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I would believe only in a god who could dance. And when I saw my devil I found him serious, thorough, profound, and solemn; it was the spirit of gravity—through him all things fall. Not by wrath does one kill but by laughter. Come let us kill the spirit of gravity. I have learned to walk; ever since, I let myself run. I have learned to fly. Now I am light, now I fly, now I see myself beneath myself, now a god dances through me. (Friedrich Nietzsche, quotation taken from Learning to Fly, by Sam Keen)

Today is not the day for sweet talk or polite conversation at the dinner table. It is the day when wrinkles become irrelevant, when beauty and the fire of life shine so brightly that the wrinkles become part of the flames. It is a day when I want to dance, a day when flying seems altogether possible.

And it is a day to say, “I feel like an old fool.” I look into the mirror and run my fingers through my hair, mussing it a bit, trying to trick it into doing something other than what it does. Surely, by some twist, some slightly different arrangement, this thinning crown might become bejeweled, reflective of what I feel inside. What I see is an ordinary woman with gray in her hair, and skin the texture of burlap, all lines and squares, the flesh woven together in an uncertain map.

Invisible in the mirror is the woman on fire inside, the being unbound. So, it is also a day when wrinkles and age, dreams undone and incomplete, are too relevant, when wrinkles and wrong turns seem to define me.

How do I bring them together—this dreamer, this flyer, and this oh-so-human, aging form? What hand reached into the smoldering coals of my dreams today and stirred them just enough to cause this burst of flame?

Blame it on “Burlesque”. Today a friend and I met for lunch, then went to the theatre to watch Cher and Christina Aguilera romp it up and ramp it up in the new movie, “Burlesque”. I expected to see some nice costuming, a schmaltzy Hollywood tale, some of Cher’s cosmetic surgery, and hear a good tune or two. All of that, I did.

I also expected to slip into my movie critic and commentator’s head about the shallowness of the show, or to begin a mental dictation about my wish that Cher hadn’t had cosmetic surgery, that she’d allowed the world to see what she looked like untouched by the knife. I did mourn the absence of her wrinkles, and the lost opportunity she had to show us all how it is that she could be gorgeous, a woman still strutting her stuff, and sporting a gaggle of wrinkles.

But the truth is, I didn’t linger there, in that silly corner of my mind, wishing Cher had done herself my way. Instead, I loved every moment watching her, Ms. Aguilera and all of the cast spin a tale, dance and sing like the gods waltzing in a storm.

In a recent New York Times article entitled, “An Ageless Diva of a Certain Age,” Frank Bruni writes that Cher sings a song called, “You Haven’t Seen the Last of Me,” and, according to Mr. Bruni, “belts it out like a battle cry.” Indeed, she does.

I was swept up in the battle, and in the glamour, the glitz, of “Burlesque.” And what do you do when you are swept up, when all that glitter and dance makes you want to be glittered on the outside like you feel on the inside? What do you do with this thing inside that says, “You haven’t seen the last of me”?

I know the heart of that song. Over forty years ago, as a college student, I performed in the Florida State University Flying High Circus. My solo act took me into a rope-like swing above a net. I stood on the swing, pumped it high, then executed several tricks. My source of pride was the single-toe hang, meaning one foot, not one toe! I accomplished this by first gripping the swing at the bottom of the “U” with my hands, then lifting my legs and hooking both feet onto the swing. My “moment” came when I dropped one leg behind me, still swinging through the air.

It’s the kind of thing you don’t forget. At least, I haven’t. Why keep thinking about it, you might ask? You’re too way too old, you might be saying, to do that kind of thing when you’re sixty-two. So move on, girlfriend.

Not so fast. Sam Keen, writer, poet, philosopher (, author of Fire in the Belly (among others), and Learning to Fly (1999, Broadway books), has something to say. At the age of sixty-one and ten months, Mr. Keen learned to fly in the circus—meaning, he learned to swing from a trapeze, let go, and fly into the hands of a catcher, who was hanging by his knees, swinging from another trapeze.

Having dreamed, as a child, of running away with the circus, Mr. Keen responded to an ad he saw on television about flying lessons offered by a local circus troupe.  He writes (in Learning to Fly), “…the craving to fly grew stronger and began to consume my Saturdays…The dream had become a passion…not unlike falling in love, a bit of ecstasy, and a bit of foolishness.”

Two years later, he learned to be a catcher. For him, learning these skills was about life, relationships, and mysticism. He was deeply altered and enlivened by the physical process.

I haven’t done a cartwheel in several years. I haven’t swung upside down, one foot hooked over a swing, in forty years. But, today, something mighty is stirred. Something that calls me to wake up, to rise up, wise up, to be more of who I am, despite my hang-ups, my aches and pains, my wrinkled skin. Today I feel that crazy mixture of ecstasy and foolishness and I dare not let it die. Today is the day to let the fire and spirit, the gods, dance through me.

In Learning to Fly, Sam Keen says, “The ‘still, small voice’ of God never calls on me to be like another man. It appeals to me to rise to my full stature and fulfill the promise that sleeps within my being.”

What promises have you made, those still sleeping inside you? Do you have dreams unfulfilled, waiting to take flight?

Please feel free to share them here, foolish or far-out as they may sound.

I invite you to go to for the New York Times article on Cher and see the video clip of the title song to the movie. Credit goes to Gaea Yudron ( for sending me the link to that article.

The pictures of me on the Mexican Cloud Swing were taken by Barry Mittan ( in 1966.


even old things bloom

by Ellen Hamilton

I am looking for the beauty in wrinkles, those maligned signs of aging. Peering into the mirror at my own fears and prejudices, I hope to write some new songs about living in the land of the wrinkled, the wobbly, and brave. I welcome your comments and input about your own experience with aging and your struggles and successes in finding beauty in your wrinkles.

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