Tuesday, June 22, 2010

Summer Rerun*

"Summer afternoon - summer afternoon;
to me those have always been the two most
beautiful words in the English language."

Henry James, 1843 - 1916

And those most be nineteen of the most beautiful words ever written by American-born modernist, Anglophile, expatriate, novelist Henry James.

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 summer 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 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 such a short swim season, you can't let one opportunity slip by!

"Lap swim -- lap swim."

To me those are two of the most beautiful words on any summer afternoon between Memorial Day and Labor Day!

* Originally posted last summer on
The Fortnightly Kitti Carriker
July 27, 2009

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