When your friend calls and asks if you want to FLY ON A TRAPEZE for her birthday party, of course you do. Nevermind that you weigh 20 pounds more than you should, or that you can’t do a chin-up, or that you have a strong sense of self preservation and a low tolerance for risk. For most of us who are over 30 and not particularly fit, this is probably a once in a lifetime opportunity.
I say probably, because it’s not necessarily the only opportunity. The circus arts are experiencing a renaissance on the west coast. And it’s not the Ringling Bros big-top style of circus; it’s homespun and a little gritty, a loose band of misfits who have always had a knack for contortionism but never knew quite what to do with it. Circus troupes are springing up all over coast (maybe on the interior too? let me know), and they’re all empowering kids to pay attention to their bodies, learn to trust, build self-esteem, and do something hard and magical, something that is outside of all the sports and music groups kids are usually forced to make a place for themselves. And perhaps best of all, these circus people believe it’s not too late for us grownups, either.
In Seattle, SANCA is the resident circus. They are a fantastic organization, and it’s written into their mission that no kid will be turned away due to lack of money. So if you live anywhere near Seattle, book a birthday party in the trapeze tent and subsidize a kid’s scholarship! It’s the most fun charitable donation you’ll ever make.
Despite my (totally reasonable) fears about falling, I’ve always had this sneaking suspicion that I would be awesome on a trapeze. I can envision the motion of the swing; I can imagine the point where momentum pulls my legs under me; I can feel the top of the arc when my back would curve, before momentum and gravity propel my body into a tumble or a catch or something graceful. Let me put your excitement to rest folks: I was not awesome. But I was totally capable. And all 11 adults at that birthday party, of different ages and levels of fitness, successfully flew on that trapeze.
Despite how well I could envision the way that momentum would swing my legs upwards at the end of the first arc, I was panicked about getting my legs up fast enough before I started to swing back down, and from the second I jumped off the platform I started trying to tuck my legs up, completely working against what should have been easy. Hence the one-legged scramble in both videos below. [For the record, there was a third flight that Joshua conveniently neglected to capture on camera that showed me doing this absolutely perfectly. Ahem. At least I’m pretty sure. But we’ll never know because he was too busy shrieking (encouraging things) at at me from down below to remember to press “Record” on the camera.] Without further ado:
See? That was me. Skiing is nothing compared to this rush! All of us took something from this fun experience, aside from the adrenaline surge. Josh said he learned how to let go. Me, I learned that although I’m a person who makes things happen, forcing something to happen before its time makes me work harder than I need to. Next time, I’ll let momentum do its thing. And who knows? Maybe there WILL be a next time.
Bellingham has its own little troupe called the Bellingham Circus Guild, filled with talented funny creative people who miraculously walk among us in this small-ish city. It gives me a little thrill to think I might pass one of these folks at the farmer’s market. Though they spend most of their time practicing and teaching kids circus arts in an obscure warehouse, a couple of times a year they put on a show, always with a vaguely Victorian or Steampunk flavor, and they pack in standing-room-only crowds. Here’s a snip from the performance we attended on Valentine’s Day. It’s something to aspire to.
You can do anything. Seriously.