January. 6:00 a.m. Dark. Cold. Backyard. Orange marmalade tomcat, old, devoted.
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I tried, last year, to grow what I called a “karma garden” in my backyard. The hope? To broadcast seeds widely, in great diversity, and let them take over the garden. Failure. The old lawn areas sprang into grassy life, shooting up tall torrents of grass stalks, which eventually browned into standing hay.
The two standouts were a colossal sunflower, which stood proud for three months or so last summer. And, now, we’ve a giant mustard plant and a ton of clover.
The cat is rubbing against my legs. I can hear the whir of the pool-cleaning robot humming from underwater. The dark smells of danger - of raccoons and robbers. I am afraid of the dark.
But with friends, time spent in the dark, time spent in the dark of this very backyard, has been some of the best time I’ve spent.
I once sat with a witty man in a hot tub, flirting but not moving closer. We dared each other to cold plunge into the pool, and we did. I couldn’t believe it. I am not someone who cold-plunges into pools. I’m someone who stays safe, stays prudent, doesn’t dare.
Maybe it was the burgeoning romance. Maybe I wanted to impress him. Maybe I was feeling (a feeling which would become increasingly rare) playful.
I ran to the edge of the pool, in the dark, my skin radiating heat, warmth softness. And I jumped feet first into the icy pool, the water singing my skin like ice knives. I screamed and I laughed and I scrambled up the rough concrete steps of that pool onto the slippery cement of the pool walkway and clambered over wood chips and rotten decking to slide my body back into the warm water of the hot tub.
My friend did the same.
Later that evening I left him lying in a bed and crept across the hall to the bathroom. Something had happened to my face. It was bright red, I mean scarlet, I mean everywhere. Not patches. Just a shining red tomato of a face. I still don’t know quite what happened. Broken capillaries, maybe? Are broken capillaries maybe a thing?
I went to bed slightly in love with the witty friend beside me and slightly horrified at my new red face.
In a few weeks my red face was back to normal. But the memories lasted.
So, amid all of this coziness and habit formation and homemaking, don’t forget to dive into ice. Do it when you’re soft and warm and unresisting, and let the experience of living your life happen. Claim your memories and hold them to your lips, even if every capillary in your face is broken.
Count the number of years that you think you have left. Times them by 365. That’s the
Dive into ice.
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