A winter of walking

Winter can be a time of hibernation for many. As a friend of mine often says, it’s a time to “hunker down.” Often I agree. There is also something to be said for getting out there, into the world, beyond the fear of cold or wet, and being in winter. I’m not talking about winter sports (which I love). Instead, I mean getting out of the house to go for a stroll, take some photos, check out the lights — and not from the comfort of a cozy automobile. What if you laced up those winter boots and put them to good use? Everyday?

I parked my car, put away the keys, and decided to spend the winter walking. I’m not suggesting that you commit to this as fully as I have. For some of us, it’s simply not practical. But I’ve been delighted by what I’ve learned so far in a winter of walking.

I am grateful for my body.

The cold air is refreshing.
Moisturizer is my friend.
Cashmere gloves really are warmer than that other pair. (And they make great liners when needed.)
Walking through 4 inches of snow slows down my pace considerably.

A brisk walk will quickly warm the body. Don’t overdress. (Layering. Layering.)
People in small towns assume no one would choose to walk. Get comfortable with the questions and puzzled expressions.
When it’s freezing and the hoar frost has built crystalline coats on everything in the neighborhood, walking allows me to discover all sorts of wonders I would never see from a car.

When it’s raining and streams run down the gutters, pools gather on sidewalks, the air smells amazing.
When freezing rain is coming down, a raincoat can actually get stiff, coated with a thin layer of ice. Keep moving.
There are beautiful homes in my neighborhood that I’d never noticed before.

Everything I actually need is within walking distance.

Then there is the light.

Amazing winter light.

When I walk, I notice the way light catches in bare branches, on front porches, along the frosty edges of streams. The shadows are just as enticing. Bold. Crisp. When the sky is clear there is a sharpness to the winter light that I don’t recall seeing during other seasons. A quality in the air and the angle of light that increases contrast.

When the fog rolls in the air hugs the body, the earth. Suspended moisture creates veils of mystery and softens edges. It calls for wool and whiskey and firelight at the end of the day.

When was the last time you took a stroll through your neighborhood? When was the last time you choose to walk to the coffee shop in the winter? When was the last time you put on an extra layer, laced up your boots, and left your car behind because you wanted the world to pass by at the pace of your gait, not an accelerated speed that we’ve become so acustomed to?

I’ve slowed down.

I’ve been present in the season. I’ve noticed intricasies of light and shadow, rain and snow, and how my community responds. And in the walking, I have found a pace that feeds me. Walking has nourished my winter life.

What do you do to nourish your life — body, mind, soul — in the winter? What does a good winter look and feel like for you?

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2 comments… add one
  • Elizabeth Heinrich Feb 2, 2012, 10:39 pm

    What a beautiful idea. Thanks for the inspiration. I need to slow down, and what better way than being on foot? You make the outdoors sound so inviting.

  • Brenda Gordon Feb 4, 2012, 12:06 pm

    Thanks, Amy, for the word, inspiration, joy of life echoed in your walking explorations~

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