Monday, January 12, 2009

Smells like Community Spirit

Community has a smell. At least, I think it smells.

It's the smell of chlorine, sweat, deep fryers, wet cement, and Zamboni exhaust. You need go no further than your local community center to experience this orchestra of odors. Until recently, I associated the smell of community centers with high school gym trips to the weight room. High school gym class of course brings back feelings of inferiority, mean girls, and low confidence so it's no surprise that the smell of "community" once regurgitated bad memories in my psyche. That association has begun to change since I decided to join the community gym. I joined hours before the clock struck midnight on New Year's Eve so I like to think the act is excused from the usual list of New Year's resolutions. I joined because I needed an outlet to let off steam and running out my angst on a tread mill sounded like a good idea.

The gym and weight room at Britannia Community Center over look a pool. You can walk, run, row and step to the sight of people swimming. Some people are just learning to swim, kids and adults alike. There's this one swimmer who I call the "fish." He's a regular. He wears flippers on his feet and can swim an entire length without coming up for water once. There are always men and women soaking in the hut tub and you often see the glitter of gold around their necks. It's always great to watch a mum take a toddler in her arms and wade through the shallow pool. Personally, I enjoy watching the swimmers who take their time gliding through the water, swimming their lengths slowly. I imagine they are nursing a sports injury. Maybe they have a bad knee and as part of their physio, they swim because it's easy on the bones and exercises the body. They seem so graceful.

I haven't tried the pool yet. I'm still getting used to the tread mill and the elliptical machine. And there's nothing graceful about the sight of me working off my angst. Although I still have to force myself through the doors, I've come to like the smell that greets me. It may smell like chlorine and sweat and ice but it's also the smell of people coming together for their own, private reason - be it health, angst, therapy, or a sense of grace.


John Horn said...

Ms. Lamb, you made me want to go for a swim. Smells also trigger memories, and when I walk by the UBC pool and smell the chlorine I always think of visiting my Grandma and Grandpa when I was a kid. They took me to the pool at least once every time I visited. And I would cause mischief. And my grandma would defend and/or cover-up for me. Because that's how she rolls. And because you should be able to go down a water slide face-first, three-at-a-time.

Thanks for the memories, Lammer!

Theodora Lamb said...

You're so right about smell and memories. The smell of rain falling down on hot cement reminds me of Vancouver and monkey bars. I grew up in East Van and went to a school that had a truly ancient set of monkey bars that everyone wanted to play on during recess, rain or shine.

The smell of fried chicken reminds me of family vacations to the U.S. and the smell of wet dog reminds me of the day my family and I moved into our home in Tsawwassen. I think we walked our dog Stella on the beach for the first time that day. She's a Border Collie and the first time she say sea gulls, she took off into the ocean.

Ah, memories....