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Deep Thoughts From the Shallow End

July 23, 1986|MIV SCHAAF

The upper third of the eucalyptus trunks are beaten copper that has not been polished oh, for about three weeks. They will be this way for no more than 20 minutes; then the sun leaves the top leaves, the sky turns whitish before it turns darker and it is time to get out of the swimming pool.

But I don't. It is warmer inside the pool now; decidedly cool air on my shoulders when I stand at the shallow end.

But I don't stand. It is interesting to swim in shallow water. "Miv can swim in three inches of water," Mother used to say at Higgins Lake and indeed you had to if you didn't want to walk half a mile out to where it finally got over your knees.

No one is here; my friend (whose pool it is) is in Mexico and only two disinterested cats share the scene. Disinterested but not disinteresting, at least one of them. White Trash (I did not name him) is the only cat I have known who lifts his head and looks when I call his name. The others all keep you in your place.

Odd, your chin doesn't feel particularly lighter when you rest it on the water. I am at eye level with the blossoms on the oleander bushes--why they are like rockets, like pinwheels, the five petals caught in mid-whirr going clockwise; if there were four petals it would remind you of a swastika. How many oleanders have I looked down or up at and never seen that.

Oleander --surely that is one of the prettiest words in the language. It demands a song which, indeed, I started in 1950-something, but will not end itself; funny how some songs do that.

With the fading light, birds come homing into the top of the palm trees. There is one huge one right next to the pool. When you are in the pool it looks smaller than when you are out of the pool--I don't know why that should be. But it is one of the biggest ones around. Uncut husks hang down about two canoes (sorry; we had an 18-foot canoe at the lake and I have since measured everything in canoe lengths) and halfway along there is an exposed space showing the long brown stems; I wonder if that's where it is getting ready to prune itself naturally. Those stems look so dry and flammable you'd never guess they are so stubborn to burn in your fireplace.

Beyond the pool and the line of eucalyptus trees there is a large vacant lot, all tan grass now, and a few palm trees there, too. Look!--a bunch of swallows just flicked down past them, swallows that you expect to see only in the arroyo where they have plastered their nests up under the bridge arches.

Sun down, sky darkening, palm branches almost black, pool leaving time. I walk out the shallow end, walk back and dive into the deep end; it is a farewell to the pool ritual.

Surely one of the best parts of swimming anywhere is getting, still damply cool, into clothes; little patches of coolness cling back of your knees, lie between your shoulders, reminisce about the midriff. The mockingbird is out already, singing from the top of his power-line kingdom. That telephone pole with its lines and boxes, its sky hooks, is a calligraphic masterpiece, pure counterpoint to the eucalyptus and as startlingly beautiful. I have finally got real estate agents promoting porches, why not power poles? "Back yard"--except they don't use that word yard anymore, do they?--"back garden enhanced by plum trees and power pole."

Here's another oleander bush, pink. Wait a minute--it's not a pinwheel at all, it's got six, no, seven, no, more, there's a whole other flourish underneath--it's an oleander gone crazy mad with its pinkness.

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