A wide shot of the Andes Mountains with a snow covered Mt. Ausangate in the center. The 2020 team of eleven are hiking in the foreground on a beautiful day.

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I love winter, but…
04 Jan
By 2020
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By Randy Pierce

I really do love snow and truly like winter–which is a dangerous statement here in New Hampshire after a 36-hour “Nor’easter” which ended as a full-blown blizzard. I could describe the many well appreciated aspects of a winter wonderland, but I may make more allies by sharing the hardest parts of being “snowblind” and then some!

Lost in the yard...

As you might expect, I rely on all of my other senses to help provide me with the information my blind eyes do not supply. Stepping out into a balmy -12 degree morning (not counting windchill) is an experience guaranteed to ensure fingers and toes will join my non-working eyes. I can of course bundle up like the Michelin Man and keep that sensitivity working, but that only allows my hands and feet to report they are nestled snug and warm in a thick barrier of cozy isolation from the outside world. If that tactile challenge isn’t sufficient, there’s the potential for a foot of fluffy snow to render cane probing in gloves particularly ineffective for navigation.

Fortunately, the cold is an equal opportunity debilitator and is pleased to freeze every nose hair and olfactory neuron which might otherwise provide me with those clues to my location. My ears, should I dare leave them open to the air, will soon turn as white as the snow providing excellent camouflage but a rather notable hearing impairment. That is, to impair the noise not absorbed or at least grossly distorted by the new layers of snow upon everything!

The Mighty Quinn can put his eyes on the prize with a request to "Find the mailbox!"

As you may be noting, my five senses become rather inhibited during such times as snowy winter day. I do have a rather well developed sixth sense which is to trust the Mighty Quinn (our dog guides are a much more effective sixth sense than talking to dead people). There is much sense in learning to trust a Guiding Eyes pup as they need much less bundling to be comfortable and still typically can use all five of their senses to assist us. The trust is that all the familiar landmarks we and they use, such as a mailbox, sidewalk, or curb, may be lost behind or beneath a barrier of snow. Just where is that bus stop pole I can no longer verify we’ve found?

So when I tell you about enjoying the New England winter while you may have had more than enough of shoveling and cold temperatures, take solace that a world full of challenging changes is also confronting me. I’ll be getting lost a little more often and changing my routines to avoid impassable street sections where sidewalk clearing is an  empty hope. I’ll occasionally travel much of the way only to be thwarted by having to turn around rather than risk going into a busy and slippery street which without snow held my typically safe sidewalk. My hands on harness or cane will give me the frozen tingle of pain and I’ll even shake my fist to the snowflakes on occasion and wish for spring. I still love my New Hampshire winter but I well understand the reasonable sanity of those who may not always share my joy! Let’s agree on one thing very clearly: “Four More Feet” is a great name for a movie and a less than stellar weather forecast at this time of year!

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