Thursday, December 5, 2013

A Walk for All Weathers

This month has thrown every kind of weather at us, from snow to driving rain, from some beautiful sunshine and temperatures in the high 40s and 50s (downright balmy for Spokane in November and December) to beautiful sunshine and temperatures in the teens. And we have been walking, and biking, and playing through all of it. As much as possible, I have been trying to spend time outside, at least a little bit, every day, and to maintain our previously scheduled activities no matter the weather. By doing this, I'm hoping to acclimate us gradually to the winter weather, and, I think more importantly, to toughen myself mentally for the winter weather.

Because really, the hardest part of living without a car in the winter is the inertia that sets in and stops us from walking out the door. We look; we think, "Ugh, it's cold/raining/snowing/windy," and we prefer the idea of staying warm and dry inside rather than bundling up our kids and ourselves for the outdoors. But getting ready really is the hardest part. Once everyone is bundled and we get outside, it is almost inevitably warmer and drier than I had anticipated. What's more, the outdoors and the exercise is almost invariably uplifting and soul-warming. By spending time outside, we end up fearing the winter less, and enjoying it more, than we see our neighbors with cars doing.

On the morning of our first real snow a few weeks ago, we had a monthly moms' group to attend about 1.5 miles away. We easily could have skipped it: it's not a necessity, and many of the other moms opted to stay home rather than brave the roads. But honestly, I thought, "If I start skipping things in November, what am I going to do in December? January? February? Will I be housebound for four months, just because of the weather?" And so I braved it, and I was so glad I did! It was a truly beautiful morning, with a gently falling snow, just perfect, and the exercise gave me such a boost that I felt amazing by the time I got there - energized and giddy. I realized I need some better snow boots, but other than that, I was warm and dry, and the kids were snug in their Burley. I felt somewhat guilty bragging to anyone who would listen about the beautiful walk, particularly when many had horror stories about their drives.

We've walked to library story time (our Thursday institution) in driving rain one week and below-freezing temperatures the next. It was only in the mid-30s when I rode my bike to pick up our Thanksgiving turkey last week, and another customer commented, "Ooh, it's cold to be on a bike!" Warm as I was from my ride, I was baffled. It might have been cold for a bike ride had I insisted on wearing a bikini and not actually pedaling the bike, but properly dressed (including a balaclava, my new favorite cold weather accessory) and exerting myself, I was beyond comfortable.

The battle with winter weather is largely mental. I confess that it is still a challenge for me to get out the door some days. I envy the ducks in our local park, who seem completely unfazed by the fact that their pond has almost completely frozen over. They have down and oils to keep them warm and dry... but I remind myself that we have large brains to help us figure out what clothes to wear to keep ourselves warm (often the same down and wool that animals have!). We should get out there and have fun - it's so liberating not to be controlled by the weather.

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