My knees are a pure physical manifestation of prayer. Prayers in need, prayers answered, prayers simple, and what are for many common prayers.
I begin by remembering the spiritual lyric; “Let us break bread together on our knees. “ Certainly I’ve sung it since I was small, it was a song given to me by my parents and their church. That being a part of my youth, the song remains and becomes part of my memory as I grow older and is almost like breath.
Falling on your knees too part of everyone’s non-religious childhood. I think of bandages on knees or skinned knees, as required is almost a definition of what it is to be young. Our knees were badges of courage, stupidity sometimes, and reminders that gravity never was forgiving. Not many thoughts of gravity even occurred to us when we were young. Certainly as we grew older, sometimes God’s name was voiced in a tone devoid of all religion.
In retrospect, I have had my knees as a major part of my life all along. For a while they were funny. When I was on stage as a guest cast member with Chicago’s Second City in a segment they called “the hate symphony,” I found myself terrified about being on stage-live with actors who belonged to that famous improv company. My knees were so nervous that they were quivering. Not so that the audience could see, but I could feel them. They did the same quiver on many opening nights as well as when I was being married. You’d almost think this was my own trick-knee-gauge.
When I learned the arcane craft of stage-combat, along with the skill of being able to fall without padding; I learned to warm up the knees. A drill I’d learned from a British fight instructor called out: “a-rrrrrround, a-rrrround, arrrrround, push back,” to have us all swivel our knees in advance of doing a fall without injury to the ground. (It was a little like, “you put your two knees in, you put your two knees out, you put your two knees in and make them safe in a fall.”) This worked for years as I passed on my training and trilling the “r’s” was par for the exercise.
I remember now the time, when I found myself standing atop a platform being a sculptor’s model for young artists working on capturing the image of my knee. Seemed funny to me, to be the object of static art, not my usual presence in the middle of theatrical art; but in my memory I remember myself willing to donate my scarred knee as subject.
I have had various cases of trick-knees in my more usual theatrical haunts. When working in the usual dark theatre, I’ve caught my foot under non-code runs of sound or light cables and gone down crashing on my knee. I dutifully called out, “ I’m all right!” I got up and limped on in the dark rehearsal hall, after all the show must go on. So later it proved more than helpful to put a wrap around that same trick knee while I was walking the Camino Santiago. (It had blown up in the rain early in the walk through the Pyrenees) and because there was no logical time to stop during the pilgrimag, on I went wrapping my trick-knee every morning.
Since becoming Episcopalian I’ve gone to multiple churches and been called regularly to kneel during prayer. In fact many Episcopalian churches I’ve known have padded kneelers, embroidered ones, intended to make kneeling easier. Even so, on many Sundays, I’ve kneeled gently, and then found myself easing back to my seat in what is a semblance of a bow.….the knee just didn’t take the full kneel..
Which brings me in 2021 to my first of two total knee replacements. As my life-style has gradually been reduced to painful knees, I have been advised by several physicians that now is a good time to have them replaced. “Don’t wait too long, as recovery gets increasingly harder with age.” (This advice to me seems a little like the suggestion that one should to get new tires in a classic auto. “Get ‘em now, while you can milk a few extra miles out of the old rust bucket”).
But trick or not, rusty or not, the science of total knee replacement is a fascinating project to undertake in the new year. I’m seen sporting a cane. I’m doing isometric exercises opposite icing that surgically changed knee while also taking pain medication. I watch professional athletes who have injured or rehabilitated legs with entirely new compassion. I also watch dancers and runners with pure envy, vowing to join them soon.
Talk about the need of prayer? Not only have I long known the song,” oh break bread together on our knees,” recovering from surgery I suddenly remember another spiritual from my parent’s church; “it’s me, it’s me, it’s me oh Lord, Standing in the need of prayer.” (Even standing I find for now requires prayer).