It is day one on the calendar and the temperature is also one; we use Fahrenheit here, as Mr. Celsius never experienced such temperatures. It is the most infuriating temperature, as there is some gravitas in sub-zero, a bragging right denied. This day has only wind chill: minus 18. When the wind gusts off the lake, blowing snow is horizontal and drifts begin to form around obstacles.
I am not alone outdoors today. Some die-hards in space-age materials, cobalt blue or vermilion in color (the names of the colors themselves are ancient), brave the elements for a brief time. A man walks an old dog with a white muzzle; the frost in my beard says I too am an old dog today. I think of Shackleton in the antarctic and wonder how long he lasted before he thought of eating the dogs - I lasted a mere 20 minutes before it occurred to me.
I follow a small circular route I know well, so as to never be far from home and never against the wind for long. On the second loop, I see only my own footprints ahead, right foot toed slightly outward. I do not take the shortest path, nor the easiest, but my feet find the same track again and again; familiarity has decided what is correct to me.
My eyebrows freeze to my hat, my eyelashes to my scarf. I begin to claw my toes back and forth for frictional warmth, to keep the blood flowing. I stop at home to apply Vaseline to skin getting exposed near my eyes and at my wrist where the glove gaps at my watch. It takes some time to convince myself to head back out again.
Just before two hours have elapsed since I began, I slip and keep from falling by tensing muscles I'm not sure I can name; they will hurt tomorrow. Tomorrow will bring its own challenges. It is time to call it a day. Day one is in the books.
5 days ago