I'm in the middle of this story now, trying to tell it from the beginning, and no doubt at some point, will look back on this and laugh because things will have shifted again.
It started years ago, one evening, when I got a phone call from a friend asking if I wanted to take a sword class with her.
Sure, why not?
My kids were young, and I hadn't really gone out and done something just for myself since they were born. I'd always thought swords were "cool." And it sounded "fun."
And besides, it was a rapier and dagger class, not those frou-frou "foils" that people waved around while wearing white suits and looking silly.
But right from the first minute of class, from the moment the Fencing Master introduced himself, I knew there was something about this, something beyond what I thought I was looking for. Something I needed at some level I wasn't even aware of.
I had never been particularly interested in sports. Played soccer when I was ten or eleven. A year of Tae Kwon Do in college. That was it. And here I was, sweating and miserable, out of breath and dying- and it was just the warm up. At the end of the warm up, the master said something along the line of "you should be starting to feel slightly warm now" and I wanted to kick him in the shins. I didn't.
Instead, I doubted seriously that I could even finish out the class.
Surprisingly, I did. And I came back the next week. And the next. And I even looked forward to it, crunches and push ups and all.
It wasn't the swords. We weren't even using swords. For the first couple of weeks, we worked only on footwork. Then we used dowels, called "wasters," as practice swords. Heavy. Unbalanced. Clunky.
Kind of like me, now that I think about it.
So why did I keep coming back? What was I enjoying? Was it fun?
I don't have answers for those questions. At least not short answers.
But I can tell you this. There was something about this person, this fencing master, that was compelling. Part sense of humor, part presence, part some undefinable thing.
It was the way he moved. Controlled. Smooth. As if he was completely focused on every move- and as if he gave it no thought at all.
I could not manage this. Not even close. My feet had minds of their own. My shoulders wanted to go every- which-way. When I intended to go forwards, I started out moving backwards. And vice versa. Don't believe me? Try it. Watch yourself in a mirror, and see if you can move directly forward, with your entire body as one thing. No shifting your weight, leaning backwards, no hint of moving your shoulder first when you want to move your foot.
He moved like no person I'd ever seen. And he did so, demonstrating each movement, while talking, telling stories, encouraging our attempts, and keeping an eye on the whole room to be sure none of us were accidentally killing each other or ourselves. Without breaking a sweat.
That was the beginning.
I kept going to classes. Started taking individual lessons. Still working with rapier and dagger, "real swords."
The more time I spent around him, the more I couldn't help but notice there was something different about him. He perceived things in a very different way than I did, than anyone I knew did. He talked about things that didn't seem possible, or make sense, but to him, they were clear and simple. He was direct, blunt and unapologetic. And people were drawn to him like bees to a flower. You could feel when he entered a room because the energy changed. After classes, people would stay as long as he did, never wanting to leave first. Not wanting to miss anything.
I could tell dozens of stories- and perhaps I will- of times when things worked for him that wouldn't work for anyone else. Parking meters. Doors. Clocks. Sometimes, even rain stopped. It has become a running joke between us- "being a master means many things."
It took a long time, but I finally figured it out. I know how he does it. I know why things- both animate and inanimate- behave differently around him.