It’s here. Winter.
I’m a summer person, though I’m told I’m getting too mature to enjoy the over 100-degree, high humidity, cinematic heat wave cycles typical of the Midwest.
I grew up in hot Oklahoma, in un-air-conditioned houses, where we played in the sweltering heat because it was better than being inside. I sat underneath trees reading library books on lazy summer days, pages heavy with moisture.
For some reason, in college I developed a habit of running four miles every day. Unless there’s a good enough reason not to, I’m out in the weather, be it too hot, too cold, too rainy, too windy or too anything. The conditions that rule out running are darkness or slippery surfaces. I’m not comfortable if I can’t see the ground right in front of me or if I don’t have a smooth path.
When we travel, I run before breakfast. I love a downtown, especially one in which hotels and businesses rinse off the sidewalks first thing. The Garden District and Uptown New Orleans neighborhoods are an olfactory treat: hosing away the previous night’s antics brings out the potent aromas of tropical or blooming shrubs.
I’ve had at least four falls in my 40-plus years of running. I don’t want to jinx it, but I’ve never sustained anything worse than scrapes, aches and bruised dignity. I know that the older I get, the worse it’s going to be if/when I dive onto the pavement and break a bone or worse. So I’m careful, running on paths if possible, but if the street is my only option, facing traffic so I can see what’s coming.
When it snows, I don’t go outside unless I have to get the paper. Sometimes my dear neighbor tosses it at my door if she’s out early with her pups. When our driveway ices over, I stay in. Friends tell me how they ice-ski in bumpy-soled boots, or offer their regime for melting frozen walkways, whatever. I don’t listen, because I’m not going out there.
When we were kids, Dad discovered a tai chi class in progress at the University of Tulsa, where he took night classes. He practiced his version of the form everywhere, even in airports. Some of us picked up and mimicked his slow punches and gentle kicks. Years later, I asked him why he had been drawn to tai chi, and he said it helped get him through the winter.
A favorite memory of my dad was him planted in a darkened front window of the house, watching cars try to make it up the famously steep 17th Street hill, just yards past the sidewalk. He spilled his lukewarm coffee, laughing. “You can’t drive on ice!” he’d hiss, quietly entertaining himself. He’d park his broken-down cars safely in the driveway, shovel the walk for the mailman, and wait for the fool parade.
I seem to always have him in mind, so I fortunately stumbled upon a tai chi guide, Dorri, when I felt I needed to work on my attitude about running in despicable weather. She helps me carry on his priority to attempt a balanced life.
I watch the forecast, stock up on cold-weather running layers, suit up like the Michelin Man, and as long as it’s not snowing and the roads are clear, run my favorite routes. One thing that cracks me up is the jaunty thumbs-ups I get from drivers and other walkers and runners. I know I look like an old lady, but until I actually become that, I’ll keep defying winter and thinking about next summer.