BE SUSPICIOUS OF URGENCY

Hurry Stanley, come on!

Slow down, will you. What are you getting me up for? I’m old and I like to go back to sleep after breakfast.

If you want to get a good walk in before the snow, now’s the time.

It’s 7:30 in the morning and snow is predicted to begin anytime between 8 and 10. Not to mention the 10 minutes it takes me to prepare to go out in this weather: gray I climbed the Great Wall dog-walking sweatshirt my mother brought me from China many years ago (Probably made by prison labor, I complained to her), burgundy dog-walking jacket I got from the Salvation Army 16 winters ago, gloves, one of Bernie’s gray wool hats he’d wear to the Auschwitz-Birkenau bearing witness retreat, a scarf, boots with spikes on the bottom, my phone in case something happens back home, and two apples for the white horses in the pasture.

Stanley groans. Anything else? All I need is my collar, jacket, and leash. You look like an Eskimo. He’s not known for his patience.

Shut up and come on. I’m not known for my good humor in the early morning. Out we go.

First, to visit the horses, who canter to the fence to get their apples. Stanley, of course, pretends they’re not there. I usually try to hang out and stroke them a bit, but I’m in a hurry today, so we turn back and enter the woods, walking up the hill to the gazemple, the tiny gazebo temple atop the hill that looks out to the west, where the snow is coming from. The road isn’t snowy but full of ice; by the end of today it will be covered with snow once again.

I hate it when you take pictures of me.

I know, Stan, you run away as soon as you see the camera.

The ice crackles underfoot. I feel the temptation to get cracking, there’s so much to do today even though we’ll be closed in by snow and not go anywhere. A list of things to do unfurls inside my head like a Torah scroll, I seem to see it wherever I look: laundry, noon Zoom meeting, half a dozen phone calls, pay bills, upgrade computer, financials for 2017, prep for Thursday zendo stewards meeting . All that in addition to writing.

Back in Santa Barbara, a friend told me what his psychiatrist long ago told him: Be suspicious of urgency.

It’s as if that long-ago doctor is looking straight at me many years later. Be suspicious of urgency.

What is urgent in my life? What will they say in eulogies of me, if any? She did laundry like clockwork every Wednesday. She paid her bills on time. She knew how to update apps. And she wrote, yes she wrote. So what’s urgent?

Be suspicious of a life in which every day is full of urgency, as if what you do is of inestimable importance to the world. It’s the Golden Calf of our technological age: You can do anything—and it’s IMPORTANT! In fact, it’s urgent.

It’s probably not.

The snow comes down now, covering all my deficits and transgressions, covering up the failures of attention, the mishaps of forgetfulness, the sins of neglect and distraction. Don’t worry about it, it seems to say. Inside your head it’s a mess, but outside, see, it’s buried under, all white, forgiven.

Walk with Stanley on the icy, gravelly path. Spot the yellow on the horizon, be grateful for full bird feeders and a full refrigerator. Bernie will be getting up when you get home, you’ll take his blood sugar numbers, have breakfast. Sit and watch the birds, sit and watch the snow wiping everything away.