It was a great privilege to share a podcasting platform with the inspirational Anna Deacon just recently. Anna is a photographer of considerable repute and a wild swimmer mostly in and around her adopted home of Edinburgh. She has done many things great and small to promote wild swimming, and with Vicky Allan, is co-author of the book ‘Taking the Plunge’ (Black and White Publishing). I asked her about a re-tweeted image I saw of her and Vicky on the front page of the Herald (leading Scottish newspaper), both dressed as ‘Rosie the Riveter’ from John Parrot’s famous poster entitled ‘We Can Do It!’. Both up to their waists in sea-water, laughing and high-fiving each other. Swimming on the beach in Edinburgh on International Women’s Day 2021. And so the account unfolded.
Anna and Vicky were swimming together alone this year, very unlike the previous two years’ events, organised or co-organised by Anna. According to the Edinburgh Evening News, she first had the idea to have a group sunrise swim on International Women’s Day in early 2019, and to raise funds for women’s charities. That first year, she put out an invite to her swim group and 70 women turned up, well-up on her expectations for the day. They swam and celebrated as the sun came up. After swimming they hugged and danced a warm-up conga, they drank hot drinks and ate pastries. All in solidarity for International Women’s Day - what’s not to like about all of that? It was so good it just had to happen again in 2020, and so it did, and so she did again, that is, organise it again in Edinburgh again, this time with body positivity ambassador Danni Gordon. And this time over 300 women came, to swim and dance and drink coffee and eat cake, in celebration of International Women’s Day. She couldn’t not run it again in 2021, but…
But it would have to be different in March 2021, when International Women’s Day coincided with UK Lockdown Three. ‘What to do?’ – I can imagine Anna and Vicky Allan simultaneously shouting this out loud at the same time in February but each in a different place, both of same mind, in synchrony but not knowing so. Synchronicity turned out to be the organising principle for the International Women’s Day Swim 2021, synchronicity with social media. Carl Jung's concept of synchronicity is a ‘collective unconscious’ explanation for coincidences that seems somehow meaningful. What could be more meaningful than women of Scotland (and beyond) honouring International Women’s Day with an outdoor dip at sunrise?
The cry-out for the event to happen by Anna and Vicky in February 2021, if it really happened that way, might have been synchronicity in the way that Jung framed it. But putting out the shout to everyone to make a sunrise swim on International Women’s Day 2021 was much less ‘collective subconscious’ than collective consciousness. Over 1,500 women turned out for this one, in Scotland, across the UK and internationally, in pairs or solo, swimming together alone.
Had Carl Jung been alive, would he have joined in solidarity? Swimming in Lake Zurich with the sunrise behind him, from his house in Kusnacht? I am not so sure he would. Jungian analysis of dreams involving large bodies of water, such as Lake Zurich for example, symbolized the unconscious, an idea that I think Jung co-invented with Freud. His study in the house at Kusnacht overlooked Lake Zurich. The house itself is actually on the water - the Jung Museum, which is has become, backs onto the Lake, and has a step-ladder down into the water. So why not swim from there? I think simply because it would be way-messed-up for Jung to swim in the very water that symbolized his own unconscious.
I am sure that the fifteen hundred, swimming together alone on International Women’s Day 2021, didn’t have Jung’s problem. Nor did they, like a distributed flash-mob, require Synchronicity for a synchronic swim on this day in Coronavirus Year 2021. Jung predated social media and its workings, and was not to know how it has seemingly made the idea of synchronicity a thing of the past. Anna Deacon, Vicky Allan, and I am sure many others working in the background to make this event work, made swimming together alone possible on this day.
The media coverage was extensive, and much needed funding was generated for charities dealing with many of the problems – especially of abuse and domestic violence during lockdown - at a time when funding from charities had all but locked down too. The image on the front page of the Herald said it all, really - Anna Deacon, Vicky Allan, International Women’s Day March 2021, fifteen hundred sunrise dippers in Lockdown Three – ‘They can do it!’ And they did.
Synchronicity by Police, Atlanta 1983