By Máire Garvey
I went skinny dipping last night. Unplanned and spontaneous. The tide was in, the water was like glass, the evening sun made even those clouds pregnant with water look beautiful, and most importantly the beach was empty. Flash the dog loves the water, and I decided to join him.
Slipping into the water made my whole body go ‘ahhhh’. As I swam, the evening sun warm on my face, the words from one of Leonard Cohens songs kept going around in my head:Going home without my sorrow,Going home sometime tomorrow,Going home to where it’s better than before.Going home without my burden,Going home behind the curtain,Going home without this costume that I wore
While the song is about death, I felt I was experiencing the freedom that he’s talking about. When I immerse myself in the water, there is a cleansing, a shedding, a letting go. Even all of the things going round in my head, all of the things that a short while before that I thought were important enough to drag me back into the office at 10pm, fall silent.
I get many messages from Dippers in the immediate aftermath of a Dip. Many of them talk about the life-affirming qualities of the experience, the joy, the healing, the euphoria. All the nervous excitement immediately prior to the Dip has disappeared, to be replaced by a sense of completeness. Before stripping off and going into the water, I double checked for other dog walkers. Coming out I couldn’t have cared less who was on the beach – I felt like Venus rising out of the water. What is it about skinny dipping that is so powerful? Ineffable Beauty
I always have a sense of oneness when I’m skinny dipping. Maybe it’s as simple as reconnecting with the safety of the womb, where we felt the comfort of being fully supported and nurtured for the first time. Maybe it’s as simple as connecting fully with that which constitutes 75% of our physical being. Maybe those are the only reasons I always have a sense of being ‘home’ when I’m skinny dipping. But surrounded by the ineffable beauty of the natural world, basking in the warmth of the evening sun and the water caressing my body, I felt it as something more; as something sacred, transcendent, a connection with something so vast and wonderful, I am merely a speck on the edge of it. The sense of freedom in that knowledge was intense.
Does doing it with others make it even more powerful, more intense? There is the bonding that takes place when we do it together: being in the water, stripped of our ‘costumes’, makes us all equal, makes us see how much we share. It strips us, for those few moments, of the worries and concerns that are our daily ‘burden’.
We live our lives and do the things we need to do to make those lives happy and rewarding ones. But every so often, we need to remind ourselves that there is more to this life than the things we do. We need to grasp what opportunities come our way to connect with whatever it is we think gave us this wonderful life. And while skinny dipping isn’t the only thing that can bring us home, it sure as hell is one of the most fun ways of doing it.Footnote
: Máire Garvey organised the first Dip in the Nip
in 2009, and 180 women took part and raised over €56,000. Since then, there have been a total of 8 Dips, and so far more than €200,000 has been raised. As well as supporting local cancer charities around Ireland, the Dip in the Nip has set up a Scalp Cooler Fund. Scalp Coolers are pieces of equipment that at least minimise and often prevent hair loss in chemotherapy patients. The Dip purchased its first Scalp Cooler in 2011, which was only the 16th one in Ireland. Some of the reasons there are so few are because hair loss is not a recognised medical condition and because of their cost (each Scalp Cooler costs approximately €22,000). It is one of the aims of the Dip that within 5 years every single chemotherapy patient who wants access to a scalp cooler shall have it.