A Luminous Halo

"Life is not a series of gig lamps symmetrically arranged; life is a luminous halo, a semi-transparent envelope surrounding us from the beginning of consciousness to the end." --Virginia Woolf

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Location: Springfield, Massachusetts, United States

Smith ’69, Purdue ’75. Anarchist; agnostic. Writer. Steward of the Pascal Emory house, an 1871 Second-Empire Victorian; of Sylvie, a 1974 Mercedes-Benz 450SL; and of Taz, a purebred Cockador who sets the standard for her breed. Happy enough for the present in Massachusetts, but always looking East.

Thursday, May 25, 2006

Messing About

I don't think I've handled an oar since I rowed crew at Smith in the late '60's. Nor have I given much thought to boats or boating. So I was surprised when a cardiologist and rowing enthusiast I was interviewing the other day described rowing as a "full-body workout." You row with your arms, yes? But where does the rest of the body come in?

In fact, you don't really row with your arms. "You are really pushing the boat through the water with your leg muscles," explained Dr. Tony Lovell. "You thrust with your legs: you are pushing the seat away. You pull with your arms and your shoulders; you finish with your abdomen by doing a little bit of a sit-up. Then you lean back at the end of your stroke. And because it's repetitive, it’s wonderful cardiovascular stuff."

He went on to say that women develop skill in rowing more easily than men, because they have "more kinastheologic sense" to start with, although men eventually overtake them in competition because of their superior strength.

I also spoke with Jonathan Moss, five-time national rowing champion and Rowing Hall of Famer. He described watching bald eagles overhead as he sculled on the Connecticut and Westfield Rivers. According to JM, 75% of the members in the rowing program he's involved with are women, and one member is 93 years old.

Wow. Anything that involves sitting down, in the sun, watching bald eagles, while getting a full-body workout, that even a 93-year-old can do, sounds like it might be for me. It's all I can do not to rush down to the Pioneer Valley Yacht Club and sign myself up first thing in the morning.

As the Water Rat so aptly put it in that great pastoral novel, The Wind in the Willows (wrongheadedly assumed by many to be simply a book for children), "there is nothing--absolutely nothing--half so much worth doing as simply messing about in boats."


Anonymous Christopher said...

Couldn't agree more about WITW!

From chapter VII, "Piper at the Gates of Dawn,"

"The line of the horizon was clear and hard against the sky, and in one particular quarter it showed black against a silvery climbing phosphorescence that grew and grew. At last, over the rim of the waiting earth the moon lifted with slow majesty till it swung clear of the horizon and rode off, free of moorings; and once more they began to see surfaces--meadows wide-spread, and quiet gardens, and the river itself from bank to bank, all softly disclosed, all washed clean of mystery and terror, all radiant again as by day, but with a difference that was tremendous. Their old haunts greeted them again in other raiment, as if they had slipped away and put on this pure new apparel and come quietly back, smiling as they shyly waited to see if they would be recognised again under it."

That's written to be read aloud, by an adult, to a child perhaps but if one is alone in the room it should still be read aloud. It is sensuous in sound and image alike, and the two play off one another.

Some simple minded writing instructors warn against adjectives. Grahame has no such prejudice. The phosphorescence alone gets two adjectives. Later we get waiting earth, slow majesty, and another doubling up of adjectives with "pure new apparel."

Nor was he biased against adverbs, "come quietly back ... shyly waited...."

Not a word of it but contributes to the effect.

11:21 PM  

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