When the mists rise off the waters of Barton Springs Pool in the early morning after a chill Autumn night, I pad down the old cement steps toward the waters edge. It is auspicious to be here and see the chill water evaporate into the even colder air.
I am snug and warm in the many layers of clothing I wear over my swimsuit. The sun is just rising and glitters on the surface of the springs. I join the tens of thousands of souls who, throughout the eons, have risen with the dawn and been drawn to the shores to do morning ablutions and rituals.
My ritual involves doing Hatha Yoga and meditation under the graceful old pecan trees that grace the waters' edge, swimming, and bicycling home. It's my laid-back triathalon.
Even in the middle of the day now, the summer crowds are gone from Barton Springs pool. A core group of regulars still come, building their reputations as "polar bears." They are my buddies. Most visitors are tourists who walk around but don't take the plunge.
"How do you it, every day, year round?" they ask me.
There are two tricks I use to get myself to swim in winter:
I wear warm clothes, wool in particular, before I go into the pool. As soon as I come out, I quickly dry off and don a warm cover-up. I use a wool poncho, which acts like a portable dressing room. It's important to be able to slip out of the wet swimwear fast and put on dry, loose-fitting garments. Warm moccasins, hats and gloves are valued fashion accessories in this season.
I don't think of it as "cold." Instead, I think of it as "interesting!" When I dive into the water, my skin tingles, my heart races and I live in the present moment. Aside from sexual orgasm, what else can bring such intense physical pleasure? By the time I've swam ten strokes, my body has adjusted and I'm distracted from the thoughts of temperature by the scenes of nature above and below the surface of the clear waters.
See you at the pool.
Karen Kreps is The Good Life "Intimacies" columnist and author of Intimacies: Secrets of Love, Sex & Romance.