“It’s too cold to be out!”

“Aussie, are you saying something out there? You’re way ahead of me on the road, I can’t hear a word you’re saying.”

“I’m busy bitching. I got nobody to play with. No dog, no human in sight. Even Henry’s not here, Lori won’t let him out the door because of the freeze. Life sucks. And why, pray, are we only walking on the road these days?”

“Because, Miss Whiner, I have trouble with my lower back and walking in the woods, on snow and ice, stresses it even more. At least I’m walking you, try to be grateful.”

“Sorry, not a Buddhist. You call this walking? No deer, no foxes, nothing to sniff underground. Life is a big piece of yucky.”

“Actually, Auss, we’ve been seeing lots of deer over the past days, they’re pretty close by. I think they’re coming closer to the houses because they’re hungry.”

“Well, I wish they’d come even closer because I don’t smell or see them, so I don’t run. And if I don’t run, what’s the use of living?”

“Aussie, you’re alive! Doesn’t that count for anything?”

“Sorry, I’m the cool, dispassionate type. Someone has to be here. You’re too Jewish, Henry’s too Mexican.”

“Henry’s not Mexican.”

“He goes crazy about everything. Did you see how he carried on when Froggie ended up on the bathroom counter? And you also get emotional. What’s the use of all that meditation you do?”

“What do you mean, Aussie?”

“Everybody knows that humans meditate in order not to get upset. Especially Jewish people like you, who’re over-the-top about everything.”

“I forgot to refill the birdfeeders! OMG! They’ll starve!”

“See what I mean? You become a Buddhist to quiet down, relax, let go, and become boring.”

“Aussie, not all Buddhists are boring.”

“Wanna bet? What do you call just sitting there?”

“Just sitting there, as you put it, helps me put my small self aside and start really seeing and listening. Just sitting there helps me trust and care more about the world. You should try it sometimes, Auss.”

“Not me. You start caring, you start suffering. You care about the starving deer, the birds and squirrels, the iced-up lilac trees. That’s too much suffering for me!”

“You know, Aussie, there’s something worse than suffering.”

“What’s that?”

“Not suffering. Not feeling anything at all.”

“Sounds good to me. I’m getting to know more about myself. I ain’t into suffering, so I’m not a Buddhist. I am into bitching, which probably makes me Jewish.”

“Aussie, we’re called to be fully alive, fully engaged.”

“It’s too goddamn cold to be fully alive and fully engaged. Could we go home?”

“Aussie, Fr. Greg Boyle, who started Homeboy Industries to help gang members in Los Angeles, wrote that we’re called to be practitioners. Otherwise, he said, we’re audience.”

“Good. You run around, I’ll watch. Better still, I’ll watch from a prone position.”

“You know, Aussie, half of Bernie’s body, the entire right side, was paralyzed after his stroke. He did lots of therapy, and though he never did get to use his right arm and hand much, he taught his right leg to walk again.”

“Is this another story about suffering?”

“No, Aussie, it’s a story about trust. Here’s the thing: Even as Bernie walked, almost always with a cane, his right foot never felt the ground underneath. It never felt the heavy shoe he had to wear summer and winter, never felt the floor, never felt the stairs—and still he walked. You know how he did that, Auss?”

“I do not.”

“He trusted that the ground held him, Aussie, even when he couldn’t feel it. Even more, he trusted that life held him even when he couldn’t feel things anymore, when he couldn’t do things he loved, couldn’t drive, couldn’t smoke cigars, couldn’t read, couldn’t concentrate for any length of time, could no longer teach much or lead events. Loss surrounded him on all sides, and still he trusted life completely.”

“Even when it was cold?”

“Even when it was cold.”

“Could we go back home now?”

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