Grace Notes
A hopeful newspaper column ~ by Natalie Costanza-Chavez
Getting Through > Spinning Vanes
Spinning Vanes

Grace-Note #13 – ran on 3/13/05

Spinning Vanes

The first time it happened to me was during the days of hairbrushes. Any girl will remember: walking into a bathroom took you past a gaggle of hip-hugger jeans, the wearers all facing the mirror, brushing their long sheets of hair. I stood and brushed and brushed and then watched myself in the mirror as I tilted and fell like a tree limb to the floor. I saw myself knocked off kilter, but couldn’t feel the pull of gravity. When the side of my face hit the blue tile, all was tumbling and spinning – the only stillness, the cold of the floor against my cheek. Vertigo.

When it hits, we are afloat in a storm. We are riding a hard-wind, whirlpool, spin down, swivel around, stomach dropping, twist-twining, fling about whirly-gig of a ride. Seasick is an understatement. Our equilibrium is gone as our legs go staggery; our lungs fill with sudden “Ah!” and panic. Dizzy-eyed, and violently a-tumble we long for cease. Instead, we rise and drop, and rise again – hanging on for dear life.

Vertigo can spin and fling us from any cause. Physical – a virus in the inner ear, sick and unstable for days. Meniere's disease, a permanent misery. Or, emotional – death, job loss, any absence of what we counted on as solid and secure. It is this emotional vertigo and its loss of place and balance that sets us on a twirling dish of spin and fly and wander like no other fresh gale we know.

Smooth sailing is seasonal and seasons never last. Inevitably, our boats will do the cartwheels of a jerry-go-nimble in full dance, and when they do, it is no circus, and nothing is dancing for laughs or in jest. When the gale rises, we think we are dying from the ache and pain and utter lack of balance.

So what to do when your world is reeling? Everyone around you is so maddeningly upright. Look at them walking as if nothing has happened, as if they can’t see your loss, your twirl, your knees cut off leaving the rest of you floating the eddy around and down.

The Ashley Book of Knots teaches ways to make life at sea smoother. It describes how to hang a picture below deck of a boat, so that it may ride out a sudden blow without crashing and splintering on the boat floor.

The instructions call for two eyelet hangers on the back of the frame – instead of the usual one hanger we use on dry land. The two hangers are placed one on each side of the frame. Then, “If there is a vibration from the outside that tilts all your pictures askew, (you can) hang them from a single wire which passes through both screw eyes and makes fast to two picture hooks.”

As the waves zig and zag, the picture rides back and forth on the wire. Even as the boat is knocked completely off keel, and the picture slides wildly across the wire and back, it does not fall off because the wire is made fast to the wall.

We all need a wire to ride. We need it anchored to the wall and running right through us, from side to side, through the blood and pump and spirit of us. Because our boats – once, twice, three times more – will rock, sometimes widely. Sometimes so painfully that the swim is deep in our head and we can not right ourselves. The eddies will whirl, and when they do, what holds you fast? What wire do you ride?

If you don’t have any tools about, don’t have drawers of eyelets and hooks – take heart; the wire is already there. It is too big to lose even if you didn’t know you had it, and the tumult of a whirlybird ocean storm can’t bend it. It will anchor you through the rise and fall and then right you into settle. It connects us all – to each other and to the steady grounding of solid dirt underfoot. Even when the highest branches whistle and the vanes spin, it can’t be shaken – hold on tight through the turvey and come hell or high water you’ll ride the wire.