If I could have today all over again for my escape to Walden I could be happy all winter long. For the first time in days I was not alone in the pond. My car thermometer read 66 degrees, but the sun made it feel much warmer. Already half dressed in my wetsuit, the sleeves dangling by my hips from under my tee shirt, I parked in the section of the car park which I knew to be bathed in sunlight longest. It was just past one pm.
I spotted a swimmer friend immediately, and before I had gathered all my stuff, two bathing caps, silk gloves, choice of two goggles…which ones would give me the best view of the still colorful trees surrounding the pond as I came up from under the blue to watch the beauty of nature to each side…a tub of vaseline to keep the cold from my lips and face, and help insulate my hands under the thin silk gloves, a woolen beanie and a towel, another swimmer who I did not know, but seeing his bare legs under his swim shorts, and the fact he was not wearing, or carrying any protective neoprene, I decided to walk along with. It felt like summer was just beginning again and pond lovers everywhere were gathering to honor the place and pastime we all love best. And yet part of me wondered whether it was the opposite, the last time we would mass to the pond in our swim wear, before we hung our swimsuits and goggles and for most of us, our wetsuits, in the closet for another winter season.
But today, it was all just too delicious to think about.
Of late, my journeys into Walden have cautioned me, through the falling temperatures and brisk winds, to start close to the shore, and that was also my intention today. But the surface of Walden was gentle ripples and the sky above cloudless, and it was too hard to resist heading for the middle, the place where I hear the wisdom of the Buddha speak. Answering questions I have asked in a timespace far removed from the asking.
As with so many swims, I take to the pond all the pain and problems that I and those I love face.
The journey over…once I acclimatize to the thin sheet of Walden that seeps into my wetsuit, and the planks that my feet become (and they in two thin layers, socks of silk and wool) and the smarting stinging palms that reach into the warm air of today only to push through the chilling pond again, as perfect a rhythm as I can make it…seems longer than the advantage of a wetsuit, assisting my glide across the surface, should make it. But I am mesmerized by the feeling of the central force of nature that sometimes strikes me when my brain and my body connect in the knowledge I am in the middle, the deepest part of the pond. I feel elated, orgasmic. It reaches into me and almost at once leaves again and I notice I am now traveling the tranquil surface of a perfectly still flow. Only I disturb the silence of the water. This makes the remainder of the journey across like a breeze blowing me forward and I find myself in the cove they call Ice Fort Cove, doing a sweeping half circle for the return journey.
Now I am thinking of the Buddha, and asking for healing for all the ill that I am, and the pain that I know friends suffer. And it is then that the answer to the question I am not asking appears. This I take to be the magic of Walden. This is why I want to be inside her. This is why the winter is long.
I watch the sun. The tiny ball of silver shine that seems so far from where I swim. Yet shimmers white glistening that touches me in the water in which I live. I watch it and I watch the colors of the leaves and the colors of the sweaters on the people on the beach, as I lift my head to watch them entranced by the place that entrances me. And I know the water is cooling. Cooling to the point that the journey is ending. For despite my wetsuit, the flapping of my feet propelling me, the cold is exhausting and I move with the weight of winter closing in on me.
But I’m just not sure I’m done yet.