I feel both exhilaration and guilt as I wade through the crisp brown leaves, winding my way around the green canvas fence and past the replica of Thoreau’s cottage on the way to the pond. It’s November, and for four days this week the temperature has stretched into the 70’s. Wonderful… yet uncanny. The zen like patterns traced in the sand that were freshly imprinted the previous afternoon have been obliterated by a new crusting of leaves. I remember a few weeks back to a time when the leaves refused to fall, instead echoing their discontent with the wind as they clung to the limbs of trees they inhabited all summer. Now they have finally let go, twirling to the earth like graceful dancers or leaping and pirouetting across the dirt in their finale performance. They have let go, but I am not yet ready to.
Despite the warmer days and warm nights the water is not getting warmer. Every day at ‘the wall,’ the meeting place where open water swimmers gather to deck themselves in neoprene, (though some still sport bare skin), there are deliberations as to the current temperature of the water. Perhaps it is 55-56 degrees. All I know is for three days this week, despite the warm air, I register I am cold by the time I reach Sandy Point. Yet I do not turn until I have swum diagonally to the far shore, scalloping around it before retracing my strokes back toward the main beach.
On Wednesday the pond is as placid as glass. The sun gleams down on green blue water. I glide almost effortlessly in my neoprene, though my arms move slowly, weighted down by the cold I sense but did not feel.
On Friday the wind whips torrents of water, swallowing me up every time I raise my head to breathe, slapping my face left, then right. I wait, knowing that as I near Thoreau Cove I will eventually swim into calmer waters. I never do. The wind seems to come from every direction at once. When I do turn to swim back, the waters seem more fierce, more determined to swamp me. Every time I lift my head to look to the right, I see sky through the fractured lens of a wave only inches from and towering over me. But no matter how hard they try, the waves do not down me. I know there is a secret light hovering over me, as white and translucent as the sun masked by a strata of cloud. Ever since I learnt that Jesi swims with me, I am drawn back into the water, where I feel her spirit hovering over me.
Today the temperatures return to more normal levels for November. The wind pushes a backdrop of cloud across the sky, obliterating the blue, until in a mix of color the water and the sky turn to silver. Only a ribbon of green forest separates one from the other. As I crawl back to the shore in long heavy strokes, the lilt of the waves in rhythm with the swaying of my chest and hips, the sun inches along with me, rolling on her invisible tracks in the sky.