Whose idea was it to have the brave and the foolhardy leap off Dyoondalup Point Walter jetty into the Swan River in the dark of night three weeks into winter?
I’d like to give them a hug.
It’s difficult for mums and teenage sons to find mutual interests so when I told my boys Rio and Hunter about the swim and Rio immediately wanted to join in I didn’t think twice about committing – at least until we were shivering on the jetty in our bathers, flanked by an encouraging crowd of Antarctic-style explorers dressed in heavy duty coats, parkas, scarves, gloves, beanies and blankets. Hunter sensibly decided to stay dry in the important role of gear minder. Some bright spark had the idea to sweep the area with flowers of blue lighting which was handy for disguising the colour we had turned.
From about 50 assembled swimmers, groups of four were encouraged to toe the edge of the lower jetty, then counted down for their leap by an enthusiastic emcee. Red and yellow uniformed lifesavers on paddleboards were a reassuring sight.
Then it was our turn to walk the planks. I’ve never thought about the importance of a countdown but somehow the “One, two, three – Go!” was the perfect spur and we jumped up and out, plunged into icy water, toes touching the bottom then propelling us up to break the surface in shocked, gasping laughter.
A short swim and we could walk to shore with calls ringing out from the crowd – “Whoo, you did it!”, “Amazing!”, “Well done!” – and two burly fellas voice-guiding us ashore around rocks in the water.
It took hours to warm up but the swim was an invigorating finish to the Melville Midwinter celebration, an evening of song, music, stories, poetry, theatre, dance and art installations against the backdrop of a long sunset that radiated through soft pink to terracotta to hot lava.
Warming fires, paper lanterns and colourful light installations lit a series of intriguing vignettes on the parkland hill above the river. Poets enthralled under a string of lights at one spot while contemporary dance unfolded a few dozen paces away under another tree.
There were First Nations stories of heritage and connection told in words and dance. Duets and trios played world music, folk and classical.
Food tents, mulled wine and marshmallow roasting catered for more earthy hungers.
Cradled in the arms of a celestial goddess a baby dinosaur nibbled marshmallows offered by passing children.
One roving band of young performers wore houses on their backs which intrigued curious children who tried to open the doors to look inside.
When the temperature drops it’s tempting to huddle at home in front of the TV and hibernate. Even if a jetty leap is past your threshold of fun it’s worth taking inspiration from the 2022 Melville Midwinter theme of reflecting and letting new life unfold. Look for events, rug up, get out and enjoy.
By next year’s Midwinter you may even want to join the swim. Rio and I are already planning to do it again.
Story and photographs © Danielle Berryman 2022