Every New Year’s Day for the past three years, I’ve donned my hot-pink swim-skirt and run helter-skelter from a small beach on Bellingham Bay into the icy-cold waters waiting just beyond the tide line.
One year I did go all the way under, but despite the vocal and gung-ho enthusiasm from the gaggle of Lady Polar Bears (and occasional ursine gentlemen) that I’m typically rushing into the water with, I usually freak out about the time the saltwater reaches my chest, and do a quick about-face back to the beach and my oversized towel.
While I’m all for the sense of renewal that comes from freezing my tush—and other assorted body parts—by baptizing myself in a frigid body of water, I’ve come to realize it’s the camaraderie of gathering with friends on the first day of the year that draws me back to this litter-strewn beach every year.
I’m guessing tradition also has something to do with it. That must explain why the annual Polar Dip at Lake Padden and the Birch Bay Polar Swim—which is celebrating its 30th year this New Year’s Day—are so popular. I also think that with so many more “plungers” taking part, it’s probably much more difficult to extricate yourself from the pack and turn back toward the beach.
I’d almost decided to opt out of this year’s Lady Polar Bear Dive when I received an invitation from the friend who started this tortuous, yet somewhat exciting, tradition. “Come wash away your tawdry sins with the crash of bracing, icy brine!,” she wrote. “Your feathers will be dampened, your tiara will shine with ocean sparkle and you will emerge anew, refreshed and ready to take on the coming year in full lady polar bear glory.”
I don’t know about you, but these words (somewhat) galvanized me into thinking that perhaps this year I’d go for the “full plunge” again. Then I remembered that, two days after 2013 begins, I’ll be in a plane on my way to Hawaii, where the water is warm and the air is sultry and I won’t have to immerse myself in a hot tub or steaming shower to try to bring feeling back to my extremities.
But even if I don’t go all the way under, I’m dedicated to at least dipping my toes—or, heck, both my feet—in the bay. That’s got to count for something, and the sooner we all get out of the water and back to my warm house for a bacon waffle potluck and mimosas, the sooner I can get back to the business of being appreciative for the chance at making the most of another year.
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