious study and proficiency at the medical components of emergency service.
The trip to the hospital seemed to take a long time. Funny, how relative time can be. I remember how soothing her voice was, telling me we’d arrive soon, asking me to follow her finger to test my vision.
When we did arrive, our neighbors transferred us to the hospital and entrusted us to the ER staff, wished us well and left. One is tempted to say they “disappeared into the night” but they are present in our lives as volunteers and neighbors. It is good that they are.
Armonk resident, Frederick (Rick) Alimonti has penned an important new children’s book, Inside Out, (his fourth). It examines the issue of bullying in a fanciful yet thought-provoking manner. Rick is a lawyer by day, but has always enjoyed writing – focusing his energies recently on children’s books that examine important subjects like diversity, stranger danger, special needs, and most recently, bullying.
Inside Out is a poem fantasy story in which a "tween" [and "queen-bee"] bully awakens to an alternate reality only inner beauty is worn on the outside, and she is not at all happy with her appearance. A strange bus transports her to school, Inside Out, in which she and her friends, including "the class president, wear on the outside that which in them is resident." She is thus forced to see where true beauty lies and that in fact, the kindly girl that she has been bullying is actually the beautiful one.
Alimonti comments, "the funny thing is, it was only after writing [and reading] this book that I even realized it addressed bullying. The theme that inspired me to write Inside Out is inner beauty; the bullying in the book was simply a vehicle for this message. The result was a book that addresses bullying in a unique and perhaps subtle way. Our bully takes a forced look at herself on the "inside." Yet somehow, the story is still fun and ultimately uplifting."
According to Alimonti, “so far, the reviews and responses have been overwhelming. The challenge now is to get the word out.” Alimonti implores, “please order even if out of stock so that Amazon gets the message.”
The book can be purchased at amazon at: amazon.com Each book includes a code to download an audio file of Alimonti’s reading. You can learn more about Rick and his work at alimontibooks.com.
Honda The Boy Who Dreamed of Cars by Mark Weston.
HONDA - THE BOY WHO DREAMED OF CARS by Mark Weston
Walk down any street in Armonk and you will see a Honda. Probably several. Yet few people know that a man named Soichiro Honda (1906-1991) founded the Honda Motor Company.
Longtime Armonk resident Mark Weston has written a new children's book, "Honda - The Boy Who Dreamed of Cars," for kids 7-10. Lee & Low published the illustrated 30-page biography in September 2008. It is a particularly good book for not-so-studious boys, because it discusses pistons, carburetors and transmissions, but girls will enjoy learning where Hondas come from too. "Honda" is based on a chapter of a book for adults Mark wrote in 1999 called "Giants of Japan - The Lives of Japan's Greatest Men and Women."
He has also just written a 560-page history of Saudi Arabia, "Prophets and Princes - Saudi Arabia from Muhammad to the Present," that John Wiley & Sons published in August.
Mark's interest in the Middle East and Far East began with a 9th grade class in non-Western studies that Herb Klinger taught at Byram Hills.
Title: "Prophets and Princes - Saudi Arabia from Muhammad to the Present"
I wrote my first-ever published article at the North Castle Library back when I was nineteen. It was for Seventeen Magazine and it was about the trauma of turning twenty. Twenty!
Now that those years are far behind me and I have had twelve books published, I'm working on a new novel that is set in both Armonk and in Manhattan, where I currently live. The working title is ANSWER ME and it's about a girl who slowly comes to terms with the death of her mother. There's one character who, like me, is an advice columnist who answers snail mail and email from girls. Her own daughter goes to Byram Hills.
Yes, we writers do like to write what we know, and I sure know that Armonk was a great place to grow up. Go Bobcats! More at carolweston.com.