Saturday, August 29, 2009

Short & getting sweeter: the waning days of summer

The temperature, which started in the 60s, will reach the 90s today. But this isn't a 90-degree day of spring. Nor, despite the calendar, a summer 90s.

Instead, it's a autumn kind of 90s. One with green, unripe pecans on the sidewalks; one where shadows fall earlier, and short sleeves don't feel like a sweater.

I started my run at 8:45 -- an unheard of time to begin even as recently as a week ago. But today it was just right. The sun didn't feel harsh. I didn't wish I'd remembered to bring a cloth to wipe my face. Strangers didn't look askance at my sweaty silliness for running in the heat of day.

In a few weeks, my running partner and I will base our 7 p.m. route on where we want to go and how we feel...not on which side of the street the sun isn't shining.

Back when the temperature was 85 at 7 a.m., time seemed stuck in summer's swelter. No shaking of the hourglass could make the sand rush more quickly to the other side, to the bittersweet bliss of cooler days and earlier evenings.

Today, though, was a reminder: Of what will be, and of what can be. Of potential and of promise that we look to the seasons to see, but which they only begin to reflect.

Monday, August 24, 2009

Kind words from a stranger

I swam Monday, for the first time in weeks. No one was in the pool when I got there, so I took the lane closest to the dressing room, the lane with the steps leading into the water.

As I finished my first lap, I noticed a man sitting on the top step. He had dark hair and wore yellow swim trunks. His head was in his hands; he stared intently into the water as if he were lost in a deep daydream. I thought maybe he was waiting until I swam by so he could then move across my lane, under the rope, and into one of the empty ones.

But no. He was still in the same spot at the end of my next lap. Then my fifth lap. Then my seventh, and my tenth. For a few moments, I wondered whether he wanted me to leave so he could have that lane.

For several more, I let my imagination take me into the pages of an unwritten murder mystery. Who was he? Was he going to reach out and hold my head under water? Would anyone at the front desk be able to see through the glass what was going on and rescue me before I drowned?

Then he was gone. I didn't pay attention to where he went, but suddenly, there he was again. I finished my freestyle swimming. Then I reached for the two blue kick boards I'd stacked outside the water. I reached my arms across the top of them, then frog-kicked another up and down the lane.

When I reached the end, I took off my goggles. I tend to wear them quite snugly; I've seen my reflection in a mirror after my swim and cringe at my flushed face with their embedded outline.

So what he said to me surprised -- OK, shocked -- me.

"You look so beautiful swimming," he said with the slightest bit of an accent.

I didn't take offense; I wasn't creeped out. Nor did I want to slug him. Admittedly, I did think for a minute he was going to add, "And your face looks so old once you stop."

Truth to tell, I wouldn't have been surprised. I'm no idiot; I know that though I feel 30ish and I have nice shoulders, I am not exactly young looking, especially not after a swim.

But he didn't say that. He hardly even smiled, come to think of it. But I did, and I told him he had made my day.

His statement made me realize, albeit on a small and selfish little scale, the power of words. What it means to tell someone, even a stranger, a positive thought that crosses your mind.

I may swim again today. And no doubt will pay special attention to each stroke, wondering if what he said is true.

Wednesday, August 5, 2009

It's hot. Why won't people leave their dogs home?

No doubt the person whose maroon SUV was on the Target parking lot this afternoon would tell you he loves his dog. Loves his dog sooo much that he doesn't go anywhere without her.

The irony of this is that he could have killed his dog. More quickly, in all probability, than he thought possible. Even when the temperature outside is in the low 80s (as it hardly ever is in Texas during the summer), the inside temp can rise to 102 degrees or more -- higher if the car is in the sun.

When my son and I went inside the store, I asked the woman at customer service if she could make an announcement about the dog. Maybe the owners would hear, and rescue their dog.

Charlie and I had gone to Target for eggs, cheese and Diet Dr Peppers..but kept shopping and buying things we'd forgotten we needed. We couldn't bring ourselves to check the parking lot.

After awhile, I asked the woman at customer service what had happened. She said she had checked with -- I forget the acronym -- security and wasn't sure what they had done.

We finally slinked out to our car with our six filled bags, afraid that the SUV would still be there. It wasn't, thank the good Lord. If it had, I've no doubt the dog would be dead.

A few Julys ago, I saw a dog -- a collie, for Pete's sake -- in a parked car in front of Petco of all places. I watched the owners go into the store and approached them. I was as polite as I could be, telling them I had just read how quickly the temperature inside a car can rise.

They looked at me with contempt and said it was their dog, and they knew what they were doing. When I told the person at the store, I was told that neither he nor the police could do anything about such stupidity.

Today, my friend Laura refuted that. She said that God forbid there's a next time, I need to call 911. Which I most certainly will. The pet owner could (and should) be fined $500.

Totally shook me up, the whole experience. So much so, that $70 and 30 minutes after arriving, as we put the stuff in the car, Charlie asked, "Did we get eggs?" Not that I particularly care.