On skills and sanity

Betty has been trucking across town to circus class every Thursday for a while now, and quite honestly wouldn’t like to imagine this present life without it, if at all possible. This past term has been lovely: a different teacher, who is supportive and wonderful and shares Betty’s love for the clinically special and their siblings and art and dance and behaving like a holy fool from time to time; classmates ranging in age from ten to Betty, one of whom has an aunt who made a career as a human cannonball; and a beautiful studio by the zoo with windows covering one wall; and, importantly, enough rope…

It hasn’t just been trapeze all term, either. There are silks, or tissu, which are beautiful and difficult – one has to climb to fearful heights and hang on, and wrap one’s limbs into various locks and wedge one’s torso between the ribbons and reserve enough energy to come down again, while making it one’s resolve to stay up, because the silks are like a wave pool of gravity, constantly inching one down. The day after tissu is achy shoulders, tender knuckles, slight burns on the tops of one’s feet, and back muscles like a flying squirrel.

There’s also a hammock of silk, rigged from two points, that mimics the cloudswing made of rope – it’s lovely fun, perfect for flipping in, or as a place from which to sling some small child. There’s a lyra, essentially a hanging hula hoop that looks graceful but causes about as much pain as you’d expect from a solid piece of metal. The studio has two trapezes, a triple (four ropes and a bar, as seen in the previous circus post), and a single, which is currently rigged from one point, which makes it a dance trapeze. It spins.

But what Betty is trying to convey is the motivation and the challenge of aerial circus. Betty has terrible upper-body strength and a dramatic fear of heights, both of which amplify the temptation to slack off. I might just do another gazelle, one thinks to oneself. I might do something more experimental. In lieu of actual skills, I shall emote at a medium height in a paroxysm of dorsiflexion. This video, I think, shows a slightly more realistic view – the excuses of laziness don’t really fool the camera. Uninitiated viewers will have to imagine the sensations of having fairly substantial rope wrapping around the knees, with one’s practically entire and very non-Bulgarian-gymnast weight resting on it; of becoming semi-stuck on one’s own proverbial; of being acutely aware that the bar is rigged, I don’t know, two feet higher than when one started to learn this piece, which shouldn’t change much, but does. In the half-hour after this video was taken, with the help of some rosin and a run-through on the silks and the teacher’s direct suggestion, Betty did the handstand anyway and it didn’t kill her. You see?

The day after trapeze is bruises behind one’s knees, bruises across one’s pelvis, bruised ankles, bruised shoulder-blades, callouses under each finger, a decompressed spine, pathetically exhausted arms, and a smile.

Advertisements

O popoi

Betty is laid on one side in a bed of sickness, relatively speaking: not a terrible one, just a bit of a sore throat and a woozy kind of feeling in the head. She has been gargling Himalayan salt, doing kaloba shots, upping the fluids, brewing ginger and lemon, taking paracetamol, and other such desperate and heroic acts to ward it off, and they seem to be working fairly well, considering. Other things Betty has been considering are as follows:

1. Flashmobs are the thing just now. What about this one: somebody coughs in a crowded train station. So does somebody else. Others join in. Within minutes, myriad commuters are hacking and whooping as if to shake the earth. A pertussis flashmob! Poignant and striking.

2. Tomorrow night, Betty must take several visiting Pilates teachers to the city and get them into a restaurant that doesn’t take reservations, while fifty thousand other people attempt to crowd into the area for the opening of the Rugby World Cup, an event which interests Betty very little, though there will be fireworks. This might be interesting.

3. There are no more considerations for this evening.

When the fever lifts, Betty will let you know.

The laying on of hands

Betty has been suffering from an Ultimate Fever of Doom for the past week, and it has left her with sore muscles, puffy hands, and a sleepy face. She has snoozed for hours and cancelled more workouts than she decently should have – a shame, because working out makes her feel good, but a mitigated shame, because the muscle pain feels more or less the same as post-exercise soreness anyway.

After her last client of the week, therefore, Betty decided to sort things out with a nice massage. The massage lady is almost next door to Betty’s work, is very reasonably priced, and welcomes walk-ins; for the purposes of privacy and to avoid filling the massage lady’s schedule, we will refer to her as Sue. Her specialty is Chinese massage, delivered with unpretentious simplicity.

The massage went something like this:

Sue: How much pressure you like? Soft or hard?
Betty: Oh, reasonably hard is fine.
Sue: Little more pressure, no problem? I tie your hair back, OK?
Betty: Go ahead. [A flash of pain sears through Betty’s body. The massage continues in silence.]
Sue’s hands: This muscle is attached to this bone.
Betty’s body: Yes, I see.
Sue’s hands: Not necessarily. [pulls them apart]
Betty’s body: My goodness.
Sue’s hands: I will fix your shoulder now. See, here I will poke a small hole.
Betty’s body: I had forgotten the path of that particular nerve. Thank you for reminding me.
Sue’s sweet self: I cannot reach. I sit on you.
Betty’s body: Whoa.

And so on. Over the course of what was supposed to be a thirty-minute massage, Sue spent fifty minutes giving Betty a thorough what-for, reformatting shoulders, polishing spinal vertebrae, and at one point, very possibly working directly on the brain. For probably the same reasons that Betty finds Pilates refreshing, or finds it easy to sleep during IMAX disaster movies, or harbours a secret desire to try waterboarding, this type of massage is deeply relaxing; something about giving her full attention in this way makes it difficult to focus on any of life’s little problems. At any rate, today Betty has bruises from occiput to sacrum, and feels generally much better. Good show, Sue!

Actually, sumer is on its way out

But there’s no need to be doomy. This morning Betty was halfway through teaching her first Pilates lesson and it was still pitch-black outside. The nip in the air is starting to hang about for morning tea. It’s still brilliantly sunny in the afternoons, but in a crisper sort of way. It puts Betty in mind of this mediaeval song, which reminds her, however illogically, of good things like Morris dancing and strawberries and Professor Marshall Walker.

Svmer is icumen in
Lhude sing cuccu!
Groweþ sed and bloweþ med
and springþ þe wde nu.
Sing cuccu!

Awe bleteþ after lomb,
lhouþ after calue cu,
Bulluc sterteþ, bucke uerteþ.
Murie sing cuccu!
Cuccu, cuccu,
Wel singes þu cuccu.
ne swik þu nauer nu!
Sing cuccu nu, Sing cuccu!

And cuckoos, of course.