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WIPE DOWN

Deep in the Third Act, I find myself valuing things I was too impatient to

notice before. Like the pleasure of petty rituals.

This morning I was up early and went for a row in my beautiful, yellow and

white single scull with Younger Next Year on the stern. There is, of course,

plenty of stuff you have to know just to row one of these things (it is 26 feet

long and less than one foot wide, after all; one must learn how). But that’s not

what I mean. I mean the perhaps-pointless rituals , at the beginning and end.

It was a lovely row on a misty morning. Then I backed in to the dock…not

easy unless you know how. But you have to do it that way. Because the bow

must always point to the doors and the lake, when you put it on the rack up in

the boathouse. Why? I have no idea but that’s the rule. And there is an odd

satisfaction to knowing this, and doing it, just so. So I backed in, as gracefully

as if someone were watching. Then took out the oars and swung the boat up

on top of my head to put it away. It looks hard, but it’s not… a little trick of

balance. Still, many people over 60 no longer do this. They lug their boat up to

the boathouse on their hip, as if it were a basket of laundry. I am not going to

do that. I am going to carry it on my head, as I was taught at the Weld

boathouse at Harvard in 1955, until I no longer can. Then I will give up the

sport.

Next, because it is the immemorial custom of the rowing community, I take a

towel and carefully wipe it down. I can’t imagine why, but that is also what

you must do. So there I stand, with a towel, and slowly wipe down the lovely

hull, from stem to stern… first the deck (upside down, now, on the rack) and

then the topsides. Slowly, carefully… lovingly. Getting every drop.

I think of my grand-daughter, a “stable-girl” in Europe this summer, wiping

down million dollar dressage horses after their workouts. We are – perhaps

simultaneously and thousands of miles apart – wiping down our beauties at

the end of their workouts. I hope she enjoys it as much as I do, and I strongly

suspect she does. She loves the horses. And her life. And I am sure she does it

with appreciation and care. Me too.

About Author

Chris Crowley

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