(cartoon copyright Nance Thacker 1990)
(click on image to enlarge)
Red the Juggler taught me and a horde of 8 to 12 year-old kids how to juggle. I should mention that I was 30 at the time.
Catherine "the Great", a former co-op house-mate of mine, had a friend who owned a children's bookstore in Market Square in Victoria, who had a friend who was a juggler — that would be the aforementioned Red, so named for his halo of fabulous, frizzy, flaming, orange hair. Red's claim to fame was that he could teach anyone how to juggle and was going to be doing so "for free" in the middle of square in two weeks time.
Co-incidentally, she was aware that this happened to be something I always wanted to do. As I was perpetually juggling 6 or more jobs at the time: yoga teacher, artist's model, house sitter, cartoonist, and dishwasher (to name a few), it seemed metaphorically apropos.
It proved to be way more fun than the breakdancing class I took a few months later — which was a one-time-only experience, cut short when I woke up the next day to find that I was unable to comb my hair. My neck was stuck ramrod straight and though I could raise my arms up to shoulder height I couldn't get my hands to reach my head. Oddly there was no pain; just no movement, until my chiropractor cracked me out. And when he did, though painless, the action produced such a loud crack that I screamed, I kid you not! His receptionist came running into the room to make sure everything was OK, my scream was that impressive.
I'd subluxed my first rib and he said, somewhat awestruck, "This is not an easy thing to do. I hardly ever see this. What the heck were you doing?"
At the time it seemed perfectly normal to be trying something that fascinated me, but it was downright embarrassing to hear the words, "I was learning how to breakdance" come out of my 30 year-old mouth. The look on his face only served only to anchor my humiliation as I explained that I was, (to my surprise) the only 30 year-old woman clad in yoga gear, in a class of flood pants wearing pre-teen boys with the addition of one "30 something" guy in sweat suit attire. I never found out how the other geezer fared but since I was whipping his ass in the agility department that night I can assume that in another chiropractor's office somewhere in the city he too was getting cracked out.
Anyway, the juggling class was 1 hour of pure frustration. Mostly it consisted of a bunch of kids (and me) dodging each other, running after errant flying balls, getting bonked in the head by errant flying balls, retrieving them from underneath benches and chairs and picking them out of flower baskets, of which there were many in the garden city of Victoria. At the end of the class I stood in line with the rest of the kids to purchase a set of handmade juggling balls for $5. - Red made himself a decent buck that day. And hours later, after everyone else's mother had called them home for dinner, there I remained until finally my passes were met with success and I could claim to actually be a juggler.
Juggling is a form of play and a way for me to relax. Juggling wipes my mind clear of anything else; if you can't focus you can't juggle. Years ago I was told that the women of Tonga juggle to attract a mate, don't know if that is true for them but it worked for me as, "Can you teach me how to juggle?" was the pick up line Rod used before inviting me out on our first date. (He met me at his brother's place and saw me juggle for his nephews.) I can see it all now, hordes of 30 something, single women forgoing make-up and the little, cleavage revealing, black dress in favour of learning the art of juggling to find the man of their dreams. Stranger things could happen.
What brings this to mind is that Rod and I, Glennie and Pam (2 other council members) spent this past May 2 4 weekend at Flo and Jack's place in Port Albert just a 15 minute walk from Lake Huron. It was a fantastic weekend full of laughs, stimulating conversation, great food (Jack is the most amazing cook and he makes it look so easy), fantastic hospitality (Flo is a gracious and doting hostess) and wine.
On Sunday we did whatever we wanted to do which meant that: Flo, Glyn and Pam went into Bayfield to shop, Rod and Jack played 9 holes of golf and I went to the lake to walk, read and meditate. I'd been craving a silent retreat for a few weeks now so I did my own little vipasana session. Though I had only a few hours it was incredibly rewarding. I alternated sitting for 20 minutes with 20 minutes of walking. As I walked down the country lane on my way back to the house I juggled which is not only entertaining but my favourite form of walking meditation.
What was different about this particular weekend was that we played games - scrabble, cribbage, crokinole, bocce ball. Crokinole and bocce we played the way kids do, making up our own rules as we saw fit. Bocce ball on the beach took on its own unique form. As Jack carved the double borders of the court into the sand beach we set up the ground rules.
"What will we do if the ball goes out of the court?"
"The team who owns the ball gets a negative score."
"Negative score! You can't have a negative score."
"Why not?" I asked. No one could come up with a good answer so scores of minus one's and two's appeared and disappeared as the games progressed.
"And if you hit the jack (the little white ball) in such a way that it gets covered by sand then you gain a point." Jack proposed, which we all thought was a brilliant idea and was met with great enthusiasm.
We acted like children taunting and teasing the other team; rallying our own team mate to, "Shake it off, shake it off." when the ball leapt out of their hand and into a negative situation. And when the games were over the winning team high-fived and gloated victoriously.
Finally, playmates my own age!
About the cartoon: yes, this actually did happen years after my first class with Red. I was totally taken aback when, instead of being greeted with child-like expressions of awe, this little middle-aged woman in a kid's body said those very words to me.