It is January in Ohio and the prospect of deep snow and frigid temperatures looms in our future for several weeks. On this Friday in January though, I watched the thermometer as its needle approached, then went past the freezing mark. My desire to be outside walking increased in step with the mercury rising inside the glass tube. Watching the water as it trickled down to, then off, the tips of the dangling icicles finally set my mind.
Willingly giving in to the sirens' song, I began armoring myself in layers of warm clothing. A tee shirt followed by a thermal shirt and sweatshirt swelled under the hoodie that I zipped up over the bulk. Searching the top of the closet I found my hat, mittens, and scarf, and pulled them into place. Finally prepared and properly provisioned with iPhone, tissues, inhaler and camera, I stepped out of the garage door and into winter.
The first crisp, fresh breath of cold air is tinged with the wood smoke of the neighbor’s fireplace but still, so fresh. A deep breath in and out caused plumes of steam to flow from my nose and mouth and I stood watching this amazing thing. Emptying my lungs of the stale indoor air and filling them with the crisp frigid air of the outdoors, I walked slowly down the snow-packed driveway. At the end I stopped to consider the direction I should take. Dale Ford Road with its sheltering spruces and wider road would be the safer path for today’s walk, so following thought with action I turned north.
Taking the first step to cross the road is freeing. It feels odd to me that I’m walking on the road made for cars. I enjoy the mosaic created by the pavement’s pebbles and indents. Pressed into its surface are random items trapped there when the surface was soft and new. Today I don’t see any of the wildlife that traverse these roads the rest of the year. I imagine them burrowed in their winter homes. I do see the salt crystals thrown from the snowplows. They have settled at the edge of the pavement to mix with the other debris that has been washed there by the melting snow.
My camera, tucked away in my pocket to shield it from the cold, waits impatiently. My eyes scan the countryside as well as the ground, searching for something appealing to photograph. Framing each scene in my mind's eye, the cold landscape doesn’t offer up the bounty of summer. The bare trees display a stark black-on-white palette against the pale winter sky and I strive to capture that starkness in a photo. The tracks left by wandering deer dot the melting snow in a cross work pattern but none contrive to form a pleasing image.
As I walk, I subconsciously monitor my aging bones, muscles, tendons and lungs for signs of strain, taking care to make sure my booted feet come down squarely on each step as they avoid the icy patches in the road. The line between overdoing and pushing yourself to improve becomes harder to find as you age. This concerns me but around that I revel in the joy of the stunning isolation, the peaceful noisy silence.
Flocks of scavenging birds fly over in neat squadrons but none settle on the phone wires to watch me as I pass. They are scanning the trees for a few bits of food to fuel either their flight south or their winter survival.
I love walking my neighborhood in all seasons and I admit the other months are friendlier and have fancier dress then January. The delight here is the unexpected release of winter's grip. It lasted long enough to allow a brief reprieve and to send a promise of the spring that will follow. It is very welcome.
--Diana for the PGM