My Quivering Thighs

on May 5, 2013 in Misc

Yeah, I thought the title would get your attention.

Unfortunately, my thighs aren’t quivering with lust or because they’re having a good time.   Same thing with my ankles and feet.  Happily my abs and arms aren’t too bad, which means they’re in good shape.

See, this morning (Sunday) I went to a rec center and took my first barre class.  I thought I’d do fine.  After all, I stay in pretty good Layla shape and when I was young I had ten years of ballet, so I know my way around a barre.

This was so not like my ballet classes.

Oh, I could do the exercises.  They were pretty much  a combination of ballet, pilates, and Callanetics.  But before now I never had to do certain movements FIVE HUNDRED TIMES!

I’m not really kidding.  Each movement was done over and over and over, and just when you think you’re done and you’re sweating like a fiend, the evil instructor calls out, “Last twenty times!”


At least I made it through the class, and I vow to keep up these exercises on my own until my legs and behind are like iron and I’m ready to take another barre class.  Maybe I’ll even go to those classes kinda regularly.  Masochist that I am.

Now for a completely different topic:

As some of you know, in The Compass Master I give an historical account of how two ancient epistles are kept hidden and safe by different people over the centuries.  At one point in the 16th century the protectors  include the pivotal character Sister Roswitha, who was not a nun but a deaconess and canoness in Germany.

“This meant she lived in a community of women that was not a convent and did  not have strict rules, where women took no vows of chastity and might be widows or could leave to marry or stay to work as teachers.”

Well, I thought that such female-only communities faded away centuries ago.  I was wrong.  This last week The Economist had an obituary of Marcella Pattyn, “the world’s last Beguine,” which pretty much means a canoness.

As The Economist explains, these veiled women lived in Beguinages, communities of hundreds or even thousands that sprang up spontaneously in the Low Countries from the early 13th century and on.  They led lives of prayer and service but could leave when they wanted, made their own rules, and lived without male guidance.  They were “encouraged to study and read, and they were expected to earn their keep by working, especially in the booming cloth trade.”  They lived in a “state of autonomy which was highly unusual for medieval women and highly disturbing to medieval men.”

And — damn it! — the Beguines were often persecuted by their own Catholic clergy, then by Protestants who almost destroyed them, and their property was confiscated in the French Revolution.  Somehow, they survived.  But now Sister Marcella has died, “And then there were none.”

A sad passing to a fascinating way of life.

So when you’ve done your own writing and researching, have you uncovered facts that surprised you?  Come across an intriguing  mystery?  I’d love to hear about it.





14 Responses to “My Quivering Thighs”

  1. I didn’t know such communities still existed either. Well, I guess not anymore.
    And repetition is important, but even I’d be quivering after five hundred.

  2. Helena says:

    Alex – So nice to know you’re a quiverer too.

  3. It may be a fascinating way of life but I certainly wouldn’t want to live that way.

    Take it easy in those uber gyms. You get going and finish the exercise and then in the next week, your body reminds you that hey, you can’t do that yet.

  4. Helena says:

    Michael – My body is reminding me this morning that I pushed myself. Ow.

  5. Hart Johnson says:

    ACK! My thighs are quivering in sympathy. I KNOW that would kill me. I’ve been walking hills, which is a definite increase in the UMPH, but I think a barre class would be very painful. Cool about the cannoness!

  6. Helena says:

    Hart – How kind to have sympathetic thighs! Mine feel for yours when you’re climbing those hills.

  7. Ben says:

    Hello again! I totally know what you mean by quivering thighs! I’ve been doing CrossFit, and my instructor likes to do 45 minute “warm ups” of deadlifts, front/back squats, etc… and then he does an insane 10 minute routine that leaves everyone on the ground shaking. It’s awesome. I’m totally masochistic that way, too. It’s probably better that way, though – in the long run, that is.

  8. Helena says:

    Ben – Yes, you are a masochist. Your workout sounds kind of like that parkour training I had; afterwards I’d crawl home and lie on my sofa for the next two hours ’cause it hurt too much to stand up. But at least this barre class has shown me that I’ve slacked off a little, so now I plan to build up my strength and endurance before going back for more classes.

    It sounds like you’re getting into serious shape! I’m impressed.

  9. Ben says:

    Why thank you. Trying to get into serious shape. I’m so excited for this summer – I’m learning to do land navigation (orienteering, using a map/compass), hiking, learning how to sail, basic first aid stuff, how to swim with fins, and shooting rifles.

  10. Helena says:

    Ben – I had a course in (free at REI) in map/compass navigating but I’ve really got to retake it. But you’re really going for the all-around skills, and good for you!

    Oh, and I so cannot sail anything.

  11. Ben says:

    That’s so cool that REI offers that; i’ll have to look into that! What made you decide to take the barre class?

  12. Helena says:

    Ben – My friend Annie invited me, and I’d heard of barre and how tough it could be, but anyway we were both new to it and suffered. It was at the city rec center near her and only $4, so I’ll be going back for more punishment.

  13. Old Kitty says:

    Barre classes?!?! You are totally a super woman!! I am in AWE!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

    And speaking of amazing women – loved the story about the Benguinages nuns! Off I go to rifle through the back copies of my library’s Economist to read about this too! Thanks Helena! Take care

  14. Helena says:

    Old Kitty – It’s the obituary in the April 27th edition. I’m amazed that so many women were so “autonomous” and didn’t answer to any men in for so many centuries and starting in the Middle Ages. Wow!