We’ve reached the time of year where the ancient weather gods can’t seem to make up their minds. It is warm one day and freezing the next. Snow melts, but before the water evaporates it freezes again, leaving sidewalks, roads, and driveways coated with a thin sheen of ice.
It makes this the most treacherous time of year for the morning walker. In the dim, pre-dawn hours, it is virtually impossible to distinguish a cleared asphalt walking path, where the confident walker can move with long, careless stride, from a frozen surface that even a sure-footed polar bear would hesitate to cross. As a result, the careful walker proceeds head down, with penguin gait, scanning the immediate path ahead for patches of snow that might provide better traction and making split-second judgments about whether to risk a tentative step out onto a questionable surface.
Because — make no mistake — it is that first step that is crucial. If you’ve ever slipped on ice, you know the feeling. You take the step, your foot slides immediately and unpredictably, and suddenly you are grasping the air, adrenalin surging, arms waving like a person trying to fend off a bee attack, as you try to regain your balance. (And try doing so when, in one hand, you have a leash attached to a zig-zagging dog.) You desperately hope to avoid the horrible realization that you have failed, and you are going down. Because when you fall, whether you land on your keister or your side, the physical impact is less significant than the fact that you feel and look like a complete idiot.
Yes, it is an exciting time of year for morning walks.