|Original photo by Anita Boyle.|
Played with Photoshop to create composition.
It has been a wanting wish for ages. I have slowly been building up for this inevitable dream come true. It was just a matter of time. I have been teaching swimming 8 hours a day in a very cold pool then working at another pool were we teach during the winter months. I suppose I was training the whole time, preparing myself for the full body wet suit experience.
The day of the event would be the longest dark day of the year, the winter solstice. It was fitting, as 2020 was the darkest year I have lived. I imagine for you too— dear reader, that this has been your darkest year as well. It was time to take the ultimate bath.
I wanted to do this alone. I didn’t want a group of folks hollering and cheering beside me. I wanted a rebirth that was quiet. I wanted to face my sixty year old self alone. The good, or the bad I wanted to rely on me, I wasn’t going to be a victim or a persecutor. I didn’t need rescuing. This wasn’t a drama.
This was me having a test of courage and a personal baptism.
I have been preaching to folks my whole life to soar. Spread your wings, rise above the cloud layer. When in reality I should have been preaching for you to swim. As swimming is as close to soaring as you will ever get. There, in the water, in that non-gravitational place of fluid is your sky. You soar.
I stood beside the car, preparing for the swim. I had donned my booties with their thick rubber soles. I had tucked the booties up under the long leg of the wet suit. I pulled the wet suit up and pushed my hands through the neoprene. Then I slid on my San Francisco YMCA swim cap. It says:”I swam around the world.”
I smiled as I placed it upon my head. I worked at the best YMCA in the world. Courtney was the BEST aquatics director on the planet. Oh how I loved those folks! I had the swim cap of love upon my head. I had the angels of adventure warm in my heart. It was time to swim in the Irish Sea.
The storms of winter had brought sea weed up over the concrete ramp. It was inches thick and slippery to walk upon. Anita and I held on to one another as we walked toward the sand. The wind was calm, the sea was easy as she rolled her gentle waves upon the shore.
No one was on the beach, summer was out of reach. It was grey like my wet suit. Dull. I gave Anita a hug and she wished me well. She got out her camera and I started walking toward the water.
My rubber booties protected my feet from the cold, the first hint of icy water was at mid calf height. The water was icy and hot at the same time. The strangest feeling of fire and ice. The liquid seeped into the wet suit up my spine and I smiled at the extreme feelings of being alive.
Fire and ice. Turning my body so the wave would split easier upon my body. Fire and ice. Walking into the water. Chest level now. Fire and ice. Breathe. Now it is deep enough to swim. Breast stroke. Fingertips sliding into the water.
OH MY GOD.
My hands didn’t have protection. Oh Dear Lord. It was like dipping my hands into dry ice.
You've seen the science experiment where a live rose is dipped into the liquid nitrogen- that flash freezing was happening to my fingers. I instantly decided I needed to swim back to shore. I expected to raise my hands from the ocean and see nubs. No fingers, no blood -just frozen stubs.
As I turned to swim back to shore, I reached down with one foot. Certainly I could reach the bottom. I wasn’t THAT far out. “Dear Lord I am much further out than I thought.”
As that point the voice that always talks to me, the all knowing me, the smart and intelligent me said; “Oooooooooh you do want to live.”
I replied back: “Well of course I do.”
The highest me wouldn’t let this idea drop;”Have the tides changes? Have you been pulled out very very far?”
“Where ever I am. I must kick and pull my way back to shore with purpose.”
The highest me asked; “Shall I swim diagonal to the shore?”
“Perhaps.” So I did, the swimming became easier as I swam toward my Love standing on the shore. She couldn’t see my worried face. She didn’t know my fingers were numb. So I kicked and swam hard, the booties were bulky. But, I was so glad for them.
Finally, I reached down with a foot and could touch the sand. Both of me said: “Dear Lord, thank you for this strong body.”
I loved the waves that pushed me forward. They felt like angels. I was grinning from ear-to-ear as I stepped back to dry sand.
I have never felt more glad to be alive. Okay. I said it. There is nothing more gratifying that being glad to be here on this earth.
Somethings I have learned from this adventure.
1) The survivalist voice shows up, maybe it is the guardian angel we all have. That we don’t know we have until our heart beat quickens in near panic mode.
2) My heart is strong. If there were ever a moment when my heart had an opportunity to kick the old bucket, it was when my hands felt like they were in liquid nitrogen.
last. I WANT to be alive. I don’t want to just exist. I want to live fully! I want adventure in my life.