Oh swell, I
thought as I got back into my car. I'm about to risk spending a purple eternity
in a marble orchard with a woman named Angel.
Down on the lake
a bearded man was cutting blocks out of the ice with a chain saw.
staircase for the Polar Bears," he said, pointing to the half-finished
structure that descended the bank to the lake. It was impressive. Small Doric
columns of ice supported the fancy frozen banister. The light from a trailer
parked by the side of the road cast a dramatic light on the ice, imbuing the
staircase with a milky glow.
where they swim?" I asked.
There was a small
area about the size of a swimming pool where the currents prevented the water
from freezing over. I walked to the shore, knelt down and put my index finger
in the water. I might as well have stuck it in the mouth of a snapping turtle.
I couldn't see what color my finger turned, red, purple or plaid. It was so
dark I could barely see the mountains on the other side of the lake. About 100
yards from me, the outlines of the summer sightseeing boats iced in at the town
pier only emphasized the fact that it was winter, that it was the time of year
to approach the lake wearing skates, not a bathing suit. My finger throbbed
slightly, drying in the night air.
The chief of
police was in the trailer with a few people, including a woman and her chubby
8-year-old son. They said they went in every year.
"Last year I
had a hard time getting in," said the boy. "I just couldn't get my
blood going. But when I finally got in. I stayed in 20 minutes."
smiled. "I had a hard time getting him out," she said. "You know,
the secret to swimming in cold water is to not let your muscles tense up. If
you panic you squeeze the air out of your body."
going in again tomorrow?" I asked the chief of police.