A Whiff of Winter (Manhattan Times)
December 23, 2009I hate winter. There: I’ve said it. Even after editing a book called “the Cold Weather Catalog: Learning to Love Winter” it is my least favorite season.
The excess of cold chills my bones and the lack of sun dampens my spirits. And yet, almost every day I’m walking outdoors in Fort Tryon Park, even when the thermometer hits the low double digits.
That’s because although I hate the cold, I love being outdoors. Every year, my love of fresh air and big spaces plays tug of war with my desire for warmth and security. But the sensation of escape—from my stuffy radiator-heated apartment and from the hours of sitting in a frozen position in front of the artificial light of my computer screen—usually wins out. Inevitably, during one of my walks, I’m not only working my body, I’m recharging my mental and sensual batteries as well in ways both expected and unpredictable.
For example, during one of the group Fitness Walks I led this week, we were doing our usual stretching when I gradually noticed the crisp clean smell of pine. I looked up, and sure enough, we were under a huge pine tree that was wafting us with its fragrance. Mmmm… you don’t get that clean smell in summer! Not in New York City!
As we wended our way along the Alpine Garden paths, we paused on one of the overlooks to do push-ups on the stone wall. As I was counting, I noticed a couple of the people in the group seemed distracted. When we were done with the push-ups, one of them pointed and said “Look, a really big bird is sitting in that tree.” Sure enough, in a nearby tree was what we decided was probably a falcon, keeping us silent and regal company. We all had trouble tearing ourselves away from his magnificent presence.
But we did continue walking, laughing to the antics of a couple of squirrels scampering along the top of the stone walls that lined our path. In that squirrel-lightened mood, we paused at another overlook to do leg squats. Not surprisingly, when one of the women asked, “Does this tree make my butt look big?” we giggled all out of proportion to its actually hilarity.
Trekking up and around the leaf-strewn paths, I marveled at the play of light on the mini-mountains on either side, with its rosy glow particular to that early hour. At this time of year, when the branches are bare, we not only can see birds more readily, but also the “bones” of the park as Jane Schachat used to say when she was the Administrator for Northern Manhattan Parks. I thought about how the underlying cliffs and terraces were formed during the last ice age so long ago.
At last, we were ready to do our cool down. We plopped down on the park benches along the café lawn to do our leg raises and all of a sudden—Honk. Honk. Honk. “What was that?—geese?” Sure enough, about two dozen geese--in a rather sloppy “V” shape that looked more a like a “U” --were heading south for the winter. How far south I have no idea. Maybe as far south as Central Park! But it was a reminder of the magnificent rhythm of life. And it warmed our little aerobicized hearts.
Fitness Walks schedule:
Tuesdays and Thursdays from 7:30 a.m. - 8:30 a.m.
Saturdays from 8:30 a.m. – 9:30 a.m.
Meet at the entrance to the Heather Garden on Margaret Corbin Circle where Cabrini Boulevard and Fort Washington Avenue converge. For more information: www.forttryonparktrust.org or call Linda 212-795-1388 ext. 304.