Tuesday, December 11, 2012

Musings From the Pool

Five days a week, I take a fitness class in a hot water therapy pool. If you've never had the pleasure of swimming in a hot water pool, you don't know what you're missing. This one definitely should go on the bucket list. If you have any kind of arthritis or joint pain, its heaven, but it's also nice just...well…just because.

 One of the unexpected bonuses of my daily swim has been meeting all the delightful and lovely people who also swim at this particular pool. There are some incredibly interesting swimmers paddling along beside me. All ages, many different backgrounds; we've all been brought together by our common need to loosen up our joints.

 Since I'm at the pool every day, I spend quite a bit of time in the women's locker room. After an hour swim in a 94 degree pool, we're all usually quite relaxed and centered. The resulting locker room conversations are a hoot. Stream of consciousness discussions that move from one thought to the next, sometimes with no discernible reason for the direction our thoughts flow.

 Today's musings started off with my friend Ro breezing into the room to tell us about the black squirrel that lives in the trees around the pool. She brings him a peanut every day, but today chose a pistachio, which didn't appear to tickle the squirrel's fancy. This led to a discussion on the prevalence of black squirrels in Palo Alto. Another swimmer told us that there is a local urban legend which says the black squirrels are a result of medical testing gone wrong at Stanford.

 Then we all wondered why the squirrels in the area remain black and brown....why haven't they started to turn more mottled over the years? Are the squirrels racist? Do they intermingle with differently colored squirrels? Another swimmer informed us that polar bears have been known to travel west to visit with grizzly bears and black bears, and frequently interbreed.

 My curiosity got the best of me, and sure enough, it's true. The mother of all polar bears was a brown bear that lived in the British Isles. Who would have thought it? Fascinating.  So what about the black squirrels? It turns out they are the result of mutant pigment genes in gray squirrels.  And the black squirrels, while rare nowadays, were native to north America until the arrival of settlers from Europe who began to deforest the trees.  The black gave the squirrels camouflage in the dark forests, but as the woods thinned out, natural selection increased the number of gray squirrels.

So now you know. Trivia for the day. And I would never have thought to check it out if not for the musings of my friends in the locker room.

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