|It was so (relatively) mild this year that these people almost seemed sensible|
It says something about the effect that expectations and context and memory have on our sense of present reality that as I made my way to the Lido late this morning I was thinking that it really seemed too warm to take a dip in the Adriatic.
It was about 10 degrees C (50 degrees F).
Of course I
was not about to strip down to a swimsuit and venture into the sea to celebrate the first day of the New Year, but the Lido Ibernisti
were, and the fact that the sun was bright, the sky clear and blue, and the silk long-johns I wore beneath my jeans felt almost unnecessary--these facts deprived the club's annual event of some of last year's thrill. The particular thrill one gets from watching a group of people do something both admirable and absurd, courageous and perhaps a little moronic.
Last year the sun took New Year's Day off. It was cloudy and cold and blustery and as the Ibernisti
filed into a horizonless sea--water and sky one indistinguishable gray wash--it was almost like you were observing some mysterious Druidical rite. At least for me, as I always (vaguely and ridiculously) associate Druids with dampness, coldness, baleful skies and rituals that clearly seem deleterious to one's health.
This year it was like a beach party, with a live band cruelly playing hits from the 1980s and a big crowd, comfortable in their jackets and scarves beneath a cheerful sky.
|Carrying red & white balloons, the Ibernisti make their way from what only appears to be a space station toward the sea|
With the sun warm on my face I wondered for brief moments, "Why aren't I going into the sea today?"
Of course, as a local friend informed me, the Ibernisti
do not only go into the sea on January 1. Starting from the time when lowering autumn chases fair-weather crowds from the shore, the Ibernisti
go into the sea every day, rain or shine, throughout the winter.
They believe that doing so prevents them from getting sick, he told me--a little dubiously.
I didn't think I was up for that level of commitment. At the edge of the sea I took my jacket off and that was as far as I went. I still had on a knit cap, a light thermal long-sleeve shirt, a light flannel shirt, a merino wool sweater and a polar fleece pullover. And the aforementioned long johns.
No, I really don't think I'm Ibernisti