Error alert: If you read the last posting, I gave the date for my upcoming visit to Shererville, IN and the Kelly Miller Circus as Labor Day. Wrong! They’ll be in Crete, IL on Labor Day; the Shererville stand is September 1st and 2nd.
It’s a big deal. A reader just might want to catch the show, or an old friend might want to count my new wrinkles, and there would be disappointment and a waste of time and travel.
I’ve never handled just missing a circus well. It’s always very emotional and probably linked to more common needs than just those traced in the memory and psyche of a circus trouper. Once, the Royal Lichtenstein Circus on a fairly comfortable jump between towns spotted another show’s arrows along the highway. This was a large popular circus on which we had friends and favorite acts. So we adjusted our arrival times with our next sponsor and detoured following the “lefts” and “rights” and the “you’re on the right road” signals of what showpeople know as “confidence arrows.” What we didn’t know was something that would have shattered anything like confidence: we were following the arrows from the day before.
How did we discover the blunder? When? When we drove onto the show lot itself. Fresh mown grass was further trampled, bare earth told the tale of where the elephants had been staked and a narrow rimmed circle of dirt called back the giggle of kids on the pony ride. Of course the real poetry was in three forty-foot circles of worn grass midfield, vestiges of the rings themselves. But the emotional wallop for me was a mound of waste, unhandsome footprint only a circus could leave: manure, hay, sticky pink cotton candy cones, popcorn boxes, feed bags and an empty pint “medicine” bottle from one of Dr. James Beam’s branch offices. There more than anywhere in this ghostly vision was the impact that caught my heart. Anger and disappointment and jealousy all merged as this lowly improvised shrine laughed in my face at the clown routine we had just enacted. A whole circus missed a whole circus--by one day.
Where do these feelings come from? Perhaps they are not unique to that narrow slice of humanity possessed by circus chemistry.
There are certain events, especially rituals, that we need. When they are unusual and rare entries on our calendars, their importance to us may be heightened. They must be engaged, seized (with the day) now. They are elusive gifts.
What do they help us achieve that’s so important even as they visit us only infrequently? They fill us up with rich associations our pedestrian paths miss, even avoid. In such abundant completion, they are extravagant, generous to our impoverished souls by feeding our eyes and ears and imaginations with the promise of life’s capacity for more life. Such rituals—especially the humble ones-- just might be the perfect antidote to greed: they enhance our appreciation of what we already have. They bolster our trust to continue the childhood song, “Hey, Mom! Look what I can do!”
Pull up an anticipation of all that so human mix, promise that the ceremony will be dressed to the hilt in sequins, rich cloth and music. Then snatch it all away and give it to another town so far away I can’t make it there in time. That’s why I couldn’t laugh back at that mocking pile of circus detritus.