When I found out I would be traveling to Australia to attend my father’s funeral I went to Walden. Gloves and socks, silk underwear, a neoprene hat and wetsuit, all the protective layers making the preparations as long as the swim itself. The water is now low 50’s and my swim has necessarily become shorter.
My daughter accompanied me. She watched with amusement as I methodically layered neoprene on silk, vaselined my lips and pulled the thick clumsy diving gloves and velcro’ed them tight around my wrist.
Then Kari set out running and I set out swimming and we planned to meet back at the beach and have lunch.
I swam for about half and hour. The silk next to my skin kept me warm, and only my face felt the real bite of the water. So much that when we met back on shore I spoke with a drawl, finding it difficult to make my mouth do what I intended. Kari laughed as we stood in the breezy sunny afternoon taking photos.
The car has become my change room since the temperature cooled, especially on sunny days when it affords more warmth than the cold bathroom block that is Walden’s only shelter. Kari sat in the trunk watching as I stripped layer on layer of wet gear onto the towel I placed on the ground beside it and quickly replaced it with my fleece jacket and jeans.
“Why don’t we just have lunch here,” I suggested. Our time was tight, as is usually the way when the end point of the day is an airport departure.
Since I have been in Fremantle I have been swimming in a 50 meter outdoor pool, slightly heated as the coming summer has not hit full force yet. It was wonderful to feel the water against my skin, to feel I could focus on the stroke, not the continual monitoring of cold against skin that I automatically do to ensure I am not becoming hypothermic….the danger in Walden at this time of year.
But I miss the freedom of the open water. I miss the feeling of utter joy Walden brings, the sense of gliding untethered in an oasis, the reflection of sky and forest and the vivid colors of fall, a carpet rippling from where I disturb the calm of the natural world. And I wonder, will I go back into the cold water when I return to Boston?
I don’t know, but I guess I will find out soon enough….