What Feels Cold (Day 44)

There were throngs of swimmers at the bulb this morning; more than I have ever seen. Yesterday went from warm to hot and perhaps everyone went to bed last night with the same notion that waking up to a swim was a wonderful idea.

As we clamored into the water with them— some in wetsuits, some skins— Colleen pointed out that our experience of water temperature is an example of how perceptions change given the context. In October, when the water temperature first dipped below sixty, 56 degrees felt very cold. Today, after months of cold that veered into the 40s as recently as last week, our experience of 56 degrees is that it is remarkably warm. 

Anyone who’s ever lived in a cold climate intimately knows this slippery nature of what constitutes “cold.” The same weather that has you layering on sweaters and hats in September, sees you in shorts and a T-shirt in April.

It makes me think of a picture I love: two-year-old Eliza playing with her doll on our deck in Montreal, naked and barefoot with snow piled up around her. After months of the bitter cold, her experience of that sunny day was that it was warm and she was intent on getting out into it.

Eliza in Montreal, Spring 2005

That’s what we swimmers at the bulb were like today. We swam and swam. We swam like it was an August afternoon. Some stayed in for more than an hour. We stayed in for forty-five minutes (I think—I forgot to press stop on my Garmin). As we were getting dressed afterward we were dreaming about longer swims, setting goals, and making plans. Prematurely, I’m sure. This strange heatwave will end soon (I hope). The temperatures will plummet again and we will be back to whooping and hollering our way into the cold. 

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