When most of the country went into the deep freeze, most of its people went indoors.
It’s a simple fact: People don’t like being cold. People don’t like getting wet, either, which is often a byproduct of dealing with snow. Sure, plenty of people ski, board and snowshoe, but even in states where these pastimes are common, most people stay inside and leave those snowy paths and runs to those more willing to face the chill.
For those of us in the flat lands, there just isn’t much allure to being out in the cold. No fun slopes, no big mountains, no wintry sylvan paths. Just cold air, biting winds, and slick, chilly white stuff on the ground. These are the ingredients for VH1 marathons, chili suppers and sitting on the couch with a good book or a movie.
It’s also the reason we tend to pack on the pounds during the winter. That, and three holidays that are heavy on rich food and drink. Sweater weather ain’t just about staying warm, right?
I also think people are missing out.
Things started getting pretty cool around here just before Thanksgiving. I did a marathon in temperatures that didn’t exceed 28 degrees.
Then this latest cold snap appeared. It brought freezing rain, sleet, then snow. Schools started cancelling classes, churches nixed services and even some Christmas parades went buh-bye. Heck, they even postponed a weekend slate of state football championship games.
And so it was that almost an entire state took one look outside, shrugged, and plopped down on the couch for a few days.
I can’t stay cooped up that long. A cold urban run one day, just as the snow started. Over the weekend, something else: Some time on the trails.
When I pulled into the trailhead parking lot, I was impressed to see two other cars there. Good on them. It was overcast, 19 degrees and still. No time to waste. I got going.
Other people had been on the trail, so much of it was hardpacked and icy. But my footing was good. Snow carpeted the forest floor and adorned the now-bare branches of blackjack oak that cover Turkey Mountain’s rocky slopes.
The quiet was what made an impression on me. Wildlife has hunkered down, conserving heat and energy. The only sound I heard was the crunching of snow and ice under my feet. I stopped every now and then just to soak it all in.
Those dark, twisted tree limbs contrasted starkly with the snow on the ground and the deepening gray of the late afternoon cloud cover. All was still. And then, movement.
A dog, with black fur and long legs was bounding down the trail like it knew where it was going. Not long after, a woman, bundled appropriately, yet not in a cumbersome way, motored down the trail, then turned to go down the trail from which I just came. Two running buddies quietly going about their business, and most decidedly not whiling away their time inside.
I saw one other runner (also with a dog) and a hiker (who, you guessed it, was out with his pooch) the entire time I was out there. Few in number, but I get these people.
The bracing cold, the crunchy snow, and the peace of a woodland cloaked in white is, as one friend described it, “magical.” It makes me a little jealous of the people who get snowy conditions more often than we do in the southern plains, though I know there are downsides.
It’s just in that moment, when you’re out there in the midst of a wintertime sensory feast, you don’t think of the downsides. The chill doesn’t bother you. Rather, the sights, the smells, and the silence feed your soul just a little. God paints in many colors, and sometimes even the muted and stark shades of winter are stunning when laid out on the canvass just so.
At that moment, you feel good. Thankful. Energized. Seeing your breath, embracing the cold, kicking up powder and, when the time is right, just taking a look around, you feel alive.
It’s impossible to replicate that from the couch.