Swimming

When I was young I loved to read, and ride my bike and swim, and swim, and swim. In fact I pretty much lived to swim.

Photo from:  http://www.lomography.com/magazine/locations/2012/04/25/manoa-valley-swimming-pool-a-sea-of-black-and-white

Our town only had an outdoor swimming pool so in the late Spring I would anxiously wait for rumours of when it would open. And oh! When it finally did I would race there on my bike because I was lucky enough to live in a town small enough and safe enough to do so.

I would hang around impatiently as Mrs. Hansen, the head lifeguard, unlocked the doors. My friends and I would then rush to the change room. Once swimsuits were on we’d urgently stash our shorts and t-shirts rolled up in towels in the wooden cubbyhole shelves outside on the pool deck.

At last, we’d get the go ahead to leap in.

The pool bottom was sky blue with black lane lines. Eyes open, looking up through the water at the surrounding trees, it was a magical wavy world. We’d water somersault for hours – forwards, backwards – even sideways. Handstands in the shallow end; flips and dives off the board at the deep end.

At last, the best part of the day would arrive…swim club practice…the chance to swim the full length of the pool with no middle rope to dive under or push over. The feeling of moving through the water, buoyed by my own pull, push and kick – freedom, strength, happiness – that was the feeling. Even today it is.

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10 Things I Love About My Town

IMAG0048I feel like I belong.

It’s history is celebrated.

There’s always something going on…like community potlucks.

People are proud to be from Almonte.

People volunteer.

It’s the Friendly Town.

It’s not far to Pakenham or the Burnstown Beach and the Neat.

It has great meeting stop coffee shops and a statue of James Naismith, the inventor of basketball.

You have to build in an extra 30 minutes to get groceries because inevitably you’ll meet someone you know and will stop and catch up in the middle of the store.

It’s home.

Weekly Photo Challenge: The Sign Says – China

A trip to China a few years ago offered up a number of irresistible signs I couldn’t resist capturing. This first one from a street market in Xi’an (land of the Terracotta Warriors) is a definite favorite though I still can’t figure out why anyone thought this was good marketing.

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While in the Xi’an area I had the amazing opportunity to hike up Hua Shan, one of the five sacred Taoist mountains in China.

My friends and I had heard that many people hiked the mountain at night so they would  arrive at the East Peak in time for the sunrise. Though our reasons for hiking the mountain were not religious we decided the night hike sounded adventurous. We started the 6 km hike at around 7 pm after dinner in Huashan village and arrived after midnight at the North Peak a height of 1614 metres.

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To this day, it was one of the most surreal nights of my life.The first part of the trail is a moderate climb with stairs in many places. As you get higher up, the trail becomes steps carved into the close-to-vertical sides of the mountain with metal chains on each side to hang on to. In hindsight I’m glad we hiked at night. If I could have seen in broad daylight the of places we had to climb I think I’d have frozen in place out of fear.

At the North Peak we decided to stop before the Black Dragon Ridge and stay in a hostel to catch a few hours of sleep. Before settling in we sat in the dark on the steps of the hostel and watched people continue their pilgrimages to the East Peak. It was magical and completely ethereal. The quiet voices and songs drifted on the warm mountain air as the lights attached to climbers on the ridge seemingly floated toward the heavens. Quietly beautiful and incredibly moving.

The next morning the sign pointed us up…to the unforgettable Black Dragon Ridge; a three-foot-wide set of steps with simple metal rails or chains and clear drop-offs into nothingness on either side at some points.

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The advice before the ridge not to walk and watch at the same time was definitely something to heed…after doing the climb we learned that fatalities are not uncommon.

A stop in Beijing included a visit to Tiananmen Square where the Mao “sign” (okay – I am taking liberties, it’s a portrait) spoke volumes. It was exciting yet unsettling to stand in the square that I knew from newscasts of my youth telling of student demonstrations and broadcasting the image of a sole demonstrator standing up to a row of tanks.

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In Shanghai some of my romantic notions of China were confirmed – lovely red paper lanterns. But there they were, juxtaposed against the reality of modern urban China with its Pearl Tower in the background and the spinning Pepsi logo signs lining the street in-between.

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More signs of cosmopolitan Shanghai included massive video billboards on barges floating up and down the Huangpu River.

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This last image was on a building in Beijing while the city was undergoing multiple face-lifts in preparation to receive the world for the 2008 Summer Olympics. (I had to make a photo from a video, hence the scroll bar at the bottom.)  I love the use of the word “cheerful” in this sign. I don’t think I’ve ever seen it used on a public sign anywhere else.

Hope these signs cheer you today.

mega cheerful