Tuesday, January 15, 2008

A Midwinter's Day Dream

(And don't forget, while you're gazing at my naval with me, wondering if there might be a little more fat around it than there used to be, that today is your last chance to win some stunning prose from me. Yes, you might actually win a book, any book, I discussed all last year, but, as Mandarine so helpfully pointed out yesterday, you may not go back through my blog and look for the book of your choice until you've taken the quiz.)

All right, I am finally having to admit, now that it’s mid-January, which means it’s technically been winter for almost a month, that I’ve moved to a place where winter doesn’t happen. Actually, that’s not true (she says, as she peers out the window and notes a few light snowflakes sort of making a fleeting appearance before they get drowned out by huge raindrops). We do get the kinds of winters I ran away from North Carolina to escape. You know, the sorts in which it’s damp and dreary and always just hovering above freezing, so the rain is frigid but never turns to snow long enough actually to amount to anything. It makes for great curl-up-by-the-fire-and-read days, but after a while, if you’re like me, you get depressed. You long for more than a dusting of snow. You remember that snow days are even better than rainy ones for curling up by the fire and reading, because they have the added benefit that when you look up and out the window, what you see is beautiful, all that white contrasted against the dark tree branches. You’re extremely jealous of your friends up in New England as they moan about being dumped on yet again. You cry when you remember blizzards in NYC and make the mistake of reading The Alternate Side Parking Reader, getting descriptions of suspensions of alternate side of the street parking (okay, maybe you’re not really crying over the parking. Maybe you’re just PMSing, which is making you cry over the fact that you miss New York so terribly, and nothing seems more wonderful right now than New York when there’s a blizzard, and the snow has yet to turn black and ugly, and you can walk down the middle of the streets on your way to Riverside Park, AND you don’t have to worry about moving your car).

I refuse to succumb to the depression, though. I’ve decided that if it’s not going to be winter here, then I’m going to take advantage of it. Thus, on the days in which it isn’t raining, and the temperature is in the upper forties or low fifties (which seems to be often), I have a new afternoon commute (for those of you who may be new to this blog, I “commute” to my home office every day by walking each morning and each afternoon). This new commute is inspired by the fact that I once read an article that noted the best way to get your exercise is to do what you did when you were a kid (this article was obviously referring to the days when kids like me used to spend hours of their free time outdoors playing instead of in basements sitting at computers). When I was a kid, I used to walk, run, dance, skip, climb trees, climb ropes, swing, bike, play around in the creek, and play on the monkey bars.

I started my afternoon commute the other day with iPod in hand, at first following the normal route past the horses, goats, Shetland ponies, and cows who all stare at me, that crazy human who often calls out “hello” to them as she passes the farms where they live. This time, though, I decided instead of merely walking, I’d walk for two songs, run for one, walk for two, etc., and when I got to the end of the road, instead of turning around and heading back, as I normally do, I’d turn towards the town park. Funny thing, I discovered that some of the songs had me almost skipping and dancing when I wasn’t running. I ran and walked/skipped/danced under the covered bridge (lest you think New England is the only place that has covered bridges), past the roaring (due to all the recent freezing cold rain) creek, and onto the asphalt trail that leads through and around the park. I got to the swings just as I was finishing up a two-song walking (or was it a skipping and dancing?) session and climbed aboard a swing to pump it back and forth while listening to the next song (as an alternative to running). When that song came to an end, I jumped off the swing and made my way over to the monkey bars to hang and try to make my way across them (my upper body strength ain’t what it used to be. Maybe after a few weeks of this, I’ll actually be able to make it all the way across that horizontal metal ladder – images of Jodie Foster running the FBI obstacle course in Silence of the Lambs might help spur me on, I hope) for another song. Then, dropping down from the bars, it was time to make my way back home during the last two songs.

My new afternoon commute was an hour long, twice as long as it usually is. In the old (snowy, Connecticut, commuting-to-an-office) days, a twice-as-long-as-it-should-have-been commute would have meant a very grumpy Emily walking through the door. Instead, we had an exhilarated, almost giddy Emily walking through the door. No wonder kids are often so much happier than adults. Someday, I’ll ride my bike to the park. Maybe I’ll stop and play in the creek…(Oh, and if you’re wondering what the perfect soundtrack for this little adventure of mine was, it was Michelle Shocked’s Arkansas Traveler. If that doesn’t get you skipping and dancing, I don’t know what will.)

Snow and colder temperatures are in the forecast for later this week. Can you believe I’m almost hoping the weather forecasters are wrong?


Charlotte said...

You are describing my German winter: mild, drizzly, with us dying for snow to lighten, brighten and dry us out.

Having said that, it's impossible to skip in snow, and, like you, I get the chance to do some skipping on a regular basis (as well as running after two kids on rollerblades and one speed-freak on a mini-motorcycle). I have to say it's a lot of fun.

Anonymous said...

Makes me want to skip, swing, climb the monkey bars and listen to Michelle Shocked (but, to be truthful, not run). linser

Anonymous said...

What a great way to work out, Emily!

Anne Camille said...

Reading this made me smile. :)

Rebecca H. said...

Oh, that sounds like such fun! I love the idea that the best exercise to get is the kind you did when you were a kid. And I have to say, I'd much rather have your winters than mine ...

Stefanie said...

Oh, your commute sounds wonderful! You made me want to run outside and skip down the street. But we get real winter here and I probably would have slipped on a patch of ice if I managed to skip at all in a heavy coat and boots. I grew up in Southern California where winter is nonexistent and now that I have winter in spite of all the annoyances it causes, I could never live anywhere without it. I'll send you some snow if you want :)


Emily Barton said...

I guess if you want winter to make an appearance, you have to come up with a great commute that doesn't work well in icy conditions. Yesterday, we got a dusting of snow, and the temperatures have plummeting and now icy paths are keeping me from being able to do much more than walk. Oh well. I'm sure it won't last, and now I've got something to look forward to when it warms up again.

Charlotte, I bet running after that mini-motorcyle will do wonder for your legs.

Linser, we'll skip, swing, climb the monkey bars and laugh at each other when you come visit (or rather, you'll laugh at me. Wait till you see how pathetic I am on the monkey bars!).

MFS, much, much, much better than running to the Fat Cat (although the reward at the end of the run to Fat Cat might be a bit better).

Cam, we can swing in Riverside Park, too, when I finally meet you in New York.

Dorr, everytime I'm out walking in the rain, I think about how you and Hobs would probably prefer this weather for all your bike riding. It's like spring in CT.

Stef, I don't blame you. Although I love places like San Diego, I couldn't live there precisely for the reason most people WANT to live there: no real winter, and not even a hint of it (like we get here).

Anonymous said...

Alas all our winters are of the dreary, grey kind with not a hope of snow really. Perhaps that's why I'm feeling so down lately. I don't think I could skip, though, as there is nowhere to go that isn't populated and I don't want my son to have to live with the label of 'that poor boy with the lunatic mother'. You cannot skip in the UK without a valid contextual reason.

Emily Barton said...

Litlove, ahhh, the plight of mothers, although I might become that "lunatic minister's wife." Luckily, I have long, empty country roads down which to skip, where most of the traffic consists of Amish buggies, and my feeling is that if you're going to dress that way and ride around in a buggy, you have no right to look oddly at me if I'm skipping.