My Happy Place

It’s been around since forever; retro, cheap and clean. Three mornings a week, May through October, I throw on my swimsuit and head out to our little municipal pool for a swim.

When I first hit the water I feel like a kid. I love the buoyancy, the sparkling aquamarine with sunlight bouncing off it. I love pushing off from the side of the pool with my feet, the feeling of strength as I propel through the liquid silk of the water, love looking up at the sky as I do my backstroke, seeing the clouds. A speck of a bird way up high.

There’s a group of regulars there that I’ve come to know. Lots of them retirees like me but plenty of supple young athletes too–practicing their  strokes, staying in shape. Black, White, Latino, young, old. It’s a mixed bag but this place makes us water buddies.

Today 92-year old Fred was doing his thing in the next lane, slow but steady. When he walks down the steps into the water he’s all stooped over, looking ancient, but he says his hurts disappear as soon as he’s in.

Then there’s Shirley and Mike, the couple from South Africa. They razz each other. She’s a better swimmer than him. “Yay! He left the side of the pool!” she teased when he finally got going.

And Alfredo, the 300+ lb Spanish guy who’s there every day doing his slow backstroke wearing the same floppy hat. He doesn’t say much but he’s sweet; a gentle giant going back and forth.

Then there’s the music– happy songs from the boom box.  Music that makes you want to kick those feet, move those arms, pick up the pace.

Towards the end of my swim, the little kids line up for lessons. Some timid, some full of beans. I love hearing the instructor call out their names.  Lilly, Kyla, Nicolette, Ernesto. Every glistening little body a future in the making.

After an hour of cool, blue water I pull myself out, lay in the sun a few minutes to dry off, wave good-bye and head home, ready to tackle the day.

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Me and my Hula Hoop

The year was 1957, the place Homestead, Florida. I was ten years old and a darn good hula hooper. One day at my Catholic school we had a hula hoop contest in PE class.  At the end of the period me and this other girl, a skinny thing named Joy Gadway – can’t believe I still remember her name – were the only ones still going.

In order to wrap things up, the nuns in charge decided we should have a “dog fight” to determine the winner.  I’d never done one before. You walk toward each other, hoops spinning around your waist, and clash hoops, hoping theirs careens out of orbit and hits the ground before yours.

I’m not a very aggressive person.  We’d been taught by these same nuns to make nice, after all, and I took it seriously. I wasn’t  cut out for dog fighting. Evidently, Joy was.  She came at me, got in a good swipe and my hoop went down, down, down.  She won and I came in second. But without that stupid dog fight I might’ve outlasted her.

Fast forward 59 years. I’m hooping again. All because of a Fifties sock hop I got invited to a few weeks ago, complete with hula hoop contest. I already had a hoop. I saw it at a toy store when my grandsons were little, bought it for old times sake, then after a couple attempts stashed it away for “some day when I have time.”

That “some day” had arrived.  I found the hoop buried in my utility room, hosed it off and tried it out. My hips were a little rusty and I only lasted 50 swivels. Not pretty. It was easier when I was ten!  But I kept practicing and got up to 300. And won the sock hop hula hoop contest!  Granted, the competition among my 60-something rivals wasn’t very steep, and there was no dog fight, but a win is a win.

I’m still hooping. 300 swivels a few times a day just to get the blood moving, and working my way up little by little. Great for the waistline. And if I find a fellow hooper maybe I can even challenge them to a dog fight. I wonder if Joy Gadway’s still around.

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A Breeze Blowing Through

The other day I was sitting on the sofa across from a south facing window, in full lotus, getting ready to meditate. It’s usually an exercise in futility for me but sometimes I achieve a state of semi-peace. Nothing major.  I just sit.

As I sat there, not really into it yet, I thought about how my notion of God has changed over the years. I used to be very religious, grew up Catholic. But, over time, organized religion seemed to pinch, like shoes a little too small for my feet.

Gradually I left it behind. “Spiritual but not religious” became my new religion. Whatever encouraged me to open wide to love and life, to connect.  I meditate in order to immerse myself in something larger than myself, something I don’t understand. I’m part believer, part agnostic, part atheist. It’s not real comfortable living without certainties, but it’s where I’m at.

So as I sat facing the window, before closing my eyes, I opened myself to the “Universe,” not knowing to Whom or What, if anything, I was opening. Just then a breeze blew through the big green leaves of the trees right outside my window. And for that instant I knew.

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Evening Stroll

I heard thunder rumble. Far away. The sun was shining. Very bright for 7:30 in the evening. Almost like midday. But not as hot. Today was a scorcher. July in central Florida can be one hot, muggy hell.

But it was bearable at 7:3o and the thunder was maybe a false alarm so I decided to walk off dinner.

Not far though. Just to the end of my street and back. There’s this one stretch at the north end that looks more like a campground than suburbia. Thick with twisty old oaks whose limbs reach across the road, and lots of palmetto.  

In a front yard three houses down sat a big flatbed truck with long metal pipes strapped on, and a big gaping hole where grass used to be. Pope’s Well Drilling it said on the side of the truck. 

Not far into the walk I saw two birds fly across the road and into the trees. Hawks. Small, maybe kestrels. I could hear their calls. I stopped walking and scanned the trees, but no luck.

This end of the street is so pretty. A woman I used to know from a therapy group 20 years ago grew up on this street. So pretty, she said, especially on the north end. That was before I moved here.

She told us her mother committed suicide when she was a kid, on this very street. It left scars. She got married a few years into the group and had a baby, moved away.  She seemed happy last time I saw her. But I always wonder, when I pass by the houses at that end – was it this one? That one?

The thunder was getting closer and the sky turning stormy-purple to the east so I hurried home.

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My Mother’s China

I’m de-cluttering my house. My summer project. Working my way from room to room.

I’m going through kitchen cabinets now and on the very top shelf sits my mom’s china. An attractive pattern with a brown and gray floral border on white porcelain. It was her first set of good china.

My parents were part of the up and coming middle class who rode the tidal wave of post-war prosperity in the 1950s and 60s. But they started out dirt poor, like almost everyone else during the Great Depression.

And so, to them, success meant little luxuries. And nice china was one of those. Dad was a career Air Force officer with a good head on his shoulders, who intended by the grace of God and his own resourcefulness to leave all that dirt-poor as far behind as he could.

Hard work, sensible choices and pinching pennies are what their generation was all about. He and mom usually opted for drab, cookie-cutter base housing and my mom used her homemaking flair to make each one as comfortable and classy as possible on Dad’s modest income.

Dad made it all the way to Lieutenant Colonel before retiring from the Air Force and he and mom finally built their dream house.  They filled it with the made-to-last Early American furniture they’d purchased with pride, and mom’s china. Most of their beautiful furniture was sold off when they died; my sister and I already had furniture of our own. But I took a few things, including the china.

And so it sits on my very top kitchen shelf. Rarely used, but cherished until it’s my kids’ turn to give it a home. Or not. I think I’ll start using it more often.


Posted in beauty, emotions, family, human interest, love, mother, nostalgia, poetry, psychology, relationships, sadness, senior citizens, spirituality, women | 1 Comment

The Puzzle

I’m putting together a jigsaw puzzle. What a time waster, huh. Pure self-indulgence. No one will benefit from it but me.  Sometimes I hear this little voice in my head saying, “You could be doing something productive; something helpful; you’re not a kid anymore.” Yada yada.  When I hear that little workaholic voice I say, “Enough!  I’m retired.”

I feel I’ve finally earned the right to do whatever the hell I want, or don’t want, to do. And I want to do this puzzle. Without guilt.  But with the world in such a mess shouldn’t I be saving the planet, feeding the hungry, washing my car?

Yet the puzzle isn’t entirely child’s play, it has some redeeming value. It teaches me patience, perseverance and self-control. There’ve been times I’ve wanted to throw it all overboard, sure that the one piece that’s eluding me is missing! Or when that one piece that really should fit, doesn’t. But I just keep slogging away. And I use that little self-improvement argument to shut up the annoying voice when it starts chirping.

Two and a half sides done. Yippee!  Those millions of all-white cloud pieces are going to be murder…

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The Owl

As I drove down the dark, wooded street I saw something in the middle of the road. Just sitting there. An owl!

In the split second of surprise before I swerved around it, the beams from my headlights lit up its beautiful face and huge golden eyes. Eyes that looked straight at me.  It must’ve been guarding dinner because it didn’t budge.

Almost after the fact, I took in the dark and light speckles of its head and shoulders and the huge pale disks surrounding those penetrating yellow eyes.

It all happened in less than a couple seconds, but in that compressed time-outside-of-time  was packed a whole lot of magic.

Posted in beauty, birds, emotions, human interest, nature, pets, poetry, psychology, religion, science, spirituality | 3 Comments