Getting outside, no matter the weather

Even though it’s the lead story on the 6 o’clock news many nights, I haven’t written about the weather in awhile.

News flash: It’s cold out there right now.

You already knew that.

But it’s not that cold today. I went for a walk/jog earlier, and my car temperature gauge recorded a balmy 17 degrees. The sun was out, too.

Unlike some of you, I like living in a place with four seasons. I don’t wear a scarf in the winter; I like the cold on my face. It’s invigorating.

When jogging, I wear layers. My thumbs and fingers get cold first, so I wear two pairs of gloves. I had no issues today.

Joy of winter

I’m thankful for winter. Last year, it never came. I jogged in the rain in January last year – and got soaked in a rainstorm when it should have been snowing. Ugh. That was my worst jog ever.

Those signs that say “Bridge may be icy”? It’s true. There are two bridges over the Black River on my favorite exercise path, and they do ice over before the path itself does. I tread gingerly there. (They get slick in the rain during summer, too. Got to pay attention all the time.)

I drive a passenger van for a living, so maybe it’s strange that I say I enjoy winter. This means I have to slow down when the weather turns nasty. Welcome to the real world.

I learned how to drive in a Chevette in Michigan’s Upper Peninsula a long time ago. I can rock a stuck vehicle out of a snowbank with the best of you.

Step up your game

For Christmas, we visited family in Michigan. I drove my wife and oldest son to a late-afternoon Christmas Eve service in Ann Arbor (with Ohio license plates and a Michigan State sticker on the back windshield, by the way) along snow-covered roads. I traversed aptly-named Hill Street and pumped the gas pedal repeatedly without thinking to get our minivan up the incline. If I’d floored it, I’d have spun the wheels and lost traction. Keep the wheels rolling, slow enough to keep traction with the road but fast enough to keep the vehicle moving.

There’s a skill to winter driving. Perhaps that’s why I like it.

Speed limits, of course, go out the window when it snows. Before our sons were born, we motored through Buffalo the first week of January during a snowstorm similar to the one Erie, Pa., got this week. I drove 15 – that’s fifteen – mph on the New York State Thruway, a 55 mph highway then (it’s 65 mph now). We were grateful we had a motel reservation; otherwise, we might have been stranded out there.

I always see an SUV or two speed past me on snow-covered roads. Be my guest. I’m not surprised to see them in a ditch or stopped by a police officer a few minutes later. Happens all the time, doesn’t it? You’d think we would learn.

I have never owned a snowblower. Put on the boots and get out the shovel. I’ve been blessed with excellent health. It’s good exercise.

Year-round beauty

I enjoy spring more when we’ve had a real winter. If trees never “die,” how can they “come to life” again? New blooms, greener grass, warmer temperatures, more people outside (I saw only one older man on my 6-mile walk/jog today).

There’s a reason Easter is in the spring. It’s a symbol of new life, of rebirth.

Summers are nice in northern Ohio (although I did get dehydrated once after my walk/jog last summer). Not too hot or humid, usually. I couldn’t handle a Florida or Texas summer.

Fall is a beautiful time, as leaves change color and the temps begin to chill a little. We bought a house a few months ago that has a number of mature trees in or near our yard. I spent a lot of time this fall raking those leaves. Again, good exercise. (I have to find the positive side, right?)

Our city has an awesome leaf collection system. We rake leaves to the curb, and the city brings around a huge vacuum cleaner that sucks up the leaves. It’s pretty cool. They come through several times each fall, so we just keep raking. (I filled a couple of yard waste cans with late-falling leaves on Dec. 21, just before the most recent snowfall. Someday I’ll get all the leaves off the yard. Maybe.)

I enjoy getting outside year-round. Cold, cool, hot, warm. It’s all good.

It sure beats over-eating while watching blowout bowl games all day (which I did yesterday, actually – yawn).

Fresh air. It’s good for your health, and mine.

See you on the trail. Any time of year.


Real life

bangladeshRescuers today search for survivors and bodies after Tuesday’s massive landslide in Rangamati district, Bangladesh. (The Associated Press)

It’s hot outside this week.

That’s been the lead story (or close to it) on the six o’clock news every day. Glad they told me it’s hot. Wouldn’t have figured it out otherwise.

I did learn something, though. We’ve had an official “heat wave,” which is three consecutive days of 90-degree temperatures. We tied a daily record here in the Cleveland area twice this week, with 93 on both Sunday and Tuesday.

We’ve long had a fascination with weather in this country. TV stations hire as many meteorologists as they do news reporters. (That’s an exaggeration, but probably not a big one.) The news radio station I listen to in the morning gives a weather update every 10 minutes (because listeners tune in and out quickly, and the station wants to ensure everyone hears a weather report).

Weather effects

Does weather change our plans often?

The people I work with like spending time outside, but when it rains, we don’t do that. When the sun shines, we use sun block – lots of it. When it’s humid, we limit our time outside to short stretches. In the winter we don’t sit outside because it’s too cold. We enjoy indoor activities.

So yes, weather does affect our plans.

Personally? Not so much.

I like being outside in all types of weather. I walk or jog year-round. In winter I wear layers of clothing. I don’t don a scarf because I like the fresh air on my face. There have been days I’ve chickened out because I didn’t want to deal with the cold, mostly because of my fingers – the first part of me to get cold, even with two pairs of gloves on.

In the summer, I like being outside when it rains. On a hot humid day, especially, rain feels good.

I’ve been out a few times when it’s rained so hard my shorts and T-shirt get as drenched as they do in the washing machine.

When a thunderstorm passes by, I’ll sit on the front porch and watch it. Lightning and storm clouds are cool (as long as nothing gets hit and catches fire).

We are blessed in the Upper Midwest that we rarely get severe storms. The occasional tornado or damaging thunderstorm is about it.

In the extreme

Extreme weather makes the national news frequently. Severe tornadoes, hurricanes, flooding, the occasional rock slide or mudslide affect various parts of our country and world.

Wildfires are another story. Some occur naturally; some are the work of humans, either intentionally or not. They can and do cause severe damage. I can’t imagine being in the path of an out-of-control wildfire.

Fire is wonderful when it’s confined to the barbecue grill or backyard pit. It’s essential to operate a stove, furnace and your car. We need to treat those flames and sparks carefully, as we all know.

Weather makes the news internationally, too. Just now on I see a story about a Bangladesh mudslide that has killed at least 140 people and caused massive destruction. Wow.

Bangladesh, east of India, is a densely-populated country of 161 million people. Poverty is deep and widespread. Formerly East Pakistan, Bangladesh came into being in 1971, when the two parts of Pakistan split after a bitter war.

Because of its poverty and population density, weather events frequently have extreme consequences there. This is yet another reason that those of us who live in the United States can be grateful.

While weather dominates the local news this week, we can give thanks that it’s not nearly as severe as Bangladesh is enduring right now – or, perhaps, other parts of the U.S. We do need to take precautions, though, as the newscasters repeatedly tell us: Stay hydrated (water is best), don’t overdo the sun (skin cancer and sunburn are real) and watch out for bikers and pedestrians on the road.

‘Real’ life, ‘real’ power

Why talk about the weather when there’s “real” news to talk about, such as ongoing – and new – intrigue in Washington, D.C.? Because not everything in life demands controversy. Not everything is a life-and-death matter. (Although the weather can involve deadly situations.)

Politics is a game that some people play well, and most people play poorly. Depends who you ask who plays politics well or not.

Weather, on the other hand, is what it is. Weather is real life. Today, it’s hot. Tomorrow, we might get thunderstorms. Sunday, it’s supposed to cool off. (We’ll see if that weather front actually reaches us on Sunday.) We plan accordingly, and adjust as needed. We compromise. We make it work.

We enjoy the weather, we avoid it or perhaps we endure it, if we work outside and it’s uncomfortably hot, for example. We delay children’s ball games when lightning strikes nearby, because we fear the worst.

We spend too much of our lives that way. We fear the worst, so that’s how we live. We expect bad things to happen. Even regarding weather.

I’ll stay on my porch when thunder and lightning dominate the sky. Storms reveal nature’s power, and our helplessness, in a way. There are forces out there bigger than us. Much bigger.

We respect them. Because we have to.

Because with weather, we deal with life as it really is.