I have a new obsession: swinging. Ever since I found out that the swings are no longer too narrow for my hips, my passion for it has returned. There is a playground just off my street with a small swing set and a large lawn, bordered by old trees. During the day, there are people, but I went there several times at twilight after class, when I was too restless to go home and sleep. I would come back from a good class, listening to music, almost soaring, with dance still in my body, still craving this sense of motion. Swinging is a wonderful, ‘safe’ way of experiencing that. I don’t care much if people see me on the swing, whereas I wouldn’t dare to dance in public. (Not yet, anyway.) So I would swing and listen to my summer songs with their driving, deep rhythms, looking up at the sky that is so lovely at twilight, or just ‘being there’, flying..
Last night, after two days of lying around, feeling sick, not dancing or moving much or even noticing my body, I went out to the swings again. I just needed some air and space and a sense of returning to the real world. It is always like this when I have been ill: I feel totally disconnected from reality, and it takes a lot of energy to get back into life. There were no people on the playground, just a dark cat moving noiselessly under the trees like a graceful shadow. The moon was beautiful, a large, thin sickle hanging low in the west. There was a star already visible where the sky was darkest. I was neither feeling soaringly happy, nor lonely or depressed. Just calm, a little sad, and a little hopeful. The air was clear and warm and I sat there on the swing, slowly reconnecting with the world, ‘reality’, my familiar mindset. In that moment, I was alone, but not lonely. I looked at the windows of the surrounding houses, saw bookshelves, lamps, flickering lights from a TV. A thought came to me: ‘So many people in their houses, staring at their screens, living vicariously through stories and movies. I used to be one of them, but now I am here, under the open sky and the first stars, feeling the air, looking up into the trees and beyond to the mysterious-looking sickle of the moon. I am more alive at this moment than all of them. More real, more present.’ It was a magical moment.
But then it was past, and I thought: What good is there in it? You may be alive with the beauty of the world, but you are also all alone in the dark, there is nobody with you to share this moment. It was growing darker and darker, and I began to imagine shadows moving under the trees and grew afraid. There was nobody there, but I no longer felt safe, so I went home.
I had imagined, before moving here, that the terrace in front of the church with its open view over the city would become my refuge in times of restlessness or when I needed to think. And now, it has become this swing under the trees instead. But that’s fine.
I remember other swings I used to love. The one in Turkey on the dry white playground, where Dinah and I used to spend whole afternoons swinging and singing in the sun, summer after summer. There is another swing under another old tree, in the corner of a small park beside another church, where I used to come often, a few years ago, and look up into the golden leaves in autumn and think melancholy thoughts. There are the swings on the Sun Mountain with their view over the lake where we always came as children, and then again years later, we three sisters, talking together in the winter twilight. In my mind, they are safe places, bases. I am so grateful I can swing again now, and for the beautiful memories that have returned with it. It’s a little thing that brings great joy.