A Peaceful Place: The Pool at Eastern Market


"So when you think to yourself, 'I want to have a relaxing afternoon', what do you enjoy?" I asked.

"I enjoy a stroll in the park, in the gardens, and a swim before dinner,' he said.

-"Thrive: Finding Happiness the Blue Zones Way", by Dan Buettner

March 4, 2012, Washington, DC: I take a deep breath and sink beneath the surface. I push off the wall with strength and intent. I glide through the water, streamlined, long and lean, as far as possible. I cut through the surface committed to form and focus, movement and grace. I don't try to rush. I try to slow down. I can't remember anything waiting for me out there beyond the pool deck.

I'd forgotten the importance of places like this one.

The swimming pool next to Eastern Market has been a neighborhood staple since sometime around 1970. A fire station stood on the site on North Carolina Ave. until 1964; the aquatic center was built there several years later. For years, it was known simply as the natatorium; I've talked to several people who either learned to swim there or taught their children. Now called William H. Rumsey Aquatic Center, the pool remains a free neighborhood amenity -- one I don't take advantage of nearly enough.

I went there today for a swim, and to recall the importance of my place in the pool.

Swimming pools are on my short list of formative places. They remind me of home and family, of times when swimming was just I needed for relief at the end of a busy day. Swimming was once a homework break and an outlet and a surefire way to sleep well. The pool was a place to clear the head, a place to feel strong.

Today the warm indoor air and the smell of chlorine and streaks of sunlight through foggy goggles bring me back, reminding me how beneficial these places once were to my daily routine. Today I'm reminded to incorporate places like this one into my days more often.

Are there places near home you visit for relaxation and relief?

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