Yes, it’s cold out there. Still, the dog likes his walk and I like walking him. My smart phone app tells me it’s -31, -43 if you care about the wind chill. I try not to pay attention to the numbers. Is the sun shining? Yes. Are the trails drifted in? No. Will we be sheltered from the wind? Yes. The trees minimize the wind chill. So it’s a blue-sky day with good walking conditions. We’ll be fine.
I layer my clothes—undergarments, then over-garments. Gortex windpants, my extra thick smart wool socks, my gaiters, my winter hiking boots, with the cleats, my neck warmer, my toque, my insulated parka, and my heavy leather mitts.
Once the dog sees me sliding on my windpants he knows it won’t be long. He goes to sit by the door. The leash hangs nearby and I grab it. What am I forgetting? Ah yes, the treats. I back up and put a couple in my pocket. Grab a doggie waste bag, while I’m at it. The dog’s now standing and I’m ready.
I hitch the dog to the leash and open the door, blink into the welcoming sunshine and crunch down the path to the sidewalk. The snow’s brilliantly white. I pull up my collar to the northwest wind blowing us along and we’re off. Around us chimneys puff and car exhausts huff. We head to the woods, to the snowy woods. The dog’s eager. He knows where we’re going.
As we hurry along, I warm up and by the time we turn onto our trail, I’m no longer aware of the cold. It’s just the woods and the snow and dog following his nose. I unleash him and while he moves forward doing a canine version of Facebook, I breathe in the peace of the woods. Chickadees twitter in the trees. Crows swoop above the tree line. Is it the sunlight? Is that what’s making them exude such energy?
I’m surrounded by crisp blues of the sky and whites of the earth as I meander through the mottled grey of aspens and oaks. Yellow lichen covers some of the bark. Dried berries, leftovers from summer, hang on smaller bushes. Tiny footprints tell of other lives. Voles, maybe? I keep an eye out for the coyote who recently crossed our path.
As long as we keep moving, the cold stays away. When the trail ends, the dog returns for his treat, for his reconnection with me and the leash, and we head home—against the wind this time, feeling the bite of the wind, looking forward to our warm house.
February. Cold and good.