February 26 - Cold Water Plunge
The piercing blue water was much colder than I expected—so cold that I thought my heart will stop—and maybe it did for a second.
Write about cold water.
Back in 2012, I was so brokenhearted, I had to flee Los Angeles. It felt like a prison and everything reminded me of the man who broke my heart. At my cousin’s wedding, I ran into an aunt and uncle who lived in Oregon and they told me to come up and visit them to clear my head. I took them up on it immediately.
As part of my weeklong brokenhearted healing retreat, my aunt and uncle took me to all their favorite places in South central Oregon. We swam in Castle Lake and hiked up to Heart Lake and meditated overlooking Mt. Shasta. They took me on drives along the Rogue River though huge forests.
As a woman who had been grinding it out in Los Angeles for years, surrounded by folks who talked about nothing but people, places and purses, the break from the competitive atmosphere and the city was a relief. I stared in awe at the majesty of the trees. I had forgotten the healing power of nature and I was soaking it up.
“These trees are huge!” I said. I felt like a kid again.
But snobbery isn’t something you can escape; it just takes different forms.
“These are second growth trees,” my aunt scoffed.
My uncle chides her playfully. “Let Bridget enjoy the trees.”
“I’ve seen better,” she yawns. She’s as bored as a tour guide on safari and I was the virgin tourist, seeing her first impala.
At last we arrived at our destination: Crater Lake. I had no idea what to expect. I figured a lake is a lake but Crater Lake is one of those natural wonders that has to be seen to be fully appreciated. The blue is an intense royal blue. At about 1900 feet, it’s the deepest lake in the United States and the seventh deepest in the world. Because of the depth and clarity, the longer rays of the color spectrum (like the reds) get absorbed and the shorter wavelengths (blue and indigo) are reflected back.
The lake is located in a caldera which was formed around 7,700 years ago when Mount Mazana erupted and collapsed into itself, which felt like a pretty perfect metaphor for my heart. It had burst and imploded and it was filled with frozen tears.
But in the course of that week, something was beginning to shift. The grief lifted—even if for a moment—and more importantly, the belief that I was going to feel broken forever. One of the most damaging, pernicious lies we tell ourselves when we are in the darkness—is that it will always be this way.
The sun will always rise. Immersed in nature I’m reminded of the only truth: Everything changes all the time. All things pass. My broken heart will heal. I’ll move on. Age. Be reborn. Until my time is up and I pass through.
We take the tour of the lake and Wizard Island. I admire the dikes known as the Devil’s Backbone. Geography has always captured my imagination, another reminder of my puniness. The eruption of the volcano was so massive it sent a cloud of pumice and ash that reached all the way to central Canada. Forces of nature dwarf my adorable self-centeredness.
The grief and rejection I had been wallowing in were all-consuming. All my dreams had been abandoned. I’d wrapped myself in a cocoon of self-pity and stayed there so long, I forgot who I was. Self-pity is dangerous. Depression feeds on self-pity. It uses it to rationalize the lies your brain is telling you in your own voice. I’d allowed those thoughts to grow sturdy roots. Nothing anyone could say could penetrate the shell of self-hate.
It took nature to break me open. After our tour of the lake, we stopped at the dock.
“I’m going in,” said my uncle. “You coming?”
There are not rivers or streams that feed Crater Lake. It’s all mostly rain and pure melted snow. And it’s freezing. But it’s July and the air is hot. So I stripped down to my suit, inhaled a deep breath and took the plunge.
The piercing blue water was much colder than I expected—so cold that I thought my heart would stop—and maybe it did for a second. The shock of the cold took my breath away. Under water, I opened my eyes. The water was perfectly clear, so clean I opened my mouth and drank some. Ice cold, pure water permeated my being. I came to the surface and for the first time in months, heart pounding, I felt alive.
Spiritually cleansed by the magic of Crater Lake. Reminded that I wasn’t some shell of a woman, dead inside, but still very much made of flesh and heart and blood. This shock to my system was exactly what I needed; it was like the universe slapped me out of my spell and from that moment on, my path changed.
As I put my clothes back on, reinvigorated for the first time in a long time, against the back drop of this water-filled pockmark on the earth, something else caught my eye. At first I thought they were leaves, then I thought it was pieces of paper—it’s took me a minute to realize it was thousands upon thousands of white butterflies. “Blues” to be exact. They were everywhere. Surrounding me. Visual reminders of transformation and the fact that ‘this too shall pass.’