Perfomance Art in a Meadow – Peter Baltensperger


It wasn’t exactly an ideal kind of afternoon for being in a meadow for any reason. It was supposed to be a liberating and inspiring day, but the clouds building up behind the horizon all morning apparently had other things in mind. By noon, they had pretty much taken over the whole sky, and the sun didn’t have anything to say about the rest of the day. At least the air was still quiet and unperturbed, making it easier for the afternoon to revolve as it should.

A troupe of garishly attired marionettes was dancing from invisible strings, carefully orchestrated colorful performers against the backdrop of black clouds. A mime with a white face and a black skin-tight body suit and hat was desperately trying to join their dance, but he was imprisoned in an invisible glass cube some distance from the troupe, frantic to get out. Nobody could hear him scream. A clown was twisting elongated hydrogen balloons into the strangest creatures and letting then float up into the air, kaleidoscopic messages for the cloud-heavy sky. Soon it would rain.

Caleb Stonehouse walked into the meadow with a large bunch of variegated balloons of all different kinds of shapes and sizes tied to a long wooden pole. Without hesitation, he walked in among the dancing troupe of marionettes and handed each one of them a balloon. They didn’t seem to be quite sure what to think of them or do, but he was used to that. It happened to him all the time. Marionettes always seemed to be confused, as were most people, wherever he went. When he had distributed all of his balloons, he used the wooden pole to balance the shadows in the grass, holding it in his hands like a tightrope walker stabilizing his life.

Chloe Payton was walking her tightrope behind the dancers, strung between two guy-wired metal poles piercing the sky, the marching band providing the music for the dancers weaving its way in and out between the poles. She tried not to let the music bother her, and it didn’t. She was quite sure of herself and had never fallen off her rope. She was that kind of a walker. The mime bothered her considerably more, even though she couldn’t hear him scream. There was just something unsettling about his predicament.

A young female contortionist was demonstrating her routines in front of the marionettes, twisting her body into the oddest shapes to the rhythm of the band. She was holding one of the balloon creatures in one hand and never once let go, no matter how freakish her contortions. After she completed her routine, she wrapped herself into a ball without straightening up and rolled all the way across the meadow to the mime, still clutching her balloon. She waved to the mime from out of her ball, then folded herself into a cube and joined him in his own cube, to keep him company. He didn’t appear to be very appreciative, of her or of the balloon. He was still banging his fists against the non-existence glass.

Caleb was waiting for Chloe beside the giant crane when she came climbing down the ladder at the end of her act. They were still carrying their poles. They had never met each other before, but there was an immediate kinship, and emotional connection, between them. Caleb thought it was probably because of the poles. They were obviously symbolizing something significant, because Chloe readily let him put his arm around her slender waist and lead her to the front of the dancing marionettes. There weren’t many other spectators.

And then the rain did begin to fall, although it wasn’t supposed to do that until later, first as a fine shower, then as a veritable downpour, always as a warning and as an omen. The troupe of marionettes and the marching band quickly brought out their umbrellas and continued with their performance. The choreographer opened up a large multi-colored umbrella to indicate his importance, the drum major a black and white one appropriate to his position. The mime and the contortionist didn’t get wet at all. The balloon clown wasn’t anywhere to be seen.

Neither Chloe nor Caleb had an umbrella, being the kind of people who carried long wooden poles, but Chloe had her trailer waiting for her. She took Caleb by the hand and they sprinted through the fine part of the rain into the welcome safety of her personal accommodation. The trailer was roomy and nicely decorated and furnished, befitting a tightrope walker. They took off each other’s clothes, pretending they were wet, and tumbled down on the large comfortable bed. They could have still heard the marching band had it made any difference at all.

On a different day, or perhaps in a different place, it didn’t rain at all because it wasn’t necessary. There wasn’t a meadow, just a large field, but a whole circus had set up a big top and was offering a much more varied and exciting entertainment. They even had an African elephant and a white tiger to symbolize all kinds of different things. Chloe and Caleb were sitting in the very first row right by the ring, spellbound, holding hands, metaphors for the juxtaposition of a meadow and a field.



Peter Baltensperger is a senior Canadian writer of Swiss origin and the author of ten books of various genres. His work has also appeared in several hundred print and on-line publications around the world over the past several decades. He make his home in London, Canada with his wife Viki and their four cats and two rather rambunctious puppies, all of the literarily inclined.

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