Taking the Plunge

Hot, summer days are upon us.  The season is short; too short.  Best to embrace these days while they’re here.  Garden work done…  well, done enough anyway.  It’s never really done.  These are the days you bought a pool for in the first place.  Time to take the plunge.

Jumping into a body of water is always a sensory experience.  First, there’s a quick assessment of what you’re jumping into.  In a pond or in Buzzards Bay I might look for rocks, shallows or perhaps a log that might have drifted into the area that I’m about to plunge into.  Risk assessment is a form of self-preservation.  I’ve plunged from cliffs, off deck railings, and from diving boards into rivers, lakes, the ocean and into pools.  I’ve scraped the bottom on a few occasions, and I’d rather avoid that unpleasant brush with the solids.  My mother tells me about someone in the family who dove head first off a bridge at low tide and died from a broken neck.  My son has a friend who is paralyzed from a similar event hitting a rock.  Best to assess before plunging.  And first plunges into new waters are best performed feet first.

On this day I’m jumping into my pool so I know well the nooks and crannies at the bottom.  Mentally checked that box if you will.  So after risk assessment is comfort.  Just how cold is this water I’m about to plunge into?  I’m not a tip-toer when it comes to swimming.  Cold water is like ripping off the bandaid; the sooner you get it done the sooner you can get to a normal state.  On this day looking into the blue water, I know already that its warm.  So with no further hesitation, I take the plunge!

A feet first plunge straight into the deep end of the pool brings with it immediate rewards.  First, the cooling effect of water embracing your skin.  The water is 10-15 degrees cooler than the air at this point in the day, and that’s enough of a difference to refresh without shocking the senses.  Swimming in the Atlantic Ocean or in a mountain stream this time of year offers a completely different sensory experience when the temperature difference is 30 degrees or more.  Don’t get me wrong, that’s a thrill as well, but the immediate shock of the temperature difference overrides some of the other senses you experience when the temperature difference isn’t as extreme.  Cold water takes your breath away and shocks you right into the moment.  It’s exhilarating in those first moments, and numbing in the next moments.  Depending on your tolerance and the air temperature you may decide to linger or get the hell out.

Back to the pool and warm water plunging, the moment after you’ve broken the surface tension with a plunge brings you into an entirely different environment than the one you just left.  In a dive you might swim forward, but in a plunge its a moment of blissful chaos followed by new sensations.  You may touch the bottom of the pool with your toes.  Perhaps you don’t.  But either way in a plunge you’re floating in aerated water that has changed its state.  Millions of bubbles float around you, and as you drift back up to the surface those bubbles brush up and tickle your skin as they float upward.  I feel like I’m floating in seltzer water at this moment, and as you break the surface and draw a breath the surface boils with air bubbles bursting as the hit the surface.  This is a moment when you feel truly alive.

Swimming underwater brings its own sensory experience.  Different (of course) from swimming on the surface because you subtract everything happening up there and focus completely on what you’re doing and feeling underwater.  In the bay or in a pond you may feel plant life brushing up against your skin or the occasional fish.  This skeeves some people out but it doesn’t bother me.  Floating in Buzzards Bay you may have hundreds of minnows swimming close to you, brushing against or pecking at your skin.  That’s not for everyone I suppose but they’re just using you as shelter from the bigger fish who would snack on them.  But today I’m in a pool and if you do it right you don’t have plant life and minnows brushing up against you as you float in the water.

Moving underwater you feel the water current brush against your skin.  This feeling is almost as exhilarating as the bubbles you felt after the plunge.  Feeling this fluid friction brush your skin as you float underwater has meditative qualities to it as you are very much in that moment and a part of the larger body of water that you’re floating in.  It’s a feeling I try to hold onto as I grudgingly get out of the water after that last swim in the bay or pool at the end of the season.  But lets not think about the last swim just yet.  We all know here that summer, like weekends, is all too brief.   So embrace the moment at hand and take the plunge.

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