One night, just after my family saw the circus in Charlotte, we stopped off for some fast food before driving home to the Foothills.
We didn’t do either of those things–fast food or the circus–often, at all.
It was a night of magic. And the trapeze! Oh, the trapeze!
I don’t recall my age then, but my height was just enough that I could rest my elbows on the sturdy parallel tables on each side of me. The golden bench in front of me, a seamless, smooth seat for the dozen paired tables along the wall, gleamed with purpose.
Elbows locked, weight re-positioned, legs bent, momentum gained, arms released, and….
But that slippery, 1980’s hard-plastic bench didn’t reach out to save me.
My corduroys prevented traction. My legs slid around the contoured-for-comfort seat edge. My stomach crunched next, and then my chin slammed with a perfect, percussion finale which inspired the entire restaurant crowd to turn and look, as my knees thudded into the concrete, ketchup-stained floor.
Gravity already had me bowing for my performance. This was the first time that I knocked the wind out of myself. (Yes, feel assured, I did it several other times.)
As most people just went back to eating, I sat on the gooey floor, gasping and gagging with a bleeding tongue (I was grinning when I went down, at least).
Lesson learned, check. ….Getting it right takes work.
I had no idea how long it took a trapeze artist’s skills to become circus quality, but I did learn that it didn’t happen in one night.
Much as I adored those trapeze artists at the circus, I had no concept what they did to earn their spotlight. Nor did I imagine that they ever experienced failures of their own.
The same with reading and authors. A lesson learned, as well.
When I read, I have access to an author’s grand performance; and while the words may flow with poetic cohesion and the lightness of an aerial somersault, there is a truth behind every story. Success and failure, bridged with commitment and lots of work.
Observe, study, practice, learn, understand, and perform.
Each book I read has the magical origins of that childhood circus embedded in its possibilities. As a reader, I am mesmerized and engaged with the story. As a writer, I am awakened with personal necessity to pay attention to the details. To observe and study.
Reading allows me to journey with the author, observe as a reader, and study as a writer.
Reading is an essential part of learning and understanding the magical versatility of language.
The strength to perform with this knowledge becomes the willingness to leap off the ledge and fly, hopefully grinning, because landing one way or another is guaranteed.