shake it out

Fear passes from man to man
As one leaf passes its shudder
To another.

All at once the whole tree is trembling
And there is no sign of the wind.

Charles Simic

There’s this tension here again; an ache in my jaw like toothache, and a feeling in my throat as if someone’s hand is around it.  I don’t know if it’s the widespread suffering, or how the world might look afterwards, or if I’m waiting for something to happen to one of the people I love.  Whatever it is, I’m on edge, ready for fight or flight, even though there’s not a lot I can do except stay calm and stay at home.

Our choir warm-up always started with shaking out the tension.  It’s something animals do but we’ve forgotten. My dog does it when I put on her collar; I caught her skin in the snap-buckle once, years ago, and she still remembers.  Ducks on the canal do it after a skirmish over bread; they waggle their tails, or stretch up and flap.

I do it now, shaking out my hands and arms and shoulders, letting them be loose, letting them flop and flap.  No need to keep up a special face, so I let my jaw drop, my cheeks go slack.  I shake my head from side-to-side like Jabba, the creature from Star Wars.  I blow through loose horse lips, ‘bleurgh bleurgh’, not at all the sort of noise a person like me usually makes.  I’m becoming childish in lockdown, not sure who I’ll be when I emerge.  I blame the Joe Wicks workouts; the last one I did, he was wearing a frog costume and had me, and thousands of others, hopping around the room from one lily pad to the next.

I flap my hands into a rubbery boneless blur, up and down and side to side, my fingers flying in all directions, hitting each other with a soft slapping sound, little shocks like electricity flinging around inside.

And when I stop, my hands are floaty and tingling.  And my whole body’s happy in its skin like it hasn’t felt in ages.  The message of danger, looping around, brain to body and back again, has been disrupted, changed for a while to one of safety, of sitting in a comfy chair with the French windows open, a sleeping dog, sunshine and a warm breeze, the sound of someone’s lawnmower.


  1. Oh gosh!
    your posts are becoming more beautiful each time. A stunning duck picture and very real image of you shaking and flapping yourself into a jelly. Gad to know that I’m not the only one who does the rubbery horse lips thing.
    Keep doing what you’re doing ~ its working … on every level!! xxx

  2. thats so beautiful margot..isnt it warming to find there’s someone else who ois feeling exactly the sme..that pain in the jaw, grinding my teeth, I think…permanent headache and permanent slight nausea feeling. feeling that your skin is too thin and you’ve lost a layer, and the slightest thing coming out of nowhere sets off another weepy moment. Must confess havent done the shaking thing, but now I definitely will. your writing is lovely, so moving and straight to the heart..thank you.

  3. Hi Gill, thank you for reading, and leaving a comment 🙂 Yes, tension and emotions are close to the surface for so many of us at the moment. Just keep doing anything that helps – and we’ll be back at choir before you know it …

  4. Ah, thank you! A wonderful technique! Thank you especially for the detail of the sound accompanying loose horse lips — an important dimension of the practice, easily missed! Have you considered adding video to demonstrate? ???

    1. Haha! Actually I did consider it. Both my children said I should have. It could have gone viral and been my 5 mins of fame. Oh well. Thanks for the laugh the other day 🙂

  5. Very honest and heartfelt, I enjoy reading these. You’re description is drawing me in more with every one. It’s a refreshingly personal take on what is happening now. Thanks. I feel I’m getting to know you better, cous!

    1. Well, that’s got to be a good thing, getting to know each other 🙂 I’ve enjoyed some of your short films partly for the same reason. Thanks for reading and commenting, and I’m glad you’re enjoying them. So sorry to hear the news from Nova Scotia today.

  6. Love this Margot, so poetic, do this in my yoga class sometimes, and you’ve captured it beautifully x

  7. Beautiful writing, as always.
    I particularly love the idea of your body movements sabotaging the messages of dread. ‘Re- membering’….. being made again through our bodies.
    Thank you, off to have a blubbery exercise!

    1. Thanks, Sue 🙂 And I’m enjoying and inspired by your FB posts throughout this period (tho’ I don’t always comment) x

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