I’ve written here already about my dislike for how young people lately refuse to dress warmly. Even on the coldest day, you’ll see kids standing at bus stops in short sleeves, no jackets. In stores and restaurants you’ll find them in short pants and flip flops, as if it were July and not January. It bothers me because I think this represents a sense of spoiled entitlement. I don’t need to dress warmly—everywhere I go should be heated to a toasty temperature, and I expect to do any traveling between said blast-heated environments in similarly cozy vehicles. If one of those vehicles breaks down, I am armed with a smart-phone to summon aid, which I believe will arrive long before I have to do anything as drastic as stepping outside for an extended period, say, more than two or three minutes.
Given this somewhat judgmental opinion, I was surprised recently to experience my own lessons in dressing warmly. Where I live now I have much more opportunity than before to get outside. Tending to our pastures and feeding the horses, sure, but I also have more time to just walk in the woods, to explore the hills and valleys and the creek beyond our front yard.
Very early on Sunday morning I was out. It was a cold morning with intermittent snow flurries and an icy mist. Ice had formed on the grasses and the smallest branches, lending everything the fleeting, magical look of a crystal palace. As I walked I gazed around me, looking for something new or surprising, listening for birds. After a while I was distracted by a cold breeze blowing down my neck and I raised up my collar and zipped my jacket higher. I was wearing boots, jeans, thick gloves and a warm knit cap. I was well dressed and I could easily focus my attention on things around me, rather than shivering and worrying about keeping warm.
That’s a lot of what I did last year, in my first winter out here. I’d go to the barn to do some chores, or out to the fields to take care of something, or just want to take a walk in the woods, and I’d find myself wishing I had worn more clothes, a hat or gloves or just a warmer coat. These things didn’t matter in the suburbs. I’d go out to take a walk, find that it was colder than I had suspected, and I’d turn around and head back inside. After all, it’s not like I was going to see or hear or experience anything new, walking from one cul-de-sac to the next. Maybe somebody would have gotten a new car, or put up a new basketball hoop. Wow! Would you look at that!
Out here, I want to be outside. I want to take the time to walk and see and hear things. So I have learned to dress warmly. Yes, it takes a minute longer, both coming and going, but it makes the experience much more worth the time spent.
In my last post I wrote about living in the moment, and how I think that in the West, our inability to do this is very much tied up with seasonal variation. One of my long-time WordPress correspondents, a friend from the UK, said this has never been a problem for her, though she allowed that seasonal variation in Britain is rarely as severe as it is in the U.S. Of course that’s right. Our seasons are severe. Winter can be terribly cold and filled with precipitation. If we want to experience it, instead of pining for it to be over, we need to learn to dress warmly and get out there and see what it’s like.
So I hope I have learned that lesson. It’s a lesson I should have learned when I was a toddler, being dressed by my mother to go out and play in the snow. She fussed over our hats and coats and mittens, not to mention our big rubber boots. But once we were outside we built snowmen, had snowball fights, sledded on steep hills and stood at the back door begging mom to make us snow cream. When we finally came in, warmed by tomato soup and grilled cheese, the last thing we wanted was for winter to be over. The last thing we did was to wish away whole seasons of our young lives.