A couple of days ago, Kevin and I decided to cut our trip short and head back to California for New Years. Kevin’s been away for over a month and is missing home and I love the idea of doing my last swim of the year in my home waters of the Albany Bulb. So, today was our last day in England.
We all woke at 5:00 because Hazel and Eliza were heading home today. Kevin took them to the train and got them pointed in the right direction for Heathrow while I headed back to Hampstead Heath. This time I mapped my route in advance, but still managed to get lost.
I opted for a bus this time and though I’d noted the stop I was to get off at (and the adjacent stops), once I was on the bus, all the names seemed to have changed. I don’t have any Internet when I’m in London (which is why my posts are always late), so all I could do was try and make my best guess as to when to disembark.
Even though it was 8:00 am by now, the streets were dark and gloomy; a steady light rain fell. I wandered aimlessly and began to get cold, regretting my clothing choices (why didn’t I wear my woolly socks today??). This time, I was so lost that I couldn’t even find Hampstead Heath, which was a definite downgrade from my previous wanderings.
Eventually, hallelujah, I found it. And once I was in the Heath, I knew right where I was and it wasn’t far from the Ladies’ Pond.
I hurried over and the moment I entered that calm oasis, a sense of serenity washed over me. I quickly changed and made for the waters. There were many more people today. Women in small groups chatting and laughing. The camaraderie was palpable and lovely to see.
A sign informed me that the water was 5 degrees today; a full two degrees warmer than when I was last here. As I slipped into the water, I could tell. It felt welcoming and comfortable. I swam further out than I had in previous swims. The dark green water, glistening and thick, nearly black, buoyed me along. An egret flew by. Ducks and cormorants chattered around me. It was still raining and the droplets of water made ripples in concentric circles on repeat. I had the sense that this was a wild place where we humans were offered a fleeting glimpse.
Afterward, I kept up the consistent pattern of being lost in the heath. I was a bit cold so opted to walk to the other side of Hampstead Heath where I knew I could get a warm drink, a little breakfast, and catch the underground. But, of course, I got there in the longest way possible.
The problem, I’ve decided is that Hampstead Heath is rife with interesting pathways and fascinating snickets; I just keep taking a new one and ending up somewhere unexpected.
I think it may be enchanted.
I did eventually get hot tea and porridge.