Wednesday, July 29, 2009

A Siesta Update: Working Wheels

Because I live a hip life (right), I am seated in a cafe (nightmare trying to find a table -- sharing with a nice gentleman who seems to be typing faster than all get out), posing like everyone else. It's amazing. Almost everyone here is typing; I know. It's the internet age, but not so long ago, people read books in cafes and mugged each other to get at the free newspapers. Now, the papers hang untouched on the wall and the fight is to get to the outlet. I long for the day when they make a solar tablet subnotebook (or they could just attach a keyboard to the iphone). Indulge me in a moment of nostalgia?

It's been a good day so far -- I was late to water walking class, but I made up for it by having made some progress. I worked out in the pool (PT exercises and relaxation), came home, cleaned up the cat vomit, officially declared my hand controls to the DMV, went to a meeting, and now I have a couple of hours to spare before I have dinner with a friend. My life sux, I know.

As I tool down the streets, I've been thinking about how my lower body and the wheels work together. I am finding a new value in sensing and working with the axle of the wheel.

Things I like about my wheel and my axle. Having finally located a pair of 25"s -- hooray! -- I am happy with the way my wheels work on my chair. I know that there is now 1/2" less dump than before, and it is really suprising how much that affects my balance and the way my chair moves. For the most part, I think I am coping. OK. I am more than coping. It's learning a new flexibility in the chair, a new tip point, and a new responsiveness. And all that is making me aware of where my hands, pelvis, and axles are.

The chair has a kind of rigidity to it that I am beginning to enjoy; I thought at first it would flare up the hip bursitis -- my time sitting on a plywood board was just agony. So hard -- even through the cushion. But this new arrangement has both rigidity and flexibility in it. Rigidity enables a fast and easy transfer of energy -- the slightest movement of my hips into the chair back or the sideguards influences the direction of travel or the speed. The chair feels tight and responsive (for a single-use dance chair, I could take off the soft roll casters and experiment with how the hard wheels cut into the marley, but I am kind of using my chair all over right now). I like that.

Flexibility is turning out to be a useful design aspect, but not a terribly helpful every day life thing. For starters, I creak everywhere I go. So not a good thing. I suppose I could find out which screws are loose, but somehow time has escaped me.

I am beginning to think that the axles are underestimated. Usually, I think of my axles only in terms of the camber of the wheels. It's nice to be able to change camber for different uses. I like 0 degrees for dance, though. I lose the ability to turn in a certain way -- turning forwards is not as fast. But I gain a whole lot more responsiveness and rapid movement. The chair is less stable (good because my arms aren't very long and I'm now using 25"s).

Mostly, though, I think the axle is a useful source for thinking about initiation and pinning the wheel. By pinning the wheel, I am talking about the effects of shifting your body weight over the axle and the effect it has on motion. You can also drop your hand down to the floor -- shoot your energy down -- effectively "pinning" the wheel.

The axle is my centre point -- in that space underneath the chair. Dance instructors frequently talk about energy rising up and down the spine, the plumb line, etc. My line comes down the innards of my body and right down to the axle. This is a direct result of Laurel's challenge to think differently about the body. I now imagine myself (or my studio self at least) as having a spine that exit points at my actual legs and at my axles. It's an odd image, but it is a starting point.

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