As many of you know, I’m in a daily battle to stay healthy and alive. One of my assigned health tasks is to walk 10,000 steps every day. It’s sometimes difficult to do. In 8 months of serious walking, I’ve only had one perfect month where I got my 10,000 steps every single day. Most months, I settle for averaging 10,000 per day. December has presented some pain and health challenges so yesterday I found myself in a deficit of almost 10,000 steps that needed to be taken before month’s end. That’s an extra 50 mins of walking each of these final two days of December. Tedious, to be sure, but nothing insurmountable. What surprised some people was that I intended to do it in (- 2) degree temperatures.
How miserable! How dangerous!
Well, it really wasn’t either of those things. I’ve been walking on snow and ice for most of my life so I know how to do it. You seek out the opaque white surfaces and avoid anything clear or shiny or black. You stride a little differently when the walking surface changes. Sometimes you even drag your feet for better balance.
But the cold! The BITTER COLD!
Well, because of a little secret that I learned a long time ago, I wasn’t the least bit cold as I walked. The secret is that it’s only COLD if you’re dressed inappropriately. If you properly layer your clothing you can walk for a couple of hours without any discomfort whatsoever.
You might call me a “hearty Midwesterner.” If you did, I’d plead guilty, but not because I have some physically developed ruggedness. The heartiness comes from not paying attention to negative hype and just “gettin’ on” with your business. Hardiness is almost all mental. You see, some people freak out way too easily. Such people are not hearty; they are weak. They believe negative thoughts way too easily because they’ve bought into ideas thrust upon them by others. Ideas like “cold weather is always terrible.” To them I say, “Quit being a bunch of drama queens and think for yourselves!”
Let me be clear. I have nothing against visiting warm climates during the winter – I like warm climates too! But if you’re not going on vacation… and you get to live in South Bend, Indiana… and South Bend wants to give you a gift… isn’t it kind of stupid to ignore it?
The gift I was given last night was an utterly spectacular walk through the deserted campus of the University of Notre Dame. It was hauntingly beautiful. When snow gets really cold it crunches beneath your feet. And it sparkles. Especially when the wind blows. Campus was sparkling in a way that few people ever get to witness. Since there was a dusting of new snow on the walkways, I was able to notice all sorts of subtle footprints. It was amusing to quietly track a raccoon’s footsteps down a sidewalk right to a dumpster and then discover the small mess he had made.
Then I noticed deer footprints and tracked them to a place they never go when the students are around. These deer had gathered right in front of Bond Hall, the location of the famous Notre Dame Marching Band “Concert on the Steps” before football games. It almost looked like they were milling around as tourists, enjoying their “secret” access to the area. I really wanted to take a photo, but was unable. My iPhone must be kept under many layers. Exposure to this sort of cold would begin to freeze the battery in only 2-3 minutes. Removing it even briefly would entail a lot of effort and an unnecessary risk. So I just stood there silently and watched. This made the moment all the more special. After a minute, I began slowly to approach the herd of six. Whenever I moved, they stopped to check me out. Whenever I stopped, they went back to tourist mode. Finally, I was getting very close to them when then they did what deer usually do in these situations. They lined up in a single file line and took off one by one, bounding through the air with such ease and grace that it appeared that at any moment they would ascend upward into the sky. Such an incredible sight!
On my way home, I got to thinking about all this splendor I had witnessed. It is such a unique and wonderful feeling to be outside experiencing the dazzling beauty of winter while simultaneously feeling all comfy and warm under your layers. To enjoy winter, all you have to do is recognize the amazing gifts that it can give you and then accept them with an open heart. This empowers you more than you can imagine. There is beauty and joy around every corner if you just have eyes to see the reality right in front of your face.
God’s beauty is always present no matter where we go. As long as my loved ones are doing well, I think I could find a way to be happy living anywhere.