This week is about to get sit-on-your-hands-at-every-stoplight cold. These are the days that drive us all inside. When you’ve got someplace to be, you shuffle straight from the house to the car and curse the cold as the engine shudders to life.
The winters here are rarely so brutal that we actually need to take shelter. But if you spend most of your days indoors, you only have to think about dressing warmly enough to make it to and from the vehicle. When you’re thinking that way, the extra layers are nothing but uncomfortable and unnecessary. Nobody wants to wear four layers to a party and slowly strip in the hosts’ doorway. Instead, we shiver for a brief, terrible minute as we walk to and from the car.
The trick to enjoying the outdoors during winter is to forget for a moment the convenience of the thermostat and remember an older but equally valuable invention: warm clothing. When you’ve got that cooped-up-cabin-fever coming on, don’t let the cold keep you from a walk in the park or a ride on a bicycle. All you’ve got to do is stop thinking, “Will this keep me warm enough?” and start thinking, “how many layers can I fit under my biggest coat?” Once you’ve transformed into a waddling bundle, step outside.
There’s a different sort of pleasure in a freezing cold walk. It isn’t leisurely; it’s invigorating. Walk long enough and you’ll start to warm up. Notice how many birds are still living out in the cold, hopping from tree to tree. Notice the construction crew in their coveralls who work in this weather all day long. There is still life out here. Soon you might be peeling off layers, even sweating; all the while your cheeks are ice cold. On days like these, you’ll have the parks, the botanical garden, or the zoo almost all to yourself. Cars will pass you by, their drivers probably wondering aloud who the hell would be out in this weather. Strive to be the one who will be every time.
When your winter walk comes to an end and you step into the house you were shivering in an hour ago, a house which now feels far too hot, you’ll feel you have conquered the cold. On the paper towel dispensers at Shaw Nature Reserve, someone has pasted a Kierkegaard quote:
“Above all, do not lose your desire to walk. Everyday, I walk myself into a state of well- being & walk away from every illness. I have walked myself into my best thoughts, and I know of no thought so burdensome that one cannot walk away from it. But by sitting still, & the more one sits still, the closer one comes to feeling ill. Thus if one just keeps on walking, everything will be all right.”