Patterns and Habits: What do you notice about the ways you choose to move through the world? How do these versions vary based on a given context (i.e., difference between work & home, childhood & adulthood)?
I move through the world cautiously like someone who might stumble. It’s a consequence of age, of numbness in my feet from cancer treatment, of multifocal lenses, of a life spent almost always sitting. So I’m not always sure where my feet have landed, whether the muscles in my legs have caught on to the angle of a step, whether balance will arrive for this moment from somewhere else in my body, some adjustment, or whether it might not. I come from a family of tall women who walked through the world with a looping stride, and I notice when I walk that this stride is there, it’s ready, but I’m holding it back because perception and balance have come unstuck, and now seem to work more separately than they did.
Tell us a personal movement story that has stuck with you. What clues does it offer you about who you are/were/strive to be?
Two years ago, when we were a little unglued in ourselves, a dog came into our lives. She was also anxious, and afraid of the future. We didn’t know much about her. She seemed to be about four. Her microchip said she was male, yet she had given birth, and lost her puppies somehow. She harboured and hoarded small toys in a frantic, grieving way, and she had no idea how to walk in company. We discovered she could hardly hear. We took her to the beach, and together we learned a route that she could remember: all the way along to the end and back. When she let herself get a little out of reach, we waved our arms to let her know where we were. For weeks and weeks of walking, when other dogs approached her she was hostile and defensive. We scrambled to get her out of trouble, apologising constantly to owners of more composed and sociable dogs that she was in such a state, just as we were.
Barriers and challenges: What are some barriers or challenges you face or have faced that have impacted your access to a movement of choice? How have these influenced your thinking about your body in the world and the role of movement in your life?
The gift of learning to walk with this dog is that I am also learning to manage my own sense of stumbling through life. The muscular work of walking on sand is a way of relearning entirely where those muscles are. My feet learn how sand gives way differently when wet, when piled up by last night’s tide, when spaced out in footholds by heaps of kelp, when it’s mostly broken shells, when round stones grind together in the waves. She walks out carefully into the shallow water and stands looking out at the ocean, having learned to jump stiffly at the right moment. I slip and jump behind her on wet clay and rock, and nothing happens. No one falls. I stride to catch up with her, I catch myself breaking into a run. It all feels like joy.
Connections: Physical movement can be a useful metaphor for any number of things. How and in what ways do you use your movement choices and experiences to make meaning in other areas of your life?
Walking on the beach has taught me to feel with my own weight the way things are changing every day. The creeks cut different channels to the sea, the stones pile up one day, and are gone the next, the small muddy cliffs erode. There is a remnant of an old coal-hauling pier that surfaces every few months and then is buried again in sand. This is what we mean when we say oceans are changing: the shoreline is where the overall shape of human habitable land is being redrawn every day. Until I walked with this dog I knew it, but didn’t feel it. We come home, trailing sand and salt into the car, into our house, and I really do understand differently how much is at stake from failing.
images courtesy of Kate Bowles