Saturday, October 24, 2009

Swimming = Zen-like calm

So I have just returned (and dried off) from a delicious swim in the hotel pool here in Toronto (where I am until later today, having attended RA in a day yesterday - honestly, weren't you listening?)

I miss swimming a lot. I was a late swimmer (and made it as far as Orange in those draconian swimming badges - Canadian Red Cross? - in grade school), but my parents and grandfather instilled in me a great love of swimming (in fact, I still have my grandfather's swimming certificate from the downtown Montreal YMCA from the 1930s). Growing up, the main criteria my mum and I used for hotels was, "Well, does it have a pool?" For a lovely brief period (2000-2003) I was a very regular swimmer, first in the Garfield Weston pool at McGill, with Kaya, and then in the pool in my apartment building when I lived on Dr. Penfield Avenue.

Side note on Garfield Weston (p.s. the photo I linked to above is awful):

The Garfield-Weston pool dates from 1949. Prior to that, there was another beautiful building on the site. At the deep end of the pool, there was a charming stained glass window. McGill's Reporter newspaper tells me that they came from the dining room of Lord Strathcona's residence, 1157 Dorchester St. West, demolished in 1941 (P.S. I hate when they change websites and the images don't link properly anymore. Honestly, I expect more from McGill!!!).

I actually have quite the history with this pool. I swam there in 1985 as a student at FACE school on University, and my grandfather swam there as a young man. I loved that pool A LOT. It was quaint and charming and free of the Currie Gym fitness nuts. It pains me greatly that they tore down the building (and did God knows what with the stained glass) to build the Music Building. I know there's a beautiful music library in there, but I am not going in. Sorry. The building may have been crappy, but that pool had character, and history, and it deserved better.

Since 2003-ish, I haven't been swimming as much. Around the same time, I took up running, with my then-boyfriend, now-husband. In many ways, running is easier: less equipment, less hair damage, more low-fuss. I find running is a bit of an equaliser: you don't need expensive equipment or outfits. Just go outside and do it. I get a lot of good work thinking done while exercising, and running is certainly more conducive to note-taking than swimming (warning: don't bring your Post-its pool-side).

I do miss the utter sense of calm that swimming inspires in me. Today, I was sharing a lane with a fellow lap-swimmer (I'm the lazy breaststroke; she's the hard-core crawler with goggles), then I hung out in the hot tub for awhile, then went back into the now-empty pool. There are few things in life better than an empty pool, and better than the feeling of slipping into the unbroken, pristine water. I don't like swimming on my back (can't see! makes me nervous!) but in an empty pool it's divine. You tuck your ears underwater so sound is muffled, and, in this instance, stare up at the glass ceiling out into a gray sky, tempered by the harsh glass of modern Toronto architecture, or flourishes and mouldings of old Toronto architecture.

So now I'm refreshed, renewed, re-energised after a long but utterly rewarding day yesterday, and (I must say) a perfect dinner at Messis.

Currently reading: The Unit, by Ninni Holmqvist


  1. Ooh - my mother-in-law used to live across the street from messis and I had a few perfect meals there too. Lucky you! Also in complete agreement about swimming. I used to have after-school swimming lessons at the Garfield - you're right Alex, that was a special pool. Did I ever tell you about the time when I was pregnant with Grace, and it was a crazy hot summer night in downtown Montreal, and I said to myself, all these hotel pools so close... I'm going for a swim? I snuck into the Hilton pool, with a look on my face that clearly said "don't mess with the crazy pregnant lady" (Dave accompanied, and sat pool-side, with a befuddled look that said "I'm with the crazy pegnant lady") and floated around with my giant belly, gazing up at the few visible stars. I recommend that pool too (although they may have tightened security since then!)

  2. yes, i remember that summer + that illicit swimming story!!! have you ever been to the roof of Loews Hotel (behind Ogilvy?) Apparently that's a public pool, and if you can ignore the men drinking at the bar, it's actually pretty nice up there on the roof. I went once.

    Hee hee I can't believe we stumbled on messis. that's funny!