Take My Breath Away: Plunging into the icy Atlantic

The rites of spring celebrate the end of winter, and after the winter we just had I celebrated each one with extra relish.

I welcomed the forsythia blooms like a long lost friend. In the garage, I happily moved my lawnmower into the snowblower’s prime spot. I didn’t even get that upset the first time I was swarmed by black flies. It all meant the God-forsaken thing called winter 2014-15 was over.

Or was it?

Last Saturday my cousin posted a picture on Facebook of the ground in Caribou, covered with an inch of freshly fallen snow. Seriously?

Somehow, the next day, I was swimming off the coast near Boothbay. Improbable? Yes. Only in Maine? Maybe. But this time of year nothing cleans off the cobwebs of winter like a quick dip in the ocean.

FAHRENHEIT 45.1, "Come on in, the water's fine!"

FAHRENHEIT 45.1, “Come on in, the water’s fine!” (Photo credit: Chris Newton)

It helps if it’s really hot out, but you may not have that luxury. Whatever the case, there is usually some hesitation at the water’s edge. Maybe it’s a teeth-chattering memory or fear of the murky unknown that makes you stop, but the best strategy is to jump first and ask questions later.

As you finally take the plunge, time slows. Awareness becomes experience and you hit the water.

With your body shocked, brain high on adrenaline, lungs convulsing, hands grasping at seaweed, panic sets in. “This was a bad idea” you think amid a thousand other thoughts. But it’s too late for regrets. As you struggle to take a deep breath you are incredibly present, and numb. Finally you “swim” back to shore and awkwardly emerge from the water like the first biped.

But if a long winter dulls the blade, the cold water brings it back to a razor’s edge. Clear-eyed and alive you’re taking huge gulps of air. The sun and a dry towel are your friends, winter a distant memory. Invigorating, exhilarating, primal and messy, the first swim of the year is a singular experience.

Is it weird to welcome summer by jumping into freezing water? Whatever, I’m just glad it’s not snowing.

Hunter Smith

About Hunter Smith

Hunter lives in Bangor with his wife and two kids. He works as a Christmas tree farmer and enjoys being outside...most of the time. Originally from Dixmont, he is a UMaine graduate, Red Sox fan, and Scorpio. Although sometimes restless, he is never bored.