Just a few days ago I was sitting in my office and a ray of sunlight hit the facets of a stone in a necklace that I wore around my neck and threw gorgeous sparkly patterns on the wall opposite my desk. Every time that happens I’m taken back to a time when I was a little girl sitting cross-legged on the wooden floors of a dance studio, wearing a turquoise leotard with my name embroidered in pink thread on my left shoulder and soft pink slippers with an elastic band across the top of the foot that was hand-sewn in by my mother. Miss Larkin would often start our lessons by pulling a delicate pair of slippers from her bag that were embellished on the edges with rhinestones. She would hold those shoes up high so they would catch the light from the windows and throw “fairy-sparkles” all around the room. She would then tell us that a dance studio was a magical place and show us how ballerinas walked (gently, with toes pointed out, arms held out at sides). She taught us how to move with grace and purpose, as well as how to stretch and arch our backs into bridges and baskets for the fairies. Miss Larkin didn’t believe in tutus and recitals–she believed in practice. Which we did.
Though I went to dances when I was in high school and college, I’ve rarely danced in recent years (except a brief stint to teach myself some bellydancing moves in an unsuccessful attempt to strengthen my hips and abs). For me, dancing is just too much a fight with gravity (and technology) to produce much pleasure.
Speaking of which. Gravity. Ugh. Yesterday as I was sitting at my desk and doing my work (not being distracted by sparkles), I felt a mechanical vibration run up my leg. I thought that maybe I’d left my cellphone in my pocket, but then quickly surmised that it was a vibration coming from my robotic knee, which was a warning that I had 15 minutes until the battery would run out of juice. I had an inkling that something was awry with my knee a few days ago, and suspected that it wasn’t charging well when I plugged it in at night. But…I didn’t suppose that I was running quite so low. So I rushed home to see if I could fix the problem. And on the way to get upstairs to the charger my juice ran out completely, my knee buckled under me, and I fell to the floor. There’s nothing like a fall to humble me, to make me remember just how fragile every step is for me. Luckily, I was just a bit bruised from the fall and not hurt too much. After fiddling with a few things on my leg I think I’ve got the knee working well enough to make it until I can see my prosthetist.
Some days it seems such a hassle to have a knee that fails so easily, that needs such constant repair, and that I can never fully trust to hold my weight. Every awkward step belies my dependence on a functional microprocessor and on expensive components that are not flaw-free. When I see ballet dancers like in the video below I wish (sometimes, desperately) that I could move with their ease.
But…though I don’t move like they do, I think I’m a dancer anyways–someone who lives in her body, who knows the pleasure of being flexible and strong, who can pick herself up off the floor after she falls, and who believes in persistent practice. Perhaps that’s the real lesson learned from Miss Larkin all those years ago.
(hat tip to Allison for the video link–and for bringing back such tender memories)