Growing up I was not an athlete. I would much rather curl up in a chair and draw than follow the prompts of my parents to “Go out and play!” I was the guy that was always chosen last to be on a team – and I fulfilled that promise by dropping every ball that happened to head out in my area of the outfield while I was day-dreaming. But much later in life, when our group of friends decided to join the local “Y”, I shrugged and said “Why not?”. I have been here ever since. For my wife and myself, after years of racquetball and aquasize, it has meant a growing closeness to our early morning exercisers. We grew dependent on the “Y” – it became our daily start, and then the way we kept flexible and alert. The tragedy of Harriette's final years as she floundered into dementia were marked by her loss of accomplishments in the pool and in the ladies locker room where the dear friends she made slowly became her caregivers. The “Y” was the constant in out lives, where the nurturing by our friends and the “Y” staff became the strength that kept us going.
Flexibility! expansion! growth! Are these the words for seniors? People coming with a cane in one hand and a rolled up exercise mat in the other. Walls that let a room enlarge – chairs that can stack or hold a fragile striver as they work away at the directions of the aerobics instructor – “Sit erect!” “Reach!” – and that's it – a place to reach = make yourself more than your aching body demands – a place where your struggling mind can overcome the names you've forgotten and find new avenues to follow- reach -expand – be flexible! Copy the blueprint of the place, of the Westport Center for Senior Activities- reach!
The Saugatuck River at the Library
I have always lived at the edge of water. It is a special place. Constantly reminding one of the continuities of movement to and from the horizon, of the cycles of ebb and flow, uncontrolled by man, and man’s fragile perch on the interruption of land. We can only thrust our power to the bank.
Here, in this welcoming grassy spot, noisy with the complaints of crows and gulls, man has made the edge safe and comforting. We have made connections to the running surface, rippled and impatient to be some other place. “Look,” it says, “these benches of granite, this walk, paved with the memories of Westporters, these carefully groomed trees reach to my banks and humanize me, frame me with the positive concerns of the human mind – yet unhinder my flow, my reach in time, indeed, my memory of reaching out to the sea, and returning.”
I am sitting in an open space, high ceilings, before a moving image on a wide screen, walls textured in modern bas relief, soft light filling the air, and think back on crowded oak tables bearing the scars of random pen knives, the smell of pages and furniture polish, wooden file cabinets with small drawers the size of the index cards that will lead me to my quarry. The librarian, glasses perched low so she can size me up above them, helpful, but there to shush should I make the slightest noise to shatter her imposed silence, and books, all around, a room circled in shelves, punctuated by movable ladders reaching to the unreachable, a pool of light thrown by a metal lamp stand to reveal yet enclose those illuminating words I sought. Now, in an airy, gently still, open room. to discover in those same words the escape to other places, places in the books, places in my imagination.