The forecast for yesterday was solid rain, but that did not materialize. Nevertheless, the river was at least 12 inches higher than might have been expected after a few rain free days so maybe it has been raining up on the moor. It was however quite swimable, though the dipper’s rock was completely submerged and I could get no closer than 5m to the churning water that marked its unseen presence even though I was swimming flat out against the flow.
This morning the level is back where I would expect it though still running too fast at this point in the year to contemplate a loop down to the shallows before a push to the top of the pool. The water is far too fast over the shallows for that to be viable.
The swirling surface of the water is wreathed in threads of mist. There is no apparent sense to it. In some places it streams up off the surface in sheets which drift imperceptibly into the cover of the trees. Elsewhere random puffs of mist inexplicably billow up from the surface as if the river has just exhaled. Each time I exhale I add to the haze. I dip into the river as the church clock chimes seven. The sunrise is as yet no more than a dull glow below the tree line downstream.
It is odd to now swim beneath branches and twigs that were just 12 hours ago trailing in the river. And unlike last night I am now swimming with each stroke advancing me beneath the tree, whereas before it took me ten or more strokes to advance ten centimeters. I am past the apples trees, past the sunken log (not a problem last night but now there to snag an uninformed toe), past the Himalayan Balsam which still hints the air with that slightly sickly odour and past the half submerged branch with just a few forlorn leaves nodding rapidly in some form of St Vitus’s Dance.
I am into the still water and bowling along then out into the full flow again. The Dipper’s rock is there but remains elusive. The current hurls me back downstream into a morning still dark beneath the mist shrouded trees.
On my second return however the sun finally crests the trees downstream and the pool illuminates in a blaze of fire, the tongues of mist now lick upwards scorching the undersides of the leaves with an orange reflected glow. It is dazzlingly bright. I set off back up the pool for the third and final time.
The dawn glory is all over by the time I shoot back down the pool. The sun has cleared the trees and the fire-orange glow has paled to intense yellow-white against a bleached blue background. It has been as memorable as my first equinox swim earlier in the week only now it is on time, or at least on the same day.
I furiously towel dry as the shivers set in, each moment will make it harder to tie my boot laces, but I am layering up as fast as possible. Maybe the trick is to put the boots on first, then get dressed. Tying laces is hardly a precision job, but it does need doing right, whereas putting a hoodie on can presumably be done shivers or not.
Leave that with me until tomorrow morning.