Polar Plunge

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Written 1.3.17

They seem to appear out of nowhere. And for a moment–whisking across the sky–it looks as though Peter Pan is taking a lightning quick flight across the pond.

But these are not storybook figures. Instead, they’re very real. My daughter is there, as well as our friends, and their families. I think about eight brave souls went for it on this, the Second Annual New Year’s Day Polar Plunge.

Everyone has their own pre-plunge strategy. Some run around in swim suits in the arctic morning air (while the rest of watch, incredulous, from the safety of the deck, huddled in fleece and down). Others don thick, hooded terry cloth robes and strut through the crowd ala Sylvester Stalone. Then there is the athletic approach: warming up in sweats, with running in place, jumping jacks, etc…

Finally, the Master of Ceremonies appears in the hooded bathrobe he rescued that morning from the trash to announce from his station high in the oak tree, “Okay, here we go! Who’s starting this off?”

Up steps the first brave soul, ascending to the platform, grabbing the rope knot, and sitting on the tiny wooden seat suspended below–tensed, ready to propel themselves into the New Year in style.

Then all of a sudden we hear the sound of metal on metal as they go flying across the zipline suspended over the arctic pond. And when they reach the deep center of the water, they do the unthinkable: they let go.

You can see the shock, almost hear the gasp as their body splashes down, registering the collision of (relatively) warm flesh and blood with frigid, unforgiving water. Clearly, that first breath is hard to come by.

Unfortunately, they still have to swim a ways to the opposite shore (a challenge when your entire system has contracted to survive this assault!) But they know that once they make land, a dry towel, warm hot tub, and membership in the Oh-Too-Cool club await them.

Maybe this is what we all need at the beginning of a new year: shedding comfort and stripping our lives down to the simple, bare necessities, then abandoning ourselves to the fear and unknown of new beginnings. I think we could all use some version of this icy plunge–something that pushes us out of our comfort zones and shocks us into a cold, clear, eyes-wide-open state of mind and heart.

So next year I’m sure December 31st will find me trying desperately to drum up enough courage to take the plunge myself. But meanwhile, I’m working on stretching and challenging myself in other ways–hoping to follow the most excellent example of my courageous friends and daughter!

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