Through The Sprinkler

It’s hot out today.  Kish and I were taking Kasey for a walk, wilting a bit under the harsh sunshine, when we passed a house where the owner was watering the front beds using an old-fashioned, tilt back and forth sprinkler — and the memories of childhood summers came flooding back as vividly as if they had occurred yesterday.

sprinkler-kids-lThere were five of us kids in the Webner clan.  The first house I remember living in, on Orlando Avenue in Akron, Ohio, was a tidy three-bedroom place.  Mom and Dad slept in one room, UJ and I shared another, and my three sisters shared the third.  It had a small front yard, a small back yard, and no air-conditioning.  I think there were one or two window fans and one of those rotating table fans, too.

On the hot summer days, Mom would make lemonade or Kool-Aid, and we’d get into our bathing suits even though there wasn’t a pool for miles.  She’d set up the moving sprinkler in the back yard, hold my youngest sister Jean, make sure my sister Margaret didn’t go roaming through the neighborhood, turn the water spigot, and then watch as UJ, Cath, our next door neighbor pal Janie George, and I ran through the cool sprinkler water as it slowly waved back and forth.  At first there was some hesitation at darting through the water, but the coolness felt so good that soon we’d be soaking wet, laughing and skidding and screaming and splashing each other.  The water from the sprinkler would collect on the grass, and we’d stomp around in that too, and maybe plop down a few times just to get more of the full-body watery effect.

We didn’t mind not having a pool — in fact, we really didn’t think about it, because what could be more fun than a lawn sprinkler on a hot summer day?  If we had a sprinkler right now I’d be tempted to take a few passes through it.

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Stretching Out On Commons Ground

IMG_1185Yesterday morning as I walked to work I noticed that seemingly everyone else out on the streets was wearing some kind of yoga outfit and carrying a mat.  Some staggered forward with a grim, zombie-like obsessiveness, others marched with intense and purposeful stride, but all were heading for the heart of downtown Columbus.  Naturally, I had to follow to see what the heck was going on.

I learned that on Saturday morning the yoga practitioners among us have a little confab on the main lawn of the Columbus Commons to do their yoga thing.  Actually, it’s not that little — I’d say there were more than 100 people there, stretching out, regulating their breathing and enhancing their innate flexibility, and getting ready to do the downward facing dog — and still more were arriving.  It was a very pleasant setting for yoga, with the cool, grassy lawn for the most part covered in shade and the downtown skyscrapers towering in the background against the bright blue sky.  You could see how it might help promote the inner calmness and serenity that yoga is supposed to bring about.

I walk past the Commons just about every day, and it’s become a real beehive of activity for the people who live in or near downtown.  From Saturday morning yoga to carousel rides for kids to kickball games after work to nighttime concerts and other events, the Columbus Commons is making a great contribution to the downtown community.  It’s a vast improvement over the City Center mall that used to occupy that space.  No one, but no one, ever did yoga in the City Center mall.

Canoes And Kayaks, Paddling Free

This would not be news anywhere but Columbus, Ohio, but yesterday when I walked down to the Columbus Arts Festival after work I saw people in canoes and kayaks out on the Scioto River as it passes downtown.  They were paddling around, enjoying the blazing sunshine and their water view of the downtown skyline.

IMG_1208I know, I know — rivers are supposed to host canoes, kayaks, and even (gasp) boats.  But that hasn’t been the case with the poor old Scioto.  Ever since the government built dams that converted the river into a wide, incredibly shallow morass as it crept past the downtown area, the Scioto has been a de facto no man’s land for any kind of waterborne craft.  You’d see ugly, twisted branches thrusting from the ankle-deep water, often catching various bits of debris that were floating by, but that’s about it.  No rational canoeist or kayaker would venture out onto the river’s snaggle-toothed waters.

Then Columbus decided to do something to try to make the riverfront a little bit better.  The dams that made the Scioto a sluggish, muddy stream were torn down, and the river was allowed to return to a narrower, deeper, more natural channel.  This not only uncovered lots of additional parkland on the river’s new banks, but also was supposed to allow some recreational activity on the river itself.  So when I saw canoes and kayaks out on the water yesterday, I thought:  “Hallelujah!  The plan worked!”

We can argue about why the stupid dams were built in the first place — you could write volumes about the unfortunate, unanticipated consequences of government dam projects, actually — but at least we’ve gotten to the point where a couple in a canoe can paddle past downtown Columbus.  It actually makes the Scioto seem like a real river, and the Scioto Mile seem like a real riverfront.

That’s progress.