Survive winter by staying busy, dressing warmly
Monday, February 03, 2014 2:18 AM
Winter is wearing out its welcome. Yet, we still have anywhere from two (that's the glass-half-full approach) to four or more (the hell freezing over scenario) months of winter weather left.
Another winter activity is taking photos of birds at your feeder. I took this shot of a junco eating corn on the ground last winter during my recovery at Park Lane Estates, Preston. I was comfortably inside, shooting through the window with a good camera and zoom. LISA BRAINARD/BLUFF COUNTRY READER
This year, do you think we can please skip the May snowstorm and accumulation we all cursed in 2013? Pretty, pretty please?
There are two main ways to approach winter at this point of the season, plus some corollaries.
The first choice is obvious. You could just buck up and embrace it.
Force, I mean, encourage your mind into believing that we are the lucky ones - not those snowbirds who've migrated to the southern climes of Texas, Arizona, California, Florida and the like. Dogs may be loud in their neighborhoods while we instead enjoy silent, but spectacular sundogs. No barking there other than your feet, perhaps, if proper, heat-radiating footwear has been neglected. Then your dogs will bark in freezing horror. There's a lesson to be learned. Just bundle up in the first place.
Take a walk outside. Before heading out, remember to bundle up in layers. Then you can open up a coat zipper to vent or take off an outer vest, for example, if you get overly warm (yes, it can happen!). It's better to be brave and put up with a little chill at first; as long as you keep moving you'll warm up fast. And you don't want to sweat much, so vent or take off a layer at a time to try to maintain an even temperature.
Breathable, wicking clothing layers are best close to your skin. They will transport moisture (from that sweat you never believed you'd see on a freezing winter day) away from your skin. If you're layered and/or vented, it should evaporate. Take to heart this adage from expert outdoors men and women: "Cotton kills." Cotton will soak up moisture, but not wick it away. The moisture stays near your skin, possibly helping lead to a drop in body temperature, which could lead to hypothermia and eventual death.
Here are two corollaries to this principle.
1. You still may get a little damp from sweat anyway after walking, despite taking all the right steps. Make sure you have warm, dry clothes to change into at the conclusion of your activity to prevent a chill that just won't go away. Trust me from experience here. Just wrapping up in a warm blanket in a warm house or car - without changing out of your damp clothes - absolutely will not cut it!
2. In case you've been thinking, "But cotton is wonderful in the summer," here's what's up with that. If you have wind, the wet cotton can nicely dry and even provide you with extra cooling in the process, feeling wonderful. On the other hand, you may have noticed cotton clothing just sticking to you on a hot, windless, humid (I guess "muggy" covers all that) day. It's all related to the same idea - cotton doesn't breathe.
Keep this in mind - there is no bad weather, only bad clothing choices. (I am nothing but full of outdoor adages today it would seem.) The layering and wicking is just the beginning. Go to your favorite area outdoor retailers or search online for more information on types of fabrics, any coatings or linings, wind blocking materials, insulation and more.
Also remember to protect your head and face. Wear a cap or beanie of some type, a headband to cover your ears, or maybe even some type of face mask or balaclava. Sunglasses are nearly mandatory if it's bright. We don't want to suffer snow blindness, after all, in sunny, white-out conditions. (OK, I doubt that it would happen around here, but I did just see a story about it happening to someone on Mt. Everest, and will mention it while it's fresh on my mind.)
I did get ski goggles purchased to help encourage my gimpy self to take a walk. My theory is that they'll help keep my eyes and cheeks, which are very susceptible to cold (even indoors), sufficiently warm and my glasses fog-free outdoors.
You also may recall my ulterior motive of figuring the purchase would cause the opposite conditions to occur - an end to the crazy coldness and an early spring. So far my best-laid plans are not panning out. Maybe I needed to keep that part in my mind only and never speak it - like a wish upon a star - to have a shot at realizing it.
Other outdoor ideas include snowshoeing, cross-country and downhill skiing, snowboarding, sledding, ice skating (please, not in your car), ice fishing, making snow angels, building snow caves and igloos, having a snowball fight, snowmobiling and more. You could try playing "king of the mountain" on a large snowdrift or a pile of removed snow.
Now we'll take a break to fade in glowing memories of me in a ton of bundled-on winter outerwear - think of Ralphie's kid brother in "A Christmas Story" - trying to fight my way to the top when a mere finger push from someone on top sent me rolling back down. It makes me laugh now; I hope I didn't wimp out and cry. I mean, tears frozen to the cheeks are only slightly less embarrassing than a tongue stuck to a pole!
Or, winter can prove a fine time to read, try out a new furniture arrangement, scan and categorize old photos, try a new hobby, and, yes, even wander outdoors to a gym (or exercise at home).
There are a few months till spring, whatever the case. As a last choice, there's always hibernation!