Monday, September 04, 2023

Summer Shorts 

"Summer breeze, makes me feel fine… blowing in the jasmine in my mind."

The smell of fresh cut grass or roasting corn on the BBQ. The sound of rainfall on broad leaves or of a zipper of a nylon tent. Long lingering dusk light or harsh shadows. The smell of fresh basil on your hands after picking it. Of all the things that send my mind into summer, one of the most evocative for me is the sight of a single towel and swimsuit hanging on the line in the afternoon sun.

I’ve started swimming regularly again. I could’ve started earlier in the year but anxiety around my skin and the sensation of hives, eczema and just the chill of spring all kept me from the pool. Now I’m back and loving it. There are so many unpleasant obstacles to a swim: finding a nice pool, the required pre-swim and post swim showers, the uncomfortable flip-flops that are a must on any pool deck, the vulnerability of walking around in public in hardly more fabric than a handkerchief — all of it slowed my roll to swimming. Yet none of it is enough to take away the thrill of cool submersion in that pale blue world and the sweet emptying of stress and worry and complete loosening of every muscle fiber in my body. The after swim glow is real and the sleep it brings at night is summer’s version of aprés ski (or hyyge if you like). I noticed recently looking at my phone's Health app, that since I've started swimming again, my average resting heart rate has dropped from 79 Bpm to 64 Bbm. That's a 20% drop after just over a month. I expected only marginal gains but I was feeling significant ones.

Then suddenly, by a nose, it was cut short. A congested, runny, sneezing nose. What I thought was just a bad allergy day turned out to be a lot worse. By the next morning, I was feeling awful. Headache, congestion, trouble breathing, exhaustion, muscle aches and joint pain. Maybe it had been so long since I had a cold, I forgot what they were like, but I thought I might as well check to see if it was COVID or not. It wasn't even a question. Two solid red lines showed me something I hadn't seen before. A positive test. I went back to bed and by the next day, of course, J. had it too. Misery loves company I guess. The next few days were a blur of wakefulness and obliteration.

By Saturday I was finally feeling more like person with a cold than merely a passenger on a virus. It was a lovely day, so I rested, in a hammock. I watched sports highlights, listened to podcasts, flipped through magazines, sipped fizzy drinks and swayed in the shade. It was decadent. It was wonderful. It was summer. I could've gotten infected from anywhere: on transit, at a kid's birthday party, at a movie theatre or more ominously perhaps, the pool. Why would the pool be more ominous? In my past experience, when I swam regularly, I felt like I always caught minor colds or bugs from swimming. Maybe it was really the over-chlorinated pools that irritated my sinuses or getting water trapped in my ears but I seemed to often get those kind of two, to three-day long colds that left me with a sore throat and stuffed up nose after a swim. At some point, I would come home after a swim and immediately clear my nose with a neti pot, gargle my throat with a gulp of mouth wash, take a zinc tablet or two and even a couple of eye drops to rinse my eyes, all in an effort to avoid an infection. I'm not sure it made a difference but it made me feel better to be proactive.

After we had recovered from COVID and confirmed we were no longer infectious, I avoided the pool to ensure I didn't get sick again before our trip to Newfoundland. Once travelling and after two weeks of staying in other people's homes, meeting countless new people, and taking four flights along the way, I did wind up getting a cold that took me a surprisingly long time to get over (I still have a lingering, dry cough). As I wait for the local pool to finish a planned maintenance I thought I should really make an effort to get in an outdoor swim before the end of the Labour Day long weekend but I can honestly say I still haven't had the energy or inclination to do so. So it is, that summer will end with a whimper (it's witheringly hot today), and without so much as a splash. Still, for me, seeing my skivvies on the line with a towel and a pair of flip-flops drying in the sun on a wooden deck, remains my immutable image of summer.

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