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Get Well Soon and Swimming Laps

by Julia Sneden

I live in an area that is one of the loveliest in the world, come spring. It starts in early February, with crocuses and camelliasif there is not unruly weather. By March, the jonquils and hyacinths are up, followed by a riot of dogwood and azalea and tulips in April. Iris and columbine are next, and when roses and finally rhododendron bloom in May, spring is coming to a close. 
      I wish I could embrace it as wholeheartedly as my gardening friends, but for me its all a bit too much, rather like a flowery get well card that has verses inside written by someone with a tin ear and no sense of rhythm.
      I would love to get in the spirit of things and lug the porch furniture outside, but the oak pollen hasnt finished falling yet, and anyway, who would want to sit out there with the crawling caterpillars, the carpenter bees, and air golden with the sneezy stuff?
      Those of us who like to breathe can wait for long, warm summer evenings when the air has cleared up a bit. Not only will we breathe easier: We wont even have to apply sunblock.

              Swimming Laps

The lines and dimples on the bottom of the ancient swimming pool at our local YWCA are as familiar to me as the lines and dimples of my own face. My goggles are fairly well scratched from years of use, so that the edges of things are growing hazy, but I can still anticipate the blotches that look like Mickey Mouse, or the slight w of cracked paint at the edge of the drain, as I glide along between the black lane markers. They are the signposts by which I measure my progress.
      Thirty-six lengths of our 75-foot pool translate into something a little over half a mile. I have them down to a pattern, so that I dont have to count:
      Two lengths crawl
      One length backstroke
      One length breaststroke

       Two lengths crawl
       One length backstroke
       One length sidestroke

       Three lengths crawl
        One length backstroke

        Repeat the whole series of 12 lengths, two more times.

      It sounds complicated, but when youre in it, you know just where you are without having to think.
      My father was also a lap swimmer. He claimed it kept the muscles long and lean. Well, sure, if youre six feet tall like him. At five feet three, muscles are never long. My legs have become cute little bunchy knots of solid stuff, like two sets of parentheses, one above another:
                         ( )
                         ( ) 
    My calves are probably larger in diameter than most womens thighs. At least nothing jiggles when I walk. At least not in my calves.
       For me, the appeal of lap swimming is not the conditioning, but the solitude. When I am face-down in the lane, creaming rhythmically along, no one can cry: Teeeecher! or MOM; no telephone rings, no eager sales pitch can break through my privacy. It is a time when I am truly alone, just me, the water, and those cracks and dimples on the bottom. Now, if I can just turn off the tendency to think about what I need to do next



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