Free Will: The slack in my line

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Will Kebbe/THE REVIEW
Slacklining is all about finding the balance, no matter how long it might take.

BY
COLUMNIST

The slack in my line dips down when I walk toward the middle, each step bringing me lower to the ground.

I start my walk on the line with both feet firmly planted together. My eyes find a spot on the tree, the tree I hope to greet at the end of my walk. I stare with intent. I try to find a spot that stands out from the spoils of this tree, the spot that stands out first receiving my full attention. I cast my gaze out onto to this tree to find a spot, hoping that this spot will stare back at me.

Both feet begin on the ground, but I slowly bring up one, whichever one comes up first. It’s hardly a decision. It’s whichever foot feels most comfortable that day.

With my foot suspended in the air, I move it over to the line, placing my big toe dead center while the rest of my foot hangs off the side, but that’s not an indication of its purpose or importance. In fact, whatever lays off the line will act as my balance, my support, one of the many as I look to maintain a center of stillness while engaging in slow, methodical motion across this line.

I reengage my connection with the spot on the tree in order to begin. This, perhaps above all else, completes the attempt on the line better than anything. As I stare at this spot, I hope that it will stare back at me, mirroring my eye contact, matching my disorderly body movements. I need it to look back at me and block out the external noise, quieting my internal monologue.

It’s imperative that it mimics me, for there is one person on this line, one train of thought to carry me forward, one center of gravity to keep stable. Any other fixation breaks this chain, and suddenly all of the controlled movements become random, highly erratic. Enough to shake you off the line.

A deep breath fills my lungs and swells up my stomach. In through the nose, out through the mouth. I swell up with the breath of fresh air, the aroma of this early spring afternoon reminiscent of flowering trees and awakening buds. Today alarms the botanical world with its gentle warmth, feeding it the energy it craves. After months of hiding beneath overcast skies and dampened fields, they arise in full splendor.

Exhale. A sense of calm floods the system. I push off my food. In one swift motion, I leave the ground and begin the walk. After a brief moment of struggle, I’m as balanced as I can be. The rest of the scenery mutes. My energy now focused on each individual step.

A regular slackliner will tell you that each step forward should be made quickly, without much hesitation. Harness this skill, the unimpeded step, and your walk across the line will find a smooth groove.

Today, I’m looking for this elusive groove.

My steps on the line are mechanical and jerky, like an engine in need of a tune up. I sputter and shake, dipping and swaying ferociously, trying my best to stay balanced on the line. My arms act as sails which I cast out above my head to catch the invisible motions of the wind, hoping that it will restore my bearings.

Two steps in. This is the easiest part. The beginning always is. Near each end of the tree, the slackline has the most amount of tension. A false sense of promise can easily be found in this, but with each step forward, the slack in the line becomes greater.

Three steps in, then four. About of quarter of the way there, give or take a few feet. The line begins to catch all the spasms in my body, now swaying with a little more intensity. Challenges like this are welcomed for the determined.

Five steps, now six. My connection to the spot is more direct, as the skin around my eyes curves, as if I’m scowling at this tree. Hardly so; I’m grateful for its presence. Unfortunately, with an earthquake-like fervor, my legs shake, and I’m now barely able to stand up straight. My time of the line becoming closer to an end.

Seven steps, closing in on eight. This run in just about over. I take one last look at my spot on the tree, hoping it stares back at me so I can remember its detail and charm. It took me this far, and I want to find it again.

Unable to take another step forward, I jump off the line, the slack in it too much to defeat this round. So I turn around to the beginning and jump back on — the slack in my line never too insurmountable to deter me.

As I look back at the tree opposite from me, I hope it stares back as intently as I stare at it. With this connection, the rest of the world turns off, the slack in my line the only outside force to rangle in. It is both a cordial friend and a fickle adversary.

Finding the right balance will only take a matter of time.

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