Thursday, January 3, 2008

Out in the cold

Red-tailed Hawk

It was 12 degrees Fahrenheit this morning when I started my walk. I really hate the cold. One of the main reasons we left Chicago was that I just couldn't take the winters. Frozen nostrils, ice in my eyelashes, the dreadful knowledge that my numb fingers are going to hurt like hell when they finally warm up--I could have happily lived my whole life without experiencing any of those things. And don't even get me started about frozen stuff falling from the sky. Snow's pretty, but so is poison ivy. I'd just as soon keep my distance.

Still, there I was this morning, tromping along the frozen ground because the pain of being cold doesn't begin to compare to the misery of being cooped up inside all day. I did without the hike Wednesday for various reason, and by the afternoon I was ready to crawl out of my own skin. It's not just the lack of exercise that gets to me, it's being deprived of all the sensations of being outdoors--the sunlight, the movement of the air, the birdsong and squirrel chatter, the pleasure of feeling the earth under my feet. I seem to need a regular dose of those things simply to be able to think.

One theme that recurs in accounts of civilians trapped in war zones is the confinement they have to endure just to stay alive. It crops up a lot in stories from Iraq, but it's part of every conflict. People hide in their homes, only venturing out when they must, and when they do go out they're terrified. There are so many ways people suffer during a war, but I think the loss of freedom must be especially painful, particularly when it goes on for months or years. I know it would drive me mad if I had to go for days without seeing the sun, if I couldn't have some brief time to feel connected to the natural world.

So, frozen nostrils and all, I felt really lucky this morning. I made it to the top of a ridge just in time to watch the sun rise above the horizon. There weren't many critters stirring, but a big red-tailed hawk did some gorgeous aerial acrobatics, showing off in the golden early light.

(Click here for a BirdCinema video of a red-tailed hawk in flight.)


Anonymous said...

I love posts about your walks! Maybe if I lived more in the country, I would share the need to get out and walk it. I could see how it could become addictive. But for now, I'll wait for you by the fire!

Anonymous said...

A long overdue hello and a very Happy New Year to you, Gracie! Lovely as always to read you.

Your post reminds me of my husband's parents' childhood during WWII, in Germany-occupied Italy. They were forced to hide in caves, literally steps ahead of the soldiers, who had already burned them out of their homes and farms.

May 2008 bring peace on earth - for everyone.

BitterGrace said...

Well stoke that baby up, Renee, 'cause it is still way too cold here.If you had a nice cup of tea ready, I would appreciate it. The dogs never make me any.

Hi, Terry! Happy New Year back at you--it's always a pleasure to have a word from you.

I can't imagine the terror your in-laws must have felt. My wish for the new year is that your wish comes true.

chayaruchama said...

Wow, Terry... that's pretty awful.
They were a tough bunch, that's for sure.

I love it when those hawks find themselves in Boston, by mistake.
And you KNOW that I'm hard-wired for those walks with you.
I always channel my inner Spartan.