A NEW PRACTICE FOR THE NEW YEAR

Porcupine in winter

What’s out there, Stanley?

What do you mean?

You have that funny look on your face I know so well. Something’s out there.

We’re in the woods because we ain’t wimps. So what if it’s 7 degrees Fahrenheit (-14C) feels like -2 (-19C)? So what if Stanley’s whiskers have turned into icicles and his breathing sounds a little like a donkey’s bray?

When we first got here 16 years ago, a young landscape architect told me that here, when winter comes, you have a choice. You could dig in for about 5-6 months and not go out of the house, or you buy warm layers, the right kind of boots, hat and gloves, and go out in all weather. Over the years Bernie’s chosen the first and I’ve chosen the second.

Stanley’s still giving me that I see nothing look that he puts on when there’s something out there he doesn’t like. The bears have gone to sleep so I look out for hunters. It’s still shooting season, but no hunter is nuts enough to be out here now. And then I see the small creature scuttling ahead of us as fast as its small feet can take it.

Don’t you dare approach that porcupine, Stan!

What porcupine?

You know what porcupine, the one up ahead making for those big tree limbs that fell across the path.

What porcupine?

You know, Stanley, you have the funny habit of not seeing things you don’t want to see.

Of course I don’t see things I don’t want to see. You think I’m crazy?

It’s no different with the horses, Stan. You don’t want to see them, so they’re not there. When you were younger you saw and chased after lots of porcupines and horses.

They were there then; they ain’t here now.

Of course they’re here, Stanley. Who else is running up ahead to get away from us? And who come trotting to the fence when I bring them apples?

That’s because you want to see porcupines and horses, you love that stuff. Me, if I come across something I don’t want to deal with, I don’t see it. Clear as day.

That’s the silliest thing I ever heard, Stanley. If we ran into a bunch of coyotes licking their chops and you pretended not to see them, what do you think would happen? When we deny the existence of things we get into trouble.

I don’t deny anything, I just can’t see it. As someone older and wiser than you, with cataracts covering much of my eyes, I can tell you that you lose nothing by not seeing horses, porcupines, bears, moose, and anything else threatening mischief.

And if thieves or killers came into the house to rob or kill us, you wouldn’t protect us, Stan?

What thieves? What killers?

You realize that this is how Hitler came into power, Stanley.

Who’s Hitler?

And what about old age, illness, and loss? You can’t just look away and not see them, Stanley.

Why not? Nothing easier. This year, practice not seeing any of that stuff and you’ll feel great! You’ll be a lot happier, and a lot more fun to be with. You think it’s easy for me to hang with you when you’re seeing all that stuff? It’s like a funeral.

Practice not seeing old age, illness, and loss? How, Stanley?

It’s the easiest practice you’ve ever done. You don’t have to get up early, you don’t have to light that stinky incense. Just pretend you see nothing.

How do I do that?

See not-seeing.

I never thought of that, Stanley. Does it get harder and harder to do over the years?

I’m a lot older than you and I’m still doing it.

You are so advanced, Stan.

I’m a master.

Happy new year, Stanley.

Happy new year, Eve.