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Archive for August, 2018

The end of August brings me to the end of about four and a half months of aerial silks classes at Windsor Circus School. It has been, for those who are friends and have seen my little video of my routine, fairly intense. I have done the following things: hung upside down in an inversion pose, which I might have made a bit stronger just this afternoon; learned how to do a starfish, a plank, Ship’s Maiden, a back split, a candy roll (Cripes…this one is my damn nemesis!), and a ’tilt’ as of this afternoon. I’ve crept up a bit higher on my silk, but I’m still working from a central knot rather than climbing. This bugs me. I want to climb. My arms are stronger, but not strong enough. That’s my next goal: stronger arms by October.

Here’s what’s changed physically (in my body and being) for me, after all these weeks of Tuesday afternoon’s aerial silks classes: I have more of a core than I’ve ever had before, so I’m less klutzy and more certain in my bearing; I’m more in my body than I’ve ever been before — I trust it and I know it’s strong; I walk more gracefully, mostly I think because I’ve unfurled myself, uncurled myself, stretched myself out and learned where the muscles are, where my strength lives and flourishes; my upper body and shoulders are athletic, and I have muscles in my arms that were always there, but didn’t really show up very often; my feet and toes have more dexterity than I ever imagined; my hands and fingers: well, when you’re holding your whole body’s weight up with your hands and arms, you get arm, hand, and finger cramps when you least expect it. What’s been really loveliest of all, though, is that my left hip (the one with the big metal staple in it) has more range of motion than it has in years. It might be the hip rotations, bear walks, and ‘hollow body’ exercises we do on the floor mats for conditioning before class, or it might be the cascade of planks that we do on the mats, and in the air, but whatever it is, it has made me feel more whole, and less broken. This is the biggest gift.

Beyond the physical, here’s what silks has done for me in my daily life: I challenge myself to overcome my (mostly imagined) fears now. I tried TRX this month, once a week, and was amazed by how much I could do. This body of mine is stronger now, healthier. It can balance itself on a single knot of fabric, a foot above the floor. I can trust that it won’t let me down, that I’ll find my centre of balance in so many ways beyond the physical. The staple in my left hip that used to tell me, “You’ll never been fit, or slim, or healthy, or strong” now is made silent by my purposeful intention to be healthy, physically and mentally, and by my goal of becoming stronger. The one move that I fumble with is the candy roll. Tia, my teacher, knows this. Today, she saw me avoiding it in class. “Candy roll! Let’s go!” So I did it. And I did it fairly well. And then she just said, “Again! Do it again!” (She’s a good teacher; this is what I do with my student writers, too. The more you do something, over and over, in a disciplined way, the better you’ll be at it.)

What I have learned from Tia is that I can now trust my body more than I can my head. This is a big, scary, life changing lesson for me. I’ve always been cerebral, more in my head than in my body. Then, when I was really overweight, I was always wanting not to be in my body because I didn’t like it very much. Now, well, it’s a strong and athletic body that I’ve sculpted. It’s taken work. I’m not all the way there yet, but I’m getting there. I don’t hate it anymore. I love it, and I thank it for its strength and good health.

I’ve also learned important lessons from Tia. They sound like snippets, these little phrases: “Why the face?! Smile!”, “Get out of your head! Get into your body!”, “Point your toes and make that took pretty!”, and, my favourite of all time, when I complain or whinge about something, “Welcome to Circus!” and “Nice talk! Now, go again! Do it again!” Today, at the beginning of class, the ominous bit of conversation in passing was a quiet couple of words: “Today, Kim, you are moving on. New move. It’s happening.” Then I made a face, doubtful of my own ability to make myself strong enough to do something that requires me to flip around myself and then pull myself back onto the knot.

Today, when she taught me the ’tilt’ move, I thought I would fall off the silk. You have to pull both sides of the silk together into one joined ribbon, and then put one of your legs on the outside of that main ribbon. Then you tuck your leg over the silk and lift that same knee up so that you tilt over the other side of your body. You sort of, as Tia says, “give yourself a big hug.” (I know my giving myself a hug today was not at all ‘pretty looking,’ but I get what she meant when she said it to me. I’m getting there.)

What I’ve learned since April, since I began, and when I look back at my personal progression videos that I take every week, is that I am not as fearful of trusting my body to hold me up. I’m strong. I could be stronger, and I will be. In the last few months of the year, I want to be stronger so that I can climb. I’ve compensated for that stapled hip for too long. Doing aerials means that the scar tissue gets broken up every week, and that I have a wider range of motion than I’ve ever had since I had that surgery done at Sick Kids when I was just a kid. That’s a big deal. The even bigger deal is that I don’t let my hip, or the story I have traditionally and historically told myself about that hip and that staple, stop me from trying new things anymore. I’ve also finally accepted these Irish curves of mine, too, especially since they’re more ‘together’ than they were at this time last year. That’s powerful, too…to embrace your femininity and know it is about strength…both internal and external.

I may not be able to climb as high, or be as fluidly bendable as the 20-somethings who hang like pliable monkeys from the other silks across from me, but I know I’ve had a hard battle with a lot of things in my life, so I’ll celebrate the fact that I can lean my body confidently forward into Ship’s Maiden and then feel my shoulders straining. And then I’ll use my core and arms to pull myself back up to centre. I’ll celebrate the fact that I can somehow do candy roll if I trust my core and my balance; I can trust my feet and hands more now, to hold me up and not fear falling. It’s a metaphor for living, I think: for not mourning my ‘lost years of battling depression,’ but instead a celebration for honouring my survival, and now, well, for my blooming, as well…

I’ll throw a little party inside my head as I invert without thinking about it anymore, putting my legs into a diamond shape so that I know I am holding myself up in one of the weirdest ways I’d ever imagined I could. I’ll throw yet another party for myself because all of this makes my hiking down long trails even lovelier, more fulfilling, and more energizing. I still need to be mindful when I hike, not to overdo it. Sometimes that hip freezes, and I don’t know why, and it’s like someone has kicked me so I physically buckle. (If I’m lucky, I’m usually alone with the dog, and there’s a great deal of pain and swearing…) It happens less frequently now, though, and I know that is because of aerial silks, and Windsor Circus School, and my teacher, Tia. 🙂

Sometimes, you know, being an almost absolute beginner and a late bloomer is the best place for learning the most important lessons in life. Sometimes, you know, you step into yourself when you can’t imagine you ever would have. There’s such a gift in this new knowing. Such a gift…

peace,

k.

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I feel strongly about thanking the various mentors I’ve had in my writing career thus far. It isn’t over, so I am sure there will be a few more before I’ve gone and left the planet in my old age. (I intend to live to over ninety, so I have quite a few more things to write before then!)

Besides mentors, though, there are the writers you discover as you move through your own life, with its various trials and tribulations. Bronwen Wallace was a poet I learned about in grad school, at Carleton University, in Ottawa. Her work changed me. It still does.

This essay is a reflection on how the late Bronwen Wallace’s work has influenced me as a poet, as a person, and definitely as a feminist. She was so amazing, and her work still sings.

If you’d like to read my essay on her work, you can do so at

https://themanygenderedmothers.blogspot.com/2018/08/kim-fahner-on-bronwen-wallace.html

She was an inspiration to so many of us, and maybe more people need to hear her name, discover and come to her poems, and the excellent work she did with abused women in Kingston, Ontario, at Interval House.

Thanks for reading. I appreciate it.

 

peace,

k.

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I think most Northerners have an affinity for the bush. If you grow up anywhere from Parry Sound upwards, in Ontario anyway, you’ve liking been out hiking, canoeing, fishing, or camping in summer. You have memories of the sound of an outboard motor starting up, kicking at the deep navy blue water on a summer day, and then the smell of gas rising. You’ll recall putting your first worm or minnow on the fishing hook, and those weird puffy red life jackets that we used to wear. (My grandparents used to stick us in ones that were from the 1940s. God knows, they probably didn’t work, but we weren’t smart enough as ‘under 10s’ to know it.) So, you probably also knew how to swim in lakes and feel weeds under your feet, and maybe a fish nip or two. Most Northern Ontario parents stick you in swimming lessons as soon as you can handle water wings because there are lakes everywhere.

You likely also have memories of jumping off rocky shores, never really completely sure that it was safe to do so. You have sat under tall pines, near a shoreline, maybe around a small campfire. And you likely have stood out on a dock, at 1am, under the darkest night sky you could ever imagine, looking at stars. Yeah. We Northerners grow up in the wilderness and we usually, traditionally, escape to the bush on weekends, with beer, wine, cards, a cribbage board, and maybe look forward to crazy games of Monopoly and Scrabble under a yellow camp light and with a mosquito coil burning like some kind of weird Northern Ontario incense stick. We have camps that have been passed down through generations, places (even sometimes) where ashes might have been scattered after the loss of a loved one.

So. Watching the creeping forest fires on social media over the last two weeks has been heartbreaking. Hearing of friends who were out at their camps on Hartley Bay or Alban and then were suddenly evacuated makes me feel sick to my stomach. It’s heartbreaking. There is no other word for it, to be honest. Now, I know that forest fires are ‘natural’ in that they cause regeneration of trees and soil. Some trees and plants require fire to help them germinate. I’m reminded of how farmers will sometimes burn a field and let it stay fallow for a season, to enrich the soil. I know there are benefits. Now, though, after a couple of weeks of it all, you’ll spot someone offering a place for people to stable their horses, if they’ve needed to evacuate. People grow kinder and more compassionate in times of crisis. Now, though, the fire up around Parry Sound (just called “Parry Sound 33”) keeps creeping, expanding. An article from last night’s Sudbury Star says it started on July 18th and it’s now burned more than 100 square kilometres. The Municipality of Killarney has been affected, but not the village itself. The Municipality of French River has issued an evacuation alert, warning people that they should be prepared to leave quickly. The smoke causes visibility issues on Highway 69. Over 500 firefighters are up there working hard, including 200 from Mexico. What makes it all seem more real, though, are the photos and videos on social media. A spark sends the fire across a river, so it ‘jumps’ the water and spreads. The rain isn’t plentiful enough to slow its progress.

There’s no doubt there are going to be horribly sad stories that will emerge once this is over, but there will likely be stories of great compassion and kindness, too. I can only, though, right now, think of friends who live in those at-risk areas, or who have family camps. And, of course, I think of the wildlife and the gorgeous trees that are so much a part of my internal and poetic landscape. You can, as a Northerner, love the land as deeply as you would a human. You can know what it feels like to stand under a tall white pine, on a stretch of rock overlooking some river channel or lake, and smell pine gum on your hands, or feel the needles of that tree. You can squat down and put your hands into the softest moss, or watch a tiny beetle meander across an old fallen tree. You can feel like you’ve been born of a place and space that is sacred to you, and will always be. If you believe in God, or a Creator, you’ll know that creative force exists when you step out into the northern bush and landscape.

I’m sending love to this sacred landscape of mine these days…and hoping things get better. I’ll keep praying for rain, and hoping that everyone stays safe.

peace,
k.



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