My Circus Days

Circus Days - Jill FreedmanI was the kind of kid who was always waiting to be carried off by gypsies.

The wanderlust, the mystery, packing up your tent and slipping off into the night. Adventure! Escape!

The Circus is a reminder of all those trips never taken, all those wild schemes gone cold in the sober morning. It’s a fragile fantasy, here today, gone tomorrow, free like we’re not.

Free and nameless in a world full of bills and kids and credit cards that have got our numbers.

The circus is an exuberant place, like childhood: a celebration of the joy of just being alive. It is a magic place, full of the mystery, terror, and ecstasy of childhood. It is grotesque and beautiful, strange and wondrous to behold. A place you feel more than you remember, where things imagined are as real as things happened. Preposterous things that streak too fast past the corner of your eye and get you all excited. It’s a taste of the unknown, a promise of adventure, waiting for you out there where it’s all happening. Towns that you know are more exciting than your own. Women w ho are freer, men who are richer, chocolate every day, why not? Everything’s possible in the circus except acting your age and being sensible.

Shorty Sees GiraffesThe circus is a noisy celebration of everything kids love – dumb jokes, offensive sounds, rude gestures, frantic activity, giddy horror, drama and courage and daring and painful beauty. It sings with the sinister energy of insane clowns. It ‘s walking on wires, juggling balls, bouncing on nets, tumbling through air, like kids do, just to do it. Celebrating the sheer joy of doing something perfectly useless, perfectly. As though it were keeping a promise you made to yourself once that you’d never grow up. You’d never become one of Them. Just so, the circus is always the same. It never changes.

The magic of the Big Top. The personal magic that touches your town. The different air you breathe as soon as you step under canvas. The special smells. The excitement of the brass band blaring through the canvas speaker and between your ears.

The colors in the light filtering through the center poles, the pin and grommet holes, under the sidewalls. The sensual pleasure of a summer shower, wind and rain rapping the canvas over your head and you inside, warm and dry.

Protected from the real world by a thin layer of magic. If we lose all of this, what will we have lost? And where will the free people go, when circus days, like the good old days, like the dreams you had, like the child you were, are gone.


  1. Seth Bloom says:

    Hi Jill,

    I had in my memory a circus quote with “noisy celebration” and googled it and your blog came up. It’s beautiful what you write about circus. As are your images.
    My wife Christina and I are currently the featured clowns on Big Apple Circus, opening at Lincoln Center this weekend. We have performed all over the world and have spent 10 years off and on in Afghanistan building up a circus project there. Are you interested in a current circus collaboration while we work at Big Apple Circus?
    You can see more about us at our website

    And we happen to be relative neighbors in NYC as we live up in Harlem on the west side –though we do now have a trailer planted in Damrosh Park, Lincoln Center.

    Hope to hear back.

    Seth & Christina

  2. Chris Bull says:

    I love that discription! I myself am a circus performer.. A rope walker, specialising in slack rope but dabbling here and there in the high stuff too! What a lot of effort for not a lot of sense!, viva the nonsense I say! Tell me more and show me more and I can share my experiences with you!… My email is


  1. [...] There’s also a built-in nostalgia, even if you’ve never attended a circus with a live lion and a tamer. Freedman wrote that: [...]

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