7:30 BELLS Guest Post: The Body as Bell, by Martha Brockenbrough

What a privilege to share this post by brilliant YA author Martha Brockenbrough. Prepare to bedazzled!

I’m a sucker for a show of any kind. Give me a darkened theater. Turn on a spotlight. Transport me some place new and magical.

I expected this to happen that night ten years ago when I went to my first Cirque de Soleil performance. The tent was huge: sapphire blue and sun yellow on the outside, dark as night within. We had seats close enough to the stage to read the expression of the ringmaster, whose presence was utterly magnetic.

But what truly took me away were the acrobats suspended from the ceiling on wide ribbons of silk. The way they could make it look effortless to weave their limbs through the cloth—something I knew was extraordinarily difficult—made me wonder what it would be like to so fully inhabit my own flesh that way.

I’d become something of a head in a jar in my adulthood. Although I’d spent my childhood playing soccer, swimming, and running, I’d left the competitions behind when I went to college to focus on other my future.

It had always felt like my future would depend on my mind, after all. I had this notion sealed the summer I worked as a strap cutter in a golf bag manufacturing company, holding on to strips of nylon as I lowered the hot blade with my foot, an experience that convinced me that the more of your work you could do with your brain, the better.

And yet.

Life is not all work. And while it is a fine thing to feed your mind, it’s easy to forget there is a body that is attached, a body that hungers for movement, a body that is perhaps capable of mind-changing things. I wanted to return to mine.

And so, after that Cirque de Soleil show I signed myself up for yoga classes, which required me do move in ways I’d never moved before. I also took mixed martial arts classes and learned how to kick and punch. How to strike a target with kali sticks in each hand. I took up weight lifting. And lately, I have started a form of exercise called suspension training, which brings me as close to the acrobatics of Cirque de Soleil as I will ever get.

Hanging from a pair of straps like the ones I used to cut in my factory job, I jump. I balance. I pull myself skyward. It’s often painful and always exhausting, and I look nothing like the ethereal acrobats in a tent glowing with artificial stars. But it feels magical deep inside my cells. My muscles burn. My heart pounds. I breathe deeply. I drip sweat. My whole body vibrates like a bell that has been struck.

Invariably, I work so hard that I cannot think. And in these moments, it feels as though I have ventured out of the mind that rules me. But this isn’t quite it. It’s more that I have built up the kingdom I was always meant to inhabit: the one where I am both a brain and a body, a complex and complete human being striving to be better, stronger, smarter, more fully and deeply myself than I was the day before.

Martha Brockenbrough is the author of Devine Intervention, The Dinosaur Tooth Fairy, and the forthcoming young adult novel The Game of Love and Death. She grew up in Seattle, where she played the viola in string quartets and symphonies. She has worked as a newspaper reporter, teacher, and entertainment journalist. A lover of games, she also wrote questions for Cranium and Trivial Pursuit. She founded National Grammar Day, volunteers with, and lives in Seattle with her family of musicians and their two tone-deaf dogs. Learn more at:

7:30 BELLS Posts run every Tuesday.

7:30 BELLS Guest Posts run on the second Tuesday of every month. Join me on December 9 for a guest post with author Holly Schindler.