Don't Cage Me In

October 31, 2014 – Many people in southwest Florida put cages over their swimming pools.  These metal frameworks support screen panels that keep bugs and other critters out of the pool area.  The screen also blocks some sunlight, enough to make it difficult to get a sunburn inside a pool cage.  Since the screen blocks light, it also obscures the view a bit; that is I something I do not like at all. 
Fortunately, the two community pools in our neighborhood are not caged.  They weren’t even fenced until several years ago, when an insurance company insisted on fencing.  My husband Tom was president of the homeowners association when that happened.
Our neighborhood, which has traditionally prized its natural landscape and setting, resisted fences for aesthetic reasons.  Scholar that he is, Tom studied other pool fences on the island and, together with the groundskeeper, Ray, came up with a plan for an almost invisible fence for each pool.
Some of the common grounds in Gulf Pines, our neighborhood.
Tom’s observations taught him that black chain link fences “disappeared” much better than green chain link fences.  The beauty of a chain link fence is that it can be woven through the shrubbery, and especially as the shrubbery grows, the fence “disappears.”
Both of the community pools have native plants and some noninvasive exotics growing around them.  Tom and Ray worked their way through them, placing stakes where fence posts would go.  Then the fence company came along to put in the posts, and then fasten the fence sections.  Time passed, plants grew, and now the only parts of the fences that we really notice are where the gates are located.
Others have taken some credit and received some credit for this aesthetically pleasing “invisible” fence, but Tom, Ray, and I really know who gets the credit:  Tom and Ray.  They did it.
I enjoy their accomplishment every time I swim at the little pool on our street.  I swim backstroke for one of the two kilometers in my workout.  Because I have special prescription swim/sunglasses, I can see the sky and all the birds, damselflies, and butterflies flying above me.  The sky is often that deep, intense sky blue that you only see in south Florida.  At other times, it has some clouds, which, in summertime, can be dramatically towering cumulous concoctions.  “Ice cream castles in the air,” wrote Joni Mitchell.
We plan to build a house and a pool on Cooley Hammock, and you can bet that pool will not be caged.  It will have an “invisible” black chain link fence enshrouded by native plants.  Although we may not be forced to have a fence on a private pool, I am now convinced that a fence is a good idea.
You see, I read all the alligator-related police reports for Sanibel, every year.  From this reading, I know that alligators do get into swimming pools, although I’ve never personally seen one in a pool.  Evidently, it does happen, and since I spend so much time in a pool, I am now reassured by having a fence to discourage gators.
The fence does nothing to keep snakes out, however.  Once, many years ago, I was joined by a snake in swimming laps in the little pool on our street.  Really, I was doing the crawl, and when I turned my head to breathe, I saw a snake swimming alongside me.  I would have jumped out of the pool, but the snake beat me to it.  The snake had more fear than I did.  Back into the lagoon it went, lickety split.
Yes, that was many years ago.  I’ve been swimming in that little pool for 22 years now.  One of the happiest people I ever saw there was a man named Tony J.  He was so pleased to be retired and living in this beautiful place in Florida.  Every time I saw him, he said, “Oh isn’t this such a beautiful day?  Aren’t we lucky to be here?  Isn’t the pool great?  Isn’t this wonderful?”  His enthusiasm was genuine, and contagious.  He especially loved lounging about in that little pool.
One day, a maintenance worker found Tony lifeless in that pool.  He’d had a heart attack.  We were sad to lose him, but I know that Tony didn’t suffer through a long illness, and I know he died in a place that made him happy, after he’d lived a long life.

Those long swims, those long workouts I have at that little pool are a time of meditation for me.  Long walks that I take on the beach at the break of day are also a time of meditation.  In those times, I like to see the sky clearly.   I want an unobstructed view of life.  Don’t cage me in.

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