WE ARE NOT SISSIES

Temperature at 8:30 in the morning: 17 degrees (-8 Celsius). Feels like: 7 (-14 C).

Intrepid woman and dog on the road, stop by horses to give red apples, then go into the woods. Dog in terrific red winter coat, woman in long silk underwear, 15 year-old Salvation Army burgundy coat used only for winter dogwalking, shawl, woodman’s gloves, and Bernie’s Auschwitz retreat hat.

Stanley sometimes limps on the road because of the salt the plows use to clear the ice, and every several minutes I bend down to wipe the salt off his paws. But the minute we enter the woods with their fresh, unsalted snow he limbers and cheers up, tail wagging, body free and easy under the snazzy Eddie Bauer red coat I bought over 10 years ago for our Pit Bull Bubale, spending more money than I’d ever spent on a coat for myself. It’s furry warm on the inside, water-resistant on the outside, buckles rather than Velcro so the dogs don’t lose it in the woods, and it has served two dogs very well even in the hardiest of weather.

As for me, the question I face is not how cold it is outside, but how cold it is inside. How often do I get up in the morning and keep my guard even as I shower, make coffee, sit, walk around, do things? How sheathed is my heart from affection, humanity, feelings, love?

There are big questions nowadays as to whether artificial intelligence will advance into human intelligence and conquer the world. I’m more concerned with the opposite trend. I can turn into artificial intelligence on a dime, doing all the necessary things and even more, filling up the day with words and activity, doing an hour of this and 4 hours of that, checking the calendar and the planner, but not the heart as it meets the moment and says: So what’s up?

A friend said to me yesterday on the phone: Is there anything that defeats Eve?

Lots of things defeat Eve, I told her, but this is not for now. It was early morning, the best hours for writing and creativity. Personal reflection could wait for the evening.

What I could have told her was: I think I need more defeats. Less war, more concession. You get to a point when you know there is no point to fighting, there never was. You never had to be a warrior, at least not in that way. Yes, you had to do your best, sometimes go out in all weather, but at times also let yourself crumple up into a wet dishrag, make a stupid joke or take a minute to listen to one. No, take five minutes to really laugh, meet the eyes, maybe follow up with a variation, then ask, Is now a good time for coffee?

Recently I read in a post by Frank Ostaseski: The choice, the only choice we really have is to be open or closed. The rest, as they say in Jewish study, is commentary.