The snow no longer crunches underfoot like dried leaves in fall. Beams of sunlight coming through the tree canopy have turned the once frozen crystals to mush. This time of year the sound my boots make on the snow is more of a muted crackle, like the sound of dipping my hand into a jar of marbles and whirling them around.
It has been a long, cold winter but finally momma nature has breathed a hint of warmth into the day. The seasons are changing; I can feel it in my skin. Not in some old, life-long farmer sort of intuition, but in the fact that I don’t feel cold for the first time in months.
Winters can be the harshest month, and even tougher in the Midwest if you let them. The landscape is flat and wind whips across barren, snow covered farm fields for miles. When you look out your kitchen window, the corners of which are frosted over with ice, seeing beauty is tough and succumbing to winter depression is easy.
I once knew a guy who left the midwest because he said, “if I’m going to be cold I might as well be somewhere beautiful.” And there is something to that. Beauty tends to grow ugly in winter, or, rather, hide itself under many layers of snow, frost, and wind. So what’s the consolation if you stay? How can you make it through the winters and on to this glorious moment, the one I’m experiencing now, a moment filled with the heat of the sun beating down on me, slushy snow beneath my feet, and flushed cheeks not from wind burn but from warmth?
Sometimes I wonder if there is a consolation, a silver lining. For a long time winter just seemed a necessary period in the cycles of Earth. That was before I moved somewhere warm enough to not have a -15 below winter. But, some places do need the death of winter to be born again, and in these places each winter thaw, each day like today, is a new birth of that place. Some pleasures first require pain.
For me, the pain of winter, the toughest thing to do is stay in shape. This is of course no thanks to the holidays, a time where I regularly stuff myself with good food and junk food alike. This coupled with the shortened days and the cold make working out difficult. I don’t like indoor gyms. Running on a treadmill or pedaling a stationary bike is more boring than watching the ice on Lake Michigan thaw. In college I used to just suck it up and run at night. But eventually the cold and black ice got the best of me.
So I cut my losses and decided that being active, even if it wasn’t as physically demanding as my summer active was still better than nothing. So I played ice hockey for a bit. Then I skied. And I took up winter hiking. Hiking in a winter wonderland is calming compared to hiking in the summer. During nice weather there are more people out, there are animals squawking and birds chirping. Sometimes quiet is nice. It’s reflective.
And that’s why I’m out here now, on a day where I’m lucky enough to finally glimpse the rebirth of an old child. Finally, when the snow melts, and puddles of water trickle across the sidewalk and down the storm drains, I’ll be ready to get out running again. You see, humans, like nature, also need breaks. It doesn’t mean you have to stop being active because the weather where you live isn’t ideal.
Winter gives you every excuse imaginable, every possible out, every reason to just lay around like a lump of coal and wait for the sun to return. Instead, adapt, change, and use your time wisely. No minute wasted. Because someday you’ll look back on that snowy forest in the middle of the winter and yearn for its quiet trees. There is life even in silence, sometimes more than in a crowded room of people if you listen carefully enough.