The plan was to swim on the winter solstice, but having committed to swimming every week and not making it in to the water before today, plans changed and solstice eve it had to be. This also meant we were able to meet in a small family group of the permitted six, outdoors, and so there was an opportunity for others to join me in the water, including my Niece and Brother-in-law.
Lots of water has gone in to Windermere this week, raising the level of the Lake at least three feet and removing access to the jetties and the boat house, all of which have quietly disappeared beneath the water. Celebrating the shortest day and the longest night is bit of a tradition for our family, knowing we’re turning back towards the light is helpful, particularly in this dark moment where fear is the prevalent mood, and connections between ourselves, others and nature are curtailed.
Without acclimatisation getting in the water at this time of year can be hard work, but they both swam throughout the summer and today showed a level of commitment I hadn’t expected. This willingness to be uncomfortable was amplified by the rain and hail that followed, meaning none of us need to have bothered getting in the lake. The darkness that enveloped us moved unremittingly across grey water, as if the lake were evaporating before us, stair-rod hail stifling our celebratory fire and stinging flesh reddened by cold water. It felt fittingly bleak and joyously life affirming, feeling rather than thinking. More rain to level the lake higher, and a remedy to the Rainbow that had captured us on the way to meeting up.
Staying outside, sheltering under the tail-gate of the van, cooking, eating, drinking coffee and hot chocolate, getting wetter, a little colder, some of us warming up, eating cake.
Like photographs, there’s little you can keep of these moments, only reflections – of surfaces, space and light, feelings and emotions, recognition of pain and difficulties, but not resignation, just a desire to stay on, outside in the rain and cold, where these connections to each other, to the water and earth, can still be nurtured.
I am completing this project to swim in water under 10C for ten minutes throughout the winter, donating £10 every time to Cancercare, a wonderful local charity that has supported thousands of people in North Lancashire and Cumbria.
Should you have the means and feel able to donate to Cancercare, you can do so here:
Huge thanks to those of you who have already donated. Please feel free to claim cake soon!
If you want to follow this project via the blog all you need is an email address to be alerted to new posts.