Back in June, I wrote about my summertime walks and the various friendly folks I routinely encountered along my wayfaring ways.
Even now, I do my daily walk, though only once instead of twice a day.
In the summer I usually walk alone, early in the morning, and then again with Z in the evening. However, by mid October the early dark necessitates Z walking on the treadmill in the basement, at least until March.
We tried walking on the treadmill together for a while, but that didn’t work out since I had a tendency to step on Z’s heels, which usually ended up with me sprawled in the trash bin.
Plus we always fought over who controlled the TV remote.
So now I walk alone, once, about late morning.
Granted this winter has been nothing like the overbearing last couple of snowy, Arctic winters, but, even still, winter walking under any conditions is much different than summer walking.
For one, it’s always a lot colder, even on the nicest of days.
When I walk in the summer I usually throw on a pair of shorts and a t-shirt, sometimes a tank-top, and I’m good to go.
When I walk in the winter I usually roll around in a tub of Vaseline for a good half hour, then spend another 45 minutes layering on several types of shirts and sweatshirts, zip my hoodie sweatshirt jacket over that, and then, sometimes snap a down vest over the whole thing.
I don’t get to use “hoodie” in a sentence very often, so I’m happy that I can use it here, and that’s why I bring it up.
In the winter I usually wear a heavy wool baseball cap, as opposed to the light weight khaki, cotton cap I wear in summer.
I wear my sunglasses in all seasons, so when I pull my “hoodie” up over my ball cap, Z says I look like the Unabomber.
In the summer, she says I just look like Ted Bundy, that whacky, but charming serial killer of the 70’s.
I say, this is unfair, since Bundy’s legs weren’t as nice as mine.
In either case, people pretty much give me a wide berth, crossing to whichever is the opposite side of the street I’m walking on.
But the truth is, in the winter, there aren’t that many people out walking. Just the die-hards, so there really isn’t a lot of interaction to talk about, as there is in the summer when everyone is just happy to be out in the nice weather.
In the winter, the other walkers and runners know this is serious business for all of us and not just something we do to get fresh air on a sunny day. So for the most part, you might get a slight nod of recognition from a passerby, but you have to look closely for it, because it’s usually buried in a lot of winterized accessories and the best you can hope to see is a little pink face peeking out of a little woolen hole.
Plus, sometimes it’s hard to tell if they’re actually acknowledging you with an actual greeting of sorts, or just trying to break off the little piece of frozen mucus that’s stuck to their nose.
I usually try to error on the safe side so I acknowledge any kind of interaction at all, even a snotty one, with a smile.
It also helps to un-numb my face.
The runners, on the other hand, are a whole other story. It’s not uncommon to see a runner wearing the scantiest of outfits…even some who shouldn’t.
You’ll be trudging along, huddled against the wind, yet enjoying every step, and appreciating that you're actually out there doing it on a 17 degree day, when a runner will appear from around the bend, wearing these shiny, skintight legging things, thousand dollar “running shoes”, with an iPod strapped to one arm and a bottle of Vita-Water strapped to the other.
They zip by so fast and effortlessly that you never get any sort of acknowledgement from them, other than your own sneaking suspicion that they sneered at your $20 “sneakers”. Then you turn and watch them disappear into the distance wondering how anybody can stand, let alone run, on legs that skinny.
Of course those are the really exceptional runners. Some lesser runners come plodding around that same bend looking as if they’re on their 8th hour of eluding the hounds set loose by the chain gang boss, and their chains are still attached.
Some of these dudes are also wearing the shiny, skintight legging things, also…but as I said before, shouldn’t.
When they pass you by they don’t have the strength to acknowledge you, let alone judge your footwear...but you have to give them all the credit in the world for being out there, doing it.
All in all, winter waking is a happy experience no matter what the conditions.
I’m outside, sometimes under a canopy of blue, sometimes under a ceiling of grey. With the wind at my back or a gale in my face, a walk at any time of the year is a gift to be enjoyed, not endured.
I walk because I can…sometimes putting to bed restless thoughts or creating what is from what wasn’t.
Or sometimes, just being my own version of Thoreau, shutting my mind to everything except the trees above my head…experiencing the wonder of now.
Not to mention those shiny, skintight legging things….
I think that I cannot preserve my health and spirits unless I spend a day at least—and it is commonly more than that—sauntering through the woods and over the hills and fields absolutely free from all worldly engagements.
Walking, 1851 – Henry David Thoreau
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I know...too many options. Probably better to just go back to bed....