Monday, August 31, 2015

August Days and the Arden Pool

We are in the last days of August. Summer's swan song. This is simultaneaously a slowing down and a speeding up. People are readying for the fair and getting ready to go to school; I have written about that.  But it is the sense that we are in deep season that has us all in a focus. Those people who like spending days at the beach are making it a priority to spend as much time possible down there. We are close enough that the beach can be a day trip. What August means for me is that I am trying to can or freeze some of the summer's bounty so we can remember the heat in the form of spicy salsa or the sun in the form of creamed corn. And then we have the Arden Pool. The membersip has been slipping in recent years. It is expensive to belong to the pool here. $450 for a family of four when I had paid more like $150 to belong to a pool in Lancaster County. Even at $150, I had to weigh how many times I would have to go to make it worth my while. In Arden, I don't even come close to breaking even, but in the last days of August, I am making a valiant stab at giving our pool memeberships some worth. Instead of saying I came to the pool five times, I am hoping to make it ten. I bring my books in order to meet another self-imposed goal, that of reading a book a week over the summer. But the pool in August is no time to be reading. We women have some serious gabbing to do. We are passing pie cookbooks back and forth, readying to enter the fair pie contests. We look through the glossy pages as if we are going to make something other than our tried and true tarts. Dale will make peach raspberry, and I will look to my roots with a Pennsylvania Dutch lemon sponge pie. Neither of us has dreams of winning.

Diane comes around with raffle tickets to win passes for two to the pool next year. Nobody has any money on them. The pool doesn't have a snack bar. Why bring money? But this is a great part in the story to introduce Diane. She is one of the first people I met in Arden, though she won't recall it. We used to come to the pool when we visited Arden on the weekends. Diane was at the pool. Diane is always at the pool. She was sitting with her daughter, both of them sporting outrageous tans and matching tattoos and talking about wanting to move to Hawaii. I was sitting on the next lounger over trying to figure out how I could move to Arden, and here she was, planning to exit to the South Pacific. Let me tell you a bit of the legend of Diane. She was a very early bonded member of the pool. Even though she didn't live in Arden, she begged her husband to let her join the Arden pool.  He acquiesced because she promised to sell her motorcycle to get the money to join. Diane was pregnant at the time, and George said yes to get her off the motorcycle. Diane spent all her time at the Arden Pool and just about gave birth there. These days, when she is not at the beach, she is stationed on a lounger in the back of the pool near the sheds. If she has her chair somewhere else, it means some sort of insect alert is in order along the back fence. Note to self: Always see where Diane is perched before you put your towel down.

Diane comes as soon as the pool opens to swim her laps---equalling a mile--as she prays. She isn't the only one. The pool water is imbued with many prayers said during many laps, I have discovered. Although, I don't spend much time in the water even when I go to the pool (If I were a tea bag, I wouldn't even be in long enough to give the water a good steep.), but I do make a point of getting my head under at least once, so I can get my dose of the wonderful ions these praying mermaids are infusing into the water.

On dry land, between dips, Diane reads her summer away. I never see the same book in her hand twice. She reads lofty books and pedestrian ones; her tastes run the gamut. I love talking to Daine about books because she is so passionate and so well-read. She makes the writer in me blush at the holes in my own reading list.

But the pool is a judgment-free zone. The women I have come to sit with at summer's end are here in spite of bodies that aren't always what we would like them to be. Kerry is here in a bikini that she bought after a summer of cancer treatments. She has a very different outlook on her body than in summers past. The poetry she has written about her journey has stunned me with its raw honesty and superb imagery. Kerry's mother, Dale and I lament that we have to knock off the sugar and simple carbs even as we pass the pie books bewteen us. Even Keren, the petite yoga teacher, is on the mend after a debilitating concussion this past year. Mary shows us her latest tattoo and tells us of her wedding plans. She is marrying the town Santa Claus. She asks to borrow some sunscreen, because Santa aka Ricardo aka Richard is getting burnt. I pass some to her and put some on my own reddening thighs. These bodies have supplied us with so much real life work that we don't have the energy for self-consciousness at the pool. We are here. We are marking the season, and letting the sun brand us as its daughters. Sharing our stories and recipies and prayers and books and sunscreen and light, storing all these things for whatever may come our way in the colder months.


  1. Yikes, ye gods, I really do talk too much! Thanks, Jill! Oh, and I'm now reading X, by Sue Grafton, who makes murder and mayhem so fascinating...

    1. You are the Arden pool goddess for me Diane, and always will be.