Welcome to Following the Whispers blog

Thank you so much for taking the time to visit. Hope you enjoy your stay. I blog here whenever I feel the need. This blog was created at the time my memoir came out, in February, 2009. Its motto was: creating a life of inner peace and self-acceptance from the depths of despair. Now, my focus is sharing this journey we call life.

“Only one thing is more frightening than speaking your truth, and that is not speaking it.” Naomi Wolf

“We are called human beings, not human doings.” Wes Nisker, Buddhist teacher

“It is not the critic who counts; not the man who points out how the strong man stumbles, or where the doer of deeds could have done them better. The credit belongs to the man who is actually in the arena, whose face is marred by dust and sweat and blood; who strives valiantly; who errs…(And) if he fails, at least fails while daring greatly.” Theodore Roosevelt

Monday, August 10, 2009

Pool People

I decided to begin my foray into personal essays with one I wrote a few years ago while rehabilitating a fractured ankle. When I re-read it, I still liked it. Hope you do too.

July 2006 - Monday

There are perhaps twenty of them scattered in the water--two men, the rest women. I keep my head down as I enter the pool for the first time, unsure of my footing. The water feels delicious, not quite like a hot tub, closer to bathtub temperature and my muscles let go just a little just by dunking in up to my shoulders. It is five minutes before the exercise class is to begin and I find an empty space towards the middle of the pool and wait.
The women are in groups of two or three in the middle where the water is four feet deep and they babble as they bounce around from one foot to the other in an effort to warm up their muscles. The men are in the deep end of the pool where the water level is five feet. They do not stand together and do not talk.
“Good morning everyone, I am Zach. Let’s get started.”
Zach is young, perhaps twenty-five, and tall with jet black hair, dark brown eyes and a swimmer’s physique. At 57, I’m perhaps the youngest person in the water. Most of the women have varying shades of gray/white hair; some obviously dye their hair red or brown; and some are just beginning to gray. But no one, except Zach and me, is under 60. Zach is very cute and charming and I think eye candy--not too shabby while I attempt to get my body back in shape after seven months of inertia.
Zach stands on the deck of the pool, shouting instructions so he can be heard over the conversational hums still taking place.
“All right, let’s take this into a jog, opposite arm, opposite leg. That’s it. Keep it up. Keep it up,” Zach shouts, while I hear behind me, “She’s a drifter.”
Hmm, there’s a homeless woman here. That’s odd. How can she afford the $30 per month fee, I wonder.
Wow, that lady just about whammed me in the head. Where did she come from? And I realize what they meant by drifter. This one woman drifts all over.
“Excuse me,” I said. “Could you move over a little?”
“Oh, I’m sorry,” she said. “I just can’t seem to stay in one spot.”
By now Zach has worked up a sweat. “All right ladies,” he’s obviously playing to his predominant audience, “are you ready for our first sprint of the day? Ready – go, that’s right, that’s it, keep it up, keep it up and five, four, three, two, one.”
I struggle to keep up with the class. I’m here because I broke my ankle back in January and am just now able to walk on it. However, it still swells and still hurts so the physical therapist suggested water aerobics and she was right. I feel invincible in the water. Walk, jump, bounce, hop on one foot. On land, however, I am severely limited in my mobility. The pool opens up a whole new world and a window into old age.

The following Monday

“Good morning, my name is Kendra.”
Oh God, she looks even younger than Zach. I turn to SK, the only person I have spoken to since I started coming several weeks ago.
“What do you think, she’s twenty or what?” I ask.
SK just sniffs. She and I had gone for coffee after class last Wednesday, so I knew she was just a few years older than me.
“Gosh, this water feels so damned good,” said SK. “You know, my blood sugar has come down some twenty points since I started coming here.”
“It’s helping me, too,” I said. “My ankle feels stronger already.”
“All right everyone, let’s get started,” said Kendra. “Take a deep breath, in…and out…in…and out…in…and out…now…”
Suddenly there’s a disturbance behind me. “I’m going to kick you if you stand there,” said red-haired lady.
“That’s too close to me, please move over,” said brown-haired lady.
I turn around and a gentleman has dared to stand in the middle of the women rather than at the far end of the pool. Undeterred, he shifts around until he finds a space large enough to accommodate him and begins marching in place with the rest of us. Now I know what the dirty looks have been about if I dared to stand in someone’s spot.
“My, they’re territorial, aren’t they?” I said to SK at the end of the class.
“Yes. I particularly love the ones who stand in the shallow end so they won’t get their hair or face wet,” she said.
I look over my shoulder and sure enough, there are half a dozen women fully made up, not a hair out of place. Never quite sure whether I fit in or not in any group, I am convinced I don’t belong here. Except it’s working—my muscles, which have atrophied from seven months of disuse—are getting stronger. My ankle hurts less and less. And most importantly, I am not re-injuring myself by doing something too strenuous. Plus, I love splashing around in the water for 50 minutes. It certainly doesn’t feel like exercise. It’s simply fun.


I’ve learned to get to the pool fifteen minutes prior to class. I love having the pool to myself for a few minutes; plus I can stake out a good spot. Oh no, it’s the drifter. I’d better be vigilant so I don’t get smacked. Things are calm. The men are where they belong, in the deep end of the pool. The ladies are babbling away, discussing grandchildren and how it isn’t easy until they reach 25, same as it was with their own children. I’m not a grandmother yet, although I certainly could be—my son is 33—but unmarried and unattached at the moment. These women are a feisty bunch. They speak out if the water’s too cold or the class doesn’t start on time or they can’t hear the instructor. One woman has to be lowered into the pool on the chair lift. Another sidles up to the pool steps in her walker, where a pool aide assists her into the water. Someone else is on oxygen; the long tube allowing her to participate in the class. SK is working out to lose weight so that her diabetes is under control. And I—well, I’m there to rehabilitate my ankle. But if you want to know the truth, I’m growing pretty fond of the pool people. I just might stick around even when I can dance and hike again.

August, 2009
Sadly, the pool closed last year, so I lost touch with the pool people. But they sure were a memorable bunch.


Tabitha Bird said...

Great post. Sad that you lost contact with the pool people. I love that title by the way. I linked to your blog today in my post as one I enjoy reading. Hope you don't mind :)

Karen Walker said...

Hi Tabitha,
Of course I don't mind. I'm honored.

Jane Kennedy Sutton said...

This reminded me how much I enjoyed water aerobics. I need to find another class! I go to a yoga class now where I make sure to get there early to get "my" spot!

Marvin D Wilson said...

I enjoyed reading about this chapter in your life. It has a wonderful sort of nostalgic feel to it.

The Old silly

Helen Ginger said...

I like that you call them "the pool people." Almost as if they were a foreign species, different from you.

Straight From Hel

Patricia Stoltey said...

Now you've given me a great idea how to get back to exercising while my knee is still behaving badly. Our Senior Center has great pool exercise classes. Don't know why I haven't thought about that before. Thanks, Karen!

Jody Hedlund said...

Interesting inside view, Karen! I'm glad to get a peek at both your writing and your life!

N A Sharpe said...

Thanks for sharing this peek into that part of your life. Sounds like it was a fun class.

Nancy, from Realms of Thought…