Gearing up for winter


Making the best of an early snowfall, hiking on Nov. 1 in Floyd County. Actually, it was beautiful!

I am not someone who loves winter. I chalk this up to having grown up in sunny Florida, but I suspect there are people who grew up in New Hampshire, or Maine, or Canada –  maybe even Scandinavia!— who feel the same way. I mean, really: the days get SO MUCH shorter in winter. It’s dark at 5:00!!! (I’m not even going to talk about Finland, where they have just four to six hours of light in the winter. Kill me now.) And going out the door is an ordeal – forget about breezing through barefoot, in shorts, a la south off the border. No, it’s sweater season! And jacket, hat, scarf and gloves! Boots! Heavy socks! Does it ever end?

But here’s the thing: I find that if I force myself to go out there, I actually like it. It can be, well, refreshing.

It’s all about the gear. So, long underwear: good. I have the silky kind from LL Bean. Warm socks: important. A hat – always! I used to know the percentage – but now I only know that a LARGE percentage of your body heat goes out the top of your head. Cover your noggin! And wear a scarf. I had a boyfriend who was all about the scarf, as long as his neck was covered he could be wearing shorts. About this one thing he was right.

So, when I force myself to go outside for a walk or a run, right into the teeth of winter (I like to phrase it exactly that way in my head, where I also think, ‘what a hero I am for braving the cold!’), I gird myself against the weather, layering with an UnderArmour insulating shirt (do they call that long underwear? I don’t know, I picked it up at the local thrift shop, Value Village, and there was no tag to tell me), then a cotton long-sleeved t-shirt, then the old wool sweater I bought on my bike trip through England two decades ago (this is the sweater that was so authentic it left slicks of lanolin, that waterproof substance much like Vaseline that protects sheep from moisture, on the insides of my elbows for a year before I broke it in). Add a windbreaker, scarf, hat and mittens and I’m ready to go. Hmmm, maybe I should invest in some more current gear? Like, a lightweight, warm jacket that would keep me from having to wear four layers? Santa, are you listening?

But here’s the curious thing: Once I begin to run, I warm right up, and it all comes off, piece by piece. The hat. The gloves. The scarf which is by now choking me. The sweater. I tie it all around my waist and tuck in the bits that won’t tie – hat, gloves – so that by the time I am headed back to the house, I have a collection of fabric around my middle, but my arms are bare because I’ve also pushed up my long sleeves.

I am generating my own heat.

I am still getting used to this concept – that I can go out into fearsome cold, hating the goosebumps and shivers it gives me, thinking black thoughts,  wearing a deep, dark frown and thinking I’ll never be warm again, then 20 minutes later triumphing over it all. And thus the winter becomes endurable – even magical. Transformational.

It won’t touch a sunny summer day at the beach. But it definitely has its own kind of magic.


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