Saturday, August 29, 2009

Emancipation of the Water (New York City)

It was surprising this year, that with all the budget cuts (often in important areas -- like animal shelters) heaped on our fine city, the Department of Parks and Recreation still managed to keep the summer lap swimming open at outdoor city pools and even held its annual Swimming Awards Pool Party.

But, perhaps there is good reason for that.

While lap swimming and awards parties might seem trivial to some, the reality is that for many people during depressive times, (free) exercise opportunity and fun events are sanity savers.

Take these things away and more people are likely to require costly treatments for depression, anxiety or addiction disorders.

What thus might seem like an unnecessary "frill" is actually a cost effective and saving measure.

Things are rarely as they appear.

I personally believe that if I didn't have the emancipation of swimming to look forward to most evenings of the summer, I would have totally flipped out.

With the lone exception of the water, this has been a summer from hell. -- Especially for the animals of New York City.

Whether the issue was rounding up and gassing hundreds of Canadian Geese living near the airports, passing a "No dogs over 30 lbs" rule in city housing projects, reinstating a convicted dog fighter and killer to the NFL or killing about 500 cats and dogs a week in our city animal shelters, it has been a truly grim couple of months to be sure.

Add to those things, the almost sheer impossibility of finding patient and understanding foster or adoptive homes for animals either facing death in shelters or languishing in no-kill facilities or boarding kennels and yes, it was all a kind of "hell."

But, through it all, there was the welcoming of the cool, embracing waters each night, the challenge of racking up laps and watching them turn into miles and the daily sightings of ducks and geese peacefully gliding across the north pond in Central Park located near Lasker Pool.

That is what in fact, "kept it together" for me personally over the summer -- those things and my two dogs and the cats in my home.

The annual Awards Pool Party was held this past Wednesday night and I attended with two of my rescue colleagues (and friends), Carrie and Firouzeh. It was quite wonderful for a couple of hours to be in an environment where seemingly, all was right and "normal" in the world. Good friends, up people, tasty food, beverages, music, a relay race among the teams representing the pools around the city (I was on the team representing Lasker. We didn't win, but came in a respectable fourth or fifth.) and finally, the awards themselves, as represented by trophies and tee-shirts.

I won both a tee-shirt and a trophy. While wonderful for the symbolism, achievement and memory they represent, they are not what matter ultimately. What matters is the joy in getting to this event in the first place. What matters is the journey. What matters is the support and cheer from truly loyal and wonderful friends.

I wouldn't have missed the pool party for anything.

And, judging by the hundreds of new people who signed up for lap swimming this season at Lasker pool alone (probably many of whom were forced to cancel expensive gym memberships) its obvious that the lap swimming sessions served an important purpose for many more people than just myself.

Or, perhaps all of this is best said in a sonnet that was printed in back of the program brochures we received at the party:

The pool is long and blue and cool.

I dive into the soothing depth, the wet.

I cut the water, arms a knife, a curving slice,
a turn, another lap, a breath, a pull and earth below is not allowed to hold my body down

And I am flying free of ground, my cells expand, my spirit grows and melts into the chlorine blue.

I feel the stretch of spine and soul, I reach to touch some goal, its just beyond my fingertips at last, another lap, if I could just not need to slow, I gasp and kick.

Against the heavy claim of land-locked life, so hard, so harsh, so shallow, short and dry.

(posted by sbpoet)

So true, all of the words -- especially those in the last two lines.

But, for the emancipation of the water, where would be I?

But, for the life-sustaining quenching, caressing and nourishment qualities of the water, where would be any of us? - PCA


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