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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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A Month of Children’s Books

Here’s my Very Small Animal, Rufus, with his own tiny Eeyore.

I’ve decided to read children’s books through the month of December this year. Why? Well, the best of them are filled with wisdom, humor, beauty, imagination, adventure, and comfort–all things we could use plenty of right now. Here’s my list: the Pooh books, Alice in Wonderland, the real Peter PanThe Wind in the Willows, the Narnia books. If you want to be happy, children’s books are a pretty good plan. And being happy is a pretty good plan, too.

I was collecting children’s books before my sons were born. I had always loved the stories and the art, as well as that dreamy feeling that all kinds of unusual things just might be possible, e.g. walking through the back of a wardrobe into another land. Then I had kids, which gave me an even better reason to buy all the lovely children’s books. I began reading aloud to Cole when he was a baby and then eventually I’d have the three of them crowded around me on the couch while I read and read and read. At bedtime when the story was finished, Cole would say, “End. Bed. Numie” (pacifier).

I made this clay sculpture of Pooh and Piglet before my sons were born and gave it to my sister one Christmas.
I have my special favorites, among them and maybe most of all, Winnie The Pooh and The House at Pooh Corner, the latter of which does have a rather poignant, if not sad, ending. There is something to love about each character, even grumpy old sarcastic Eeyore and Small, a beetle, the tiniest of Rabbit’s numerous friends and relations. Bouncy Tigger, timid little Piglet, steadfastly loving Pooh, bossy Rabbit, haughty Owl, Kanga and her sweet Baby Roo, and of course, the plucky, heroic Christopher Robin–all lovable and loved by each other, despite their various shortcomings.If only we could be as accepting of each other’s little peccadillos as they are. Deepak Chopra speaks of the “true self” or spirit as perfect, loving, creative, and light-filled. He says your true self cannot be altered or broken, no matter what you do or is done to you. It could be hidden beneath ego and personality–but it remains there, unchanged. I love this idea.

Pooh’s true self is always visible to us and to his friends, which is why he is so very lovable. There is no artifice or ego with him. He is a ball of love with arms, legs, a stout middle, and a head for poetry and singing. He is ready for joy and full of generous thoughts.Randy Pausch suggested, in his lovely book, The Last Lecture, “Be a Tigger, not an Eeyore.” Well, I’ve liked that idea ever since I read it, but now I think I’d rather be a Pooh. Tigger is awfully bouncy. Pooh is just Pooh, through and through–his true perfect self. He is ready for an expotition at the drop of a hat and also for “a little smackerel of something” at around eleven in the morning or at any time, really. I admire both of those qualities. Pooh loves his friends and values the little things in life. And he is very huggable, partly owing to those daily elevenses.

“When you wake up in the morning, Pooh,” said Piglet at last, “what’s the first thing you say to yourself?” “What’s for breakfast,” said Pooh. “What do you say, Piglet?” “I say, I wonder what’s going to happen exciting today?” said Piglet.
Pooh nodded thoughtfully. “It’s the same thing,” he said.

― A.A. Milne, Winnie the Pooh

This card, NM900 Wonderful Time, speaks to the friendships in these great books.

If you’re interested in my cards or art, you’ll find all of that on my website. And if you like this letter, find more of my writing (letters and poems) on my blog.

It’s nice for me to think of you out there, reading this. I hope you think about revisiting those classic children’s books you’ve loved–or discover some new ones, perhaps while enjoying a little smackerel of something and a cup of tea.

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.”