Written by Charlie Budd
Why the hell would you want to go out for a walk in the winter? It’s cold, it’s probably raining, possibly hailing or snowing.
In fact, it’s perfect. There is something different about taking a winter walk. It has the ability to clarify and focus, to bring a deep appreciation of being alive – all this in the season of least life.
The other seasons bombard our senses: the fresh greens and tantalising bright smells of spring, the heady, floral scents, and pummelling colours of summer, and the rich, pungently-sweet decaying ochres of autumn.
Winter is the Pinot Grigio of seasons – crisp and clear, it refreshes the palate of the senses. There are often few smells – aside from burning: bonfires, log fires and maybe vehicles. And on a clear day, we can see further than in any other season.
Let Go of The Chatter
Our lives can be so full of chatter, natter, noise and things to do. Lists that never, ever end. It can be overwhelming.
And that’s a great reason to pull on the wellies and the coat. Leave all of that behind as you close the door and get out. Whether you walk in the town or the country, it’s the getting out that matters. Leave your phone at home if you can.
Just walk then. Just be. Don’t think about what you need to do when you get home, don’t think about anything in particular if you can help it. Just see the branches of the trees, how the sky is today, the contours of the land, and how the light falls upon it all.
Listen to your tread, whether it’s the clop of a pavement, the squish of a muddy lane, the shush of a sandy beach, or the crunch of a frosty field. Every step is a different sound, a different contact with the earth. Each step is only now. The last step doesn’t exist, and neither does the next step.
Less Is Good
Winter walking is different because there is less. Less to see, smell and hear. The insects, leaves, flowers and birds are mostly gone. There are fewer distractions.
It’s easier to be. Feel the wind, the rain, the snow, feel gravity and the solidity of the earth with every step, or as you sit down for a break. The chatter of sound, of colour, of smells is diminished, clarity is simpler.
Ignore time. Ignore words. Let your senses give to you what is in that moment with no interpretation and see how still, and calm you can be – whatever the weather.
Just being in the moment can be so exhilarating you can end up smiling or laughing, and passers-by think you’re mad. But in those moments, you’re as sane as can be.
Another thing about getting a little bit uncomfortable on a winter’s walk, is the feeling of gratitude of getting home to the warmth. A hot drink, dry, fluffy socks, and the tingle of skin as the capillaries open up again.
Imagine being in medieval times and having no welly boots, maybe just a few bits of sacking tied around your feet.
In Nepal, I lived in a tiny cottage with a corrugated iron roof and no glass in the windows. No heating to put your cold bum against the radiator. No electricity to brew a quick cup of tea. No hot showers, just cold water piped from a mountain stream.
I count myself incredibly lucky in that all of the simple things of our homes – heating, windows, a dry roof, a hot cup of tea, a shower… can bring me the soft joy of gratitude when I get home after a winter walk.
It’s only when we stop the bombardment and be alive to the now can we really know what it is to be.
It’s only when we feel grateful for all we have can we really know what it is to be happy.