Autumn is officially here. The trees are turning and the water is cooling. There’s a distinct nip to the air. My house is full of conkers slowly going mouldy (thanks boys).
I love changing seasons. I think I’d get bored without them. My best friend lived in New Orleans for a while and one of the big things she missed was the changing seasons. Down there it just got a little cooler in winter, from scorching summer humidity to more liveable weather where occasionally you might need to put a jumper on. No distinct difference in the weather or landscape throughout the year. Very unlike the UK where every few months there’s a noticeable change to keep you on your toes.
To me summer and winter are OK but they don’t feel like big harbingers of change. Autumn and spring on the other hand herald a bigger change, a shift to life.
Spring brings the birth of new growth, life and freshness. The vivid greens, more warmth to the sun, fresh spring flowers. Less clothing, shorts, flip flops, longer trips to the park with the boys.
As an open water swimmer it marks the beginning of a new swimming pathway for the year. Swims get longer, layers get shed, the post swim warm up gets easier. Rather than chatting extensively in the car before our swim The Short One and I chat more at the waters edge. I enjoy the birdsong, chat to passing runners and dog walkers and occasionally other swimmers. I love the change, the transition to perhaps busier swims and the start of our organised open water swim sessions with the social side and satisfaction that that brings me.
Autumn brings another kind of beauty though. The turning of the trees. Vivid oranges, reds and yellows. Busy squirrels stealing the very healthy crop of hazelnuts I had on my tree. Squidgy walks, wellies, conkers, sweet chestnuts, acorns and beech nuts. Berries galore. Birds fattening up for the winter. The start of wild windy weather that takes your breath away but leaves you feeling so alive. Snuggly evenings in front of the fire.
And what does it bring to a swimmer?
Cooler water, leaves, twigs and sticks in the water. The addition of more layers when we swim. Vest, gloves, socks maybe the neoprene balaclava. Swimming in the dark. Spotlights. The return of a little pain in the hands and the feet. Ice cream head. More effort needed to warm up after your dip. A bit more thought needed about what kit you’re taking, both for the swim and for afterwards. The days of rocking up with just your cozzie begin to become a distant memory.
Does it sound more hassle than it’s worth?
To many it probably does. To me it doesn’t. As a swimmer autumn heralds the start of a very different approach to swimming outside. No longer about how far or how long I’ve swum for (which I do love about summer) but more about how much of a kick I’ve got out of it. The Zing! I need that Zing in the winter to keep me going. The dark, the cold, too much time indoors over winter doesn’t do my mental or physical health any good.
Autumn for me signals the start of more ridiculous swimming, the sillier, roll around holding your belly kind. Swimming that makes my hands and feet hurt that makes me so cold all over I can shiver uncontrollably when I get out. Screaming, swearing, a spot of operatic wailing as I get in. Laughter, questioning, hesitation. Glassy black water some days, wild white horse water another.
I start to look forward to the few occasions I’ll get to break the ice or enjoy the peace that big fat white snowflakes bring to a swim in the winter. The mornings I’ll have to defrost my car. Snuggling a hot water bottle on the drive home.
I’ve had a hint of some of these already. We’ve had an idyllic starlit, frosty, misty morning swim that brought a smile to my face for a few days. One morning this week felt like the start of Christmas as we watched the tiny little fairy lights of fellow swimmers in the distance. Just writing about it is making me smile.
I shall continue to miss my regular water (Is It Possible To Grieve for Water?) but that loss has led me to explore new places and I can’t wait to get to know them even better over the next few months.
Bring on the Zing!