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Ondine Brooks Kuraoka


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Posted By Ondine Brooks Kuraoka

My mom, a physical therapist, gave me a set of quadriceps strengthening exercises as soon as my injured knee began to swell (July 10th). I've been doing them faithfully and my swelling has come and gone with the rhythm of whether I overexert myself or not. Of course, I've been icing and elevating my knee, too, when at all possible- at night mainly; I have two sons, Roy, 9, and Leo, 7, and summer days are very busy at a boys' pace.

Anyway, at the last swelling, I asked my mom to look at how I was doing the exercises to be sure I was doing them right. So she watched me do a set, a bit taken aback. "That's what you've been doing all these weeks? Uh, it's supposed to be a gentle strengthening exercise."

I say, "Yeah?"

"What you're doing isn't gentle. You're tightening all the muscles in your leg with as much force as you have." My mom is shaking her head and sighing. "You're supposed to focus on isolating the quadriceps just to the extent of engaging them- you can see it when your knee cap pulls up slightly- that's how you know you're doing it right. You've been just going whole hog, tightening your entire leg. It's not helping you."

Whole hog? Me?

I feel the tears well up. Am I capable of proceeding with caution? How did I get this way? God, I don't want to pass this on to my kids, this Whole Hog MO I've developed.

So. Time to be gentle on myself. Gently isolate the quads. Don't go Whole Hog. Try mini-hogging it for a while. Or no-hog, how about? Focus instead on something smaller. A frog, maybe. Embrace your inner frog. Where have I heard that before? That's what my bumper sticker says! It's been on my car for over two years, it's even starting to fray, but still it pleads "Embrace your inner frog."

I've never really known what it meant- it always just made me chuckle and at the same time it sounded like something important. But now I know- now I know what it's all about. Why did it take me this long to figure it out? I don't know, but at least I'm listening now.

Yes, that's key at this juncture- time for me to embrace my inner frog instead of going whole hog. But where does that leave Werewolverina, my wild inner dancer-writer? Does she transform into Frogella? Or perhaps Frogella is Werewolverina's wise older- or younger- sister? Is she older or younger? She's ageless, actually. And she's worth listening to.

Frogella likes to be safe and create a cozy environment for herself- a little pond nest where things are tranquil and meditative. Werewolverina likes to push the envelope of what's possible. She pushes the envelope of ladylike behavior- she has no patience for etiquette. She is wild and free and sometimes dangerous. Werewolverina can benefit from slowing down long enough to hear what Frogella has to say. And maybe Frogella can shed her reserved, lady-like manner now and then and learn a few things from Werewolverina, too.

Posted By Ondine Brooks Kuraoka

At a recent gathering of women writers of a certain age, we were discussing and listening to music that moves us. One woman said, “When this song comes on I leap and twirl like a crazy woman. You wouldn’t believe it.”

But do we have to be crazy to dance for the sheer joy of it once we reach middle age? I admired my aquaintance’s acknowledgement that she gives in to a wave of exuberance, lifted up by the pulling charms of the music, no other eyes to ply her with a veil of restraint. She, in her glory of freedom, alone but together with her music. I relished goosebumps of solidarity.

I, too, am a solitary dancer. When I have the house to myself, dancing is both celebration and balm in centering myself in a moment in time. We are given this life, this temporary state of being. The sorrows and tragedies of the world, and of our own lives, will continue to play out whether we seize moments of joyful being or not. Not that all dancing is joyful. Sometimes the most satisfying dance is sad and aching, which on occasion transforms to joy or at least contentment. Or not.

Dance is a fluid moment, fluid emotion. Whatever we have within can flow through dance. All the chores on our list will patiently or impatiently await our attention. Why not allow ourselves to carve out time for the physical expression of beauty, love, longing, bliss, heartache, all the poetry that music is? Dance embodies music- we become the music- we become poetry in motion.