Walking in a winter wonderland is good for the soul

The heat­ing guys have been here. They in­sist that our sys­tem is “bal­anced” — their word, not mine. They tell us that we’re wise and sens­ible people to have the whole sys­tem checked be­fore the real bite of winter kicks in.

We beam. Like first-graders who’ve got­ten stars on our spelling pa­pers, we bask in our pre­pared­ness. Bring on winter. We don’t care when the “of­fi­cial” date on the cal­en­dar comes. For us, winter be­gins when we shiver on the way to get the morn­ing pa­per and real­ize that our teeth are chat­ter­ing … in­side the house. So much for the bal­anced heat­ing sys­tem.

And that’s when we hunker down to — ahem — “en­joy winter,” which may be the ul­ti­mate oxy­mor­on.

Des­pite be­ing a Decem­ber baby my­self, des­pite an­cient im­ages of snow dust­ing the world with beauty and still­ness, des­pite ef­forts to stop my in­cess­ant whin­ing about cold ears, cold hands and cold feet, I am most def­in­itely a child of spring and sum­mer. Winter makes me wince. 

Still, my hus­band and I have zer­oed in on one sur­viv­al tac­tic that ac­tu­ally works for us. And it’s free. We walk.

Even on days when the weath­er­casters glee­fully an­nounce wind-chill factors that are down­right fright­en­ing, we re­solve to get out there and prove our mettle.

Un­less ice makes walk­ing sheer folly, we don our most hideous out­door gear: his over­stuffed navy down jack­et, my match­ing faded gray one, lay­ers of sweat­pants, double-gloves and our most bizarre winter hats.

By now, we have as­sembled winter walk­ing ward­robes that fright­en small chil­dren and cause grown-ups to stare. His ski mask is down­right ghoul­ish — but warm. My woolen headgear that crawls down over my eye­brows and en­closes my neck may even be worse.

It takes a few minutes just to stuff ourselves in­to the num­ber of lay­ers that these winter wan­der­ings re­quire. And if a jack­et zip­per gets stuck in it all, we’re doomed. But gen­er­ally, once we’ve at­ten­ded to the “uni­forms” of our rambles, off we go.

There’s something down­right de­fi­ant about walk­ing in­to the wind on days when cab­in fever is suf­foc­at­ing us.

There’s something tri­umphant about put­ting one foot in front of the oth­er as if to say, “Take that, winter!” 

The fringe be­ne­fit of our walks? Our heads clear, the cob­webs lift and we see the neigh­bor­hood that has be­come just a blurry im­age from a car win­dow. 

Every now and then, we even run in­to an in­hab­it­ant of our little corner of the world who’s also will­ing to face the ele­ments. We try greet­ing one an­oth­er through mufflers and face masks and barely get out a grunt. But there’s a look in our eyes of tri­umph — it’s us against the ele­ments.

My hus­band and I talk more on these rambles than we do in­side. I can’t ex­plain why. I also can’t ex­plain how, but these winter walks do something won­der­ful for our souls. We step back in­side feel­ing that we’ve been on a tiny va­ca­tion from the tyranny of stuffy in­door air.

Our post-walk treat?

Great gulps of co­coa and cook­ies. We’ve earned these in­dul­gences, we con­vince ourselves, won­der­ing later why our winter walks have not res­ul­ted in the loss of a single pound. Seems the cal­or­ies burned/cal­or­ies con­sumed ra­tio is some­how off. But on the first really frosty day, we were out there. Decked out in our crazy gear, we made it all the way to the main street of town and back again.

Back home, as we de­fros­ted ourselves and dove in­to the co­coa and cook­ies, we real­ized that winter was barely upon us, and that a huge chunk of it is com­ing, like it or not.

Yes, it’s a long, long way to May, and the sight of buds push­ing through the earth. It’s arc­tic air and bit­ing winds be­fore we re­vis­it our shorts and bathing suits. So, we’re def­in­itely stock­ing up on co­coa. And the richest cook­ies we can find. ••

You can reach at pinegander@aol.com.

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