I laughed so hard that the chickadee birds on a nearby tree stopped twittering, the two eating at the feeder flew away, and a chipmunk racing along the pool deck stopped so suddenly, it nearly fell into the water.
It was early evening and I was in the warm water of our backyard pool, doing a version of swimming. “Warm” at 88 degrees, which my husband calls “a hot bath”. And “swimming”, though not what anyone would recognize as such. I always hold on to a foam ‘noodle’.
I know I may be overdoing the precaution, but the trusty noodle calms my fears of drowning by keeping me afloat when my damaged limbs fail.
My left leg does almost all the lower-body work. But I feel so light and free in the warm water that the discovery that my right leg is not moving is always a surprise. What I always remember is the sudden stab of pain in my left shoulder that will almost knock me out. These are long-term injuries from a car accident of more than a decade ago.
This early-evening ‘swim’ was my last time in the pool before we closed it down for the winter, and I was already missing it. The warm water, the low-stress exercise and the sights and sounds of the natural world were a balm for my body. Sometimes, I just stopped moving, floating along with the clouds above.
And that’s when the memory surfaced, making me laugh out loud.
I was at a mineral bath in the Caribbean.
This trip was yet another costly “therapy”. But my hopes were high – or as high as they could be after years of disappointment.
I hadn’t given up the search for magic elixirs offering instant healing.
My sister, my ‘guardian’ on this trip, was the first to notice the sign limiting visitors to only 15 minutes in the water each time.
That’s when I realized that, to get full benefit, most people would arrange to stay for a few days. The facility is, after all, a positively-reviewed “Hotel and Spa”.
We’d already made another crucial mistake. We had foolishly taken a ‘quicker’ route over what turned out to be storm-damaged back roads with potholes as big as bathtubs. By the time we arrived at the baths, even my sister (who wasn’t recovering from an accident) was groaning.
Still, the place was clean, the service competent, and we were, after all, privileged to be here — at a facility that we had both heard about since childhood and read about in books. For more than a century, these baths have been famous, their healing benefits acclaimed.
We changed into bathing suits and sank into the warm mineral water, determined to eke every ounce of benefit from our 15 minutes.
Then, by tacit agreement, we stretched the time out, sure someone would turf us out at any moment.
At 20 minutes, we reluctantly got out, showered, toweled off, dressed and got back in the car, smiling as we started the journey back to the place where we were staying.
That’s when we discovered that even the ‘good roads’ had been damaged by the storm. The potholes weren’t bathtub-sized, but numerous.
I returned home to Canada hobbling, wincing, groaning and swearing — in worse shape than when I left.
The sheer irony of it all, I thought, as I floated in my backyard pool, laughter bursting out of my body.
Of course, our pool has its limits — it’s closed now until May next year. But in those five warm Canadian months — without a 15-minute limit, without the pain and expense of travelling on airplanes and storm-ravaged roads — the warm water of my pool is excellent therapy. Right here in my own backyard.