February 8, 2022

This stuff is not easy to walk on!


The weather is the weather.  You have to deal with whatever is out there.

-Matt Cassel


In the days after the snowstorm, things warmed up a bit and then it rained, with temps in the forties.  It wasn’t enough rain to melt all the snow, just enough to make the ground kind of mushy.  Then it got real cold, with a “feel-like” temperature of about -7℉.  This effectively solidified the snow and slush and turned what had been hardpack footprints into irregular glassy and very slick ice.  On the rail-trail, I could see where the treads of the snowblower (that finally showed up) carved shallow chevrons in the ice, but could see no other evidence of its having been there.  Except, in places, there were, if you looked carefully, small green dots of salt.  But this was not all along the route and where it was present, it wasn’t enough to make the ice go away.  It just made it kind of crunchy.

Enough time elapsed since the snowstorm that the many people and dogs who passed along the path covered it with footprints that were now all lumpy ice.  In most places, I can find a patch of undisturbed whiteness, mostly off to the side of the trail, so I can walk without sliding around too much.  But not everywhere.  When I get to a particularly slick part, I slow down and take small steps, keeping my weight over my boots and minimizing the sideways pressure that would, more than likely, lead to my falling on my ass.  This causes Waldo to pull harder on the leash, as if saying, “Why we slowing down?  Come on, let’s go!  Let’s go!”  That doesn’t make it any easier to keep my feet under me.

Somehow, it feels more esthetically pleasing to have snow and ice on the ground.  Very cold temperatures without them just doesn’t feel right, like something is amiss.  Don’t get me wrong, I’d rather walk on bare tarmac than irregular snow and ice.  But looking out over the fields in temperatures around zero, with no fluffy white blanket covering all, just makes it feel like nature is somehow broken.  Like Mother Nature’s overlooked a very important part of what it means to be winter.  Without the snow, the denuded boney trees are still there.  Large nests, apparently now abandoned, easily seen in the upper branches, are still there.  It’s easy to see between the trees for long distances, something that can’t be done except in colder months.  The yellow-brown grass is there, giving witness to the low temperatures.  Everything that says winter is there is present, except the flaky whiteness that covers all and, in my mind, is the essence of winter.  It makes it feel like we’re walking in an abnormally cold day in late fall, instead of an average day in the depths of winter.  But the snow did come, even if late, even if not as deep and not as lingering as usual.

I think Waldo misses the snow when it’s not there too.  He loves to bolt through the stuff, jumping high over the deepest parts in great arcs, and pouncing forcefully with his front paws when he lands, as if smiting some nonexistent prey.  He runs along and, when he wants some water, drops his jaw and scoops up a mouthful without breaking pace.  He rolls over onto his back and wriggles about, making snow-doggies and he will, every once in a while, stop and thrust his nose deep into a snowbank until his whole head disappears.  Yep, you gotta have snow if you’re gonna have winter!  But we make do with what we get.

Climate change has made twenty-first century weather bizarre, for sure.  Heat waves and droughts leading to huge wildfires that burn thousands of acres, more frequent category five hurricanes and terrible flooding, just to name a few.  We’ve been lucky that here in the Northeast, its effect, so far, is to make the snow come late and a January that has days in the upper forties followed by days below zero.  We can, and damn well better, do something about climate change, but the weather, one just has to take it as it comes.  Cursing at it has no effect whatsoever.

In some ways, life is like the weather and its wide swing of temperatures.  One day, you can be sad, the next, irate, then afraid, followed by a day of elation.  Just like how you have to take whatever weather that comes, your emotions come and go and there’s not much you can do about it.  It’s part of being human.  If you accept whatever emotion you have, without attaching too much importance to it and getting overwrought, and just take whatever you feel like you take whatever weather nature brings you, you can more peacefully deal with the ups and downs of life.  The weather will change and so will your emotional state.  Stay on top of the waves of passion, good and bad, ride them like the surf, and don’t drown in the ocean of despair – or fear, or anger, or ecstasy.  Avoid getting dragged into the drama by not taking your feelings too seriously.

I try to follow Waldo’s lead as best as I can.  I can’t see that weather differences change his attitude at all.  He’s always eager to go for a walk on the rail-trail, no matter what the weather.  He struggles in the heat and hurts with ice in his feet, but he is always ready to go and thankful to be there.

And he seems all the happier for it.


Even with four-paw drive, you have to tread carefully.

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