Since my indoor pool pass is good year-’round, I don’t spring for an extra pass to use the city’s outdoor pool each summer. Instead, I get to go there for free during the final two weeks of the season, when the indoor pool is closed for annual maintenance and upgrades.
The outdoor pool, though, can be a glorious experience. Here are ten points to consider.
- Though a Massachusetts native, Jenny Thompson calls Dover her hometown. She’s among the most decorated athletes in Olympic history, having won eight gold medals among her 12 despite numerous setbacks. On top of that, she became an anesthesiologist is Boston and now works as a pediatric anesthesiologist up the road in Portland, Maine.
- It’s the only 50-meter swimming pool for miles around. The closest neighbor is the Raco Theodore pool in Manchester, New Hampshire, an hour to our west. The only one to our east is at Colby College in Waterville, Maine, three hours up the Interstate. And to our south, it’s the Beverly, Massachusetts, YMCA on Boston’s North Shore or, further south, at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology in Cambridge or at Hanscom in Lincoln. In other words, ain’t many of ’em around.
- It feels endless. A half-mile is eight laps, meaning round-trips up and back. I love hearing the rippling banners overhead in the distance, meaning I’m getting close to turning back in the other direction.
- It has a 10-foot-high diving board. Kids love it. Insurance companies hate anything so risky.
- It’s heated, except on the hottest days. Evaporation cools the water. Somehow, though, it seems to warm enough once I’m in it but still refreshingly brisk. Talk about a fine balance.
- Overhead, contrails of jetliners heading into Boston’s Logan airport often come a minute apart. That’s in addition to some gorgeous clouds I love to watch on my backstroke, along with the occasional bald eagles in the distance.
- As I just said, keep an eye open for bald eagles soaring in the distance.
- The Seacoast Swimming Association, which drew Thompson and her mother to Dover in the first place, is its biggest supporter – as they also do for the city’s smaller indoor pool through the rest of the year.
- Big swim meets take place here. Why not? From a distance, it always looks like a mob scene.
- The pool is 41 years old and has maintenance issues. Which leads to the next matter. Efforts are under way to replace it with a 10- to 22-lane indoor 50-meter pool. Dr. Thompson is solidly behind the effort and promises to come down often to test its waters.
The pileated woodpecker is one of the largest members ot the family, rather comical and awkward looking, at that. It’s also not commonly seen, so sightings are always exciting, at least if you have an eye for birds. (Pronounced PIE-lee-ay-tid or PILL-ee-ay-tid, by the way.)
I remember one of my first encounters was while having dinner with the Ostroms at their house perched atop a wooded ravine outside Bloomington, Indiana. One alighted just outside the window, to our shared surprise and wonder.
More recently, as I was driving with my elder daughter down a road in Maine, one was flying just ahead of us but veered off before she could look up.
A week later, on a different road, the same thing happened.
She accuses me of making those up.
So the other day, after a meeting at the Unitarian-Universalist Fellowship in Durham, I noticed two people in the parking lot who were staring at something in the trees just beyond. I caught the red head and then the full bird. Yup. Amazing, considering this was an urban neighborhood.
And then, on another trunk, I spotted on more red head and big body, which then swooped down to join the first.
The pileated ‘pecker is a large bird – 16 to 19 inches long with a wingspan up to 30 inches, as I’m reading, likely the largest of its family in North America – and they can do some serious damage to trees they decide to nest in. Think of a beaver with wings. Again, from some quick referencing online, I’d guess you can look for a nest based on the pile of wood chips below.
My companion, in her early 90s, apologized that she’s never been able to really see birds, not even as a child. “My eyesight’s always been poor,” she apologized. So much for a witness. At least she could attest that two others were also commenting on the birds before us.
As for said daughter? She insists I’m making this up, too.
For the record, I don’t think I ever seen more than one classic redheaded woodpecker in my life. Hairy woodpeckers and downeys and flickers, of course, are another matter. Old friends, I’d say.
Of course, the Woody Woodpecker cartoons don’t count, do they?