Actually, the LeeAnn Womack song “Last Call” contains that line and it has been an earworm for me the past few days but that’s not what I’m writing about. Patsy Cline’s “Walkin’ After Midnight” might be more appropriate but I rarely can remain awake that late anymore. But I digress.
During the coldest weather of January 2021, the two old geezers that live at our house have been bundling up in as much gear as possible, including facial coverings that leave only the eyes showing and heading out the door of an evening to engage in a bit of stargazing during a walk. Some might call that crazy when the weather is below zero but the coldest, crispest-aired nights of the year are truly the best for finding all things considered constellations. On a Tuesday past I swear the viscous areas of my eyes were frozen and I know there was frost on my eyelashes by time we got back home and into the warmth. Half an hour was our limit on those coldest nights and since we were moving it really wasn’t that terrible, except for the frozen eyeball thing. Besides a sky fully loaded with stars it was near the time of the full moon, which created a brilliant bonus.
It’s only been of late I returned to my night-time tramping roots. There was a time I did it often, sometimes alone and sometimes with my good friend AM. We’d walk and talk and gaze up at the heavens and before we knew it had put on several miles! Those were the days. But for the past couple years I’d dropped the habit of nighttime walking, knowing full-well why, but with the advent of COVID last spring Rick and I made a pact that we’d walk daily, regardless of weather, and we’ve pretty much stuck to it, only missing a few days.
Truthfully, I can handle walking in the bitter cold of winter if I’m properly attired. In fact, if we’re snowshoeing my idea is the lighter the better or my coat might get hung on a handy tree branch to be picked up later. Rain is my weather bugaboo. I have Frogg Toggs that work really well (even if the top is pinkish – not my favorite color – they keep the wet out), but footwear is another story. My winter Mucks are waterproof but extremely warm. My other Mucks are waterproof but extremely tall and unwieldly for any distance tramping – more made for farm chores, fishing or playing in the mud than a good long walk in the rain. Maybe I need some of those cutesy little boots I see advertised with chickens and such on them. Or red. The grandkids have had red rain boots in the past, maybe it’s my turn. Red is my favorite color.
In any case it’s an interesting sort of crazy when one can get exercise, enjoyment and gain a bit of new knowledge all in one fell swoop. That’s what our winter walks have done for us, (the knowledge coming at least on the clear nights). Sometimes it’s just easy to recognize much. In winter the Big Dipper stands on its handle right at the end of our driveway and from there we start and just roll with it, pointing here and wondering there, until we can recognize nothing more. Orion’s Belt is the easiest for my old eyes to pick out. I miss it when summer arrives. Those three bright gems on a velvety backdrop, part of an odd-looking archer is my favorite, with Cassiopeia a close second. I know it’s just a W but its brightest in my birth month.
If you can take the cold I recommend getting out and glancing up. It’s a brilliant display for the eyes (frozen viscous notwithstanding), as well as a humbling experience for the soul finding oneself out there amongst that vast brilliance of diamonds on black velvet. They look so close it’s as if we could just reach out a hand… but in truth they are, as with many things, remote, out of reach and most probably cold as ice! Guess it is really best to just admire them from a distance afterall. Walk on!