Resigned to the fact that this was unfortunately a restless night lacking any quality sleep, I roll lethargically over to the beside table and switch off the alarm. I'm not surprised to see there are still 15 minutes remaining until it is set to go off. Afraid to close my eyes and fall asleep, I sit upright in my bed. The anticipation of a swim is unlike anything I have ever experienced. The level of anxiety, nerves and excitement is so uncomfortable, it can at times feel unbearable. Ironically it is precisely during this novel window of time when I feel most magnificently and wholly alive. And in these final hours before I jump in the water, I have no choice but to sit with these emotions as they overtake my body. As uncomfortable as this is, I instead try to savor the goodness of how oddly wonderful it makes me feel. Needing a few minutes to listen to my standard internal monologue before getting out of bed, I cup my hands to my mouth, inhaling and exhaling deeply. As I breathe I remind myself that I can do this swim, I have trained for this swim, and I am going to do this swim. I also remind myself how much I crave these aquatic adventures.
Interspersed within my monologue is the videotape of last night's dream – or rather nightmare – playing over and over in my mind. In this panicked replay it is 8am when I finally wake up. As the morning sunlight filters through the open curtains I forgot to close before retiring to bed the night before, I squint my eyes to take a careful look at the time on my wristwatch. Gasping with disbelief, my jaw suspended open, I consider the consequences. Instinctively grabbing my phone, I notice there are 15 missed calls. I hurriedly navigate to voicemail, and click play on the latest message. “Kim, I’m afraid we waited as long as we could. I hope you’re ok but it looks like you’ve overslept. You’ve missed your opportunity to swim. I don’t know what else to say. Call me when you get this. Andy.”
Grateful this is not reality, I launch out of bed in my pajamas, turn on the light and slip my feet into my cozy Ugg boots one last time. Following a mental checklist, I attempt to be as ready as possible before waking up Melissa. Preferring to be settled into my swimsuit and bundled up in sweat pants, sweater and woolen hat ahead of time, my gear is on. Hopefully my internal furnace begins to fire and I retain as much warmth as possible before having to undress on the boat and jump in the water. “House-keeping!” I joke as I knock on the door of Melissa’s bedroom at 2am. I hear a very groggy “good morning.”
An excited and nervous wreck, my hands tremble as I sip tea from a mug. Melissa snaps into action and is ready in a matter of minutes. A quick last minute check on the piles of gear that surrounds us, and it is time to go. Walking out of the caravan I notice how crisp the cool air feels. A low mist hangs protectively over the park. As I trudge along the dewy grass in my Ugg boots (which are at least a size too big), past the caravans belonging to the older non-swimming folks, I break out into a nervous fit of giggles. Melissa follows suit. Hopefully we didn't wake anybody. We load the car, and drive slowly off the Varne Ridge property.
Shrouded in fog, the narrow two-lane country road is empty. Passing through a roundabout, just before the motorway directs us to Dover, we spot a fox crossing the road. I slow the car and watch with wonder as this creature moves stealthily across the asphalt. The fox comes to a halt halfway across, just to the right of the car. As he turns his head to look back at us inquisitively, I stop the car. Staring at us, just 15 yards away, his stance is calm and non-threatening. Winding down my window, in an effort to communicate in some way, I say gently "Hey buddy." The fox continues to stare, not the least bit bothered, before sauntering along into the darkness. Melissa and I are both affected by this uncanny encounter and wonder what it could possibly mean. We are hopeful the fox is a good omen.
Finally we arrive at the Dover Marina where the boat is located, a full 10 minutes ahead of schedule. To our immense surprise, the fox returns to us via the last song playing as I park the car and turn off the engine. “Precious Little Diamond,” a Euro disco song from the 80s by Fox The Fox is playing, allowing us a few more minutes to ponder the significance of our fox encounters.
I guess "I leave it all to you…”