Wednesday, November 20, 2013
The wind is cold and biting so high above the earth. The tightrope walker steadies herself against the chilly rush. She bends and flexes her toes inside her leather shoes, curling her aching feet around the bundle of wires. As her hands begin to sweat, she grips the pole a little tighter, it's heaviness spread out on either side of her weary body. She is exhausted, having to balance for this long. The canyon below her sprawls out from a dark and jagged crevice in dusty orange fingers, and the other side is so far away she can't even see it. As she steps forward, her balance shifts too far to one side. She pitches and wobbles, her heart jumping into her throat in a panic before she centers herself. Careful. Steady. She takes a deep breath in, her knuckles white and her knees screaming for rest. But there will be no rest. There is no stopping and there is no going back. She can only go forward. One foot in front of the other. One step at a time, she will cross this canyon, balancing everything she is with everything she has. That's the key - balance. She has to keep herself in line. From her own posture to the position of her feet on the wire to the steadiness of the pole in her hands - it all contributes to keeping her from plummeting into the darkness below. And it requires her complete and utter attention at all times. The average bystander does not realize the amount of concentration it takes to stay balanced - or the amount of balance it takes to stay upright. To her credit, she makes it look so easy. She is graceful and poised, keeping the chaos of her racing thoughts hidden beneath her collected demeanor. But underneath, she is terrified. Not necessarily of falling, but of tipping. Of giving too much attention to one side and not the other. It is in that moment of tipping - that moment before the fall - that the terror is real. It's not the fall itself, but the reason for it that is so upsetting. The knowledge that she allowed herself to lean too far to one side. That she allowed the other side to be neglected. If she falls, it will be because she was unable to maintain equality. If she falls, she is a failure. She braces against the wind as it bites through the thin material of her leotard. She takes a step. And another. And another. Forward and balanced, she continues her journey across the canyon. Head high. Heart steady.