I was slow to take to Swimming Studies (Blue Rider Press, 2012; hardcover, 320 pages), choosing not to seek it out after positive reviews that somehow didn’t grab me. I accepted a loaner copy from Joe at the beach, though, and found it very engaging once I finally got around to reading it.
This “collection of autobiographical sketches” in prose and images taught me some interesting things, such as about lane-line color patterns. It provides insights into the training and habits of a once top-level, teen-aged Canadian breaststroker–the author. She continues to swim regularly and now is a professional artist and writer whose work turns up frequently in T: The New York Times Style Magazine. She lives in New York, but I don’t think we’ve ever crossed paths.
We’ve swum in many of the same pools, though, from New York to Iceland. Whereas I seem to come away with memories of the actual swim experience, pool history, and architecture, her recollection is much more sensory, from the swim suit she was wearing to the shape of the water.
Astoria Park Pool, Queens
It’s a good reminder of how different two people’s impressions of the same experience can be.
That said, the book really is an experience. I won’t colors yours further except by encouraging you to seek it out.
Location: Pound Ridge, Westchester, New York
Configuration: 6 x 25 meters in the lap pool
Fee: Guest of resident
The Pound Ridge Town Pool is one of those places that feels disconnected from the world, as if the sky here were perpetually blue and the water the same, just the right temperature, and never crowded. If you are able to get in either by being a resident or a resident’s guest, you can swim, lounge, eat, socialize, and play table tennis and air hockey here to your heart’s content.
Me and my dad.
I visited with my friend Naomi and her mother, Ethel, over Labor Day weekend. A regular all summer, Ethel had three guest visits left on her pool card, and she kindly shared them with the two of us and my dad. We chose partially shaded lounge chairs by the nearly empty lap pool and whiled away a couple of hours. At some point a pool pal of Ethel’s joined us. I swam just 1,000 meters, realizing in the process that the pool was a wee bit longer than 25 yards. The rest of our group did some laps too, some for the first time in years and years. That’s how otherworldly the experience was!
The lap pool is also the diving and competition pool. Just two lane lines were in, but the lifeguards kindly let us overflow into the rest of the pool as needed, even though it was signed as closed. No problems here. Most other people frolicked in the shallow pool and lounged closer to the snack bar.
Naomi’s family moved here when she was in elementary school. She swam here in the summers during her childhood but hadn’t been back for ages. Still, she was able to find some names she recognized in the trophy case. The 1970s high dive records would seem to be especially secure given that the high dive has been removed. Back in the day, she said, there was always a long line for the high dive and people really got the business if they didn’t jump. Somehow I can’t imagine anyone getting the business here now.
Happy new year! It’s also the three-year anniversary of this project, which means I’m about to turn 44. I closed out the year with a swim at–where else?–Riverbank. Here we are bright and early yesterday morning.
Fernando, Alan, David, Amanda, me, Lisa Lisa, and Joe do a final swim in 2015. (Thanks to Amanda and Fernando for the pic!)
Same place and some of the same people in 2012: Lisa Lisa, Joe, Piezy, and me.