“Henry, you’re not going out with just a collar, you have to wear the long orange hunting vest that covers your entire body.”

“Not on your life.”

“What about the smaller red vest that hunters could still see when we walk in the woods?”

“I look stupid in that.”

“The black winter coat with the flashy orange flap on top?”

“Don’t even think about it.”

“What is this, the dressing room for Ralph Lauren canine outdoors wear? When have you gotten so finicky about clothes, Henry?”

“I hate accoutrements.”

“Well, guess what, Henry? It’s hunting season, there are hunters out there, and though you’re little, you’re precisely the color of deer and I’m not taking any chances. Just look at Aussie with her neon vest. It doesn’t bother her.”

“She looks like the Green Lantern.”

“The point is, Henry, the vest or jacket has to stand out so that you could be safe. It has to be seen!”

“I don’t want to stand out. I don’t want to be seen. I want to be a plain dog.”

Oh, to be plain.

Thank you for your generosity in response to my request for support 6 days ago, on my birthday. I got some very moving and appreciative messages, too, for which I’m very grateful.

And still, at times I feel silly. I want to say: Hey, you guys and gals, I’m just a plain person, like everybody. Like Henry is a plain dog.

Aussie: “I’m not plain.”

Everybody is a plain person and I’m no different, so I ask myself: Why are you writing? Yours is such a plain and simple life, what’s interesting about it? Nothing fancy, nothing special. Is it pretentious to write about these things?

The French philosopher and essaying, Montaigne, wrote: “Tis a rugged road, more so than it seems, to follow a pace so rambling and uncertain, as that of the soul; to penetrate the dark profundities of its intricate internal windings; to choose and lay hold of so many little nimble motions.”

I agree with him, though his words sound pretentious to me (he’s French so he’s forgiven). Instead, I remember the words of the Dutch artist Maurits Escher, who said: “What enthralls me and what I experience as beauty is often judged to be dull and dry by others.”

Last night I was bummed out by hearing news of a serious illness afflicting a dear friend. What did I do? The most mechanical thing in the world: I input some 89 Christmas gift wishes into an Amazon gift list, all for children of the local immigrant community (mostly undocumented). I did it to distract myself while still making good use of the evening. Only it didn’t turn out mechanical at all, it unfurled a new language for me, which I slowly and purposely pronounced:

Bubble Machine Blower Blaster Lawn Mower (try to say that quickly)

Baby Alive Magical Mixer Baby Doll, Strawberry Shake with Toy Blender, Blonde Hair (they have dolls of different skin and hair colors)

Wall Climbing Remote Control Car-Normal (What’s normal about a wall climbing car?)

Original Stationery Unicorn Slime Kit Supplies Stuff for Girls Making Slime

Glam U-nique Metallic Nail Salon with 200 icons and designs, etc., etc.

Yes, it’s the time of year when we’re invited to bone up on the new language of children’s games and toys, which now include drones and wireless charging stations, but also eternal favorites like dinosaurs and unrelenting Disney dolls, e.g., Frozen Elsa Singing Doll Singing Show Yourself (we need two of those).

It’s our annual Christmas gift list for children whose parent or parents work hard in the warm months in farms and now, in the frozen winter, in whatever jobs they can get, be it restaurant or office cleaning, dishwashing, meal deliveries, etc. Or sometimes they can’t get other jobs and certainly can’t afford gifts for their children. You can find this list here.

Hit the link and it’ll take you to a list of gifts in the range of $18 to $38, most in the $25-$30 range. Please buy whatever you can. They will go to Jimena Pareja, who then sits with her family, identifies which gift goes to whom, wraps them up in gift wrapping and brings them to the children.

It’s our third year of doing this, and I for one would love to do more. I already bought the most expensive gift of the lot myself and it’s already on its way to Jimena, this from the training I got from Bernie: Whenever you ask other people for money or gifts for a cause, be the first one to donate.   

Keeping my sick friend in mind, I remember how lucky I am, how I have the best life of anyone I know even when I’m not conscious of it, and how I love more and more to build a bridge between others and myself in whatever ways it takes: talking, sharing, laughing, telling stories, and buying Christmas gifts.

Please, if you can, become a bridge yourself in whatever way suits you. If one of those is buying children holiday gifts, do so using this link.

Thank you.