“It’s sleeting up here!!” Mom says, her voice high with alarm. “I just left work, and the roads are a sheet of ice!”
I stare out the gym windows into the wet parking lot. So far, there’s only rain here in the city. But it’s cold and windy, and I know the temperature will drop after dark. I’ve never liked driving in winter weather. But now, as an amputee, I worry more about getting out of the car!
If you haven’t already guessed, I cancel my plans for the night.
It’s a strange feeling – this new distaste for winter. As a teacher, I formed a deep love for snow days. I loved lying in bed, listening to early morning school-closings. I loved staying inside all day. I loved baking cookies, watching movies, and even catching up on laundry!
The winter before my accident, Philadelphia got almost 75 inches of snow. Each morning, I woke up to the scraping of my neighbors’ shovels. I pulled on thermals, boots, and a fleece jacket, then joined them outside. We took our time as we scooped and salted the sidewalk. After all, there was no place to go — our cars were buried in the white stuff!
The winter of my recovery was another snowy one. In the painful cold, my parents and I made three midnight trips to the ER. The nurses arrived for their shifts red-faced, brushing snowflakes from their coats. Each time I was discharged, they warned us, “Better leave now, before the next blizzard comes!”
At home on my crutches, winter wrapped me in a heavy, gray fog – restrictive and suffocating, leaving hazards in its trail. One day, my crutch found a drop of melted ice on the hardwood floor. The crutch shot out from under me, and I crashed to the ground on my little left leg. I burst into tears. I wasn’t hurt badly, but I was frightened. Powerless. Knocked down by a tiny droplet of water – and a season I couldn’t control.
I’ve made it through two more winters since then. For Philly, they’ve been uncharacteristically dry. We’ve had virtually no snow! Of course, as a long time east-coaster, I know that can’t last.
So this winter, I have a plan. No, I still won’t face the icy sidewalks alone. But I’m putting together an “Indoor To-Do List.” Instead of feeling limited, my plan is to push outward. I’ll take a rock climbing class at the gym. I’ll sharpen my skating skills at the roller rink. I’ll learn to bake pies. I might even borrow a keyboard and pick up where piano lessons left off 25 years ago. (The pies will be a good apology to the neighbors!)
This year when winter strikes, I won’t hibernate. Instead, I’ll tunnel underground like a daffodil bulb, growing in secret. At the supermarket, I’ll buy bright flowers and summer berries, even though they’re out of season. I’ll line my windows with a green garden. And then in spring, when the streets are dry and warm, I’ll emerge renewed.
It’s true. Winter is isolating. It coats the ground with limits, conditions we can’t control. I’m not sure how my plan will work this year, but for me, just having a plan is helpful.
I’m sure your hobbies are different than mine. So make your own list: a stack of movies, a pile of books, a basket of yarn for knitting, a box of tools to build a birdhouse, board games, card games, a ready supply of soup.
Identify friends or family who can get to you even when it snows. Send an e-mail. Pick up the phone. Make plans. Think of places to walk where the snow won’t trouble you – the mall, a museum, Target, IKEA. (Bonus points for indoor parking!)
Even with my new outlook, I suspect there’ll be a few days that find me gray and miserable. But this year, when the flakes start to fall, I’m hoping to rest a little easier. Warm and toasty in my new slippers. Baking pies… or stirring up sunshine of my own.
Follow my winter adventures at www.my-1000-miles.blogspot.com.