One recent morning, it was 18 degrees while walking the dogs shortly before sunrise. The sky was just turning a golden yellow leading to rose on the Worcester Range and the rest of the sky was still quiet.

The snow underfoot was soft and the birds were not yet singing. It was 18 degrees and the air was so perfectly cold and clear and clean. It was not that 8- or 9-degree air that hurts the throat or that minus-5-degree air that freezes eyes and nostrils shut. It was 18 degrees and it tickled the lungs.

It was just 18 degrees and the sky was lightening and it was warm enough to walk with only one coat and gloves. Leaving the packed snow and breaking into the woods, birds began to sing and it was necessary to walk with bended knees lest one foot or the other break through the crust and cause a backward knee bend.

The dogs were far up ahead running as fast as possible from tree to scent to brush to rock and to the almost frozen brook for a teeth-chatteringly cold drink – 18 degrees is not too cold for a thirsty dog.

Walking in the very air that He Who Shall Not Be Named praised when he came to Burlington and rudely caused a ruckus downtown, it was good to remember that this cold Vermont winter air is ours whenever we want it.

It’s outside our doors and it’s clean and tastes good and makes us feel good when we take the time and make the effort to go outside in it either to play or just to look around and watch the sun bring the sky alive.

Rounding the bend for the return loop of the walk, with Bragg Hill lit up and the sun reaching the top of Mad River and Mount Ellen, this poem by the Persian poet Hafiz came to mind.

The Sun Never Says

Even after all this time

The Sun never says to the Earth

You owe me.”

Look What Happens

With a love like that.

It lights the whole sky.”

Eighteen degrees early on this January morning was close to perfection.

(Reprinted from The Valley Reporter, January 21, 2016.)