I taught Pilates to Jenny for a number of years, both in big classes, and after she broke her ankle last year, alone in my studio. Over the last month, as she grew weaker, as we all knew there was little time left, I became aware, perhaps more profoundly than ever before, of the particular intimacy in teaching
As a movement teacher I know my students so well, at the same time as knowing so little about their
lives. I know them purely through their body – observing how they look and how they move, and the changes that take place from week to week. It’s an intimacy that has clearly defined roles – I cajole, nudge, assist my class members to become stronger, more balanced, to enjoy moving and feel more at home in the body. At the same time, by interpreting and embodying my instructions, they teach me in ways that endlessly enrich my life.
Waking in the night I felt shocked by the closeness of death. What was happening to Jenny as the cancer overtook her body? How could she just disappear forever? The night can be strange and difficult, and thoughts irrational.
Arriving home after the last time I sat with Jenny, only days ago a beautiful restful hour I’d been reluctant to leave - I discovered the Morning Glory in the greenhouse had flowered at last. I’d waited all summer as it grew ever longer vines with not a bud in sight, and suddenly, on October 10th, there was this dazzling flower, its petals like sky blue silk, it’s centre radiant.
Jenny always loved the last exercise we do in class, a calf stretch that ends in a balance with arms reaching overhead. It’s the only exercise we ever do in unison, in a circle, the arms sweeping up as if gathering and scattering the energy. Today, as we finished class with this gesture, sensing Jenny’s absence and presence, the shared sadness, and appreciation of her was palpable.
She gave me much. I will miss her.