I rang winter in with boots on. I was walking in the dark in a woods in park about ½ a mile from my apartment when winter officially arrived at 17:47. Why? I didn’t want to ring the season in with anyone around, and what better way to do that than to find the darkest most secluded portion of the world within my reach, and go there?
At about 5:10pm, I walked out my door, headphones on, blasting the usual MetallicA that is the hallmark of all these trips and found I had made a mistake and immediately turned around and went back into the apartment. I went out into the cold dark snow filled world wearing old running shoes. Not the best way to go about trudging through foot deep snow in the dark. After changing that up, i went back out and began, what has of late become, my nightly walk in the woods. Even with those heavy leaden boots on my feet I found negotiating the streets and sidewalks difficult.
Poorly shoveled sidewalks and streets half cleaned along with melted and refrozen snow made for treacherous walking early on. Street lights and the shadows they threw made the walking all the more treacherous, making it more difficult to see where puddles ended and ice began and vice versa. No lighting from street lights here would have actually been more effective than the poor lighting provided by the street lights.
After a few blocks I noticed that I had a problem with my left boot. It was biting into my left leg a few inches above my ankle. Hard. I had to alter my stride in order to keep myself from grunting in pain as I was stabbed with each and every step I took. I had to lean back as I walked and point my left foot at an unusual angle in order to walk without being stuck by my boot. I only did this when walking uphill, as it was only a minor inconvenience at other times. The MetallicA here provided a much wanted distraction, and I enjoyed barking “Sabra Cadabra” to no one in particular.
I had all the time in the world, but I looked at my watch anyway.
I made it to the park after a few minutes and the walk immediately became a great deal easier. The people who cleared the paths in the park had the right equipment and knew how to use it and as a consequence there was a path that was, despite it’s being in almost complete darkness, much easier to navigate. The darkness, which when mingled with the weak street light was an enemy, became a friend again. I didn’t walk so much as swagger here, walking towards the entrance to the paths in the more densely wooded area in royal oak. I looked at my watch again.
The paths into the woods themselves had not been shoveled, but had been traversed by someone on an ATV, or something like it. I was hoping to be one of only a few people to have walked through there, so it was a hair disappointing. And what was worse it seemed that there was something following me. The light didn’t drop nearly as much as I thought it would entering the wooded area, even though it was at this point almost an hour past sunset. And I have a shadow…at night. I was annoyed at this, and turned around to see the source of the light. Nothing at eye level. Turn around to look at the shadow to check the angle to get a better perspective on where the light is coming from.
Curious. It’s seems to be coming from overhead. I look up and there is a crescent moon providing me enough light to walk for me. I laughed out loud at my stupidity, and continued on my way. I decided at this point to turn off the music that I had been listening to and completely ignoring since I had entered the woods because I was so completely focused on where I was. It’s easy to focus on music to distract when there are things that I want to be distracted from, but when the music itself becomes a distraction, it must go. And it did.
I looked at my watch again. Six minutes.
As i walked deeper into the woods, the loud incessant whine of civilization, the screeching horns, the blaring radios, the endless chatter, the worries of the day, the hustle and bustle all fell off behind me like so many snowflakes in a hard winter wind, and I was happy to be rid of them. The dark path, lit only by the crescent moon from a cloudless night sky with Jupiter just below it, a jewel hanging below the moon, a diamond on a necklace, made for a beautiful walk. The world around me was covered in snow and drenched in moonlight.
Everything had made the 29 degree temperatures with the wind whipping at times almost seem non-existent. I had taken off my gloves and opened up my jacket and was walking, looking up at the few visible stars in the sky, with the moon at my back, feel like it was a cool early autumn evening stroll. With every few steps, I would look up at the trees and the sky and smile. This, to me, is one of life’s great joys. I looked at my watch, 17:43, four more minutes.
I turned and for the first time found a path that was not yet trod. I was overjoyed. I walked carefully, not wanting my enthusiasm for this to overtake me to the point of doing something stupid like stepping on a boulder or tree stump buried in snow and injure myself. So I took my time breaking trail for several hundred feet until I noticed that I was beginning to move towards the lights of civilization, that I was moving too close to that which I was trying to walk away from.
So I turned back, making sure to not step where I had stepped. Each step, each time my boots bit into the snow, my feet sank in over a foot deep into the 2 day old remnants of the snowstorm that had dumped 15 or so inches of snow on the area.
I walked away from the trail I broke and back to the main trail, well worn by the ATV wheels that had been through at some point in the last day or two, and moved downhill, past an asphalt trail and towards a steep incline. I looked at my watch. 17:47. The solstice was here. Winter has officially begun. I looked up and said a silent our father and hail Mary, even though I am not particularly religious, simply giving thanks that I’ve made it this far. That I’ve survived for as long as I have. Hoping, and in this case praying, for better luck, and more strength to weather whatever the future may bring, and for the health of all my relatives, and a better world.
The time had come to put on some MetallicA and make my way down the hill. Ride the Lightning is always good listening. I went the long way, not trusting myself to make it down what seemed to be a 45 degree angle slope in the dark with over a foot of snow on the ground. After a few minutes of walking trails that had seemed well trod, I ran into a walk that seemed untouched, at least from a distance. This surprised me, seeing how it was an asphalt path. All the other ones like it had been plowed. It wasn’t until I was on top of it that I noticed that the thing had been plowed, and the snow had just blown back onto it. It was slippery with melted snow that had refrozen, and steep, and my boots, No boots for that matter were up for the job, not in the semi-dark. I walked the edge, in foot deep snow. It was easier that way, and I made it to level ground easily enough.
When I got to the run paths in the park, the ones I run every day I run In the park, it felt different than it normally did. No other runners, me not running, dark where I am used to light. It made for a surreal experience, every nook and cranny that I know like the back of my hand, looking different, almost alien. The markings on the path invisible in the dark, even with the crescent moon shining it’s feeble light onto the scenery. It was starkly beautiful. And the metal had me going.
I walked slowly, sauntered almost, singing loudly and badly out of tune and not caring a damn about it, a carnivorous smile on my face as I barked out the old evil once again.
“Take a look to the sky just before you die, its the last time you will” I look up, and smiling, take my leave of the park.
Back to the land of the living go I. The lights, the cars, the whir of the world, even with the devil dancing in my skull, felt like an ugly impingement. I snarled and almost growled at the world as I met it. I saw a few people from a distance as I was leaving the park and after a few seconds realized it was parents watching their kids sledding, making sure they were OK and had fun without getting hurt. I walked by them after a minute with a curt smile and a quick step, so as to not get in their way, but also as to not let them encroach on my mood.
I walked briskly up the hill, made the right turn, and immediately began to fight again with bad lighting and half dug out sidewalks with ice on them. Two foot tall snow drifts are easier to walk through than that, and I resent it, but I also understand. They can’t police their front walk for every tiny bit of ice just for my benefit.
What I did was walked a path that I knew would have as little traffic as possible and made that my path home. I know these streets better than I know the paths in the park, and I know the paths in the park well enough to walk them in darkness without fear of injury. The Christmas lights in some places are actually funny. In a span of 100 feet there was one house whose owner had solved that little problem of pesky visitors dropping by deftly placing a giant 8 foot Santa snow globe right in the path to their front door. I didn’t notice a side door. I giggled at this without stopping. The next one, got me to stop though.
It looked like it was supposed to be a lit plastic Santa in his sleigh, a small one, maybe a foot tall, 18″ at most, with a single reindeer in front about to take off from a small rooftop. The wind did funny things to it though. Santa and his sleigh looked like it had come off its moorings somewhat, and was now perched at a precarious angle on the roof, 3/4 off, 1/4 on, angled downwards. It gave the impression of Santa about to nosedive off of a cliff. The reindeer looked like it had somewhat broken off of whatever was supposed to keep it attached to Santa and was in fact pointed up at about a 50 degree angle, and turned towards Santa. The effect was one of the reindeer falling off the roof , looking back at Santa trying to figure out what the F*** he was doing back there with his half-assed driving.
DWI Santa about to kill Rudolph. LOL
I made my way home the last few blocks only occasionally having to fight the ice. It seemed easier after walking around in the snow and ice and darkness and cold for an hour and twenty minutes. I made it home as “Creeping Death” started on my headphones. I dusted off the snow, which was nearly up to my knees, smiled the smile of a contented man, grabbed my keys and walked in my front door.
Singing badly, albeit quieter this time.
Have a good night.