Rope Walking

There is nothing more relaxing to a harried mind than time spent walking along a tightrope in the summer air.

The two large trees on the front lawn of my parsonage provided an excellent spot to set up the rig, and the parishioners proved more than happy to explain their eccentric pastor to the neighbors. Besides, many of them had tried walking the rope themselves, including Jane, who was about seventy, and wore her bathing suit for the occasion. Of course the youth group loved it and found lots of good reasons for me to set it up for them..

Although it might not seem so, rope walking is easy. Step up on the rope with one foot. Find your balance by focusing on an eye-level spot in front of you, feel for the rope with your other foot and then shift your weight. That’s it. To move forward, you must keep your eyes on your destination and not on your feet, since you always move in the direction of your gaze. You must also clear your mind of all other thoughts, lest you fall off in a heap from the distraction, which makes this an excellent meditative practice for increasing focus and reducing stress.

I learned rope walking at a Phoenix Performing Arts Conference and after a year of practice became the instructor. Each summer at the end of our week-long gathering we would take our act out in public and entertain the locals. One year when I set up the rope in the public venue, a young girl asked if she could walk it like the other kids were doing. The aide pushing her wheelchair whispered, “She cannot walk at all.”

“Get in line and wait your turn,” I told the girl. The puzzled aide wheeled her to the back of the queue, likely hoping what I was planning would not embarrass her young charge. When the girl made it to the front of the line, I hopped up on the rope and walked a bit to attract an audience. Then I jumped down and my assistant and I helped the girl out of her chair.  We lifted her on to the rope, just like we had done for every other child, and taking her outstretched arms, guided her down the length of the rope. The experience wasn’t much different with her than it had been with every other unbalanced child we had carried. When the walk was complete, and she received her applause, we returned her to the wheelchair. As I bent over to place her in her seat, she looked at me and smiling said, “I’m going to tell everyone I do all my best walking on tight ropes!”

Me, too, I thought, me too.

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One thought on “Rope Walking

  1. I absolutely love this story. I have never walked on a actual physical tightrope (avoiding it, perhaps, because I am so uncoordinated, that I have been known to trip on air, on solid ground, effortlessly) but I can relate to walking figurative tightropes often in my life thus far. “To move forward, you must keep your eyes on the destination.” How true and profound is that? And the image of 70-year-old Jane walking a tightrope in her bathing suit just makes my heart all kinds of happy. I, my husband and our kids, were some of those parishioners who were “more than happy to explain their eccentric pastor to the neighbors.” We loved and admired and were soooo proud of our “eccentric” pastor! We proudly did the same thing when you ate fire (most notably in the sanctuary at our daughter’s birthday party because the ceilings were high enough that the smoke alarms wouldn’t go off while you performed your amazing feat to the delight and awe of young and old alike. Those “kids” are all 35+ year old adults now, walking their own tightropes of jobs, children, lives…and they STILL talk about your fire-eating to this day!) I don’t know if you ever really realize(d) (and in all your humbleness, you probably never will) how honored and blessed we felt to have “Rev. Laura” (as my kids will forever remember you) as our pastor. How much we appreciated, admired and respected you. How safe it felt to have you in our corner, silently praying with us for what you knew was in our hearts. How lucky we felt to have your example of goodness to look up to and aspire to. Don’t know if you will ever know how much you have meant to so many of us, your positive impact on so many of our lives, and the great admiration and affection we all hold for you. You are a heaven-sent gift to all of us, Laura. Thanks for giving so many of us the balance that we needed to walk our own tightropes. ❤️

    Liked by 1 person

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