Call Me Intrepid: My Weeklong Experiment with Sunrise Walks

This past week I challenged myself to sunrise walks: a simple lap around our 1 mile block in time to catch the rising sun. What did I learn? A few things, but most importantly, that it’s a great way to unlock creativity. I can’t tell you how many times I’d be walking along minding my own business when a new idea or insight would bubble up in my consciousness, unbidden, like an underground stream forcing its way to the surface. It didn’t happen every time, but it was often enough that I daresay walking –stepping outside into solitude – is a necessity to my writing life. It also gave me a first-hand look at how my mind will occasionally attempt to yank the snow-covered rug out from under me.

My day-to-day entries show an amazing range of experiences from epiphanies, to work, to whining, to distraction. A few excerpts:

Day 1: Sunday, January 19, 7:30 am: I cannot get past the laundry room. The urge to fold laundry and put it away is so compelling, the siren call of daughter’s cheerleading uniform, begging to be handwashed, the blue sweater needing to be de-fuzzed. I force myself forward.

Day 1: Sunday, January 19, 7:32 I pull ski pants on over long underwear, grab my heaviest wool sweater, face warmer and ski mitts. I live in Canada so committing to sunrise walks isn’t all beans and glory. When I step outside, the morning sky is overcast with just a hint of pink in the eastern sky.  I make my way north, careful of the icy patches on the road, enjoying the snow-muffled silence.  As I round the first corner, a biting north wind cuts across my cheeks. I close my eyes against the cold.

Whose big fat idea was this?  I think. The counter-punch comes just as fast.

“What is thirty seconds out of your life?” It’s the disembodied voice of our personal trainer. My daughter and I were in the midst of a kickboxing session, gritting our teeth through the last stretch of a three minute set of plank exercises.

“It’s nothing,” he said. “Nothing! Hang in there. You’ll be glad you did.”

He was right. I repeat his words, a mantra, and they keep me moving all the way around the block, and out the door again the following morning.

Day 2: It’s -26 outside, and that’s before the wind chill. I don’t actually mind this. I feel intrepid, like an Arctic explorer, granted there is the problem of protecting my nose against frostbite while not simultaneously fogging up my glasses. I enjoy the pastel morning sky, the mauve and pale blue, the hint of pink in the east.  I enjoy it, that is, for the two and a half minutes it takes for my glasses fog permanently. If I take my hand out of my mitten to move my glasses, or wipe them, my fingers may flash freeze. I persevere, and am rewarded with a book idea that has me scrambling to take notes on my smart phone. Frostbite be damned

Day 3: This morning is frigid (like yesterday wasn’t?). I’m dressed for it though. Except for the slight chill of the air coming into my lungs, I don’t feel the cold. I don’t feel anything because I am so encased in winter clothing. I know there’s a sweet golden sunrise, with fresh blue-tinged light, but I can’t really make it out through the fog of my glasses. If I take my glasses off, the world blurs, though at least it is clearly lit. My vision issues leave me on edge, afraid of slipping on ice that I can’t see. I turn around often, afraid I won’t hear a car approaching. The only thing I hear is the voice in my head complaining I can’t see, I can’t see, I CAN’T SEE! I wonder if I could still get laser eye surgery? After all these years? Man, and to think I thought I would get away without reading glasses, and I need reading glasses AND I can’t enjoy a simple sunrise. Damn!

“Why don’t you try contacts?” my mom offered, when I explained my latest blog-inspired venture. Yeah, why don’t I try my contacts? This is why we have mothers, no? Even when we are forty-six years old?

Day 4: I am three-quarters of the way around the block when I realize what is going on: my body is trudging along on auto-pilot, its feedback unheard, and my mind is in full-blown work mode mentally shuffling through my to do list and composing email to a client. I stop, find myself staring at the ground.  Suddenly, the world lights up around me. The sun must have escaped the trees on the horizon because the world is bathed in golden light. I turn around, face into its warmth – even in the -25 degree weather, – 30 with the wind chill – the sun makes its presence felt.

PS – Today I stole a straw from a sports water bottle to serve as a sort of winter snorkel, sticking out from under my neckwarmer.  It proves too narrow, constricting my ability to breathe out quickly and I end up feeling as though I’m hyperventilating. Quick breath in through the nose and oooouuuuuut through the mouth. I give up, and chew on it for the remainder of the walk.

Day 5: Just for kicks, I added afternoon “skiing”, i.e. a few loops of the backyard on my cross-country skis.  Now, you have to understand that we’ve had day after day of epic snowfall, and today was no exception. Twelve inches of powder, on top of an already massive build-up of snow. I pull on my narrow racing skis and clomp into the yard, sinking up to my knees. My ski poles are useless, so I end up breaking trail, literally wading through the snow. Intrepid, I tell myself. Or silly. Either way, I got out of my chair, didn’t I? And I was rewarded with fresh bunny tracks and a few more writing ideas.

Day 6: A foot of snow and the snow plough hasn’t been by. I spend twenty minutes shovelling the walk as a warm up before heading out to follow tire tracks around the block.

Day 7: By now, I can’t imagine not going out in the morning. I’d miss the solitude, fresh air, the bunny tracks and even the yapping soundtrack in my brain.

Um, it snowed.
Um, it snowed.

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