Shadows in the snow

Shadows in the snow

Day 26 of this commitment to go outside every day for a year.  It was cold.  Too cold.  It felt more like an endurance test, rather than an enjoyable stroll in the woods.  Every bit of exposed skin (only the nose and eyes, really) burned in the frigid wind chill.

The thermometer said four below, but the wind chill hovered at -25 below.  More than sixty of our Upper Peninsula schools announced cancellations or delays.  The woodstove demanded logs hourly, hungry to abate the chill. 

If you look down the road, a white misty hue colors the horizon.  It looks like a fine shimmer of white against the lake’s surface.  The world appears still; there’s no wildlife around.  One might think the chickadees and finches would be greedily munching sunflower seeds at the feeder; instead, there’s an eerie feeling of ice-cold silence.  No deer paw beneath the oak tree.  Even chipmunks and squirrels remain absent, perhaps hidden in burrows beneath the snow cover.

The bare branches of the bushes and trees seem etched against the blue-tinted snow.  The sun, at mid-day, rests so low in the sky, weakly shining its January light.  Remembering the old adage “never take a picture into the sun” I aimed the camera and snapped.  They couldn’t have been talking about this anemic sun, could they?

Weak January sun

Weak January sun

Last night a friend asked me to go cross-country skiing.  I mumbled something like, “maybe when it gets a little warmer….” and she shook her head and responded with something that sounded suspiciously like “wimp” or “wuss.”  Thank goodness she didn’t know about this Outdoor Commitment!  It probably would have been impossible to say “no”.

Some people seem so much better suited to spend time outside without even feeling it as a “commitment”.  Especially the avid skiers and snowshoers and ice fishermen around here.  They’re out & about daily, rarely contemplating wind chill.

I am a wimp and a wuss. That’s why this commitment is necessary.  Hibernation sounds more appealing at this time of year, let me tell you.  I am also not one of those souls so in love with nature waxing poetically about the snowfall, the chickadees, the diameters of maple trees, the positions of the stars.  I like the outdoors; don’t get me wrong, I’m just not head-over-heels-365-days-a-year- in love with it.  (That’s probably why it has so much to teach me this year….)

Last January our small school hosted an inspirational speaker named Frida Waara, from nearby Marquette, who skied with a team of eleven other women to the North Pole.  That woman is no wimp!  No one could call her a wuss.  She is a true inspiration….please check out her website at

In Frida’s words: 

“Everyone will cross an Arctic Ocean in their lives,” says Frida. “It may not look like the ice cap at the top of the world, but it will feel every bit as dangerous and alien.”

How will you cross that unfamiliar ground? Frida believes whether it’s to rescue your home, your health, your family or your finances, you must learn to rely on creative problem solving and teamwork–the same techniques that get off broken ice and back on solid ground.

Several of us took an afternoon ski with Frida last January and what impressed me most about her was this:  no matter what our level of proficiency, she actively drew the group together, praising all of us, making us all feel like amazing Outdoor Adventurers. 

I don’t suspect many of us will be headed to the North Pole anytime soon; however, opening the door and walking outside might prove a similar experience this week!