I’m going to run away and join the circus

| health

When I thought about what I would do if I had all the money I wanted,
I realized that trying out the flying trapeze was one thing on my
to-do list. A Friday drop-in class at the Toronto Circus School costs
only $25. Why not? It was going to be worth it, even if only for the

Bobby and Adam were our teachers and safety crew. After a few
instructions, they had the first ten participants strap on their
belts. I was #14, so I settled on the mat and started stretching.

The first one up was clearly experienced. She launched herself off the
platform and swung gracefully through the air, tucking her knees in
and over the bar in the smoothest of motions. She let go, pointed her
toes and arched her back. When Bobby gave the signal, she whipped back
up, grabbed the bar and untucked her knees, and let go. She landing on
the net with a gentle bounce and swung herself over the side of the net.

Right. She made it look so easy, which naturally meant that it was
difficult and I was going to embarrass myself big time. Fortunately, I
had decided not to take any friends along. I was glad I’d gotten there
a little late. There were twelve other people before me, twelve people
to learn from and twelve chances to visualize what should be done
before I actually had to get up there and remove my toes from the
comfort of the ground.

The next two people up inspired great confidence, though. They
couldn’t get their knees up to the bar. At that point, I decided that
even the experience of swinging on a trapeze would make it worth it
for me, and that any sort of trick would be chocolate fudge icing on a
double-chocolate cake.

The rest of the students passed in quick succession. Some had clearly
done this before. Others were obviously first-timers. My fellow
first-timers generally made an undignified scramble for the bar, but
that was okay—at our level, just touching the bar with one’s toes
could be considered an amazing achievement.

And then it was my turn. I climbed up the aluminum ladder, which
swayed with every step. I visualized the first person’s performance,
while giving myself permission to do the frog scramble that other
beginners did. It was going to be okay. It was going to be fun.

On the platform, Adam tightened my harness and hooked up the two
safety lines that Bobby controlled. He told me to stand with my toes
off the edge and lean forward to grab the bar with my right hand. And
then I was somehow supposed to trust this guy to hang on to me as I
grabbed the bar with my left hand, leaning forward so that my center
of gravity was over thin air. As part of me started thinking ahead to
the things that might go wrong and how I might deal with them (hands
slipping because of sweat or surprise? safety person not paying
attention), another part of me though, “What the heck, I’m up here
already. I want to see what it’s like. Let’s go!”

“Hep!”, he said, and off I went.

That first swing is a rush. I’d like to say that the only thought that
was running through my head was “DO NOT LET GO DO NOT LET GO DO NOT
LET GO”. But it wasn’t. It was just too much *fun* watching the world
whiz by. And at the height of that swing, Bobby gave me the signal to
get my knees up there.

Right. Time to haul myself up. So I hauled.

You must understand that the last time I did anything even remotely
like this was when I was five years old and doing gymnastics. No,
wait, I also made a habit of hanging upside down by my knees in the
low-branched kalachuchi trees of my high school. But it had been a
very long time since I had climbed a tree or played on monkey bars.

No, I did not have this flashback while I was up there. I was too busy
hauling. Crunch, scramble, get those knees up and over.

Whee! And then to let go of the bar—and point my toes—and arch my

It was over far too soon. The toughest part was figuring out how to
get back on the ground. I squawked, bounced off the net, clambered to
the edge, and tried to let myself over gracefully. Nope, I used up all
of my grace points doing that trapeze trick. But I did manage to get
myself back on terra firma without breaking anything.

And then we were taught another trick: somersaulting on the dismount
by tucking our knees in and leaning back. Piece of cake!

I’m going to sign up for circus classes this fall. I probably won’t go
for the trapeze right away, although I’ll drop in for classes once in
a while. I think I’ll start off with flexibility training, because
that’s something I can keep practicing on my own. But I’ve found
something I enjoy doing. Now I have even better reasons to develop
strength, endurance, and flexibility. I could always *see* these
tricks in my mind’s eye, and now I can remember the exhilaration.


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