"Summer afternoon - summer afternoon; to me those have always been the two most beautiful words in the English language." ~ Henry James
And those most be nineteen of the most beautiful words that Henry James ever wrote.
If you ask me, what is one of the most beautiful things to do on a sunny summer afternoon? Why, go to the pool, of course! A hidden gem of our neighborhood, the pool is nestled in a small valley at the foot of a big hill. Lucky for me, it's only a few blocks from my house, close enough to bike. On a hot July day, nothing feels better than floating lazily or doing a leisurely backstroke while gazing above at a big blue bowl of sky and all around at a big green basket of grass.
Peace and the "Sounds of Silence." That's what the pool provides for The Graduate-- Benjamin Braddock / Dustin Hoffman. The desultory pace of his summer is measured in the movie by a succession of swimming scenarios. While he sits on the bottom of the pool in his scuba gear, his head is filled with the echo of his own breathing. Avoiding the reality of "plastics," he rests listlessly in the sun on his air mattress, "drifting, just drifting," to the strains of Simon & Garfunkle. I can't sit underwater like Benjamin, but when I swim laps I can go inside my head, think about what I'd like to read and write, and hear nothing but the sound of rhythmic breathing until the whistle blows.
No summer day feels complete without those laps. Some days I have the pool to myself; other times it's a perfect microcosm of the entire community: little kids, big kids, young adults, old adults, experts, amateurs, and many beginners -- of all ages; some who swim fast, others who take it slow; some treading, some diving; some taking lessons, some working out with serious purpose and some just having a good time! It can occasionally feel like a big old human soup pot, on the very hottest, busiest days, but I try to work around that slightly stewed sensation and keep my focus. Despite the heat, with just a month of summer afternoons left, we have to enjoy every one!
"Lap swim -- lap swim."
To me those are two of the most beautiful words on any summer afternoon between Memorial Day and Labor Day!
" . . . there is no end, believe me! to the inventions of summer, to the happiness your body is willing to bear." --Mary Oliver
Neighborhood Kiddies: Molly, Ben, Emily, 1991
Neighborhood Cheers: My Swimming Buddies, 1992
If you have to choose between straight hair & swimming, don't fight the curl: CHOOSE SWIMMING!