Sunday, July 28, 2013

The Luxury of a Rainy Summer Day

Let me start by saying, I love summer and feeling the sun on my back as my arms glide through the water lazily swimming laps in the town pool. My mind carries me to places I’ve never been, to a lake house where I step off the front porch hurrying, skirting through trees down to the dock and dive off into the vast expanse of clean, clear water glistening from the sun’s rays.  I don’t step in the lake; I hate  feeling the squishy bottom grab my toes and the fish swimming around my ankles – that’s why in my mind I dive, and why, in real life, I like swimming in my town’s pool that only looks like a lake. There’s a freedom to it, not like a cement bottom pool where you have to circle swim, doing laps in roped off lanes, with others. I can go out in the middle, the deep end that as a child I thought I’d never get to swim in, and gracefully cut through the water without worrying about someone behind me getting pissed off that I’m not quick enough, and feeling him creeping up, pushing me to accelerate, stretch those arms, kick harder, breathe faster. But today is not one of those days. It’s not raining yet, but I can feel it in the thick air, can see it in the dark clouds. It’s coming soon and I’m glad. There’s a real luxury in a rainy summer day (as long as it's not too often), a day I can spend curled up with a good book, sipping a cup of tea, and not feeling guilty that I’m inside.

Today’s novel takes me to Iraq and New York, Westchester County to be specific. Sparta, by Roxana Robinson, reviewed today in the New York Times (just a coincidence, I started this book a few days ago) is about an Iraqi vet, Conrad Farrell, a marine who returns home after four years and as the blurb states: “Something is very wrong. Everything should be fine. He hasn’t been shot or wounded by an IED, and he’s never had psychological trouble. But…” Yes, there is a huge but. Having read a third of the book I can safely say that through Conrad we can see what we have asked our soldiers to undertake, and that in itself poses a great deal of questions and leads to many topics for readers to discuss.

Sitting in my comfy leather chair, I was with Conrad in Haditha when an IED exploded and he couldn’t rescue his buddy from a burning Humvee. More relaxing was when I stood with him back in New York while he reminisced about another soldier hit by white-hot metal shards when a rocket landed right beside him severing a femoral artery that eventually caused his death. That young soldier was merely on his way to mail a letter to his girlfriend back home.

Conrad’s musings about receiving letters while in “the country,” as he called it, is actually what made me write this post. His thoughts brought me to a previous blog of mine from 2/15/13, “Old Letters – Heartwarming and Heartwrecking.”

Conrad said email was not as good as actual letters, and phone calls “were never as good as you hoped they’d be…But letters you carried with you, you kept them in your pocket or under your pillow…You put them inside your helmet, or just inside your seabag… sometimes you just wanted to run your fingertips across the envelope, that was enough…”  Whether you’re a soldier in Iraq or a woman at home, whether it’s war time or peace time, the old art of writing letters, and the treasure of receiving them, is something that is sadly lost in this twenty-first century world of technology.

 As the Literary Leotard, I do have an exercise that goes along with this post, for days when you sit and read for hours, and I do hope you have a day like that once in a while. Let yourself be carried away, travel to distant places, meet new people, but you do need to get up once-in-a-while, walk around, stretch out. 

Starting position: Lie supine (on your back) on the floor. It should be carpeted or use a mat

Have your knees bent, feet on the floor, arms at your sides

Extend your right leg, keeping your heel in touch with the floor at all times as you reach your left arm overhead and try to touch the floor behind you. Go slowly – contract your abdominals Do not let your lower back arch! Remain in neutral spine (11/22/11 blog post)

Hold the position for 2 counts with your heel flexed (toes to ceiling) – You’ll feel a stretch, especially in the heel and calf and feel your abdominals pulling in (an isometric contraction).

Bring your leg and arm back to starting position

Repeat with the left leg and right arm

Repeat 5-10x. This is an easy exercise for core strength and you’ll enjoy the stretch at the same time.

Most important – Remain in Neutral Spine!



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