Making merry

Monday, May 31st, 2021

This week I:

I basically crammed a year’s worth of socializing and activity into a single week, and it was fantastic.

It certainly helped that summer showed up all at once this week. Last Sunday I talked to my brother in southern California, and while it was still cold and rainy here (we had the heating on and had just been subjected to two days of gale-force winds, a truly miserable end to what was the wettest May on record), he was lounging on garden furniture in his sunny backyard, with blue sky and green trees all around him, and it literally looked like he was in paradise. But a few days later, a tiny bit of paradise finally reached this soggy isle, and we’ve been basking in sunshine ever since. I’m sitting in our garden as I write this, sunscreen on my neck and shoes kicked off, and though it’s not quite southern California, it’s as good as it gets for southern England. I’ll take it.

The sun hadn’t quite reached us when I met up with my ballet class in the park last Saturday. We had a very specific agenda which meant we couldn’t really wait for better weather: we’d been practicing the Lilac Fairy variation from Sleeping Beauty (one of my very favorite variations), and we wanted to gather in Withdean Park, which has the second-largest collection of lilacs in the world(!), and dance the variation among the trees in full bloom—not a performance, mind you, just a moment for all of us to reunite after a year apart and dance for ourselves. Unfortunately, the trees decided to bloom in the middle of the crummy weather, and the aforementioned winds then blew half the flowers away, so when Saturday rolled around with clouds and drizzle, we all shrugged and headed to the park anyway because we knew we wouldn’t get another opportunity.

Considering some of the conditions we’ve been subjected to in the past—like dancing on a wet, splintery stage at Firle Vintage Fair and having to use a dusty horse stable as a changing room—dancing in a slightly damp park and having to use a bit of muddy woodland as a changing room was pretty much par for the course. So we donned tutus and staked out a spot in the middle of the lilac trees, and we danced our dances and laughed as our ballet slippers soaked through in the wet grass, and passers-by stopped to watch (and take pictures), and dogs from the adjoining dog park occasionally bounded through our “stage.”

On my last day in the dance studio in March 2020, I took a video of us doing an adagio to a piece of music called the Bluebird (not to be confused with the Bluebird variation, also from Sleeping Beauty, very much not an adagio). We had been practicing it for a few weeks at the time and it was looking really lovely. In the grim months that followed, that adagio came represent a life that felt lost forever. It was a memory of “normality,” a symbol of all the unremarkable weeks I had bounded off to the studio every Tuesday and Thursday, worrying only about whether I’d finally be able to do a pirouette. We didn’t revisit the adagio in our Zoom classes until about a month ago, and when the music started up the first time we ran through it, I found myself choking back tears. And it was the same in the park, though this time it was tears of joy, and of gratitude for being able to dance in the company of my adult ballerina friends again.

This week was full of gratitude and appreciation: for friends, for sunshine and a garden to enjoy it in (even if our vegetable beds currently look like Fort Knox—or “Fort Fox” as Jeremy dubbed it, fortified as they are with layers of chicken wire to protect them from our adorable but havoc-wreaking neighborhood fox cubs), for Brighton’s parks and pubs and beach (rocky as it is) and for the time and means to enjoy them, for the vaccines that are making it possible to venture out and move through the world each day with less fear and more hope than I’ve felt in 14 long months. It was a week of living in the moment, something I generally struggle and fail to do. Even now, I’m trying to think of some grand and insightful way to wrap up this post, but all I can think of is how happy I am to be sitting outside in short sleeves, and how nice it is to feel the warmth and hear the rustling trees and chattering birds, and how it delights me to see our freshly planted herbs and salads glowing green in the sun and the azalea about to burst into hot pink flowers, and how all of these little things are beautiful and not to be taken for granted. Maybe that’s insightful enough.


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