Thursday, December 5, 2013

In search of identity

When in the course of human events it becomes necessary (in my head, anyway) to try and brand the collective stupidity that is swimming our beloved Lake Natoma year 'round, I try. Lord knows I try.

Here's the latest try.

Photog phenom and former college roomie David Middlecamp tipped me to the following:
Curglaff, n. (of Scottish dialect, first recorded 1808): The shock felt when one first plunges into the cold water.
It's an odd obscure word, on a list of other such words making the rounds of the Internet. Since then a number of swimmers from around the globe, with whom I check in through a facebook™© page, have also pointed out the word.

I stole it while no one was looking.

Still futzing with it …
Lake Natoma near Sacramento in California is cold most of the year, though not nearly as cold as the pool and open water which swim friends are now plying in the United Kingdom, where it's at or near freezing. Some of them have created The Shiver Club, in which they videotape the "afterdrop," when blood returns from arms and legs to the body's core some five minutes after a cold swim. Even fully dressed and with hot beverage in hand, swimmers go into afterdrop spasms of uncontrollable shivering.

It's part of the fun.

Trust me.

We haven't had to shiver yet after our swims. Only in the last couple of days has the temperature turned, so water temperature may soon dip. It's hovered around 56 or 57 Fahrenheit the last few weeks, which is reasonable and cozy for those of us so accustomed.

We don't feel curglaff yet, in other words. (I'm now proposing it work as a verb too.)

But we will, and in the spirit of curglaff and its origin, I played with the inspiration of illuminated capital art and celebrated the lake, right down to the green water and egret and geese and the split tail, which makes walking the dog a bit of a chore.

I throw it on the pile of other indentities I've come up with from time to time for the lake, the result of conversations with other of the crazies (though mostly with myself).

I belong to an open water swimming group, vast in membership but much smaller in participation, and the bulk of those swimmers arrive in spring to swim in warmer Folsom Lake, which feeds Lake Natoma.

Usually most of those swimmers will come occasionally to Natoma in mid-summer; with drought and high demand this year depleting Folsom, the Folsom summer regulars had to finish up their season at Lake Natoma, which has been warmer than usual as a result of the low volume.

Some five or six of us swim Natoma all year.

Most of the identities I've fiddled with pay homage to the lake but not its primary qualities, that it's quiet and cold.

Nimbus Flat Earth Society promotes year-round swimming, but Nimbus Flat is just one end of the lake, and we swim at the upper end too. It's called Negro Bar, named for a Gold Rush settlement of African Americans along the American River. People pronounce the name as if it's Spanish — nayh-gro — which fits into California's Spanish and Mexican history. but perhaps you can see the problem using it as an identity.

I think Curglaff Club has staying power. Not that I won't keep talking to myself messing around with new ideas.

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