In typical Chicago fashion, our weekly Reflections for RIPPLE swim started with a monsoon-style downpour followed by sub-freezing air temperatures. Not a bad way to end a lovely spring-like weekend around these parts. Week 20's fickle rain showers also meant that our swim took place during the evening, adding to the visceral experience of hoping in Lake Michigan's dimly city-lit shoreline.
Reflections for RIPPLE also welcomed a new swimmer, Katie Doehla, to the weekly swim. An avid runner and supporter of our cause, Katie wanted to get a first-hand understanding of our mission to support RIPPLE's charitable work in Malawi. One of the unforeseen joys of these weekly swims has been fellow swimmers appreciation to this endeavor. Despite my often over-detailed accounts of each week, they are a distant second to the actual physical experience of burning off a sweat by way of lake immersion. In that light, a fundamental element present both in Malawi and Chicago of simply sharing moments in person. Fostering that human-to-human connectivity was at the core of each memory I have of my time spent in Malawi.
Prior to departing for our run, the unwelcomed sense of uneasiness and butterflies was very much present. 40'ish degree rain-driven wind meant conditions were doable, but far from ideal. Ironically, sometimes a dry 20-degree day can be more pleasant than throwing rain into the mix: As always, a good hard sweat is priority number one.
Ready to get our run started, Katie and I watched as light rain turned to downpours, tough weather to build up that inner sweat around. However a break in the clouds meant we had limited time to get down to the beach and back before the next big cell broke overhead. Cutting our way through Lincoln Park we made our way to the lakefront to find a strong NE wind and wave action waiting for us, yet the rain had vanished to make way for a distant cloudy and ominous horizon: A dusk reminiscent of a season past.
Our quick swim was tremendous! Neither a chill nor tooth chatter was felt by either Katie or myself. Tough weather for a first swim in my opinion! And of course on our run back, the sky began to open up once more. Reaching our Webster steps, rain quickly consumed the night's air.
Circling back to our point of sharing moments, I would encourage anyone reading this post to consider joining our weekly swim. Reflections for RIPPLE officially ends in Mid-May, and the next month is an excellent time to consider taking the plunge with a bunch of us goofballs. Between my brother Colin, Doug Baker, Gardner Yost, Kyle Sullivan and Katie Doehla, we've all had an opportunity to share one of Chicago's greatest assets (the Lake yo!) at a socially-questionable time of year. And without a shiver among any of us. A redefined comfort level for coping with Chicago's frigid winter weather; but more importantly, a way for us all to connect in a human-to-human capacity. In our tech-laden world, it is this writers humble opinion that we as a society need more emphasis on interaction like this. That opinion wasn't found online or in the app store, but world's away in a community blessed with an abundance of love and interaction with each other.
Our weekly winter swims represent a lovely to way to have a moment in present time. This weekend's swim was especially present-minded, being the first night swim of the season. I know, I know. Night swimming doesn't sound like that good of an idea...but, no matter. Week 19 had a real 'up in the air' feel to it, as Gardner and I both ran in the Chi-Town Half Saturday morning. We had contemplated hoping in after finishing, but we're both battered and already cooled off from our runs. Our choice reflects just how vital a good sweat is before jumping in, and with an already cooled-off body and dehydration setting in, I imagine the swim would've been a real chill'er.
With a Sunday swim out of the picture, Monday night had taken the cake. Getting in after dark seems a pinch daunting at first, but ends up being an enjoyable experience. Less people on the path and the anonymity of the darkness make the whole experience a bit more personal and unique. Temperatures Monday evening were a balmy 48 degrees with a moderate breeze out of the NE. And with the ice finally vacated from the beaches, the only barrier to entry, was the visual darkness and head-on wind.
And oh what a feeling. Taking daylight out of the picture heightens other senses: recognizing the gradient of the beach and its similarity to Mwaya: Or focusing on the distant horizon and the vague line it draws across the sky: Even the air breathes a calmer breathe as the day makes way for night.
In all, a reflection reminiscent of the heightened awareness felt in Malawi, sometimes best left to those on the ground at RIPPLE. In that case, Megan Canning, one of RIPPLE Africa UK employees, presently pursuing her MSc in International Development had these lovely words to share in her recent 2-month stay in Malawi. Below, an excerpt offering insight to said heightened senses and above all else, community:
It is this shared community which leads to love, fulfillment and happiness here at Mwaya. Add to this sleeping under the stars, swimming in the lake, rising with the sunshine, listening to the singing of children, giving in completely to the experience; this is happiness.
Read Megan's complete story here. And as always, donations to RIPPLE Africa can be made below.