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Ice Bathing, an experience in Words : for your 2023 Bucket List

Updated: Jan 4

Ice bathing POETRY "burning haibun" Series by Mirjam Mahler


I tried ice bathing in a cold lake for the first time on a January morning because I wanted to write a poem about an adventure. I had been thinking about the prompt for a few days, but there were no new adventures in my life and I didn’t want to write about something from half a decade ago.


The lake was partially frozen and the air temperature was just slightly above freezing. I joined a group of experienced ice bathers and we did some warming up exercises and guided breathwork. Since the group was quite large not everyone could go in at the same time and I had to wait my turn. As soon as I stepped into the lake the cold took my breath away. A friend with more ice bathing experience noticed and commended „Breathe! Breathe! Breathe!“. The cold felt incredibly painful. I could not relax into the feeling at all. After a few minutes I fled, searching for warmth but it took me a long time to get dressed with my frozen clumsy fingers. I felt the cold lingering in my bones all day. This had been something to try, an adventure, but not something I felt like repeating or turning into a habit.


I go swimming in lakes all summer long but didn’t return to that lake until the first days of fall when it was still quite warm. The ice bathing group had continued being active and I decided to join them again after I had been ignoring their messages all year. I liked the idea of being a person who does ice bathing just like I liked the idea of being a person who does yoga or triathlons. This time the warming up exercise felt like a bit of a joke, the water was warm and I ended up going for a long swim. From then on I returned almost every Sunday.


October had been unusually warm and getting into the lake was not really a challenge. I learned to let go. As I stepped into the water I had a vision. I have a photo of my grandmother as a young girl in a bathing suit with short hair and a fresh face and a look full of confidence and I felt her next to me cheering me on.


I can do this.

The next Sunday I was filmed slowly emerging from the water, calmly picking the seaweed off my shoulders. I looked so calm and content.


Since the twenty minute drive to the lake seemed a bit of a waste for the few minutes I spent in the water I added a morning run along the river before the dip and I listened to audiobooks while I greeted the ducks, swans and even an occasional heron.


I enjoyed these excursion, the transition from movement to stillness.




On the first Sunday in November I drove to the lake in a foggy cloud and could hardly see the river on my run.


This time the group of ice bathers was quite large and introductions and explanations took a long time. By the time we undressed I was freezing, the sweat on my skin now making the cold almost unbearable.


As the big group walked towards the water I went off to the side and found my own private space and an unhindered view of the foggy surface. This time the water felt much colder, but as the liquid embraced me and I watched the ripples from my body on the water’s surface I felt greeted.


You have arrived.


What started as an adventure is emerging into a new way of experiencing nature and my body.





tried

ice bathing

took my breath

cold lingering all day

not


return

let go

vision grandmother cheering

I can do this

calm


added

morning run

movement to stillness

liquid embraces, ripples surface

greeted




tried

ice bathing

took my breath

cold lingering all day

not


return

let go

vision grandmother cheering

I can do this

calm


added

morning run

movement to stillness

liquid embraces, ripples surface

greeted


ice bathing took breath

let go, movement to stillness

liquid embraces



A burning Haibun is a poetic form invented by Torrin L. Greathouse. In a burning haibun,the poet writes a prose poem, that erases into a poem, that erases into a haiku.
This prose melts into an elfchen chain poem that melts into a haiku.


ice bathing haiku - yearn for adventure


yearn for adventure

took a dip in frozen lake

overcame with pride




ice bathing elfchen - emerge


emerge

cold liquid

infusing calm energy

melting away hot anxiety

renewed




ice bathing haiku - going to the lake


going to the lake

dip into the cold liquid

meditation heat





Meet the Author:

Mirjam Mahler finds great joy in reading the words from others and in helping others find their words. She was born in Berlin, Germany, raised in Madrid and Barcelona, Spain, attended university in Santa Barbara, California, USA and in Barcelona and is now living in the south of Germany. Mirjam offers workshops to introduce others to the short form poetry she love and hosts four book clubs in two languages. Her poems have been published in three anthologies in 2022 and she is working on publishing her own collection.

Connect with her at @mirjamwrites on Instagram


(Images sourced from Pinterest - credits to rightful owners)





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