Wednesday, February 24, 2010

Day 55 - Winter (not so) Blues

Yesterday's run blurb spawned a couple comments that have been rattling around in my head all morning.

First, Robin, who has spawned many a rattling thought, asked if my spending time outside during the winter has made me less prone to the winter blues than most people.

Second, Chris acknowledged that, like me, he too has found himself running in snow, when perfectly sensible pavement is readily available, and wondered why that is.

I can't answer either of those questions. I don't know how depressed other people are, and I don't really know what motivates Chris.

Because I'm not getting paid millions of dollars to pretend like I do know these things (cough.. cough... Dr. Phil... cough), I'll just talk about my experience. Specifically my experiences today.

As I was standing by the door, dressed and ready to go, waiting for my GPS watch to synch (and watching it like a hawk), two co-workers walked by separately on their way to lunch. The first guy said "Good luck out there. You'll want some earmuffs." Second, a fellow runner this time, said "You're running today? You're so good."

I politely acknowledged both with a head nod and some self-deprecating, unremarkable remark.

Once out the door, already in a contemplative state of mind, those two comments joined the game of pinball inside my skull.

Actually, they helped to being a little clarity.

Thing is, I don't need ear muffs. (Does anyone who isn't a 20-something girl trying to make a fashion statement wear ear muffs? I assume he meant some sort of ear protection.) As I turned into the wind, which wasn't shy at all about trying to tear the skin from my face, I don't want anything on my ears. I wanted to feel the wind. I wanted to feel the cold. I wasn't punishing myself. I was simply experiencing the time and space and weather that I happened to be in.

And I wasn't being "good" by running outside today. Sure, it was snowing, and cold, and windy. That was inconsequential. The weather is what it is.

It then occurred to me... That's why I run in slush and snow, and today, on lumpy ice and across a seriously cold stream. The cold, the wind, the wet, the slip, aren't good or bad. They just are. They're part of the moment, one of the moments that strung together make up my short run, and which are part of the chain of moments that make up a day, and a life.

Running on pavement would have also consisted of moments. Those moments, however, would have been much more difficult to tell apart from each other. And it would have been easy for my mind to wander from the present. In the snow, it was easy to be present and to notice and appreciate each moment. Each foot fall was different. The feel of the wind changed with every change in direction and when in the cover of trees. And any one of those moments might have included a rapid introduction of my hands, or hip, or head to the snow. And the frozen ground.

In a sense, running outside today, on the snow and ice, was the easy path. The easy path to staying present.

That brought me back to Robin and Chris...

Speaking strictly for me, I take the snowy route because it immediately, and frequently reminds me that I'm alive, moving across the surface of the planet, as a small part of its life. It's only around for a few months of the year, and I don't want to let it go to waste.

I think I'm less depressed during the winter simply because winter isn't depressing to me. It just is. Maybe I'm ignoring the effect of less sunlight or changes in circadian rhythms. But I'm guessing that feeling a cold blast on your face when you turn a corner, and, thanks to some fortunate business park planning and wind currents,  watching snow fall up, and feeling a sheet of ice give under your weight without cracking, offset the lack of blue skies and sunshine.

If you accept that winter is a part of each of us, as easily as you embrace a spring flower, mashed potatoes on Thanksgiving, or a summer fling, how can it depress you?

Good running,
Doug

PS - Trena's just-posted comment to yesterday's post tells me she's with me.

Numbers: 1.4 miles around the pond, again.