My mom and sister were recently here for a visit and they could not be more appreciative guests. Through their eyes I am reminded how beautiful our Island home truly is. No sunset is taken for granted. Everything blooming is awed over. The beach is marveled. And having a swimming pool out the back door, paired with consistently sunny days, is a luxury they do not take for granted. As with most families, I suppose, when two or more family members gather together, conversations tend to slip into memories of childhood. This reunion of mine was no different.
When I was 5 years old I experienced a fairly traumatic event. As my mother, sister and I recalled that summer day in 1966, we each had our own memory and our own perspective of what happened.
My childhood home had a cistern in the backyard. It was a deep hole much like the septic systems that have been widely replaced here on Marco Island. Ours had a weighty cover made of concrete and a large iron handle. It was far too heavy for a child to move, but the grassy lump in our yard topped with a cement lid was certainly an attraction. It could be a stage for backyard productions, a parking lot for matchbox cars, or the home base for a game of Kick the Can. But on this particularly hot afternoon, the cover was off, the wide mouth of the hole yawned open and the fascination was greater than ever. My dad was filling the hole. Wheel barrows full of dirt and rocks and garbage and snakes. Yes, snakes. Garter snakes were plentiful in our backyard on a balmy summer day, and in the process of digging dirt and moving rocks, we disturbed many of them. One by one, at least a handful of snakes were tossed into the pit of water and smelly debris.
My sister and I were not alone in the yard. My dad, of course, was working the wheel barrow and shovel, and a neighbor kid or two came by out of curiosity. The children were playing, my dad was working, my mom was tending to my two younger brothers and suddenly, I was in the hole. Too small to touch bottom, I dog-paddled, instinctively going round and round in circles. I don’t know how I ended up in the cistern. One minute I was in the backyard, the next I was in the water. And here’s where my sister’s memory kicked in. “It was a perfect cartwheel,” she said.
My sister screamed, “Laurie’s in the well!” and my dad came running. He jumped into the hole and hoisted me out. My mom thenrecalls that I was covered in mud and stink, so she stripped my clothes off in the backyard and showered me with the garden hose. I remember that. Freezing cold water. Terror, cold, embarrassment, tears. But it was my sister’s words that stuck with me from this recent recollection of that awful afternoon. A Perfect Cartwheel.
It seems we are always working for the perfect cartwheel, or hand stand, or relationship, or job. And when we can’t be the very best at something, or even if we imagine we won’t be the best at something, we often hesitate to try. Young children are different that way. They try everything. They mimic every behavior they observe. Kids are brave and open-minded. They haven’t yet developed the inhibitions that stunt exploration of something new. So often I hear people say, “I can’t do yoga. I can’t even touch my toes.” The thing is, it’s not about touching your toes. Yoga is not twisting your body into a pretzel-like shape or having exquisite balance. Yoga, like most things in life, is more about the approach. It’s about clearing your mind of the “I can’t” “I’m afraid” “I shouldn’t” “I don’t know how” – and just doing something. Simply trying something new.
It’s amazing, the results, when we embrace something unfamiliar. There’s a sense of accomplishment, even if we’re not successful. There is self-respect for being stronger than the negative voice in our head. And there’s accountability of the end result, no matter what that might be. The great thing about new experiences is that they teach us new things.
A five year old child does not contemplate the consequences of every action they take. They probably have a good sense of right and wrong but the boundaries of their own personal limitations are wide open. I’m certain on that sultry afternoon when I was 5, I wasn’t thinking that a cartwheel was beyond my capability. More likely, my mind was focused on the attempt to put hand over hand and heel over heel in synchronized succession. And I did it! According to my sister, it was perfect…except for the landing.
Maybe we should emulate the blind ambition of a toddler. Try something new. Take advantage of an opportunity. Expand our personal boundaries to include something we may or may not be good at. The unencumbered mind of a child tells us we can do anything. Adulthood and experience warns us that trying something new could land us in a snake pit. Life invites us to try anyway. You never know when you’ll land a perfect cartwheel.
Laurie Kasperbauer is an active Florida Realtor specializing in properties in Naples and Marco Island. Laurie also enjoys the spiritual and physical benefits of yoga practice and instructs both group and private classes.