Twenty Words For Freezing

It’s freezing outside; or at least I’m freezing outside. The calendar says that the sun is coming up earlier, promises that spring is right around the corner, but it’s still pitch black out and I’ve been up for an hour and now I’m outside, running down a street lit by street lights. Freezing.

It’s often said that the Inuit have 20-some words for snow and while I have no idea if this is true, I do know that I have at least a dozen, several of which aren’t for polite company and the rest describe its consistency in relation to things that most would never think about running through: oatmeal, wet concrete, Styrofoam.

All this being said, I love winter, and not just a little. I relish forecasts that leave weather folks shaking their heads (recently a well known Canadian comedian, Rick Mercer, described my end of Canada by saying “and the east, well, it’s a snowbank”), I thoroughly enjoy shoveling the driveway (over and over and over), and can’t wait to get out to go snowshoeing or skiing or whatever else is going on any given weekend. Like The Band said, “set my compass north/I got winter in my blood”.

Many of my friends and family think I’m nuts because, as I said, in addition to loving winter, I am still freezing. The wind from the northeast, in particular, actually made me stop on my run the other day because it was blowing so hard; I stopped and out loud, without a hint of irony, said, “the wind is HURTING MY FACE!”

But I keep going. Like Shackleton and Sir Edmund Hilary, like Ann Trason and Maria Leijerstam and Ray Zahab, I just keep on keeping on. The winter urges me to do so–as Annie Dillard once said, “You do not have to sit outside in the dark. If, however, you want to look at the stars, you will find that darkness is necessary. But the stars neither require nor demand it.” Winter doesn’t need you to be outside, but if you would like push some boundaries in a most life-affirming way, freezing helps.

To this end, and besides all of the sage advice you will find in any number of excellent trail running magazines, I humbly offer the following: wear layers, especially ones made of Merino; water in the bottle freezes, eat snow; take a dog with you, they never complain and they are apt to make you feel great when you start to think that maybe complaining would be okay; run the sun up, run the sun down; ski; snowshoe; only drink real hot chocolate, as in chocolate that has been melted and then mixed with warm milk; if you’re a man grow a beard, if you’re a woman buy a buff; take friends with you, freezing loves company, and finally; take pride, all great spirits recognize and honour crazy when they see it. And trust me, it’s worth it to have them on your side.

Call for Comments (from Meghan)

  • While, as Andrew says, winter doesn’t need you to be outside, but do you need winter? Do you need time out in the cold, snow, and dark? Why or why not?
  • What makes the human species seek out challenges that are made more difficult by climactic extremes, when those extremes aren’t necessarily conducive to human life?
Andrew Titus

used to run far; however, like some ol' wise guy once said, "the job of the athlete is simple: to keep moving." So, that's what he does, whether in his hiking boots, on cross-country skis, or astride a bike. A writer, teacher, father, and husband, you are sure to see him cruising the forests of his St. John River Valley home in New Brunswick, Canada, still happy as can be–even without the running.