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.