Wednesday, January 27, 2010

A range of winter weather patterns

I’m not sure whether it’s a coincidence or an intentional curricular scheme, but both of my kids’ grades are looking at the weather this month. Tim’s fifth grade class is studying weather patterns from a scientific perspective; Holly and the other second graders have an assignment to record the temperature each day and write their observations.

It seems to me like the perfect time of year to be studying weather. This week we’ve had a wide variety, and each change brings with it welcome effects. Over the weekend, the temperatures hovered right around freezing and there was a great deal of ice on the ground. Holly went sledding and deemed the conditions perfect; from inside the house, I baked bread and enjoyed feeling cozy in the chill of winter. Then on Monday we had a January thaw and heavy rain, which melted the ice that had been causing me so much anxiety on my daily run and washed away a lot of the snow that was blocking the footpaths. Yesterday I felt so grateful to be running on muddy gravel instead of ice, and the balmy air made me think of spring: not really all that close at hand right now, but somewhere in the not-so-distance future. The rainfall meant I didn’t have to fill the tub that the cows drink from when the stream freezes over, and the snow washing away allowed us to open the gates between pastures and let them roam freely, which they love; it’s always fun to see them venture out onto the hillside after staying near the barn for several days.

Today is cold again, with a prediction that much chillier air is on its way, but the sun is shining and the ground is dry. I like the hard frozen conditions of late January; now the ice is gone but the mud has frozen into smooth hard terrain, and the bright sunlight shining through the treeless branches is starkly beautiful. This morning when I went out to feed the cows, I heard birds chirping, and despite the 25-degree air, the sound of the birds conveyed a hint of spring mornings.

My spouse sometimes says he’d be happy living in a warm climate yearround – he likes swimming, barbecues and baseball and has no use for wintertime -- but I love the change of seasons. I love the dreary seasonality of a sloppy winter day and the elusive relief of a January thaw, a short reprieve from the cold. I like heavy snowfalls and dry sunny days like today. I like walking in thick powder or atop a crust of old frozen snow.

Committing to a daily run two and a half years ago put me in closer touch with the weather than I had previously been. In years past, I was guilty of driving from garage to garage in the winter, sometimes not spending any more time outside than it took to cross the parking lot at the supermarket . I used to take the winter off from running, which did have the benefit of generating a craving to run by springtime. But now that I am committed to ten minutes or more of running every single day, I don’t have the option of ignoring the weather. I know when it’s wet or cold or icy or dry or snowing. And sometimes winter running is really challenging. But where modern life and its conveniences make it so easy these days to ignore the weather altogether, I’m glad most days to put myself out into it, comfortable or not.

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