Well, the snow is starting to melt and the air smells like spring…
That’s how Kate’s email began this morning (yesterday afternoon New York time). I was at once overcome with envy and nostalgia for that revivifying time when you feel the change in the air like the scent of hope and you know you’ve made it through the harshest of seasons. Pretty soon the first bulbs will be pushing through the melt-sodden earth.
Here in Brisbane the harshest season is Summer, and we’re not through it yet; it seems to have saved its heaviest artillery for one bloody last stand. I don’t know if it’s age, my general malaise, or if all those southern summers I missed while living overseas made me soft, but I’ve really struggled with this latest one.
Over in Upstate New York, of course, it’s been, by all accounts, an even harsher Winter than the one I lived through in 2014. That was the most consistently cold I’ve ever been, but it wasn’t just the temperatures, it was the grey, the gloom, the oppressive monotony of the season.
At least, that’s how the first half of it felt. I struggled with it; there were days I couldn’t get out of bed, or went back there after breakfast seeking the relief of unconsciousness. It’s possible I was experiencing Seasonal Adjustment Disorder. But I’d never been a big fan of snow and it was a bumper season for the stuff.
In time I warmed (heheh) to Winter — up to a point. I tried to keep up my walking, and somehow managed some road-walks of anywhere between eight and 20 miles at least a few times a week.
This was harder than it sounds, and it probably already sounds pretty damned hard. Readers might recall that I checked the weather app on my phone as I left the house one morning and was rather taken aback to realise it was below minus-20 C with the sun shining — or at least glowing feebly.
My fingers had been brutalised by Renaud’s Syndrome, a circulatory disorder that can freeze up the extremities so that even working a button or zipper is sometimes out of the question. I’d experienced it a few times on the PCT even in Summer, walking in a cold Oregon rain. Winter walks in New York meant so many damned layers that dressing to head out was a chore in itself — including long underwear, two pairs of gloves, and a shell if there was a hint of breeze.
But a weird thing happened during or perhaps because of all those walks: I got used to the cold. I started not to notice. By Winter’s end, temps as low as, say, 5C (which would be headline news in the Queensland Winter) seemed balmy. It was hard to believe that on my first walk around the block with Kate on arriving in January, I’d had to bail after a few minutes, genuinely shocked at the violence of the cold out there.
“Kate,” I remember declaring once we were safe indoors, pulling off boots and gloves and holding hands inches from the gas fire, “I don’t think I can do this…”
I could and did. We bought snowshoes and managed regular weekend mountain hikes and walks over frozen Moreau Lake. Actually embracing the season, or at least shaking well-gloved hands politely with it, made all the difference.
We had a great time on those missions into the south-eastern Adirondacks. And I discovered that I loved photographing the snowy woods, even if taking off a glove to squeeze a cold-metal shutter was never what you’d call fun, exactly.
I’ve managed, with all my free time over here this last Summer, to catch up on the editing of a ton of old pictures, including just about all of my shots from that interminable, harsh Winter.
By chance I came upon some from one outing I never wrote up in T.G.T.W. at the time, a record of a road-walk on the fringes of Saratoga I did exactly one year ago today. I’d labelled it in my photo library Unexpectedly Spring: Into Town Via 36, March 11 2014. The photo data tells me that six hours elapsed between the first picture shown here and the last.
I’d never even edited the pictures at the time, but prettying them up, I was reminded of the joyous feeling of a late-Winter’s day when the sun was out for real, the snow was melting (a little) on the roadsides, and here and there a glimpse of yellow-green could be seen as the world beneath the snow came gradually to life.
It kills me that I can’t be there right now to relive these sensations and share with Kate and her kids the excitement of the garden (which barely existed a year ago — we got damned busy when the snow was gone) revealing itself after months of hibernation.
Hopefully next Spring.
If you’re interested, I covered aspects of this route on different walks here and here. You might also have noticed that I’ve promoted “Road Walking” from tag to category, since I seem to have done so much of it.
I’m one of those weirdos in the walking community who actually “enjoys” it — especially when the snow’s retreating and you can get your sorry ass (I’m sure many American drivers assumed I had a D.U.I. conviction) a few inches further off the asphalt…
~ And that’s all the Goat wrote