i can see the sunrise glittering off the lake as i get closer and closer, running with all my might. the breeze is in my hair and chilling the tips of my fingers and i can barely feel my feet in their heavy winter socks as they hit the ground one after the other, slipping and crunching through the frosty grass. my shoes have long ago been forgotten, left to fend for themselves somewhere between my front door and here, on the road to paradise.

the world is waking up slowly, reluctantly. the trees take deep breaths of fresh morning air and the first glimpses of flowers are visible under the cold hard winter soil. all of these are precious pieces of the puzzle we call Spring, and every organism shyly turns its face toward the sun, grateful for its warmth. we have all been waiting.

i am freezing and laughing and spinning and my feet hit the ground so delicately it feels like i might somehow take flight, be momentarily relieved of gravity. i can see the dock in the distance, shiny with early morning frost and bathed in the orange light that can only be found right here, in this tiny town, right now, at five forty-seven in the morning. I’m shouting and whooping and running for it, knowing just what i’m going to do.

off comes my long skirt. it falls to the ground in an unceremonious heap and sulks, silently begging me to let it come along. my thighs, exposed, are icy hot and turn scarlet as the capillaries break, as serotonin floods my brain. i am giddy and young and free.

my blouse is up over my head and i fight a short, spirited battle, trying desperately to wrestle myself loose. i hear a sharp tear and know i will mourn this later but right now i’m running and moving and all i can think of is the water; how it will feel as it wraps around my breasts and ankles and knees and hair.

i unclasp my bra and, hopping and stumbling like a lunatic, pull off my heavy socks one by one. i shriek as my bare toes come into contact with the earth, and i know there isn’t any moment more beautiful, more meaningful than this one. i loop my thumbs through the lace of my underwear and pull it off with a sharp tug. i step over it, breathing hard, and pause.

this is the world. i am in it. i am a part of this vast expanse, part of this heartbreaking landscape that is too big and beautiful for my tiny heart to comprehend. my breath makes small clouds in front of me and i am contributing to the atmosphere, adding my own carbon dioxide, a gift to the earth. my groin is cold and timid, not used to this exposure, this all-encompassing cold.

i am on the dock, shivering and jumping up and down to keep my blood moving. my arms are spread wide and my face is pointed up towards the rising sun, now golden and malleable, warming the tip of my nose and my frozen eyelashes. i count to three, quickly and silently, knowing i have to move or the moment, this delicious opportunity, will pass.

and i am flying through the air, through that magical unrepeatable space between land and water. i’m laughing and flailing and i can’t believe i am so lucky.

the water hits me hard, covering every inch of me and encompassing each of my molecules. my vision leaves me for a moment and i am sinking towards the bottom, propelled by a momentum, an energy that is all my own. and then i am swimming towards the surface, kicking wildly, waiting for breath, for that inscrutable confirmation that i am, in fact, so very alive.

my face breaks the surface first. my hair, which i have been growing for years, is sticking to my bare skin all the way down my back. i let my feet float to the surface and i’m lying there, my bellybutton pointed towards the sky, towards god, and i’m suddenly singing at the top of my lungs. out from the deepest part of myself comes this song, this prayer, and i could not stop it if i tried.