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A Coat With a Hood

For how many years have I been walking in the woods with dogs, all seasons and practically every day? Nearly twelve. Since I’ve had Miles. Those walks were only occasional and mostly in the fall, before I found Miles of the Running Exploring Loving of All People and All Dogs Exuberant Heart. Miles, who stares at me all morning if we do not go on a nice long walk. Miles, who even though he adores the narrow winding paths in the woods and especially the one along the creek, immediately adjusts his expectations (better than I do) when it becomes clear we’re going on a leash walk only.

Anyway, cold, rain, snow, heat, we’ve been out in all of them. And for the most part, I’ve dressed well for it. I want my feet to stay dry, even if the weather’s hot, so I have hiking boots to wear every day. I wear a ball cap in warm weather to keep the sun off my face and horseflies off my head. My son gifted me with a really good raincoat, since I like to be out in the rain. And I have lots of winter things–down jacket, wool gaiter, ear bands, hats, mittens, hand warmers. But I have never had a warm coat with a hood.

The other day, when it was “9 degrees, feels like -2” (Why doesn’t it say “feels bone crushing” or “feels horrifying”?), I finally saw the folly of trying to stay warm in anything other than a coat with a hood. Why has it taken this long? There were two days in a row that pushed the issue. First, I ran into an acquaintance whose pit bull likes to run along carrying the absolute longest branch he can find. This one was probably 8’ long. It stretched the width of the wide trail we were on. We stood laughing and chatting about her dog. But it was her coat that I focused on. A great big coat with a faux fur trimmed hood. It was not fashionable but it looked absolutely decadent. She said it was almost too warm. I asked where she got it. Bass Pro.

The next day I ran into another dog-walking acquaintance who scolded me for not wearing a hat. I had on an admittedly rather thin ear warmer and a wool gaiter. He catalogued for me what he was wearing: a balaclava, a hat, and two jackets, both with hoods, both of the hoods pulled over his already covered head. We walked together a short while and then came upon two others, both wearing hooded jackets, and of course we talked about the brilliance of the hooded jacket.

That day I went out to Bass Pro, a place I never go, a place where all of the (unmasked) employees were very nice and helpful. And I bought, for $33, a big long, to my knees, hooded coat, outer layer of that tough cotton that ranchers wear. Polyester fill. Tan. Tall, stand-up collar. Hood that stays up without being cinched. Zipper and snaps. Big pockets. Nothing fancy. No down. No faux fur trim. No inner cuffs or anything like that. Just what’s needed, though, and with the added bonus that now we can play Ranch. I’ll be Anna Montana, Miles can be Old Thunder and we’ll be out checkin’ the fence line. We’ve both got a hitch in our giddyup these days, so I won’t ride him. Yeehah!! Thirty three dollars! Warm enough, with my layers underneath. And that hood! Nice and cozy and now that I’ve been schooled, I do wear a hat or ear warmer under it.

How does a person live to be 70 before finally getting a proper coat with a hood? You tell me. I’m shaking my head. But at least that head of mine is warm underneath that hood.

“There’s no such thing as bad weather, only bad clothes.” – Scandinavian wisdom

“Christopher Robin was sitting outside his door, putting on his Big Boots. As soon as he saw the Big Boots, Pooh knew that an Adventure was about to happen, and he brushed the honey off his nose with the back of his paw, and spruced himself up as well as he could, so as to look Ready for Anything.” – A.A. Milne, Winnie the Pooh

If you’re looking for my cards or art, you’ll find all of that on my website. And if you enjoy these letters, feel free to forward this one to anyone you think might like it. And if someone forwarded this one to you, you can sign up here to receive the letters right in your Inbox. Finally, you’ll find past letters and poems here.

Thanks for listening,

P.S. MerryThoughts is the name of my first book, out of print at the moment. The word is a British one, referring both to a wishbone and to the ritual of breaking the wishbone with the intention of either having a wish granted or being the one who marries first, thus the “merry thoughts.”

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