Sunday, December 7, 2008

Past Deadline: Please - Convince Me I Wanna Jump

At last. Real evidence I am nuts. Here is the lastest edition of "Past Deadline," published in The Perth Courier on Wednesday, Dec. 3/08.

Please – convince me I wanna jump!

Groom-boy figures it will be the end of me. I hope he is wrong because that would be a shame.

I have the privilege of being the president of a local charity: the Friends of Murphys Point Park. With that privilege comes the inability to say “no” – I mean, the dubious honour – I mean, the exciting prospect of participating (fully!) in the 16th Annual Perth Polar Bear Plunge on Jan. 1.


The Friends have a truly awesome archaeology program called “Archaeo Apprentice,” which will be the beneficiary of funds raised from the plunge.

The plunge itself is terrifying – I mean is a fun and exciting way for folks to raise money for different programs in the community. Each year a different charity is chosen to be the beneficiary, and I sincerely thank the plunge committee folks and the Perth Legion for giving groups like ours the opportunity to take part!

When one of our archaeology committee members proposed getting involved with the plunge, I ran screaming from the room. Okay, I didn’t, but I thought about it. Jumping into an icy river in January is not on my bucket list – although it could prove to be the bucket. So vivid is my phobia of jumping into cold, dark water that I haven’t even been to the Polar Bear Plunge before. This does not make me an obvious candidate for jumping into the Tay on Jan. 1.

Alas, [deep breath], apparently I’ll be [gulp] doing it. Aaaaaah!

What is compelling me is not just my inability to say no nor my stubborn sense of duty as president nor the fact I should be committed. I’m doing it because of the excitement I have seen on the faces of students, teachers and parent volunteers who participate in the Archaeo Apprentice program.

Since 2004, more than 500 Grade 5 students from across Lanark County have taken part in this annual archaeology program. They come to the park for a day, learn the history of the McParlan House and Burgess Saw Mill site on Hogg Bay and then get to work excavating with real, professional archaeologists. Over the years students have excavated thousands of artifacts – many of which date back to the mid 1800s. They have found construction materials, evidence of the existence of a blacksmith shop, household dishes, pieces of 100-year-old toys, animal bones and farm implements. It is a way for them to grasp – in a real, tangible way – how the pioneers lived. It helps to bring meaning to the things they learn in school about pioneers.

I could go on and on about how wonderful this program is, and if you see it for yourself you would understand what I mean. After each excavation the archaeologists submit a report to the provincial Ministry of Culture that outlines their findings. These reports are invaluable to the park in terms of interpreting local history. We now know volumes more about the people who settled the park area than we did a few years ago. That local history resounds with the students who visit the site, too.

So, you can see, I am committed. You will not, however, see me in a bikini on New Year’s Day. No one sees that, especially when there are cameras around. I am getting better at telling myself “It’s only cold water” and “It’ll only be for a few seconds,” but I still haven’t ruled out some form of wetsuit (does that make me truly a chicken?).

Rest assured (and this is ironic), this whole thing keeps me up at night.

Raising more than $500 in pledges would make all this terror and angst worthwhile (sort of) for me, so I hope you’ll support my bid to be a nutbar on New Year’s Day.

If you’d like to pledge me, drop into the Courier office and sign my sheet. Or pledge some other crazy – I mean devoted – person you know who is plunging. You can even join me in my quest! Pledge forms and information are available at You can also find forms at the Courier office and at other locations around town.

In the meantime, please think warm thoughts for me. Shiver.

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