It’s nippy out there.

The air temp was up to a balmy -15 °F when I took my walk today. That’s before wind chill. The wind chill has been at “OH HELL NO” since last night. -15 marked the high point between -24 last night, and -23 projected for tonight. -50 wind chill anyone?

Yes, I went outside in that kind of cold. Yes, on purpose. Yes, without a job location I had to travel to reach, or a pet who needs walking, or any other external justification.

Why? Why not? Being able to do things like stroll around in the killing cold by choice remind me how lucky and rich I am, relatively speaking, and how grateful I am for so much in my life.

Also, if I don’t get my body moving and keep moving at a steady pace for at least 30 min a day, I hurt, but I could do enough walking indoors to cope. Not easily, and going around and around inside the house is boring as hell, but hey. I have done it.

But given the choice between boring laps and going out into the deep freeze? No contest.

It was a fantastic hike and meditative too. I spent the time focusing on my breathing rhythm, maintaining awareness of my body’s position, location, and surroundings (the whole world changes in incredible, beautiful ways when it’s super-cold) least, that’s what I was doing when I wasn’t concentrating on ways to keep my glasses from frosting over.

I’d been out about a half-mile when I realized why I was enjoying myself so much. Dealing with weather like this is a lot like swimming. You’re deliberately exposing your body to a medium that will kill you if you’re immersed in it too long, but with the right gear, training, and effort, the experience can bring you a satisfying thrill.

When it comes to gear, I have tons. Decades worth. I ruthlessly toss or donate clothes that wear out/don’t get worn, but cold weather kit keeps well. And scarves? Well. Textiles are my dragon hoard.

My winter coat is literally designed for Antarctica– it came from someone who went on a cruise trip with a company that uses old Russian icebreakers. It has a patch on it and everything.

My closet is packed with thick, plushy hoodies & warm socks and so on. I am spoiled for choice.  I not only have sleek, soft long underwear comfort-rated to sub-zero, I have fleecy versions I can layer over it and under my outerwear.

Hats? Ear protection? insulated gloves with mitten covers? Scarves and ear bands to keep everything but the eyes safe from wind chill? YUP.

And boots with thick soles to keep my toesies in a dry, temperature-controlled environment are my year-round standard.

Basically, I was all set for today.  Note, please, none of my stuff is new. A purple wool scarf my friend Jody found for me and the sparkly red scarf gifted to me by my other friend Tess are the  youngest pieces in the ensemble. Some of the long underwear is old enough to drive, and I think the coat is old enough to vote.

But it’s all good gear, so when I wrap up to go out in the killing cold, I am covered top to toe in cuddlesome coziness and feel super-rich and thankful for every protective piece.

I’ve had training too. Nothing rigorous, just enough to make me comfortable navigating a populated neighborhood.  There were many lessons in cold weather survival in my youth, plus I’ve done a lot of independent study since then. (hello, I’m a writer)  Knowing when to stop is a key skill, and listening to my body saying “enough!” is a thing I have learned well.

Once I find some goggles (frosty eyeglasses are a real PITA) I will be able to easily handle hikes on days far colder than this one. Goggles have been on a vague quest list for years now. Since Polar Vortexes are likely to be a recurring issue, I think I will make a point of hunting some down before next winter.

Because it really was a lovely walk today, and I want to do more.

By the way, if anyone is wondering, no,  I wasn’t the only one out there. I wasn’t even the only person out here without a dog on a leash. I spotted one hardy soul out running, and no one was even chasing them.

Was there a point to this post? I don’t know. But we’ve reached the end of it.

That’s all for now. Thanks for reading.

Let It Rain

When did weather become news? I think the change happened around the time people started expecting news to be entertaining. And I hate it.

Weather makes great neutral conversation. It’s always there. That aspect of its nature is both its greatest strength and its worst flaw.

A weather forecast is a useful thing, even a life-saving one, yes. Weather is astonishing. The changing seasons and the eternal dance between air, earth and water can be brutal and beautiful by turns, sometimes even at once. I’m a skywatcher and the day my parents got cable and I got 24-hour access to a radar image– oh, that is a happy childhood memory. Weather is Da Best.

That’s exactly why I hate weather as news. When weather is treated as an event rather than the norm, when its never-ending changeability is  weighted down with all the hype and breathless excitement that accompanies news stories these days, it loses its ability to awe.

In giving weather shock value, we’re ignoring its true power, and that makes me sad.

Time: 3:10 PM
Tea: Glass o’ milk
Steep: One does not steep milk.

Spring: muddy, cold, damp, and smelly. Oh, joy.

Spring is my least-favorite time of year.

Yes, yes, I welcome the return of the sun and the arrival of milder weather, I revel in each evening’s extra minute of daylight, and rejoice in the yearly reprieve from ice-related injuries. All of that. Lovely. Fantastic. Spring does make the world leap and bound with joy at being released from winter’s icy grip. I would leap too, and skip and dance with happiness, if only Spring wasn’t so messy.

I don’t hate Spring. I hate dealing with Spring. Spring is like the year’s toddler phase. It is bright and funny, photogenic and adorable. Huggable, yes. Amazing, humbling, and a sheer delight, yes. It also spends much of its time covered in filth and stinking to high heaven. That part isn’t so lovable.

I love dirt. Gardening is dirt therapy. Dirt therapy heals things in my soul that I don’t remember are broken until I get outside and bury my hands in soil. When I have grime smeared up my forearms and down my pants, I feel…whole. I’m happiest when I have grit in my teeth, mulch in my pockets and pebbles in my boots. Every year I look forward to the first day when I can sling on my grubbies and get into the yard again.

But. (There’s always a but. In the spring, that butt is usually covered in mud.)

In spring, all the joy of playing outside ends at the threshold of the house. Out is out. In is in. Home is where the heart is. No one ever said “Home is where you pick stinking bits of mushroom compost out of the bedroom carpet for a month.”  I could garden all day long from from May to November and not bring in half the muck of one spring dirt therapy session.

Spring has no grasp of boundaries. Maybe I would enjoy the season more if I had a home with a mud room. Probably not, because even then I would have to clean the mud room, and I am at heart a lazy woman. As matters stand, I put up with Spring because it grows into Summer.

Every season has its aggravations. There are only so many layers of clothing one can remove to relieve the pressure of summer’s staggering heat and humidity. There are only so many times one can drive along behind a snow-covered vehicle, shovel a drifted driveway, knock down icicles and thaw pipes before Jack Frost becomes persona non grata. Autumn is nearly as incontinent as Spring, and if not for apple harvest and pumpkins, Oktoberfest and the smell of fallen leaves, I would probably resent it as much as Spring.

Autumn has flaming bonfires and blankets of flaming red under bare black sugar maple branches. Autumn has the brisk chill without the damp, deep blue skies and vivid green lawns. It has a sense of confident completion and satiation that Spring wholly lacks.

Spring has…crocus and daffodils. Pretty enough, if the rabbits leave them alone long enough to bloom, but it’s usually a case of too little stretched too thin. The skies are hazy and grey more than blue, when the sun isn’t hiding behind deep gloomy clouds that weep for days on end. The ground is tired and brown, branches are drooping and broken. Every part of the land is struggling and beaten down by Winter’s travails, and it show.

Some people say Spring has energy. I disagree. Spring is the anxious season. It has a lot to do, and not much time to get it all done, and its approach is helter-skelter and disorganized.
I can sympathize with those growing pains, and I willingly nurture the earth through the awkwardness of this season, but  I’ll only be able to admire it when it matures into Summer’s verdant exuberance.

I would be a lousy parent, huh? There are reasons I own cats. I know my limits.

I’m glad Spring is here, but I’m ready for it to get to work and grow up.