Thursday, October 29, 2009

Bravo Speedo

I’ve begun swimming again for exercise, for mental health. It’s hard to go when it’s cold outside. I hate the undressing, dressing, drying the hair, bundling up in a coat, stepping out into the parking lot. But I do like to move through water, feel my heart beating, hear the muffled pool noises, see the tiled blue line at the bottom of the pool, the iron rod of lane swimmers. I swim a mile: sixteen laps in a 50-meter pool.

I am still alive, I think. I am alive.

My bathing suit is an old black Speedo that is too big now and is pulling apart at the side seams. It’s the end of October, and I need a new bathing suit. I went shopping for one last week, and there were no swimsuits to be found. Winter coats had replaced them. So I went online to Lands End and looked through the dozens of suits they offer, all of them on sale now. I picked out a modest one-piece black and white number with a number 2-leg. I figure if you need a ruffle around the bottom of your swimming suit, you probably ought not to be wearing a swimming suit. Who is fooled by that ruffle?

The suit arrived today. It wasn’t quite what the online photo showed. It was black and white and GOLD. It was a modest gold line running through the pattern, but I don’t like gold threads running through my swimming suits. It smacks of tom-foolery, of Las Vegas costume. I’m sixty-seven. I’m no showgirl. Who is fooled by a gold thread?

I liked the rise of the number-2 leg. I liked the way it fit my behind.

I did not like the cleavage. I don’t like cleavage, period. Cleavage is pressed fat. Old women should not show cleavage. I tried pulling the suit up, but that didn’t work. The disgusting cleavage was still there.

I put the suit back in the box. I will return it. Actually, Tom will return it. There is something in my DNA that says “no return policy.”

Tonight, I looked up “Speedo for women” online. I want the “ultraback conservative" suit. It’s high in the front with the back cross straps. It’s a suit for serious swimmers. Thank you, Speedo.

Why didn’t I think to go there in the first place?

When I got out of the pool today, someone had taken my towel, and I had to dry myself with paper towels.

Wednesday, October 28, 2009


Like Wordsworth searching his "mind's eye," I'm returning to a sunny day of a few weeks back when Tom and I spontaneously decided on a car trip to Echo to view Utah's oldest standing church (1870). It's made of handmade bricks, built by Protestants, not Mormons. Tom took camera and tripod, of course.

While he set up, I walked to the small cemetary adjacent to the church and read the names of dead children: Gilchrist children, Keys children, their parents outliving them by decades. Behind the cemetery, red cliffs gleamed gaudy in the sun. I walked back to the car and pulled a cheap aluminum folding chair out of the trunk and took it back to a spot of gravel in front of the cemetary. I sat with my back to the grave markers and looked out over a green meadow with four large trees, black cows and a broken gate. In the distance, a train chugged on by and blew its whistle.

I sat in the sunlight for more than an hour melting into that calm landscape, content, wanting nothing but to be where I was at that moment.

When Tom was finished with his shoot, I carried my chair back to the car and surveyed the house next door to the church where a man and a woman sat on the lawn talking. Under a tree, by the road, four old bentwood chairs were arranged in a neat row. Was it sculpture to place indoor chairs like that under a tree, like museum pieces? I was mesmerized.

The man called to me. "Take them, if you want them."

I looked up, startled. "I thought they were sculpture."

He smiled. "No, they're from the old Echo Cafe. I have a whole garage full of them. You can have as many as you like."

I don't need any chairs. "I'd like these," I said. "Thank you."

Tom put them into the back of the car. "What are you going to do with these?" he asked.

"I don't know. I just want them."

On the night we celebrated Tom's 70th birthday complete with crepe paper streamers, over a table set for twelve, I went out to the garage and carried back two of the bentwoods. "We're going to need these," I said.

He cleaned the chairs, murdering innocent spiders living beneath the padded seats. "These are pretty banged up," he said.

"I like that about them."

The party was a happy occasion. Grandchildren were delighted with the diversions of cheap gifts and each other. The food was delicious. Tom loved the lemon creme cake I made. The adults played CHRONOLOGY. Charles won.

Now the chairs are back in the garage where I see them when I pull out in my car. Four bentwood chairs to remind me of a satisfying, sun-filled, October afternoon in Echo. Four chairs to carry me through the winter.

Wednesday, October 14, 2009

Cleaning my study

It's taken four days to clean up my study. Ed came last summer looking for one snapshot and took all the boxes of photos and STUFF out of my closet and did not put them back. I really wanted to to dump them back into the closet and force the door shut with my butt. But Tom was all reasonable and supportive and suggested that we rebox everything into new smaller boxes, all the same size and label each box carefully.

The first night I sat and read letters I'd written forty years ago. Tom sat on the floor looking at photos of our boys when they were young and crying over them. I knew what he was thinking. Where did all that time go?

My favorite box is entitled, "Louise's memorabilia." Programs, snapshots, my drawings, an advertisement for summer school at the Sorbonne, the Life magazine cover of Earnest Hemingway (1961) that used to hang above my desk. I have a Utah Holiday Magazine from the same time period and I wondered why I had kept it. I looked through it and there was a long article about the coast of Maine with a huge picture of Monhegan Island, which I was obsessed with in my teens. I kept the Life magazines for the week of Kennedy's funeral and three with John Glenn on the cover. He was like a rock star back in the day.

I really liked that girl I used to be.

I threw some things out. Not the Life magazines, not my junior high school cartoons. In fact, not that much. I like to run into myself occasionally. That's why it took four days.

Wednesday, October 7, 2009

Since I made myself a job chart and reward myself with sparkly stars, my house is looking much better and I have kept up with the laundry, including folding and putting it away. Cleaning up after myself, or cleaning up at all has never come naturally, but I'm enjoying the process of doing it as well as the result.

I also pulled out my "new sewing machine," which is seven years old and has never been used, and decided to learn how to use it. I should know how to sew, but have been impatient about it. The horrid sewing machine I had before had a problem with the tension setting and so the thread was always breaking. Much cursing involved with that machine.

I have always associated domestic work as my mother's work. She was tidy to a fault, if there is such a thing. I considered myself an artist and above domestic work. That's a crock, of course. Artists can clean up after themselves as well as anyone else.

The needing to sew idea came to me again when I sat in the temple as a worker and looked down at Tom, who was a patron, and when he crossed his legs, I saw a bright blue band of painter's tape where he had hemmed his pants.

Or . . . I could teach him how to hem his pants.

My other obsession is my diet and exercise. I am liking the way I look and it's been a long time since I felt that way.

So things are good, except I'm not writing. I'm tired of writing.