Monday, May 05, 2008

"And so, I bounce"

By Renee Geel

I’ve always been physically timid, a careful mover. My activities of choice have never been team sports – I experienced enough volleyball- and softball-jammed fingers during my school years to last me a lifetime, and I was inevitably the last one chosen for any team. I avoid activities that require me to navigate apparatus connected to the body – skis, rollerblades, a skateboard. No, I’ve only ever been attracted to activities which demand that I trust and rely only on my own body, like running and yoga. Despite my childhood love for and dedication to gymnastics, my favorite event was the floor exercise – just me and the mat.

Lately, though, my many years of running have taken their toll on my aging knees. Rather than trading in the early-morning streets for an elliptical machine, I’ve started bouncing. I supplement running, not just with yoga stretches, but with a workout on a mini-trampoline not much larger than a hula hoop. Every day for anywhere between ten and 30 minutes I bounce – basic jumping, those long forgotten jumping jacks, and twisting with raised arms, a move that recalls my 1990s Jane Fonda aerobic days. Years ago, jumping on the huge trampoline was the best and – much to my chagrin – the shortest segment of gym class. Now, I am free to enjoy it to my heart’s content every day in my living room.

According to my research, those in the know refer to jumping on a mini-trampoline as rebounding, an appealing name for its metaphoric implications – emotionally speaking. (In that area, too, I’ve always been rather hesitant to move quickly or without extreme caution.) Something about the giddiness of springing into the air and coming back down to the center of the rebounding mat – years of gymnastics and yoga have given me a strong sense of balance – allows my mind to wander freely along its map of tree-lined hills and childhood dreams, city blocks and heartbreaks. But I’m not just visiting the same old haunts while I bounce; I’m discovering new territories, too.

Jumping on a mini-trampoline or bouncing, or rebounding, besides being good for our bodies – it’s supposedly a natural catalyst for a more active and therefore a healthier lymphatic system – has spring-loaded my head and heart. Looking out the front window, bouncing, I see my neighbor walking to work and suddenly the inspiration for a short story or essay drops in unannounced. I turn 180 degrees mid-air and watch a cardinal dance on a tree limb out back while nervousness over a deadline or anger over an argument evaporates.

Besides toning my calves and giving me a daily mini-facelift, besides hastening the departure of toxins from my lymphatic system and improving circulation, besides burning calories and strengthening my immune system, jumping makes me feel like I can reach anything – or, at least, it makes me want to try. And it’s fun. For ten or 20 or 30 minutes: I bounce, watch, bounce, imagine, bounce, solve, bounce, forgive, bounce…

Heartache is sometimes inescapable, failure is occasionally unavoidable; but rebounding is always possible. And so, I bounce.

Writer Renee Geel, who holds a Master of Arts in English from the University at Albany, SUNY, is bouncing, or bounding, toward the end of her first novel. She lives in Delmar, New York.

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