June and July

June

A sensuous month. The peonies have blossomed, the wisteria is climbing, the sour cherries are ripe. Each morning, I monitor the cherry tree. Last year, after a day at the beach, I found the tree picked clean. Had thieves robbed my tree? Yes, birds and squirrels. This year, I keep a vigil over several days as the cherries rippen, gathering bowls until I have picked the tree clean.

Then the real work begins, pitting the cherries for freezing or pie making. Sour cherries are small,: they don’t give up their innards easily. After hours of work, I have just enough for a pie, the chore savored for the yearly pleasure of gathering and eating.

Days later, I manage a peaceful walk on the canal. I arrived late in the afternoon and avoided maskless ramblers. The yellow light of New Jersey’s humid summers penetrated the canal banks. A Great Blue Heron crossed paths with me which bodes well, a much needed talisman.

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Great Blue Heron Delaware and Raritan Canal Kingston, New Jersey

July

Every summer I swim at the public pool 4 or 5 times a week from Memorial Day to Labor Day. This year the virus threatened to close that source of pleasure. Day after day, I anxiously scanned my emails for news as the recreation department debated if and when to open the pool. Finally, they announced the opening date- July 13th. .

I debated whether swimming laps was a good idea, but my love of swimming won out. I swim between 10 and 12 A.M. when the pool is open for seniors and lap swims. During those hours, it is divided into three parts. The center has three lap lanes, slow, medium, and fast. The left side of the pool is open to walkers and swimmers not ready to take on laps. The right side of the pool is used for children’s swimming lessons. Eight swimmers per lap lane was allowed. To my way of thinking, swimming in those lanes would mean close contact with open mouths during a pandemic. I would only swim along the walls of the pool where I wouldn’t risk facing another swimmer.

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Princeton Community Park Pool

Securing a spot meant arriving 45 minutes early in order to be the first or second person in line. Once the gate were open, I showed my membership card, raced down the lawn, tore off my mask, donned my bathing cap, and stood at the end of the pool, claiming my territory. Often swimming was complicated as I negotiated space with bathers resting against the side of the pool, gathering in groups, or swimming haphazardly with their noodles and finding their way into my lane. But mostly the “seas” parted and I managed my half mile. Swimming consumed my mornings: getting ready to go swimming, waiting in line to go swimming, swimming for an hour, going home to undo the chemical remnants of swimming, and finally sustenance, eating breakfast at noon.

Green lawns surround the pool with oak trees providing shade. One day as I was doing a lap, I glanced at the largest oak and felt it reach out to me, comforting me as it’s leaves slowly swayed in the wind. Was that a smile? Having never experienced interspecies communication, I questioned my loose grip on sanity. But no, my next lap past the oak convinced me I had been consoled. Some might label this experience delusional. Maybe, maybe not. After all trees “talk” to on another sharing information on water and food, helping each other. Perhaps this particular “arbre” chose to help me survive another pandemic day.

I’m making this entry on a dark December evening 272 days since the pandemic began for me. I need the consolation of picking cherries, seeing a Great Blue Heron, swimming daily. I need the solace of a kindly oak tree.

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