Tuesday, November 18, 2008

The Goddesses

The Goddesses (detail)
by Judy Westergard
Oil on canvas

Three mornings each week (or more honestly, mostly three mornings...mostly each week...mostly more or less), I schlep my body to the gym for 60 minutes of deep water aerobics. I grew up well before the enactment of Title 9, in an era and in an educational system where a half hour of grade school phy-ed once a week was considered adequate. And on these cold November mornings, everything in me tells me that that early regimen should still be adequate. Thoughts of moving from locker room to shower to swimming pool, where tight muscles are required to propel me from shallow end to deep, tempt me into staying home with a second cup of coffee and the crossword puzzle. Nonetheless, I am here. I look around and realize that my HMO’s recommendation for “women of a certain age” isn’t what’s motivating me. Nope, it’s these gals here. I’m glad you’re with me. Hide with me in the corner of this pool for a minute or two. Let me tell you about some of these women. See that gal over toward the deck? Uh huh, the one with the bright eyes and quick smile. She’s a talented fibers artist, just back from a conference in France. You’d be hard put to guess her age, and I’m not telling. The woman with the curly hair is E, a political guru and peace activist. She makes casual observations on human behavior that would knock my socks off, were I to be wearing any. She’ll cut out a few minutes early to dry off in time for the aerobic dance session she attends in the upstairs gym. I hope you get a chance to chat with soft-spoken J. She has a talent for comic timing that will double you over. Her stories of life “back in the day” would make a collection well worth reading. B is over there toward the middle. Quite a swimmer, isn’t she? She moves through the water like a shark. She recently traveled half way around the world to observe gorillas. An early member of the Peace Corps, she still gives much of her time and talents to non-profits. I wonder if she has any idea how much she inspires me to get off my duff and do something for someone else. Looking for an understanding ear? Both M and E evoke a sense of gentleness and understanding that will make you feel like you can overcome almost anything. They’ll tell you it’s from their years as educators. I suspect it’s just who they are. Oh look, there’s N. Gosh, it’s good to see her. She’s been through quite a health scare lately. Retired anthropology professor. Feisty and fascinating. An informed speaker on a whole gamut of topics, listening to her in the post-workout sauna is a mini-education. But her real gift is her ability to listen as if whatever you say is the most worthwhile thing she’s heard in days. I could go on. These are amazing, energetic, busy women. A lot of them are in their 70’s. And they’re the reason I hoist my reluctant body out into the cold November morning and into the water. Thanks, gals; see ya’ Wednesday!

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