Wednesday, December 14, 2016

The Winter Animal



Ah winter, with its fabled gift of rosy complexions! Alas to me it has been overly generous. I am one of those people whose face turns a deep beetroot red after time outdoors in cold weather. Not awash with a flattering pink glow. Not charmingly rosy-cheeked. I am talking blotchy all over coverage. It's the kind of pigmentation that has prompted people to ask "did you run a marathon to get here?" even if I hardly exerted myself. And it's the reason I try to allow myself a 10 minute "cool down" between reaching my destination by bike and entering any kind of professional environment (the facial equivalent of waiting for sweat stains to dry?).

With a friend similarly afflicted, we decided to look up what causes the effect. We were rather disappointed by the obvious and unromantic explanation. It's the body's attempt to warm up the part it senses being exposed to the cold. Upon sensing the face is exposed,  it pumps more blood toward it to warm it up. On pale complexions, this is more noticeable than on tanner ones, since the skin surface is more transparent. And on top of that, with some people the temp-regulation mechanism over-reacts, exaggerating the effect further. It appears I am doomed to be red-faced in winter.

It's a nuisance. But then again, there is something rather nice about the cyclical nature of such nuisances. I like the idea of people being seasonal animals. Changing colour, texture, even size throughout the year.

In winter I grow paler, dryer, flakier.  My feet shrink half a size.  I gain a bit of weight. My hair colour darkens. My freckles go into hiding. My sleeping patterns change as do my food preferences. I become a slightly different animal. And the more time I spend outdoors, on foot and on my bike, the more I grow aware of it.

For quite a few of my friends, winter is a time for hibernation. Cuddle up indoors, hot coco mugs, wooly blankets. Me, I am not a hibernating animal. I love the stripped, hollowed-out quality of the cold air. The low, mad slant of the winter sun. The frosty rot of the forest floor under my boots. The hiss of the slushy road under my tyres. The high contrast cut-out look of the dark bare trees against the bleached-out sky.

And while I'd far prefer to emerge from the cold rosy-cheeked, I'll take the beetroot blotches just the same, grateful for the time out of doors and all the wonderous changes that the seasons bring.



25 comments:

  1. We had our first real snow here yesterday, and it was dicey riding down the hill to the bus (I took it most of the way instead of riding). It takes me a while to get used to riding on the snow, and, anyway, I didn't have my snow tires on yet. So I was riding at the edge of the lane (instead of on the shoulder, where the snow was), forcing motorists to pull to the right to pass. One was overlay generous with space, and drove on the wet slush that had accumulated in the middle of the road, drenching me.
    It's a lot better when I'm clothed properly and have fully prepared my bike. Snow tires are so nice, even though they are heavy and slow. It's comforting not to have to worry about slipping constantly.
    I'm also pretty happy out in the weather. It's interesting having to engage with it and take part in the change of seasons by watching the forecast and planning what to wear each day.

    ReplyDelete
  2. I also get pretty red and I used to enjoy riding in the cold more when I was younger, but after 45 or so . . . . . I still enjoy it, but I am more careful about not over exerting myself, because it's easier to get deathly sick as the years tick by. - masmojo

    ReplyDelete
  3. Personalty,I like the glow on a woman during or after exercise. Radiant is a good descriptor to. Like a goddess on the hunt.

    ReplyDelete
  4. Valouria:
    I am a 71 year old snowbird, summer in Canada, winter in Florida. I love the heat! After a 30 mile run in 28C degrees
    and a shower, I sit around with my 'happy hour' crew with a jacket on. They think I'm nuts.
    I did my time however, when I worked riding in whatever the weather gave.

    ReplyDelete
  5. I live in Brisbane, Australia. In winter I need my lights for early morning rides, and put on my arm-warmers.

    ReplyDelete
  6. You are actually luckier than people with the opposite reaction, because they (or we, sadly) have to be much careful of cold temperatures to be safe of frostbites...

    BTW, thanks for the inspiring paragraph at the end of your post.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. I am frostbite-prone on my hands &toes (even when they are well wrapped up), due to poor circulation. Thankfully it doesn't happen to my face.

      Delete
  7. What a beautiful woman! Thank you for this post.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Radiant, lovely looking woman indeed. Hoping a story about her &her bike is in the works.

      Delete
    2. Concur with both of the above. Please tell your colleen she has admirers far and wide.

      Delete
    3. Is Colleen an acceptable term to use for a Grown Woman these days? It's hard for some of us to know what's respectful and what's going to get one a well deserved clout on the ear...

      Delete
    4. Just think of it this way: Not knowing for sure puts a fun edge on things. Will you get a thank you, or a slap? Who knows!

      Jokes aside, I would guess it's fine. The Irish refer to grown (even elderly) men and women as boys/girls when speaking English, so I don't see why the Gaelge version would be less acceptable.

      Delete
  8. Ha ha, I'm sure you look very beautiful with your beetroot hues, I'm very very pale and love to see my face a bit redder with exercise, it makes me feel normal and stops me worrying I'm ill!

    ReplyDelete
  9. I enjoy winter when it's winter. When it's cold, with snow and frost. But it rarely is like that in the British Isles, or in fact in Western Europe generally. I don't enjoy the kind of winter we're having this year, which is really more of an extended autumn; warm (it was 13C yesterday) with dull, overcast skies and lots of rain. It's not good for riding, it's not good for doing things you have to do outdoors, it can be surprisingly enjoyable for walking (hiking not walking to the shops, it's awful for that) and it does horrible things to my house.

    If forced to choose between hot and cold though, I'd probably choose hot. Both have advantages and disadvantages but the wonderful thing about a hot climate is the feeling of lightness that comes from not needing many clothes.

    ReplyDelete
  10. Hmmm.

    I bet you're suffering from a weak "Protective Crust". You're probably making the common mistake of washing too thoroughly and too often. If you don't maintain a good strong barrier between you and your environment you risk just the sort of discomfort and public embarrassment you describe.

    I personally don't wash at all. If my crust becomes a bit too robust I'll occasionally have to do a bit of scraping with a butter knife or stick. If I don't, I may experience some flaking that leaves some areas unprotected and requires applying a poultice of moistened soil and moss or leaves, but the effort is MORE than worth the trouble. To be in the possession of a strong crust is to be more or less impervious to the effects of extreme temperatures, wind, and all but the heaviest precipitation. It also seems to be an aid in achieving a degree of solitude that is so valuable to the working writer, artist, or hermit.

    This common sense approach to Healthy Hygiene, while common for millennia is now more often met with fear and ignorance but it's value is beyond doubt. If you look around you may find people in your community that still cling to the old ways and can give valuable help and encouragement as you release yourself from the tyrannical grip of soap.

    Spindizzy

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. In all seriousness I have stopped using soap on my face and shampoo on my hair--I just use water on them now--and this has resulted in a dramatic decrease in the redness and flakiness I previously experienced. Nothing to do with type of redness at issue in this post, though, I guess.

      Walter

      Delete
    2. I don't use cleansing products on my face Spin. Just splash it with water in the morning and occasionally dab of organic moisturiser.

      Delete
  11. I've run a couple marathons but don't recall comments about the reddish hue of my Irish face at the end. Weak, dizzy, dehydrated, sallow, yes, but red, no. I'm thinking you probably look more like one who has just come in from a nice ride in the cold, fresh, air! After all, everyone knows you only ride bikes!

    ReplyDelete
  12. Believe it or not there are some parts where it's the opposite. Summer is hibernation time and folks eagerly anticipate winter's lovely outdoor glow and opportunities. But, yes, there are many of us who cannot sit still indoors and no matter what the season find the need and time to connect to the movement and space and light of what's there at the moment. I've long given up caring what I look like, however, as a result of activities and time spent outside but I suspect some will judge or label or whisper.

    ReplyDelete
  13. I ride a red bike, not shiny red but dull and blotchy. I have a red face, not rosy but dull and blotchy. I like that red is one syllable, basic and somehow correct. My beard was read but no longer, now it's just warm. If I couldn't be outdoors year round I'd be terribly blue.

    ReplyDelete
  14. It's 26F tonight with clear skis and empty roads. I left my warm house to ride to the grocery store and encountered the usual group of homeless who occupy street corners in my neighborhood. Man, those faces were almost frozen. Our red faces from minor moments outdoors are fortunate faces in comparison to those who must deal with the elements, everyday, w/o much hope for recovery.

    ReplyDelete
  15. The photo looks like a pleasant day in your neck of the woods with temps in maybe the 40'sF?

    ReplyDelete
  16. I just had a lovely bicycle moment! On a chilly 26 degree morning,sitting in the coffee shop, looking out the window at the few bundled up passers by I found myself staring at a beautiful bike locked up to a sculpturally shaped bike rack. It was all alone with beautiful lines, broken in and looking ready to get back on the move, chomping at the bit, stunning!….Man, it's so nice and I so wish I could snap a photo of it to share with the world it's perfection. Oh well, I don't own a smart phone so will just have to stop my staring, finish my coffee and a bit of work, and get back out there on my waiting bike!

    ReplyDelete
  17. Yup I suffer from the same affliction - red as can be in the winter! Only practical solution is to hide it away with a ski mask although I do like the idea of thinking of myself as a manly winter beast! :p

    ReplyDelete
  18. I am of Irish extraction, with pale skin, freckles and blonde hair. I slather my face in shea butter before a ride and take a little Second Skin deer tallow balm with me, too, just in case. And wear a balaclava, of course - sometimes two, plus a cap. Have just ordered a Dermet merino under-helmet, which I hope will help, and if not, it's off to Woolpower for the BFO version. And I only wash my face with a hot flannel these days - no soap or cleanser at all, plus the thickest moisturiser I can tolerate.

    ReplyDelete