about bliss

Thursday, February 28, 2013

daily bliss: after the storm

A 12 inch surprise, snowflakes swirling in the wind all night long, leaving sensual swoops on rooftops, driveways drifted shut. 

This morning I set out for a walk on my usual path, on the neighborhood sidewalks, which should be passable today, a full day after the storm. Most of the sidewalks were neat, with a skiff of snow providing traction (better than Tuesday's icy layer I trod upon). But the street corners! Huge mounds of snow from city plows, blocking easy passage. I stepped up and slid down several, enjoying the challenge. 

Along the way, I encountered pristine patches of sidewalk in front of homes for sale and abandoned rentals. I knew I would face more uncleared territory along a swath of public-owned land alongside the lakeshore. 
I was not daunted. 

Perhaps I should have been. The previous picture is the end of my uncleared path, where a natural valley in the drifting made for easy passage. In other spots, however, I would sink down to my knees, and rise up, only to find myself sinking in a few inches the next step. I sought firmer packed snow in the detritus of snow plows, or shallower snow on the edge of a drift. But mostly, for a good quarter mile, I trudged deeply, and slowly, practicing the mountain-climber step: one step, breathe/rest, next step, breathe/rest. I paused to snap photos of the majesty of waves and icebergs, of blue sky and sunshine battling with grey and clouds. I despaired at moments, looking around me for an easier path.

There was none.

The road I was walking next to is busy, and the wet streets no place for pedestrian traffic. I could turn around, but I was close to home.

The only way out is through, sings Alanis Morissette.

And the rewards: gorgeous vistas, a cardio workout like no other, the cool breeze waking me, the sun inspiring me, the strength of my legs humbling me.

Saturday, February 09, 2013

daily bliss: embracing winter

Before Nemo blanketed the Northeast, the as yet unnamed storm draped the Great Lakes landscape with more than 6 inches of snow: perfect snow that frosts tree branches like so much fluffy buttercream. The day after the snow, when the sky was clear and blue, and the temperature soared to 25, I walked around the neighborhood, taking in the snowscape. 

The sidewalks were mostly clear, until I reached a span along undeveloped property. I trudged through knee deep drifts until I reached the corner to see that the rest of the sidewalk, along Lake Michigan, was also unplowed. I drank in the cotton candy clouds hanging over the waves, and headed back up the hill as the sun began to set. 

I was reminded of my first few winters back in my native region, after living in the snowless Southeast for seven winters. I wrestled with winter by embracing the snow, the cold, the slush, the grey. I looked for beauty in the patterns of ice on windows. I walked, skied, and ran outside. I visited the ice arena at the Big Ten school where I worked, and skated circles on smooth ice. 

And then I moved to Wisconsin, where the snow may not always be as plentiful as it was in Michigan, but the temperatures are much colder. Even with a 20 degree threshold for outdoor walks, I found myself stuck inside more days than not. I tapped the arrow key on the thermostat higher, and fashioned my own snuggie out of hooded sweatshirts and fleece blankets. Winter became an endurance race on par with the Tough Mudder. 

My Seasonal Affective Disorder sunk me to new lows, and I found it harder to leave the plush comforts of my fleece and down ensconced pillowtop bed called Cloud. 

This winter, I'm back to embracing winter rather than hiding under the covers. The temperatures are cold, the snowstorms are hitting with unpredictable regularity, and our new house is cold, cold, cold. However, I start each morning with 10-20 minutes of Happy light time, and my brain zings and zaps with positive energy. 

Yesterday a friend mentioned that she was going snowshoeing today, which inspired me to find outdoor winter activities in our area. The local nature center sponsored a candlelit snowshoe hike tonight, so G and I drove a few miles out of town, strapped on borrowed snowshoes, and walked. The snow still draped the branches of trees and bushes, the luminaires cast a warm glow, and the temperature hovered just shy of 30 degrees. The first section of the trail, we were alone, and all we heard was the crush of our shoes on the path. As we began to encounter others, the tranquility was interrupted with the bright flash of cellphone cameras and talk of facebook. But in my heart, I felt the transformative wonder of winter, the beauty of austerity and abundance, commingled. 

When we reached the end of the trail, a fire crackled in an outdoor ring, and indoors, local musicians played smooth jazz. The instant cocoa was thick, rich, and hot, and the gourmet s'mores bar was decadence in a brown paper bag (for ease of transport back out to the fire). I toasted my marshmallow and slid it between two chocolate wafer cookies topped with a Ghiradelli caramel square: so much sweetness. 

And, I'm finding my way home.