Pool of Thought

IMG_1125This oasis was unexpectedly entrusted to my sole care this week. Ice cold turquoise water, partially shaded morning and evening, full sun at midday.

My job: cover it at night, scoop out unfortunate bees, dragonflies, the occasional frog, ants, spiders, debris…and swim between T-storms.

First time ever to have a pool all to myself. 

No need to do laps…just play in the water, any stroke or combination of moves that feels good, watching clouds and flowers mirror in ripples across the surface along with endless random mental reflections.

This is when answers to lingering questions bubble up from my deep…how to dance within certain tricky social circumstances, a better way to phrase that sentence in my writing, a thank you note to send, wishes, intuitions about future stages of my life… Unscheduled, unstructured moments are when I receive what I can only describe as signals. As if my being needed an opening in the my chatter with the world to synthesize and report back, the way information sometimes comes in dreams…

To be continued

xxxxxx Aliss

It’s happening! (updated 17/07/17)

DSC03632 (1)

Live Water Swimming, Bassin de la Villette, Paris Plages, Grand Opening Monday July 17th, 3pm 🙂

Paris has been working towards this for many years, well before the Summer Olympics bid, part of a long term environmental clean up and biodiversity project. What better way to raise awareness than to open a swimming area here? It’s a biofeedback loop for Parisians: water quality is monitored constantly and the pools will be closed whenever the water is unsafe. All around the enclosure displays show how this works, what sources of public and private pollution are being supervised, plant and animal species living in this water, how and why the waterway was constructed, how it has evolved… Maybe this will discourage deadbeats from throwing their refuse into the canal? Come swim and view the displays with your family, it’s a rich learning experience and a way to create a better future 🙂


More pix: DSC03625DSC03628DSC03626


Smooth sailing! xxxxx Aliss

Today the water was laughing


Bassin de la Villette, Paris 19, near the soon-to-open “Live Water” swimming area, canal so clear, I stopped in my tracks to admire fish of all sizes swimming among the plant life.

Two electric-blue dragonflies flitted in front of me, hovered and disappeared, too fast to photograph. (The fish, too, are camera-shy). When Jacques Chirac was Mayor of Paris many moons ago, he announced he’d swim in the Seine in the year 2000. It took longer than he thought, but decades of effort by local communities and the Paris city government, bio-diversity campaigns and sewage treatment, are paying off. What seemed like science fiction is actually happening.

For more information about wild flora and fauna in Paris,  “sustainable walk” apps, action steps:


Beautiful posters to download:


Reasons for optimism! Love xxxxx Aliss

Water Therapy, Paris Style (Sept 2 update)


This summer, for the first time in 50 years, swimming in the Bassin de la Villette has been actively encouraged by the city on occasion, including last Sunday, as part of Paris’s bid for the summer 2024 Olympics and a larger environmental plan.

Flashback: Near the end of the last century, then-president Jacques Chirac, erstwhile Mayor of Paris, promised to swim in the Seine before the end of his mandate. A consortium of townships along the tributaries, including the canal system, formed to reduce pollution. Years passed without news as the dream receded into an indefinite future. Researching the neighborhood, I found out our local waterway was commissioned by Napoleon to provide fresh drinking water for parched Parisians, but was then defiled by sewage and manufacturing due to the Industrial revolution. For the past 5 decades, swimming was discouraged by fines. People still partook but rarely and at their own risk. A few months ago, the city announced its Olympic ambitions, including events in the canal and the Seine, starting summer 2017. The water quality has been monitored over recent years and was now supporting fish and wildlife.

Next thing I knew a preliminary swim was organized on the canal one cold June day, with a pontoon access, wetsuits on loan, showers, supervision and everything you’d expect from a modern metropolis.

Excitement started to mount and when I got back from summer vacation, news items began to appear in print and online about a long-distance race followed by open swimming scheduled for August 28th. Fanciful posters decorated billboards. The event was dubbed “La Fluctuat” from the city motto “Fluctuat Nec Mergitur” (Tempest-tossed but unsinkable):


Co-sponsored by the city and a scientific-sounding “Laboratoire des baignades urbaines expérimentales,” it was irresistible. So thousands of people, including my family and neighbors, trooped over there on Sunday and waited for the race to end and show our support by taking a dip. My peeps plopped down with lawn chairs and a cooler on the sunny side. The crowd was 4-deep along a cobbled walkway, euphoric in bathing suits and beach towels, jumping in and paddling around with floats provided by volunteers on the sidelines.

My own nautical motivation started to wane when I saw a 3-foot distance between water and embankment, with no pontoon or ladders in sight on our side. Chinning and pull-ups are not my strongest attribute. Could my friends pull me out of the water soaking wet?  My son is a strong swimmer, so I cheered when he jumped in, but kept an eye on him and hoped my water safety training wouldn’t be needed. It wasn’t. We basked in the late afternoon sunshine, surrounded by disrobed revellers. Perfect way to segue from vacation back to business after an intense year. “I can’t believe this is really happening!” “Pinch me, I must be dreaming!”  With my feet dangling in the cool water, I resolved to set up camp on the opposite side next time so I could climb in and out at will.

Then I noticed that all the lifeguards posted on surfboards during the race had disappeared. There were 2 men in wetsuits going up and down the Bassin in a zodiac, but no other safety measures. Something fishy was going on.

Sure enough, when we got home, reports in the media proclaimed that we had all braved the ban on public swimming. The “Laboratory of Experimental Urban Swims” turned out to be an association of activists whose permit application was denied by the city the day before? A huge publicity campaign had been launched without official support from the Mairie? Looks like we were a flashmob and didn’t know it…


In any case, no regrets. Hot showers and soap took care of whatever may have been in the water.  We all survived to tell the tale and make history, sharing a vision of rivers and canals coming back to life even in huge metropolitan areas.

:-))))  xxxxx Aliss

Water Therapy

Since arrival from Paris, spending hours driving in triangles to connect family…whenever possible, filling my senses with these Catskill landscapes:

Awosting Falls (tiny person at top left gives an idea of scale)…DSC02874

Up the mountain to Lake Minnewaska…DSC02887

Also on the preserve, Mohonk Lake just before thunderstorm:DSC02895

Driving north, Woodstock, NY, just off Tinker Street:DSC02902

And miraculously, there are still places where the water gushes sweet and pure straight from the land (befriend the locals to find out where). Some good soul hooked up a pipe so you don’t have to crawl into a cave. We fill tanks and take them home as an alternative to slightly sulferous well water:


No wonder the ancients worshipped springs…

To be continued… xxxxx Aliss