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The 100 Day Mikvah

Yesterday was March 8th, International Women’s Day. All-day I saw posts on Instagram and Facebook — people raging about how women should get more than one day, happy shots of women and their mothers or daughters, posts of Kamala Harris.


I celebrate International Women’s Day every year because I believe it’s important to slow down and spend some time honoring women, the importance of feminine energy in our daily lives, our history, and our future. I also love any opportunity to create a ritual or tradition.


March 8, International Women’s Day, is also the anniversary of my father’s death. This year marked twenty-four years. I love that my father’s death day is also a day to celebrate women everywhere. My dad was a social worker and a feminist, a rare combination in his Northwest Indiana town. He was gentle and kind. Dad embodied many of the qualities that we revere in women — he was sensitive, relational, and community-minded. So it feels exactly right to celebrate this man on International Women’s Day.


On November 29th my long-time friend and I decided to jump in the lake. Then we repeated it every day. As the temperature dropped we continued. Every day I would announce what day we were on. The walkers on the path above us got to know us. “What day are you on?” they would holler down to us laughing. We laughed back, feeling like the rock stars in the lake.


One especially cold day I decided that I would definitely do this ritual until day 100. I calculated when that would be and was delighted to see that our 100th dip would fall on March 8th.


So, lover of ritual that I am, I organized an event. Anyone who wanted to could come join us to go into the lake for International Women’s Day. I wanted to share this ritual that we had been doing every day for one hundred days with other women.


My sixteen-year-old daughter and her friend joined us and one other friend. My partner and another friend came to watch and pour hot cocoa from the sidelines. All five of us entered the water and then we stayed in for a few minutes. As we stood there I felt a deep sense of meaning. The culmination of these one-hundred days, the two generations of women sharing in this ritual felt more special and significant.


In Jewish tradition, a Mikvah is used for spiritual cleansing. Our daily trip to the lake has indeed felt like a cleansing of sorts. The ice-cold water talks to our skin like millions of little pinpricks until the pricks become big icy blankets over all the submerged parts. After standing neck-deep for a few minutes, we do the final submersion, our faces, and our whole heads. The shock on the sensitive skin of the eyelids, the ears, the nose feels like a freezing cold rebirth.


When we come up for air a whole new conversation starts with the sky and the wind. The air is always warmer than the lake and as our bodies leave the cold water we become more of the earth than the water. We walk to our towels and robes, the air gently wicking our tingling skin, inviting it back towards warmth.


My day has begun with this lake Mikvah for one hundred days. Today will be 101. I don’t want to stop. This ritual is a daily gift. My hope is that next year on International Women’s Day we’ll all meet again and share this tradition.

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