Flying Out of Lines Again

October 11th, 2007

A while back I hurt my shoulder a bit falling off the flying trapeze. It wasn’t a bad injury, but it was noticeably uncomfortable for a few months. I knew I should take it easy. My compromise was to stop catching tricks out of lines. Catching them in safety lines, yes. The discomfort wasn’t enough to make me give that up. But catching things out of lines adds another level of risk.

If a catch is good then it doesn’t matter much if one is in lines or not, the stresses on the shoulder are about the same. But if the catch isn’t quite right then the flyer tends to drop down towards the net rather than swing through a nice arc. The drops can be tough on sore shoulders. Or if the trick involves spinning, it’s easy to spin a bit too far or not quite enough, and then there is some sideways stress as well at the moment of the catch. If the flyer is using safety lines the instructor “pulling” the lines can do a lot to take this unwanted energy out of the system.

So I threw everything to the catcher in safety lines for several months. Looking back I think it was the right decision. But one side effect is that the lack of regular practice allows the fear to creep back in. I knew this, I could feel it happening.

A few weeks ago as my shoulder got better I realized it was time to start working my way through the fear and start catching out of lines again. So the first week I started with the most basic trick that people do out of lines. It’s not hard, I first did it years ago, but still my heart was pounding. had to work hard to remember basic things like “breathe!” and “watch” and “wait for the catcher.”

A few nights ago I started with that same trick and went through 3 or 4 others. Four of the more simple tricks I know how to do, but out of lines to the catcher. Nothing fancy, but a lot of mental content.

I remembered the fear, and knew I would have to deal with that. But I had forgotten the *fun.* I had to stop for a while and then come back to flying to realize this. It’s not just adrenaline, or overcoming fear, of accomplishing something that makes flying great. It’s all of that. But it’s also just fun. Moving through the air, being high above the ground, the solidity of the catcher’s arms at the moment of a good catch, hanging comfortably in space as the trapeze bar swings back to me, knowing that the end-game is perfectly set up. It’s a great feeling. And one that just isn’t the same in safety lines. The sense of being tied to something through the safety lines is unconscious for me but it’s there. I notice it when the lines come off: once I stop being so afraid, the experience is much better.

I happened to be flying to a catcher who is really good at helping flyers get lift as they leave the catcher. Lift is important because one needs to be high enough to get the trapeze bar on its return swing and then high enough to return to the starting platform. So even though I was out of practice, I was still really high leaving the catcher, maybe higher in the air than I’ve ever been at that point. Did I have fun. I can hardly wait for more. And mostly, I’m trying to keep the sensation of that much fun in my mind so that I don’t forget it’s out there waiting, if only I push myself to go find it.

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