Winter rhythms

Today, the people of Nebraska are emerging from their homes after an ice storm halted daily commutes in the majority of our state. Due to the weather, I've been confined to the treadmill for too long. I was finally able to run outside this morning, but it was a slow and slick five miles.

I had to watch my step more than normal and kick the pace down to one minute slower per mile. This kind of running can be a bit torturing for someone like me who likes to just zone out and fall into an 8:30/mile pace. It was good for me, though, to slow down.

I could feel the cold air sting my lungs while the sun provided a welcome warmth on my face. To help slow my pace this morning, I downloaded an acoustic playlist on Spotify. It was slow and deliberate music. The kind of music one listens to while drifting off to sleep. Throughout the five miles, I noticed things like the way the ice glimmered like diamonds on the sidewalk--like that old Tom Waits song, "Diamonds on my windshield...tears from heaven." I noticed the birds and their warbles overhead. It seemed like ages since I last heard the birds. I noticed the way the grass bent in submission to the ice, a sort of bowing to its power. I noticed how quiet my neighborhood is after the morning rush. I noticed the crisp smell of winter giving way to the damp of thawing--the earthy smell of wet dirt.

One of the reasons why I love the Midwest so much is because of the seasons. There are, for the most part, four distinct seasons here. We have crisp autumns, frigid winters, rainy springs, and fiery hot summers. We Midwesterners have developed activities and rhythms for each season. During the winter, houses are shut up, curtains are pulled closed, and we all break out our favorite sweaters. We pour big cups of tea and stir pots of hearty soup. In the Midwest, winter produces a kind of slowing down.

Random winter photo...thanks, Pexels, for your free pics. 
A professor in graduate school once told me that I wasn't very Midwestern. He thought I spoke too sharply, moved too quickly, and in a way, I suppose he was right. I'm learning to train my body to adapt to the seasons, but the slowing down is often difficult for me. It is easy to grow discontented with the cold and count the days until spring. The older I get, though, the more I understand the necessity of a Midwestern winter. Fall, summer, and spring each beg us to be out and about and moving around, but winter is a time of drawing in. A time of introspection. A time of rest. And it only comes around for about three months a year (although, in Nebraska--the winter can last four or five months!).

I want to learn to savor the winter like a bowl of beef and barley soup. I want to allow myself the space and freedom to just sit instead of constantly moving. I want to take pleasure in the shuffling of winter running. I want to give myself permission to pull my curtains tight and hunker down beneath blankets with my kids so we can better appreciate the movement spring will inevitably bring.

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