prose pieces: pools

"A pool. Look at it. It’s a smooth, contained and containing body of water, a blank canvas, a fresh sheet of paper, a zero-gravity ride of a sort. Depending on your intent or desire (workout or dip), it can be a locus of pain or pleasure. Sharks, shipwrecks, desert isles, sunken cities. Why is it that as children we act out great catastrophes around pools, and as adults we thrash to exhaustion, in vanity, in competition, attempting to keep the great catastrophe at bay? Water is life-giving, baptismal, essential for hygiene and health, when contained, but children and sailors were taught a healthy fear of oceans, lakes, and rivers before they were taught to swim. Open water meant death for much of western history. Walls and fortifications were built to keep it out, the seaside and harbor were places of peril and sin. It was alongside the advent of indoor plumbing, the control and privatization of water, that houses were built aspected to the sea. The seascape became picturesque. It doesn’t surprise me that advances in plumbing, the popularizing of swimming lessons (first for horses, then for soldiers), and the first stabs at the invention of photography all occurred at this point in history, as all three events presume control over nature, and time." - Leanne Shapton, 2020