Tuesday, August 2, 2011

IUOP Forever

I love the IU Outdoor Pool. Our family moved to Bloomington exactly 7 years ago, and even when we really didn’t know anyone (we had to wait to celebrate an August Birthday until we knew some kindergartners to invite), we could go to the IUOP and hang out and feel part of a community.

I love how anyone can come to the pool. (Our girls have not felt at home when invited to the country club pool, as their mother didn’t before them, and they initially found the Bryan Park Pool daunting, though the allure of the slides is undeniable to them by now.) I love the mix of college students hogging the chaises to display their scantily-clad young flesh for one another with the non-native-speaking families displaying their native swimwear from all over the globe with the packs of native Hoosier boys that the lifeguards are just waiting to blow the whistle on with the constant flow of middle-aged lap swimmers diligently beating back the ravages of time. I love the clean, un-adorn-ed-ness of the deck and the chairs, the minimal snacks, the functional and completely unglamorous women’s locker room (haven’t seen the men’s, but assume it is a similar story). I love the loudspeakers blaring a tantalizing mix of oldies and current pop music, which never fails to take me STRAIGHT back to my adolescence at a public pool in Minnesota, where I logged thousands of early and late miles of training, fantasizing lightning and ejection with every flipturn. I love that they play “Hail to Old IU” at the 6 p.m. closing of the pool for recreational swimming, and I feel nostalgic when I hear it, even though I don’t know it.

As we head into the last stretch of summer, and I mourn (and at a certain level breathe an ambivalent sigh of relief at) the departure of my now-undeniably-adolescents from the essential fabric of my day for their own newly-lengthened public schooldays, I realize that it is at the IUOP where I first sense the chill, the shift in wind and light that signals oncoming seasonal shift—cooler weather, as well as the infernally premature start of the Indiana school year, and the accelerating independence of my beloved children.

I haven’t actually gotten to the IUOP as often as I had hoped this summer. As I also had not in the last two summers, to the point where this year we contemplated whether to buy a family pass, but decided that it is an investment in something valued and valuable: which would, on any particular day, encourage us to go and be in community, be in the sun and fresh air (where we too often ARE NOT in contemporary life), be present to the glittering refraction of light on water and absent from the tyranny of laptop or textbook, the distractions of facebook or streaming video.

I offer here a tribute to summer, and to the IUOP, composed on an earlier and seemingly-endless afternoon enjoyed by its glinting waters, and recently revised in an excellent 4-week poetry class offered by WWFaC-Bloomington.

The Underwater Tea Party

It cannot last long,
And so, requires
A perfect balance
Of willing attention
With joyful abandon.

Savor the flickering glint
Of scattered sunlight
On brilliant aquamarine.
Fill your eager lungs,
Plug your nose,
And enter the watery salon.

Your tiny hostess
Grins, giddy
With the delight of this
Summertime ceremony.
Bubbles, laughter,
Stream up from her lips

As she gestures:
Flutter your hands to sit,
Sip a gulp of the silliness
She pours liberally in your general direction
(Pinky politely extended),
Gobble the invisible cookie
Undulating toward you
Before air, or time runs out.

Mary for the Poplar Grove Muse


  1. I want to be at that underwater tea party but fear drowning as I cannot swim. A tea party would have made me want to learn.

  2. Anonymous--I taught swimming for years. I could teach you! Mary

  3. I love this and I agree with the sentiment about watching the fall season come in. I felt it last night at water aerobics. There was a slight turn in the air--chilly.

    Thanks Mary!