December 24, 2019

Winter is here.

All heaven and Earth

Flowered white obliterate…

Snow… unceasing snow

-Hashin, Japanese Haiku


The snow kept coming, hour after hour. It never came down heavy, but after a couple of days, more than two feet accumulated. I was forewarned by an app on my cellphone, so I bought a pair of gaiters that go over my shoes and more than halfway up my calves. I have boots, but they’re not water-proof and my hiking shoes are. The gaiters work well to keep the snow off the lower parts of my pants and out of my shoes. Added to the rest of my cold-weather wardrobe, I am prepared. So, first thing in the morning, after the last of the storm, I in my getup and Waldo in his sable coat, we are ready to go and brave the elements.

We have a path around the property, about a half-mile long, that we habitually follow. It goes over the lawn and around the apple and pear trees. In places, we follow the sidewalks, but not for long. I figure the way we go is more interesting for Waldo than if we stick to parking lots, driveways and sidewalks. Waldo doesn’t need to be told where to go – he is a creature of habit and he is out front, leading the way, the same way we go four or more times a day.

The groundskeepers haven’t had time to deal with the snow yet, except on the driveways and parking lots, and our path is pretty much undisturbed when we start out. The air is still, the sky is cloudy and everything is covered in a thick white blanket. I hear no birds and the white carpet has not yet been disturbed by the wild rabbits that cohabitate with us. Waldo porpoises gleefully through the stuff, arcing into the cold air, then nosing down into a placid sea of white. At times, all four of his paws are in the air, out of the snow. I pick up my feet, I have to lift them high before taking each step, and plod along behind him at a snail’s pace. It feels more like I’m climbing a mountain than walking on the flat, and I’m soon huffing, puffing and sweating inside my downy cocoon. It feels strange to have most of my body overheated and my forehead, cheeks, and chin numb from the cold. Great white clouds gush from my mouth and grow icicles on my mustache while sweat drenches the armpits of my shirt. I dressed for a simple walk in the cold, not a mountaineering expedition.

Waldo is going from bush to bush, forcing his way between the top of the snow and the bottom of the bushes to where there is less of the stuff. Looking for sticks, I’m sure. Unfortunately for him, the only sticks he can find are still attached to the rest of the plant and they aren’t going anywhere. The fact doesn’t keep him from trying, though. He continues on his way, stickless – instead he fills his mouth with snow, dropping his jaw and scooping up a mouthful of cold, fluffy solidish water as he bounces along.

We don’t go halfway and I’ve had enough. I direct Waldo out into the parking lots and we continue on our way. They are one of the first places that get plowed and the going is much easier. We have to dodge the occasional car, its’ driver braving the ice to get to work. Somehow no one is stuck. Even though our route is plowed, maneuvering on the powdery white slickness requires a pace that ensures I don’t fall and it takes us at least twice as long as usual to finish our trek. At least I’m breathing slower and my core is starting to cool down.

We get back to the apartment and I disrobe. No rail-trail today. Not because the snow is too deep to walk through, mind you. I figure we could go for the same length of time we usually do at whatever pace I can manage. Time in the wild is what counts, not how far we go. The thing is, I’m pretty sure we won’t find a place to park. There’s no street parking and I know the available parking lots haven’t been cleared yet and may not be for a day or two. If I try to park there, I’ll get stuck for sure. We’ll just have to make more trips around the grounds at home.

While I was still employed, the weather was something I had to deal with to get to and from work. It now shapes, for a large part of each of our days, the world that Waldo and I live in. Nature is not just some inconvenience we have to move through to get from point A to point B, but the destination itself. It has morphed from being a wall to be penetrated to being the sea in which we swim.

And, hot or cold, wet or dry, sun or snow, we are the better for it.

The easy path.

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