The really exquisite thing about The Golden Door is the sweat suits. We wear pink sweat suits. Fresh ones materialize every day, and we just get up and put them on and walk outdoors. No girdles, garter belts, stockings, heels, hats, hooks, buttons, zippers, petticoats or makeup, and if we're not wearing our sweat suits we are wearing even less, our terry-cloth togas with nothing underneath. Bliss!
The prebreakfast walk at 7 o'clock is optional, and Monday and Tuesday I opted out, but this morning I woke up at 6:30. I stretched experimentally, and it hardly hurt at all, and I thought about the exercises to come and I didn't flinch, and my blood positively seemed to be circulating instead of lying like a lot of sludge down around my ankles. I leaped out of bed, washed my face with my Golden Door Soap Drops, put on my pink sweat suit and opened the door. It is very misty here at 6:45. I peered out into the gray, looking for a jolly group of morning hikers—there are 17 ladies here, and if I was up and game I assumed that certainly the other 16 would be. All I saw were two rabbits snuffling around in the gravel by my door. The white doves in their cage were cooing in a businesslike way, and I went over to watch them. Very pretty, except for their nasty, beady red eyes. They are kept to symbolize peace of mind, I understand, so everybody gets upset when a cat creeps in and eats one.
By the time I had extracted all the peace of mind I could from the doves I made out a figure in the mist. On the other side of the swimming pool was Mary Louise Cowling in her pink sweat suit, prowling through the petunias and brandishing her long cigarette holder. Mrs. Cowling is an imperturbable lady who says she loves to get up early in the morning, that she hates bed. "I'm so afraid I might miss something."
Since the other 15 ladies did not seem to share this fear and did not seem to hate their beds, we set off by ourselves for a walk in the little hills around The Golden Door. These hills are full of large round rocks that look like raisins in a pudding, or perhaps I am just hungry. But the country, despite looking like a pudding, is severe, dependent for much of its moisture on the mist that was finally beginning to rise.
"You're not taking enough deep breaths, I notice," Mrs. Cowling said, and by the end of the walk she had given me more good advice. For one thing, I can stop being afraid of airplanes. "That's a lot of romantic nonsense," Mrs. Cowling told me, "the idea that in a crash everybody is killed!" This is one way of looking at it, all right. In the future when my airplane is making those funny noises, I plan to tell myself firmly that my terror is a lot of romantic nonsense.
"I was in a plane crash when I was a girl," Mrs. Cowling went on. "I was on my way to Europe for the first time. We came down in a cornfield in Ohio, but I knew I wasn't going to die. I was going to Europe." Mrs. Cowling paused to examine a stalk of wild oats. "I went about Rome in a carriage with a Spaniard from the diplomatic corps," she reminisced. "It was lovely." It was so lovely that her tour, and the other young girls, went on without her, and she had to take a tinny single-engine plane across the mountains to Venice to catch up. "And in Venice I danced on the Lido with an Italian. We couldn't talk to each other, but we both knew the word for heart"—Mrs. Cowling enthusiastically indicated her heart with her cigarette holder—"and we danced together quite beautifully! They both wrote to me for about five years."
I was impressed. One thinks of Spaniards and Italians as romantic but inclined to be flighty; that they should have maintained a five-year correspondence seems powerful evidence for Mrs. Cowling's having been a most charming dancing partner which, as a matter of fact, I am certain she was.
"It must have been romantic," I ventured.
"Oh, it was. It was swell," Mrs. Cowling said happily.