Stepping Outdoors to Enjoy a Country WinterBy Timmy Jo Given (timmijo)
January 16, 2012
The winter solstice happened in December, so now that the year has turned around, there is a subtle increase in light streaming through our windows and doors. For many folks, this gladdens the heart even though it is cold outside.
We tend to hibernate like bears in the winter, don't we? It's comforting to snuggle under a quilt to chase away the chill coming up from the floor, coffee mug in one hand, homemade chocolate chip cookie in the other.
So to break the inactivity, we go for a walk, right? Or at least we have good intentions. Myself, I have good intentions but do not naturally gravitate toward the outdoors in the wintertime and must be persuaded by my loved ones to venture outside. But once I am on said walk, I wouldn't trade the experience for all the world. The sights to behold out in the Delaware country where I live are worth every bit of getting over the hump and doing it. JUST DO IT as the saying goes, or so I tell myself.
Studies have shown that exercise increases a feeling of well-being due to endorphins released during activity. A sense of "All is right with the world" comes over us. I like that. I like feeling as though no problem is too difficult to solve. Sometimes it takes a little exercise boost to get into that frame of mind. So even though our instincts would incline us to stay out of the cold, a wintertime walk can be a good thing.
To venture outdoors in cold weather is a serious proposition (especially for senior citizens), so to be safe and comfortable, please keep the following tips in mind when taking a wintertime walk:
Items to include:
- Shoes/boots with good tread
- Layers of clothing
- Brightly-colored clothing
- Earmuffs or Ear coverings
- Chapstick/Lip Balm
- A companion–very important!
- A cell phone, battery fully charged
- A watch to keep track of time
- Bottled water
- Camera (If you want)
When walking along country roads in rural areas, in my state of Delaware, the law says to walk facing oncoming traffic, as far off the edge of the roadway as possible. (This means to walk on the left side of the roadway, not along the right as if you were driving or bicycling.) This will give motorists a heads up—They can see you from afar and adjust.
Another safety issue is hypothermia, when the body becomes too cold. Proper dressing will keep hypothermia away. For senior citizens, to be safe, keep the walk as short and as close to home as you can. This may mean taking just a quick stroll around your property. Still another safety concern is frostbite. Please be careful! Keep your hat, earmuffs, and gloves on at all times. At the first sign of numbness in your fingers or toes, please go indoors to warm up.
Now, to the best part about a winter walk in the country: What to look for?
Well, sometimes there is a covering of snow. At other times, the landscape is stark and bare and gray. But let's back up:
Whenever it snows, the first thing I do out here in the Delaware country is to run outdoors with the camera. I don't want to miss a thing! I end up taking way more pictures than can ever be used, so after the initial photo shoot, I load the digital pictures into the computer and delete, delete, delete until I have a winner or two.
My eye caught this lovely pond frozen over, but please—Never walk out onto a frozen pond, no matter how picturesque. Cast your eyes or camera lens from a safe distance. This is supposed to be a pleasurable and mishap-free experience.
You might be fortunate enough to live near a stable. I took these next two shots when gathering photos of interest for the local community newspaper. Horses against a backdrop of snow are appealing subjects, and I only had to park my car in a friend's driveway and walk a few hundred feet to enjoy watching them.
Grand pictures of the landscape covered in ice and snow are one thing, but after the snow has fallen and settled, there are lesser, hidden treasures to find as well. It goes without saying that you have to work harder to find interesting things to look at in the winter, but if you persist, your will find gems peeking out from under the barest of landscapes or from under the snow.
Even in the absence of the quintessential snow cover in wintertime, a winter walk is still rewarding. For example, it seems as though there are many more birds darting about in the landscape. Maybe they have been there all along, but without summertime's leaf covering, you can more readily spot them in the bushes and trees of winter. You might even begin to be a bird-watcher. This takes patience (because birds like to hide), which means spending extra time outdoors while on your walk of discovery. Remember the tip about keeping your head, face, hands, and feet covered and warm.
It would not be winter in Delaware without the American Holly (our state tree), and it grows abundantly along ditch banks and roadsides in my state, a feast for the eyes in wintertime. Who can resist admiring those beautiful red berries against a backdrop of pointy green leaves? The berries peeking out from under splashes of white snow on this holly make a pretty picture, and one need not be a pro to take a lovely snapshot to remember the moment.
I've heard it said that snow is a great equalizer: When it covers the landscape, it makes the ordinary extraordinary; it makes even the most humble yard beautiful. I must admit that my yard could use some cleaning up, some de-junking, but under a covering of snow, everything looks good. In fact, all the yards along my country road look good.
I think I'll go for a good ol' country walk right now.