From the Redwoods to Galilee

So, we know it’s not my first time, in fact as well the ‘events’ that I’ve previously posted about, I’ve experienced a couple of other wild swimming excursions. I spent a summer working in California as a student, and after trekking into the Redwood forests one day, came upon a very deep, icy cold pool with a waterfall (well a water drip – think the ‘I’m a Celebrity Get Me Out of Here’ shower) running into it. We were an international bunch, so suffice it to say not all nationalities embraced the opportunity. In sterotype-tastic fashion: Americans? – you gotta be kidding. The Scandinavians – of course, in and naked before anyone else had time to consider. Irish? To be sure. British? Some with a mixture of prudishness and fear masked as cool indifference, some with a jolly hockey sticks ‘righty ho in we go’. I was straight in there. Obvs. But then I am technically actually Irish not British…

It’s something about the cold that makes is so so invigorating – after the pain subsides, when you get out and your body tingles all over and feels alive in a way that few other experiences (narcotics aside) can replicate. It was circa 1992 that summer in the Redwoods, and although I didn’t catch the cold water bug properly until many years later (along with about a million others), something always stayed with me.

Fast forward a couple of years, and I’d given up my post-university career path in finance (maths degree, training as an insurance underwriter, life predicated on calculating the financial liability of other people’s misery…) and had buggered off to live on a kibbutz where there was no exchange of money at all, and life was predicated on supporting the community, working outdoors and self-sustenance. As a way of life, it was quite remarkable, not just in ethos, but in daily routine. Starting work at 0500 due to the intense heat of the day, working in the fields fertilising date trees, or in the kitchens prepping for feeding the (not quite) 5000, repairing the buildings, tending the chickens etc… and finishing at lunchtime. In the heat of the afternoon, there was a natural sanctuary on the kibbutz land called the Sachne. I can’t remember what the word meant, but the mighty Google tells me it means ‘hot pools’ in Arabic. I don’t have any of my photos, as in those days we used to just experience things instead of posting them (how quaint) but it is forever etched in my memory, and I have found some images online. A beautiful, still, warm pool, that felt spiritual in a way that’s hard to describe. These days I can extol the virtues of cold water all I like, (and oh, you can be assured I will in due course) but let’s face it, a warm swim is quite dreamy. The water was full of fish, so I was having fish pedi’s way before the glitterati decided they were in, and then out of, vogue thank you very much (and before low budget spa imitations were responsible for gross mass transfer of foot diseases). But back to spirituality…

During my time in Israel, I also had the chance to visit the Sea of Galilee – Lake Tiberias. I didn’t swim there – I’m sure that would have been construed by my indoctrinated inner Catholic as some form of heathen practice, but I sat on the side with my toes in the water. It was unbelievably profound, and in the days where mindfulness wasn’t even a word, and meditation was something only attributed to monks, I think I experienced that feeling for the first time. Contentment, peace, calm, and a true ‘oneness’ with the surroundings. Whatever your belief system, there is some weird, primal, indescribable spiritual connection with water, and the tranquillity of a lake meeting the wild energy of the sea in a place like Galilee is quite something.

Thoughts of today: Maybe I should finally sign up to that mindfulness class. As long as it doesn’t conflict with open water swim night… or maybe I can swim to classes...?


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