Dancing In The Pool

poolThere is something about an indoor pool; how the voices and the light bounce around wildly.  I took in the sight of them; flipping, splashing, hollering, sputtering, and swimming with great gusto, their arms slapping the water while their ineffectual kicks didn’t quite break the surface until stroke three.  A young one swimming can bring to mind someone blindly fighting horizontally, all flailing.

I swam away from them, keeping all their precious selves in full view.  Do you pretend any more?  That faithful childhood voyage of the mind into fiction?  If you say “fantasy” anymore only lurid connotations surface, unless, of course, you follow it with “football”.  How telling that we’ve pigeon-holed that word into our culture’s favorite gluts:  sex and sports.

Well…there my arm extended to the side, my slow-moving underwater form all grace and effortlessly on pointe.  I was a ballerina there for some stolen moments, twirling, dancing in the pool.  The kids were none the wiser.  Any passersby would think I was engaged in some water aerobics.  Because adults don’t pretend anymore…do they?

It happens too, whenever I wear a dress shoe with a hard sole; you know the ones that make that delightful mincing click when you walk?  It’s when that click meets stone walkways or brick sidewalks, right there, I am transported by imagination’s fancy, to being a princess in a castle or out in her gardens.  Heck, I can’t even don an apron without a jolt of pioneer-woman stealing over my good sense.

Perhaps why I enjoyed the stage so much.  I got to actually act out a life I wasn’t born into.  I was definitely a method actor, donning not only a costume but a whole new self for the span of an hour.  It made my tears real ones and my emotions ran raw or giddy alongside my character’s.  In one play I was to stage-slap a fellow actor across the face (meaning, I was supposed to slap lower on his neck and not actually on his cheek). Every show I had to apologize afterwards because every time I was so into character that I’d slap him right across the face in indignation.  Oh dear.

I moved back across the pool, satisfied by my temporary transport to the ballet stage, and became, in turn, a shark chasing minnows and a dolphin to ride on.

I thought about pretending, and really, I think it is more commonly engaged than realized.  Even reading a suspense novel, we have our hearts pounding, our palms sweat; we have in a way identified with the character and are living out what happens to them.  Television and movies are certainly voyeuristic and provoke engagement with our imaginations.  On a darker note, porn owes much of it’s consumption from the loneliness and discontent of men.

Pretending.

But here’s what I’ll promise you.  I may pretend briefly to be a ballerina or a shark or a princess fleeing in tippy-tappy shoes through her garden, but I won’t pretend to be okay.  I won’t pretend that life tips always in my favor, nor that my own sins don’t reek of rot.  I won’t pretend that faith is enough to wipe the sorrows away, nor that with Jesus at my side, I can make it through anything.  Because, really, He never said I could.  He only said that He would be with me, ceaselessly beside me, loving me.  I can’t pretend that doesn’t thrill me.  That the Lover of my soul, the Creator of all that is, is ever with me, ever loving imperfect me. That the sufferings of life on this terrestrial ball aren’t the eternal things, much as they pretend to be.

Time Traveler

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It was when I looked out the wavy glass window of Edgar Allen Poe’s home in Philadelphia, in the room where his wife was slowly dying while he spilled out his words in dark tales, as if he could leak all the black out through ink.  The walls were laid bare down to the original plaster, layers of other tenant’s lives stripped away, almost as a plea to peel back time and let us see Edgar at the window with us, an alternatively despairing or maniacally happy man, to ask him questions and see how his words look on his face rather than guess at their conveyance on paper.

It was as I surreptitiously reached out for the doorknobs, the stair rail, the old places where other hands touched and pushed and leaned.

Once in a high school science class we were made to line up and hold hands.  Then the first person would reach out and touch an electric current in a device.  It zinged through our joined hands, the last person receiving the full brunt of the jolt.  I touch those doorknobs, I want to know how they felt in George Washington’s hand, in Poe’s hand, in my hand.  I want to know them through their spaces; I want a jolt of recognition.

It’s as I wait for the tour guides to lead the group through to the next room that I steal a moment of silence in that old space, to hear how the silence sounds there.  What is this longing all about?

ImageFarm kitchen in Colonial Williamsburg. 

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Governor’s Palace, Colonial Williamsburg.

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Palace kitchen, Colonial Williamsburg.

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The Braun-Menendez Mansion in Punta Arenas, Chile.  Alone in an exquisite room with all original pieces, looking here into the bureau mirror where the mistress of the home would have seen her own face reflected back.

Is it just intense curiosity?  A passion for history?  Latent anthropological interest?  One further hazard of an overactive imagination?

It is, I know, why I gobble up period movies like a fiend.  The “willing suspension of disbelief”, that’s how our drama teacher put it, what you need to be led into story on a stage or when watching a movie or even when reading a heart-pounding thriller (which is funny, isn’t it, that words on a page can make us all agitated?).  It allows me to time travel in a way.  I especially adore how the new “Pride and Prejudice” was filmed; the camera “looks” around the room as it pans, showing smudges on the walls, crumbs on the table, and all the glory of everyday life in an era I can only touch through doorknobs and imagination.

The attendant in the hall cleared her voice.  I know she was wondering what I was doing in that lovely room, alone with a hefty camera.  People normally come in, see the room, read the placard and move on.  If she’d have asked, could I have really told her, that no, I wasn’t stealing the baubles or peeking in a drawer, that no, I was time traveling?

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