19 March 2021 by Julie Tomlin
This weekend brings the Spring Equinox; which in the northern hemisphere is a midpoint, a time when light and dark are balanced, but when the epic battle between winter and spring begins to turn in the latter’s favour, and we move toward lighter and longer days.
In this year of lockdowns, many of us have felt the imprint of the seasons more powerfully than the busier version of our lives would allow. While recognising that this hasn’t been the case for everyone, particularly those working in frontline jobs and those who have lost loved ones, my experience of Winter - a season I have had to work hard to embrace - has been a time of drawing in, allowing life to fit into a new pared back pattern.
Tinctures and syrups made from berries reminding me of the sun-drenched days in Autumn, when I picked them, audiobooks knitting, a cosy throw, candles; these are some of the things that for me made for proper Wintering.
Yet the brightest thread I can trace through this extraordinary, challenging time are the misty Autumn mornings, the grey days, gloriously bright mornings, and afternoons when the sun is just setting that I have been able to get to the nearby lake and occasionally the sea, and swim.
You may be a cold water swimmer already, or chances are that you know someone who is similarly compelled to plunge into cold water in Winter. If you’re the former, you will know what I am talking about and if you’re the latter and are contemplating it, I’d say there is nothing like it, so make sure you begin acclimatising yourself in good time for next winter.
Getting into cold water is an immediate reset, it balances the system and alters the mood: there have been times when I have gone for a swim feeling completely overwhelmed by life and within a few minutes in the cold water, my perspective has shifted.
Do you remember last Spring when it seemed like the birds were singing more loudly? Much of our life reinforces the disconnect between our bodies, our senses, with the world around us. Watching rain fall on the water, hearing the wind, the call of the birds as they arc across the sky, all the time feeling the intensity of the cold and very alive.
Gradually, little by little, the water will warm and while I look forward to the longer, sunnier days, when swimming becomes easier if only because it requires less kit, there is a tiny shred of regret as Spring begins to win the yearly tussle, that the cold dark days are receding.