Friday, October 14, 2011

53F in the early fall darkness

Photo of Juanita Beach Park in Kirkland, WA, by heystax, Flickr Creative Commons license.
One can only dive into cold water so many times and still find it surprising, right?

When nearly warm air was all around (this is Seattle, so I won’t say balmy), emptying myself into a cold body of water was no sweat, literally. It was also relatively pleasant.

Since the weather has turned to chilly and dark, it’s no longer a snap.

As I had last immersed in Lake Washington 10 days prior, I was getting antsy.

Plus, I knew that a friend recently had acquired a wetsuit. The accompanying rubber gloves, he complained, didn’t keep his hands warm. Wow, I thought: If gloves don’t do the trick, am I really thinking of jumping?

I was.

Once I was standing on the dock in Kirkland, I was no longer certain.

There I was, standing on a dock's rough wood in 53 Fahrenheit weather in the early fall darkness.

In two weeks, the dock had changed from busy to empty. The yachts were gone, taken to some warmer spot. From the beach came the wild shouts of a three-year-old boy with his father, as they ran sprints on the sand.

For a moment I thought, well, this is crazy. The night was clear, and colder than usual. It had the hollow-ness of late fall and winter. It had the darkness of Northwest wet season.

Even as I considered turning back, settling on the bench and re-donning my socks, I thought: No, I don’t want to sit at fireplaces all the time. I don’t want the warmth that seeps in and slows my taking chances.

“You must jump in,” I thought. If I didn't do it, I wouldn’t want to take risks -- to leave my warmth, my settledness, my tea with warm blankets.

They’re all good things, don’t get me wrong. But I have to feel the rawness of wind sometimes. I have to take the jump.

So I pushed off from the dock, flailed in dark space for a second, felt myself plunge into the water.
On the dock, I had thought: It may be colder than you’re expecting.

The water was shockingly cold. I thrashed the ten or eleven feet to the metal ladder, feeling that my arms were slower than usual to hit and sink into the water.

Hypothermia wasn't imminent -- but I was more than ready to get out quickly.

The air above the ladder felt almost tropical.

As I sat on the bench and flicked off moisture, I felt indomitable.

This was the me that jumps off docks into cold water.