Walking On Out The Door

Day Whatever + 12

Wind and rain when I got up this morning. Quite fierce too.

And I made the tragic mistake of wondering whether I really would head out the door. Heading out the door you know is a matter of faith not rational decision making.

I’ve been heading on out the door into rain, hail or storm all my life. Snow even. From early days out milking the house cow morning and afternoon in freezing Hawke’s Bay winters, as an Infantryman getting out and getting on with the job regardless of weather, season or terrain, as a cross country runner and coach splishing and splashing and sploshing my way through endless Wellington winters, and on into the winter of my own life for the last 30 years or more, just coating up and heading on out the door.

I annoy people by telling them that weather is all in the mind.

In a harrier club in Wellington for a few years I coached junior runners, teenagers and young men and women under 21. The cross country season began in late autumn and early winter. My favourite early season run was to take them all out into the teeth of the first southerly storm. They got it. To train and race your way through a Wellington winter you needed to be able to ignore the weather. To enjoy it even. And they would quickly get into the swing of it, playfully jumping into puddles, splishing and splashing each other, and laughing defiance in the face of the storm.

I thought about all of that. It’s an enjoyable memory.

But having made the mistake of wondering whether I would head on out the door I sought inspiration on You Tube. I did. I kid you not. Silly old bugger. I watched a video of Gene Kelly singing and dancing in the rain. Twice. And then I thought to myself, “You dopey bugger Gene Kelly”, and decided not to get wet. And to work out indoors. But admitting, even to myself, a deep sense of guilt.

10km on the exercycle, 5km on the rowing machine, 30 minutes of kettlebell and dumbbell free weights, and 15 minutes on the Swiss ball still didn’t assuage my guilt. And the wind and the rain didn’t last very long anyway, making me feel even more guilty.

But don’t worry folks, I got this, I can handle it without wallowing in it. I’m a former soldier after all, nostalgically imagining that I’m still rough, tough and dangerous despite the passing of too many seasons and too many decades. Why else would a 76-year old dopey bugger still be heading on out the door into freezing cold, wintry wind and rain, year after year, after year.

Winter’s not yet upon us but this pandemic lockdown is like an early onset winter isn’t it, sending us all scurrying and sheltering indoors, lest we succumb.

And although it’s not yet winter I thought I’d share this with you in this pandemic winter. I wrote it a long time ago. I do enjoy winter in a capricious sort of way.

WINTER

The Old Man arrived today,
rushing in from over the Strait,
across Tapu-te-Ranga, and
sweeping all before him,
sand-blasting cars and lawns,
making new dunes behind
fences far from shore, and
in my hair and down my neck;
Winter’s here.

Saw your clouds gathering,
and quickened my step Old Man,
remembering you do this every year,
hiding out there behind the horizon,
your version of humour no doubt,
to spring your blustery ambush,
on summer clad runners (and walkers),
telling us who’s boss around here;
Now you’re back.

And I sprint for home but not before
you plummet the temperature,
and try to freeze my balls off, then
with sand in my hair and icy crutch
you send it down in buckets,
knowing you’ve only got five minutes
to finish the job before I reach refuge,
and laugh at you behind thick windows;
And chattering roof.

Welcome back Old Man, you’re late.

That drenched young girl down the road said,
“Isn’t Winter terrible”, but I said, “Not for me.
He comes every year, and at my age,
he’s an old friend, and even though,
he’ll try to overstay his welcome, for a time
there’s comfort in his presence, and
anyway, your friend Spring is not far away”.

She thinks I’m mad.