Winter On Wheels

IMG_2063Winter can be a very serious time. The furrowed brows, the shivering, the chapped lips. Effortlessly, you can spend an entire week indoors with no exposure to the outside world save for a candle-like flicker of sun that may pass near one of your windows. According to some studies, you could find yourself with Seasonal Affective Disorder. Or, instead, you might get that jumpy, cabin fever sort of feeling — one that finds you chasing the cats around the house with an oven mitt on each hand mumbling in gibberish.

Last weekend, I felt the seriousness of winter and was not in the mood for it. All week long I’d been cooped up in an office, crunching numbers — endless streams of digits and invoicing language coursing through the left side of my brain while the right side grew more and more listless. I usually appease that artsy side of my brain by listening to music — music of the sort that conjures up images of the great outdoors, wide open spaces, tranquil solitude. Eventually, all of these “empty promises” provided by music begin to come due.

On Saturday, when I glanced out the window and saw little streaks of sunlight in the sky, I started to feel cabin fever creeping in. I knew I had to get out! I stepped into the living room to find James already assuming his position on the sofa, surrounded by manuscripts and various scholarly scribblings.

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I said, “I think we should try to get outside, today, don’t you?”

“What did you have in mind? A walk?” he asked, innocently.

“Actually, I thought maybe we’d go for a bike ride,” I offered.

James — ever the beloved Bert to my Ernie — sighed and casually glanced out the window. Clearly not moved by the meager rays of sun bravely streaming across an otherwise foreboding sky, he asked, “Do you think it’s safe? Isn’t there ice?”

“Only on the sidewalks; not on the roads where we’d be riding. I’ve seen lots of people riding bikes, lately.”

“Couldn’t we just take a walk?”

I’m not sure what I said next, exactly. I likely launched into the whole “stream of digits” and “split brain” nonsense I just explained to you. Maybe I also threw in the fact that I’ve been walking since toddlerhood, so the novelty is now completely lost on me. It must have been the forcefulness with which I delivered my impassioned pleaIMG_2092 that eventually stirred him from the comfort of the sofa, because I’m certain I wasn’t making much sense at that point.

We hadn’t gone quite a mile, yet, when a wind came from out of the northwest and began eroding our faces. Wearing helmets and earmuffs, neither of us thought a scarf would be becoming of a true cyclist. I was beginning to wish we’d been far less fashion conscious. Not only was the wind constantly pushing us backward, I was having trouble feeling the lower half of my face.

IMG_2024Never one to give up completely, I announced we were changing course and heading for a lakeside park just north of us where we could mill around and enjoy some winter scenery. Here I’m sure James was thinking of all the winter scenery he could’ve enjoyed from the comfort of the sofa rather than pedaling down abandoned streets in gale force winds.

I’ve always loved this particular park. In summer, you can sit on a bench beneath the canopy of trees, stare out over the waters of Lake Michigan, and feel the kind of escape people often go to great expense to find. In winter, as we soon found out, you can get the same feeling though the landscape is drastically different.

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The beach was a lunar landscape — almost devoid of color except for the cold lake waters and the brilliant hunks of ice. While standing there and admiring the stark scenery and taking in the sound of waves crashing onto ice and frozen sand, I told James I didn’t think I could bear to live in a place that doesn’t experience all four seasons.

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Spring, summer, and autumn are all very easy to love — so obviously full of their own brand of grace and grandeur. Winter, however, is shrouded in layers of quiet, distance, and introspection. In the deepest days of winter — when the landscape and our senses have so much stripped away — the smallest brushstroke of color, like the remnants of fruit from a crabapple tree or a walk along the frozen beach with your beloved, become works of art.

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We walked along the trail beside a vacant harbor and watched as giant sheets of ice rose and fell hypnotically above swells from the lake. In the distance, the beautiful Baha’i temple added immensity to the stark scenery. The side of my brain that had felt so cooped up now imagined he was in some far away frozen kingdom, gazing upon the castle of some icy monarch — perhaps the Snow Queen.

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By and by, the fact that we’d ridden here on two wheels instead of four no longer seemed implausible. With the wind at our backs, we headed south for home. Our ride had come full circle in more ways than one. What had started out as a nice idea had gone completely awry only to turn back on itself, becoming quite a good idea. How often does that happen in real life? Next time, though, I’ll be wearing a scarf!

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~ by Jason on January 20, 2011.

3 Responses to “Winter On Wheels”

  1. LOVED reading this… and thanks for posting the pics. I miss our bike rides and Chicago/Evanston.

  2. Jason I enjoyed your writings today with such enthusiasm…they are always so descriptive and interesting that I often times feel that I am actually there with you guys! Keep up the wonderful work, and will anxiously await your next interesting post!!!

  3. Oh my Jason , I love you so much….. I can’t believe you and James got out that day …. I know you get stir crazy inside but play a board game for goodness sake LOL.
    Loved your pics….
    Miss ya’ll so much can’t wait to see you…
    MOM

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