Zen of Working in the Cold

Jennifer Shea Hedberg | 07 December, 2013

Call me crazy, many do, but I love working outside in the cold. I do wear the best gear possible and do follow good practices for being active in the cold: layers, hydration, etc. So, believe it or not, it is not the miserable experience that most people imagine.

When it is very cold, many people stay huddled inside, so when I am outside working, it is often very quiet. (Ok, it might be 3 in the morning, but that's another story.) When it is quiet, noises that might otherwise go unnoticed, are amplified. The frozen trunks of trees groan with the wind's suggestion to move. Walking through frozen snow can be surprising loud and birds that stay and brave the cold with us, flit from bush to bush on their continual search for food. But the most surprising pleasure (this is the zen part) is listening to my own breath.

Usually when it is very cold, I wear a hat, my amazing coat's hood, and a gator (fleece neck warmer to folks in warmer climates) pulled up over my nose and cheeks. So I am swathed fleecy warmth and I become aware of my breath with at least 3 of my senses. My skin feels the moist warmth of the fleece over my mouth as condensation on the outside of the fleece becomes damp but doesn't freeze. My ears, which are also trapped in all this warmth, can't help but hear each and every breath. And my eyes can see the tips of my eye lashes grow icy as my breath escapes by my nose. Being aware and in the moment of all these little moments, can make me feel amazingly alive. I especially love coming inside and immediately look into the mirror only to see the Winter Warlock staring back. Simple pleasures. I know. I know. I am crazy.

PHOTO: This photo was taken by my friend Paul Umbarger the day before the 2009 Luminary Loppet in Minneapolis, MN. I spent several days in -8 degree F temps building this sculpture that was to be near the start. But warm temps on the day of the race melted it so badly that I had to rebuild it - twice. (As you can probably imaging, that's the most frustrating part of working with ice.)

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