Walking Winter Days Warmly
The Polar Vortex is swirling down from the arctic and soon it will hold most of the USA in its icy hands. And just last weekend we had a major snowstorm that left us with eight inches of white and drifting snow. All this reminds me of winters long ago, when I a child, played outside all day long even on the coldest days, building snow forts, ice skating, sledding, and doing all the things little boys did on cold winter days.
Funny thing – I never paid much attention to the cold. It was winter. So?
It seems to me that recent winters have lost their growl and grit and have, in recent years, become milder and gentler – not that I’m complaining.
But now the ground is buried under a deep blanket of snow and the Polar Vortex is pinwheeling its way down from its arctic lair and will be bringing its stinging, brutal, bone-numbing cold to my little town as soon as tomorrow.
The last few days, with the snow now drifted deep across my walking path I’ve faced many challenges while taking my daily walk. For instance, I’ve had to wear my winter “walking” boots which are heavy and stiff. And I’ve had to trudge through deep drifted snow which takes every ounce of stamina left inside me; my old – and getting older – body, protests with heavy huffing and puffing.
Despite the challenges, and the heavy breathing, and the clod-hopper winter walking boots, I’ve been lucky enough, or crazy enough, to have taken a walk almost every day this winter – and every day since the snowstorm buried my walking paths with deep, challenging snow.
I love challenges. There is something to be said for getting out there and trudging through snow up to my knees and walking four or five miles despite – or in spite – of the challenges the wintry landscape presents to this old man who still walks with the spirit of the child inside.
As I slog and plod, and huff and puff along the snowy trails, I see the still and sullen landscape that the brutal hand of winter has left for me to see. The once lush and green forest floor is white and crystalline with dead brown things sticking out from the surface of the snow. The beautiful green trees that once shaded the forest, are nothing now but brittle creaking skeletons… black and brown and as lifeless as the obscuring gray winter sky.
As I walk along through the black, white, and brown winter world of death and dead things, my breath swirls in tiny clouds in front of me – disappearing in the cold.
It’s funny that nothing makes me feel more alive than walking through this white winter’s cape of death.
Maybe it’s because in my heart I know that nothing here really dies. Maybe it’s because I know in my heart that in just a few months this eerily quiet winterscape of death will be teeming with sound and life. The woods will be resplendent with life… with red and yellow wildflowers, and towering trees and green canopies, and little critters scurrying though the green living things doing whatever little critters do.
And though I am an old man trudging through deep and drifted snow on a brutally cold winter day, I know that death is not the end at all – it’s only the beginning. Winter is a harsh teacher, and I’ve learned my lessons well.
When the first signs of life appear in March – those tiny green shoots that brave the leftover winter winds and break through the cold, nearly frozen ground, to feel the warmth of the early spring sun – I will be here to see them and remember…
And when the first wild daffodils and their radiant yellow flowers bring the first blast of color to this now lifeless place, I will rejoice.
I can only hope that next summer when I walk on this trail through this forest and hear the buzzing sounds of life under the sweet blue skies of summer, that I’ll pause and remember when I plodded through the deep snow and walked through this black and white world of dead things and remember that to everything there is a season. And be happy in knowing that I’m exactly where I am supposed to be no matter what the season.
Home is only ten minutes away – I’ll be glad to take these heavy winter walking boots, my heavy coat, hat, and gloves off, and sit down in my favorite chair, in my warm house and be glad I took a walk again today.