The back stroke

There are two postures I prefer to avoid when I am by or in the pool; namely, tanning my backside and swimming the backstroke. Curiously each reverses the direction of vision of the other. The common issue has however nothing to do with perspective; nor does it involve a more lofty ingredient of comportment. The matter is solely confined to the modest features of comfort and ease.

As I approach three-quarters of a century on this planet, in this orbit and galaxy and whatever other limitation or expanse applies to the inscrutable universe in which I am currently alive, it occurred to me in the middle of the night (when I routinely ponder these ineffable configurations) that I may by virtue of my imminent demise (figurative only of course) be entitled to a heightened degree of indolence. As the brethren of the craft have so often observed (Ecclesiastes 12:5 King James Version), old age is the moment when “the almond tree shall flourish, and the grasshopper shall be a burden, and desire shall fail”.

The backstroke and tanning one’s backside are both indisputable effort.  I was reminded of this parallel today while sunbathing (my front) and watching a woman with a mesh hat on her head in the pool making a repeated commotion of the water as she punctiliously pretended to be walking in the water, simultaneously moving her arms in sync with her projected movement (though of course she gained no distance but rather stayed immobile except for the action of her limbs which was obviously the intended achievement of her ambition).

It is this and similar expressions of the elderly which sportingly prompt my desire to assume a likeness; that is, a studied mode of living for those approaching death and who have abandoned the scheme of saving anything for the funeral. The popular media has no interest (other than possibly for comedic purposes) pursing such athletic enterprise. Walking in a pool is not the stuff of Olympic marathons. For me however the business of walking in the water was a useful reminder that the preoccupations of the elderly needn’t be glamorous to score points.

Flipping over to expose one’s back to the sun’s radiance precipitates a further reduction wrought by old age; namely, that refinement is both accessible and desirable.  This includes the general prescription of the elderly that there is no hurray, that it will all get done. Or the corollary, that if it doesn’t, who cares. This may sound an odd utterance from those on the edge of peril but it usefully uplifts the imperative to embrace hesitation and to enjoy every moment of life to its fullest.