Compelling Cold

What is it about the cold that makes me want to be outside?

I took two accidental hour-long walks with my dogs today. We’ve been strolling through the nearby ballpark (where I spent 7 happy summers on various softball teams as a kid), expanding on our neighborhood exploration, and apparently that’s enough to boost our outdoors time past the 60-minute mark. I took the dogs out on an intentionally long stroll this morning to reward them for being so good during the rain of the last several days.

This evening, I called my sister, wrangling the dogs with one hand, and we probably moved a lot more slowly than usual. I also wore my knee brace, because the walk this morning, plus stumbling in the mud in my work shoes during lunch, made it feel necessary. When I hung up the phone and checked the time, we’d been out for over an hour and 10 minutes.

The temperature this morning was about 32F/0C; this evening, it was 25F/-4C. I guess I’m not a Texas girl anymore if I can put up with that with a smile on my face.

I was super cozy this evening in a new sweater I picked up for $15 at Kohl’s: a Tek Gear 1/4-zip microfleece jacket. Lows in the 20s are about as cold as it regularly gets in this part of the country, so modern fleece is just fine for this climate. I practically live in my performance fleece zip-up jacket from Old Navy, bought for $12 about a month ago. My hiking boots are still amazing performers. My long socks are warm and comfortable. A fleece hat that a friend gave me 13 or 14 years ago still looks good, feels soft, has kept its shape, and is warm and familiar. It’s great to feel so well-bundled, so well-prepared.

A woman in a pink plaid fleece jacket

Me in my new fleece jacket, late November. I wore this zip-up damn near everywhere the first few weeks I bought it.

The only part of me that got remotely cold this evening was the hand in which I was holding my phone, and then only because I took my glove off in order to dial. I don’t think my life has gotten to the point where I need fancy gloves that allow me to use touch-sensitive devices, but I’m sure everyone will offer those in 5 years.

The dogs have weathered the cold very well for being suburban beagles their entire lives, too. When it was chilly and wet out the other day, they actually went chest-deep into standing water in drainage ditches; they got a nice bath when we got home. Today, they dragged me through some red Georgia clay, a subsoil with a lot of iron in it, and came home with their little white feet turned orange. They didn’t seem to mind getting a quick feet and belly rinse-off with warm water. Like me, I suppose, they don’t mind getting cold and gross in the out of doors, as long as there’s warmth and comfort waiting on the other side. I don’t think they’re the kind of dogs that require clothing or protection from this level of cold; they rather enjoy it, from all appearances. And their enjoyment helps feed into my own enjoyment. My girl dog gets mesmerized by wildlife and shatters the peace of whatever time of day we’re out with short yelps or excited whimpering. But seeing her so excited, smelling everything, rapt with attention, studying a tree, solving problems, is such a joy. The only time I’ve ever resented being outside with the dogs is going out at 5:30am with inadequate clothing, sometimes without shoes, and waiting for one or both of them to go potty… without result. But what can you do? They’re my companions and my compulsion to exercise. I’ve built my wardrobe around the activity of taking them outside to enrich their existence. As long as there’s a need for them to go out, I’ll keep outfitting myself to withstand whatever weather I must to be a good steward for my dependent, loyal dogs.

Several dogs on a paved street in late autumn.

Dog walking. Sometimes, it’s cold, it’s hot, it’s damp, it’s raining. Most of the time, it’s fine. Every time, it’s worth it.

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