“So when you’re in love,
There’s no time and no space.
There’s a permanent smile on your face.
Your friends all complain,
That you’re going insane.
But the truth is, they’re just afraid.
And I say, hey… hey, somewhere…
You threw your fear in the sea of no cares.”
– Sea of No Cares, Great Big Sea
It was the day before St. Patrick’s Day. I watched the sunrise on my way to the sea. Four hours only took me three and three quarters. I was up at 3:30, on the road by 4:00, in the company of friends before 8:00, and viewing the sea shortly after half past.
I was not afraid, just looking. My heart was pounding with simple, excited joy. She is a friend to me, and sometimes a bit of a drama queen with her tantrums and tides. But I think she can be understood, if you take the time.
I had not been in any cold water since Alcatraz. It caught me by surprise, this realization. An entire month? Really? Of no cold water? How could that be?
I was certain it would be no problem, though. I was confident that I could still ease myself into her company. I had so many, many times before. I always remembered to breathe and to swim.
I smiled. To breathe and to swim… Is there much else to life besides that?
I opened the door to my car and the wind slapped my smile right off my face. A stiff 10 mph low 30’s wind simply whisked my body heat away from me. I put my cap on, gathered my clothes and towels for after, and ran down to the beach, followed closely by my dog and my friends.
We had an agreement: They would keep the time. They would watch out for me. I would swim no farther than where it was waist deep. I would come out at 20 minutes, or sooner if I was concerned. But definitely at 20.
The wind was steady, and it worried me a bit. I would have to rush into the water. I couldn’t sing to the sea or take my time or anything. I would have to hurry so as to not get cold too quickly. And hurry I did.
I danced/walked/ran into the water. My shoes were on, so I had to dance/walk/run back out and leave them on the shore. Then I tried it again. I got in about to my waist and stopped. I hesitated, wanting to be sure that the feelings measured my expectations and that I was doing okay. It didn’t seem that cold. I mean, not noticeably different from Lake Shastina’s 43 degrees. It didn’t seem much less, right then, than 45 degrees. Perhaps it was the fact that I had to hurry, or perhaps it was the contrast of the wind. Whatever it was, I obeyed my instincts and dove into the water to start swimming as soon as I could.
Somewhere… you threw your fear in the sea of no cares…
There is something about the sea. There is something about how vast she is. There is something about the horizon. There is something strong about being so small and so vulnerable in such raw conditions. There is something inviting about the wind. There is something forgiving about the transformation of winter to spring.
And there is something about swimming… how can you still swim in water so cold? How does a body do that? It is a phenomenon.
I found myself moving steadily along. Happily. Merrily. Good. Strong. Smooth. Fast. Back and forth in the bay. My dog swam alongside me for a time, and then headed for shore. My friends walked back and forth on the beach, keeping moving themselves.
I could still feel the wind, like hollow hands pushing me now left and, when I turned around, now right. I worried about the wind. I worried about it carrying away any warmth I made through my efforts, but I kept swimming.
…you threw your fear in the sea of no cares…
It had been some time. I stopped and poked my head up out of the water.
“How long have I been in for?” I asked.
“Eleven minutes!” Was the reply.
“Oh okay,” I said.
It seems to me that we said a few more things, and then I smiled, “Are you guys cold?”
I don’t think they heard me. At any rate, I don’t remember receiving a response before I put my head back in and kept swimming.
But suddenly, now, I felt cold. My arms and legs felt like blocks of ice, not like body parts at all. I tried to get myself going again, to warm up again, to move my muscles again. I swam. But I just began to worry about the coldness. The coldness and the wind.
I bunched my hands into fists and found I could manipulate my fingers without trouble. I thought to myself that I must be fine then, and it was all mental and I could probably keep going until 20 minutes was up.
… except that I began to be just a little bit dizzy. I didn’t know this feeling from any prior experiences. It was probably the fact that I had no ear plugs that day and the water was piercing through my ears and into my temples with a resounding shrill. I had managed it well enough, and it didn’t bother me so much once I got used to it, but it could have been the dizziness culprit.
I didn’t want to take the chance of actually needing my friends to help me, and decided shortly after the dizzy feeling began… that I should be done. I swam toward where my shoes were, maximizing my swim time so that I would not have to walk in the wind all wet for long.
I stood up and staggered out of the water, like I had already been partying up St. Patrick’s Day. I seemed to be at the wind’s beck and call, buffeted back and forth. I even lost my footing once and stumbled to my knees. But I collected my feet again and made my way back out from the sea.
…you threw your fear in the sea of no cares…
And I rushed to get myself out of my swimsuit, back into dry clothes and into the heated car out of the wind where my coffee waited – all before I started shivering uncontrollably. I barely made it.
And boy, oh boy, oh boy…. Did I shiver!
It was a solid 30-45 minutes before I stopped. It occurred to me, then, as I was sitting on the couch at my friends’ house – shivering underneath my blankets and layers – that the water was colder than I expected. I jumped online and checked the official temperature.
Huh. Well, that was a new one for me! Coldest, yet.
But I think, probably, with the right assistance and safety measures, and maybe with ear plugs… I think I could swim farther. I think I could probably swim in colder. I think I could probably swim in the sea wherever I find her. In just my swimsuit. If I just plan and train and get to know her.
I think… probably… I could do that!
Hey, hey… somewhere…you threw your fear in the sea of no cares…