I want to write. I need to write, yet there are times when I can't. The words stay shored up inside me, unrecognizable and unable to find release, road-blocked somewhere between heart and mind. I struggle to shake them free, but have no voice to speak, no hands to write. They are trapped, as is the passion I hold inside me.
Long before I learned to love words, I loved music, and I dreamed of being a dancer. I lived out my girlish fantasies in our basement recreation room—a big rectangular space with a low ceiling and peeling wallpaper. A faded steeplechase scene was repeated on every wall. The floor was black and white checkered linoleum, but it had grown dry and cracked. If you weren't careful, you might trip on the bits that had curled and lifted up. The room had a door, though, and once it closed, magic could happen.
I loved big, emotional tunes—mostly ballads from romantic musicals, that swept me away into the part of the heroine. If I was lucky, the radio played a song that particularly moved me, like "It's All in the Game," which, even at that young age, made me cry whenever I heard it. If the radio wasn't cooperating, it didn't matter because the songs lived in my head. That was enough.
I danced. Not the tiny, tentative steps that the average pre-teen practices in front of the mirror, not the "twist" or "locomotion" or "mashed potatoes" of the day, but the big sweeping leaps and swirl of arms that I saw sometimes on television: free-spirited, non-choreographed, living, breathing bliss in movement. I moved with eyes closed, and imagined myself on stage, my leading man watching from the wings. If someone had told me that my feet had not touched the ground as I danced, I would have believed him, for it seemed that dancing transcended all things earthly. When I finally stopped, breathless, my eyes were often misty with unshed tears.
I kept those dreams to myself, and growing older, the shackles of appropriate behavior held me still. What would people think if they saw me dancing like Isadora Duncan, unaware of anything but the ebb and flow of melody? Furniture blocked my way; a baby cried for its bottle; a dryer buzzed from the basement. And my feet became mired in domesticity.
Sometimes, even now, a wave washes over me, and I am irresistibly carried on its crest. I yearn to leap and twirl and unleash myself in a melody of song. I force myself to fight the urge, reminding myself that this is neither the time nor the place, that my knees cannot handle leaps anymore, that my heels are too high, that people will stare, that I no longer have a limber body. The dancer's passion has been contained, and I have had to go elsewhere to find release. I have found it in the music of prose.
The lilt of the perfect phrase or a searing metaphor can stop my breath and set my soul leaping and twisting and spinning once again. Today, when the idea for a story seems miles away, and when my mind can no longer hear the melody of the words I want to say, it is as if I have been tied to a chair on the world's best dance floor, once again unable to dance.
Linda Gallant Potts is a former teacher who left her career mid-stream to pursue her dreams of writing. She lives in Caledon, Ontario, with her husband of 33 years, two adult sons, and three very pampered cats. Her work has been published in the Toronto Star, the Caledon Citizen, and Canada's national newspaper, The Globe and Mail. Her poems, essays and stories have been published at kotapress.com, Moondance, The Sidewalk's End, Animal Antics, and 40+.