Archives for November 2017

In the Pool II: Learning Gratitude for Casual Friendships – a Process

C. and I bond over birds. He recounts his joy at the late-season appearance of Bluebirds in his yard. I am tickled to share this morning’s story from the Times about wild turkeys taking over towns across the U.S., this day before Thanksgiving.

The conversing balloons of our heads float above the rippling blue at the deep end of the pool as our legs jog-pedal below.  We are there to get healthier than we were, and have struck up a casual friendship over a shared interest in fowl.

I know nothing about C. except that he seems a kind and friendly person.  I suspect we share a political point of view from a few remarks he’s made to other floating heads, but I don’t know his last name, where or if he works, if there’s a wife and family…  I just know he will be eager to share his latest sightings with me when we meet in the pool again next time.

J. is another pool-pal. She volunteers at a local nonprofit and is a champion for its activities among the water therapy crowd. She was the first to welcome and introduce me to other ‘regulars’ when I started at the pool. She notices if I miss a day and encourages me to keep coming.  She’s a champion ‘squatter’ and is proud that her legs are strong enough to get her up off the ground if she should fall.

Mondays are water aerobics with Joy.  Friday is a pick-up volleyball game – women only. Wednesdays are quieter, especially very early, and my favorite time in the pool.

* * * * *

I have never been an overtly social person.  I don’t make an effort to meet new people or strike up conversations with strangers.  I enjoy my solitude and eschew casual conversation.  I would rather have three friends over for dinner and deep conversation, than go to a party with dozens of casual acquaintances.  Even though I’m a member of the Art Museum, I never attend “member preview” events, preferring to wait a few weeks to quietly spend time with the work alone – un-bothered by crowds and superficial comments from strangers.

So the collegiality of the pool was uncomfortable for me at first.  I kept my distance, intent on doing my own thing, avoiding eye contact and focusing determinedly on my workout routine.

But you can’t be a loner in the pool.  It doesn’t matter that you may seem to have nothing in common with those disembodied bodies bobbing around you – but you do.  It can be unspoken, and often is.  No one has asked me why I am there. But we all know — and accept — that we belong to the same club; an informal society of aging, injured or recovering humans, intent on soldiering on as long as we can.

So this morning, I was more comfortable than I would have been a few months ago when C. asked about the tattoo on my shoulder.  “Is that a ground-burrowing owl?” he asked?  “No,” I said, spinning around so he could get a better look; “it’s a Great Horned.”

I didn’t offer any details, however.


* * * * *

This post was written during my stint as a “Writer in the Window” at Apple Tree Books; part of the celebration of National Novel-Writing Month (NaNoWriMo). 

Losing Daylight

It warmed a little today, after a half-week of rain flirting with sleet. Even now, approaching midnight, the air is mild.

Into the quiet, a cricket drops its late autumn chirps, one-by-one, measuring the night at the meditative pace of breath.  Like a melancholy memory of summer, gone.

I spent the day planting daffodils.  Not my favorite flower, but one the deer won’t eat, and I want some color in my semi-forested, unrelievedly green back yard come spring.  The rain had softened the earth and it was a good time to get the bulbs into the soil.  It still felt like a season of production, rather than decline.

I cleaned out the garage and stored the deck and porch furniture, vacuumed out the car and installed the rubber floor mats for the coming mud and snow. I’ll wait a bit before putting the little red shovel in the trunk.

Tomorrow, (today, now, as I am editing this post) we set the clocks back. Somehow this day, more than the September Equinox, is the true divider between summer and winter. Throughout the fall we can ignore thinking too much of the cold and dark to come.  The light is still with is in the early evening and the color, rioting overhead and beneath our feet is a joyous distraction. It is a cozening time; a short season of artful deception. Even the musk of spent vegetation can seem more spice than rot – or so we can fool ourselves into thinking, for a while.

The weather app on my phone predicts the freezing point later in the week, but today will still be a mild one, with rain.  As I write, some cotton-softened thunder is laying down a low bass ground to the insistent chirp of my cricket’s song, its steady metronome, slowly marking time as the sky lightens into day. 

Looking ahead, here’s a poem I wrote some years ago.

Saving Daylight

Willows open veins in dead arms;
fountain down their beaded
necklaces of jade.

Red buds rouge the silver maple’s
wintered limbs outside the window.

Last year’s reeds, standing bleached
and hollow, bloom
red and raucous birdsong.

Tonight, a lost hour gains the time

for the winking secrets of fireflies
in a perfumed lawn,

for hiding from muffled calls home
in the safe dark of the yard,

for the thrill of batwings skimming
silent below the stars,

for the sueded purple taste of grapes.

© Kathleen Cerveny 2009


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