Alone, savouring the freshness of the morning; the stillness and silence. Right foot first, dipping it tentatively into the water, immediately feeling the icy clinch, the rough shapes of the volcanic rocks that lie underfoot; then the left, before pausing to let the body adjust, stopping to absorb the faint heat from the nascent sun. Next come the lower legs, submerged slowly, cautiously, all the way up to the knees, giving out an involuntary gasp each time the water meets a band of previously dry skin, like liquid ice. Crystal clear, below its surface, the skin takes on a jade green tint, pale and cold. Then the thighs, until the water begins to reach the hips, prefiguring the dull pain, the contraction of skin and a numbness that will slowly begin to dissipate as the body grows accustomed to the temperature. Now, shivering slightly as the ripples on the surface begin to lap gently against the diaphragm, the time has come to pause, to take stock, finding solace in the thought that there is still time to turn back, to return to the warmth of the towel that lies discarded on the bank; even though to do so is now impossible, having already come this far.
A pause to savour the essence of the moment, the sun already working its way up into a cloudless cerulean sky, to savour the beauty of the lake and the mountains surrounding it, the imposing mass of the volcano with its snow-capped cone, the contours of the solidified lava flows that once ran down its sides, their course now petrified in black rock, a permanent record from another time. The glent of the water under the sun, now malachite, now emerald, its colour shifting, changing as it runs from the edges where it is still shallow enough to be able to make out the blacks and browns of the volcanic stones, the tint of its hue quickly growing in line with the gradient of the lake bed, until taking over altogether as the rays of light become trapped in its unfathomable depths. It stretches on into the mountains, flooding the basin, the expanse of its surface punctuated only by a small island in the middle, calm and uniform, disturbed from time to time throughout the day by the swaws of small motorboats, replenished throughout the year by the meltwater from the rivers fed by the glaciers that lie beyond.
The minutes pass. The critical moment draws near. Bending over slightly, hesitantly, the fingers skim the water, running across its surface. Perfectly transparent droplets of liquid jade spread out in arcs from the arms like shards of crystal, like the glass tassels on the dress of an exotic dancer. Long-time premeditated, when it comes, the dive takes the scene by surprise, suddenly rupturing the stillness, releasing the tension that has been building up in a moment of shock. In an instant, the body feels the full embrace of the water’s chill, delivered whole to its purity, submerged briefly below the surface, the head rising to be dwarfed by the scale of the landscape before plunging below once more to be cleansed by its magic in a ritual of clarification that leaves the body pure, the mind refreshed, emerging, when the time comes, purged and reborn, to meet with the warming rays of the early morning sun; ready to face the day that lies ahead.