In winter, I dread snow shoveling for my typical reasons:
I hate being cold.
I hate being cold.
I hate being cold.
Hiking is one of my favorite pastimes. Day hiking, that is. I’m not a backpacker or an overnight camper and I don’t want to sleep in a tent the way I once did. No, give me a nice long day trek around the trails and a hot shower at the end. Yep, I’m a spoiled hiker.
When I got my first good pair of hiking shoes (Merrell, Oboz, Keen—whatever shape fits my foot best as said feet evolve with age), I enjoyed hiking even more. With Black Diamond trekking poles at hand, klutz me even felt up for tackling the first two miles of Kauai’s Na’pali Coast trail. Lest you think me a wimp, those two miles in and back out again was a four-hour endeavor. The path ain’t easy.
The winter walking I do these days is in Red Lodge, Montana when I visit my older sister, Jackie. Her husband takes off on his yearly endeavor to find the Ever Elusive Elk and I show up. Jackie and I enjoy a week of having wine and popcorn for supper—real food is optional and as easy as possible.
When we’ve had enough of whatever we’ve gotten into—painting a bathroom, a cabinet, re-finishing a piece of furniture, having girlfriends over for an evening of hors d’oeuvre and wine that bright, bursting Montana sun will put in an appearance and we drag each other out of the house for a tromp around some hunk of woods closed to hunters.
Winter? Being cold? Yah, been there and lived that for all my 60 years but for the blessed three I lived in Southern California. “Heaven, I’m in heaven…”
Back in Pittsburgh…
Here I am, stuck in Pittsburgh where winter may be shorter than Montana by three or four or five months, but still we have winter. There are times I look at my husband and ask, seriously, why couldn’t you have been born in a southern city?
To rub my winter-abode-location in a bit more, my husband’s work region includes constant travel to the southeast USA. In the humid days of summer I may gloat that he is in Orlando while Pittsburgh, not lacking in humidity, is a tad less oppressive. But come winter, he happily packs his swimwear for heated hotel pools and I plow through my winter clothes preparing to shovel 60 feet of sidewalk and a driveway that can hold four cars.
I am not happy.
“California dreamin’ on such a winter’s day”
Each November, optimist me would think this winter won’t be so bad, it won’t be so cold, it won’t last so long. I live in a land of fantasy. This I know.
The particular winter that started this diatribe was a nasty one with unusual depths of cold temperatures. And hey, when Montanans tell you that the more arid the air, the less the cold hurts your bones, it’s the truth. I could shovel my thirty foot walk—who cared about the driveway?—while dressed in jeans and a sweatshirt. And I’d break a sweat.
Here, though, I was ill-prepared for anything less than 40 degrees. Or twenty. Or those wretched single digits.
I dressed in wool knees socks, jeans, a flannel shirt, my husband’s old and long-retired ski pants (I am 5’2” and he is 6’2”), and my winter coat—the only thing truly suited to the purpose. Then I would don my old gloves covered up with Alex’s 20-year-old ski gloves.
And yet I froze.
Frugal couple we are, I realized we keep some belongings far too long.
We’ve been REI members for years.
What the heck was I thinking?
I wept after coming in from the cold after yet another agonizing marathon snow shoveling, went straight to the Mac, got on REI’s website, and ordered a pair of super warm mittens.
Oh yeah baby, despite how much I despise the season, the rest of winter wasn’t too bad.
A Better Season
Then summer arrived. Time to indulge in my favorite yard work: weeding. I am the destroyer of all things bad in the flower gardens and broad hill behind our home. I’m the one who cut two sets of steps into the slopes and set stones into them. I rip up grass, tear out dreaded crown vetch, clover and any other green thing that isn’t compatible with the intended blooms in order to give He Who Plants a clean canvas to work on.
I found the perfect pair of gloves. I get a new pair each spring, looking forward to their bright neon green arrival the same way I do the first shoots of crocus and daffodil. Last year’s gloves have enough life left in them to survive mulching, a task I whine about, but secretly love. Don’t tell my husband.
In doing this destruction, a good pair of gloves has been invaluable. Not only have I avoided calluses and blisters, I am also fearless.
Yes, fearless. Bunny fur from a hawk demolition?
No problem, I scoop it into a bag.
Not an issue as I rip them out of the ground.
What of them? I pick up fishing worms as big around as my pinkies and fling them into the path of a passing robin.
Exploiting those gloves!
We knew it was time to replace the deck that came with the 1980s house and that a nimwit constructed. Imagine my joy in getting to destroy something that big? But, alas, what to do for gloves? Guess how pleased I was when I realized those gardening gloves doubled as hand-protection for prying out nails and drilling in screws? Yep, awesome.
When it came time for staining the deck—forest green, of course—I got my hands on (yes, pun, groan, go ahead, groan) the infamous Playtex Living Gloves in bold yellow. By the time I’m done with any painting project, no matter how big or small, whatever I’m wearing has as much paint on it as does the item. Except for my hands—those gloves work wonders at keeping my flanges clean. Until I finally blew a hole in the index of one hand and wound up with a green fingertip.
The summer I painted my small, former miner’s shack home in Red Lodge, I borrowed a set of old clothes from my brother-in-law. Borrowed? Certainly he knew he would never get them back again, right? I wore John’s 34” x 32” Wranglers and large t-shirt over top of my own clothes. At the end of a painting day (1 coat of primer, 2 coats of paint on a two bedroom house and one car garage … it was a long summer), I would stand his outfit up on the back porch to let it dry for the next day’s work.
Pretty funny, right? Jackie and I thought so. John had a ceremonial burning of his attire when it was all said and done.
Female empowerment equals the right gloves
These various glove events, and the hiking shoes, and the trekking poles, have made me think through the tools I need to tackle a project. Scrivener for writing, olive oil for cooking, my office joyful colors conducive to creativity.
And those house chores and shoveling? They can become a downright pleasure with the gloves perfectly suited to the job at hand.
I still really, really hate winter.
Read: How do you make peace with a tree?