Walking in Winter

This is the first winter in many years I haven’t spent working out in a gym, for the obvious reasons, and other than not having that reason to warm my car up in the morning, I’ve been surprised to find I don’t really miss it.

The curtain dropped on public involvement around mid-March of last year and so the grip of winter at that point had loosened considerably. Instead of riding the bike to nowhere or climbing the stairway to the moon, I walked.

My town has great walking possibilities—Crescent Beach State Park, Kettle Cove, Fort Williams—but I don’t always want to fire up the vehicle to go someplace to walk (feels a little like putting my bike in the car to go somewhere to ride), so I’ve developed a bunch of walking loops that take me through my neighborhood.

Other than the ease of it, I’ve noticed many more small things and many more ways in which each day in the movement of the seasons brings something new. For example, if you aren’t walking outside right now (admittedly, in single degree temps), you’re maybe not aware that bird life is starting to kick up, that songs and movement in the brush are probably at their highest level since last fall.

The other obvious benefit is the requirement to slow down. Even as fit as I am (heh), I can only walk so fast on frost-heaved roads and icy verges, which has forced me to throttle back my desire to get a walk done and enjoy where I am. And see.

See the profusion of cardinals that resides in our local copses, the snow coats drifting off of frozen twigs in the breeze, the pile of old ski gear someone left leaned against an old car last fall, now buried in snow. Where’s the story that explains that? Or the massive stack of lobster traps that hasn’t moved in a year?

I know the places in the roads where the melt accumulates, then freezes at night. I know which stand of trees I can duck into for a discreet pee. I know how the dark water of Trout Brook looks as it flows under the ice.

I’ve connected with a few more locals, too, the early dog-walkers and hand-wavers, the same people on their way to work at the same time every morning.

It’s brought a different sense to my writing, this slowing down. I find, with extra time, I’m less focused on getting my daily quota done, more focused on teasing out better sentences, weighing the worth of my words. It’s an open question whether that helps the books eventually, but there’s always hope. As there is for the spring.


About Richard Cass

Dick is the author of the Elder Darrow Jazz Mystery series, the story of an alcoholic who walks into a dive bar in Boston . . . and buys it. Solo Act was a Finalist for the Maine Literary Award in Crime Fiction in 2017 and In Solo Time won the award in 2018. The third book in the series, Burton's Solo, came out in 2018 and Last Call at the Esposito in 2019. Sweetie Bogan's Sorrow was published in 2020, to thunderous pandemic acclaim. The sixth book in the series, Mickey's Mayhem, will come out in 2021. Dick lives and writes in Cape Elizabeth.
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4 Responses to Walking in Winter

  1. William Andrews says:

    Well said! I share your love of walking (although I do mine mostly on snowshoes) and agree that there’s a soothing pace that helps one think and write a bit more deliberately.

  2. Nicely said. It’s akin to my meditation in warm water 5 days a week. I’m really finding that the warmth and meditation-enhanced exercise are helping my writing as well.

  3. Anonymous says:

    We’ve been walking a lot, and I, too, have noticed the increase in bird song. It inspires me to learn more about birds, so along with reading, perhaps when we reemerge from isolation, a birding class may be in order. Nice to think it will influence writing as well. I’ve also found that covid reading is making me more focused on the language and pacing, while my daily quota seems to be out the window. Nice post!


  4. sandra Neily says:

    That was great Dick. So very pleased you have “discreet trees?” My daughter is impressed that I’ve only used public bathrooms twice in the entire year. (Well. I had a travel-the-state job with ME Audubon and since I took my dog with me, I have a decent outdoor opportunity itinerary and ‘eye.’ You make a great point about the slow down vs the gym. Thanks!

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