December 10, 2019

Fall has fallen.

People don’t notice it’s winter when they’re happy.

-Anton Chekov


It suddenly turned cold. Unseasonably cold. A mass of winter air charged down from the arctic and ensconced itself over New England. Damn. I was hoping for a little Indian summer. But, one day, the high was in the mid-fifties and the next the low was three degrees with windchill. I dress in heavy sweater, 850-fill parka, with hood up, waterproof shoes and gloves. Waldo goes as he is and we leave for a poop and pee walk. I’ve only seen Waldo bothered by the weather twice, and I watch carefully for it. Once was when it was raining hard and he did his best to go from tree to bush to avoid the worst of the wet, and once when it was -18 degrees with windchill, ice was everywhere and it hurt his feet (had to pick him up and carry him home – which is why I bought him booties). Today, he’s his happy-go-lucky self, tail wagging, investigating every smelly thing he can find and carrying as many sticks as he can in his mouth.

Later, we go to the rail-trail. It warmed up a bit, eighteen degrees with windchill, definitely cold, but bearable with the proper clothing. We waited until the heat of the day, around noon. I really didn’t expect to see anyone else there, but we did meet a few brave souls. We passed a runner who wasn’t wearing much at all. When you’re working hard, you don’t need to. I remember once, I went jogging at night in eleven-degree weather, wearing only a jersey workout jacket (with the hood up to protect my ears), jersey pants and a pair of gloves. The first three miles were cold, but after that, I was quite warm enough. The one or two others we passed were warmly dressed in winter coats. One other person was walking her dog.

A storm blew through a couple of days before and denuded most of the trees of the few leaves that still managed to cling to their branches. It struck me – these trees are built backwards. When I get naked, I get cold. When it gets cold, they get naked. Arboreal skeletons mixed with a few conifers, and the rare tree or bush that still had a few leaves, surrounded us. What once was a verdant tunnel of living green morphed first into a surreal pastel-colored Oz and now was a winter-land of gaunt hibernating life. I’ve become very fond of watching the change of seasons on the trail, to the point that the weather just becomes another point on the spectrum of this change. Not disagreeable, just different.

Waldo seems to experience all this in another way. He trots along, nose an inch or so above the ground, surveying his way along with all his senses. I’m sure he feels the difference in the weather, but he ignores it for the sake of what’s more interesting. What’s important is what is in nature, in the moment, right in front of him. Waldo tunnel-vision. He seeks out, finds and picks up sticks and carries them in his mouth until he exchanges what he has for others. I wonder what he’ll do when all the sticks are buried in a few inches of snow where he can’t find them. He’ll probably be too busy making snow-angels and eating the snow to notice. That’s what he did last winter. And he is really enjoying himself. His tail is up, bouncing his way along, sometimes literally, without pause or rest. I must be doing something right to have a dog that is obviously so happy.

When we’re done, I drive us from where we start the rail-trail to the store to buy some food. It doesn’t take long and I leave Waldo napping in the car while I’m gone. Once we’re home, I peel off my extra layers, feed and water us, and stretch out on my chair, all warm and toasty. After six miles, it feels really good to my back and legs to recline with my feet up. I can almost hear my body say, “Aaaaah.” I’ve always thought the best part of prolonged exercise is the relief I feel when I stop.

Waldo is curled up on the couch next to my chair. His eyes are closed, he’s napping. This won’t last long, but, for now, he seems to be feeling the same way I do. I close my eyes and relax fully. Walk and food shopping are done.

I feel content — I have done my duty to dog and pantry.

Where did all the green go?

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