March 15, 2022

Winter’s not over yet!



Where would I find enough leather

To cover the entire surface of the earth?

But with leather soles beneath my feet,

It’s as if the whole world has been covered.



It’s cold again.  Not the bitter cold hovering around 0℉, like not that long ago, but more like about 10℉.  It’s cold enough to penetrate through my gloves and make my fingers ache and my cheeks are numb.  It snowed a little yesterday, but only enough to leave a dusting of white powder on the trail.  Most of the ice is gone, due to the recent warm temperatures and rain, and what’s left is easily avoided.  It’s nice to be able to walk along without slipping on or crunching through the snow.  Waldo is prancing along beside the trail, in his sable birthday suit, happily engaging with whatever he finds on and off the trail.

Waldo always seems to be having a good time.  He trots along, always on the lookout for a good stick, eyes bright and tail wagging.  I can’t think of a time when he doesn’t look like he’s having a wonderful adventure.  Always eager to meet new people and dogs, always ready to play any game one of us can think of, always interested and engaged with nature, he seems to be very happy.  Oh, things happen that startle him, and sometimes he’s put off a bit when we pass a surly mongrel, but in no more than a second, he’s back at his baseline, in a Pollyanna mood.  I can’t say the same.  His essential mood seems to be one of joie de vivre, while mine is a little more restrained.

There are times when I’m tired and grumpy, frustrated by life giving me something I don’t want, or preventing me from getting something I do want.  Sometimes I’m fearful of what tomorrow will bring, or rueful of something I did and shouldn’t have.  None of that is very pleasant and I’m moved to try to manipulate the world to make my experience a happier one.  I feel that the world has given me a bum deal and I want to change it.  But I’m really quite powerless to change the world and my efforts are mostly in vain.

In reality, the world is not responsible for how I feel.  I am.  No one injects me with a bad mood serum, or puts a gun to my head and tells me, “Feel bad or your brains will be blown out!”  In fact, all emotions I feel are self-created.  I am a product of evolution whose ancestors developed emotional responses to aid in their survival, back before homo sapiens developed the ability to reason.  I still have that primitive brain, buried deep below my cerebral cortex.  My ancestors developed the biology and ability to generate a fear response so they would run away from danger, anger that primed them to have near superhuman strength in defense and a need for companionship that urged them to come together in groups that improved their chances of survival.  I still feel those emotions as they did.  But I have also gained a reasoning ability that interacts with those emotions.

The end result is that when something happens, like I stub my toe, my reasoning brain interacts with my more primitive brain to develop a response.  The purpose of this response is to help me deal with what has happened.  Unfortunately, I often generate a reaction that is not only not helpful, but usually, injurious.  I curse at the pain in my toe and develop anger, blaming what I stumbled over or whoever might have put it there.  That doesn’t help the pain at all, and can even make it worse, and instead increases my suffering by also giving me a bad mood, replacing whatever good mood I may have had before.

The wondrous thing is, we don’t just have a primitive brain that governs how we emotionally react to the world.  We also have a cerebral cortex that can step in and decide that we don’t have to act on how we feel.  It can also intercede with our emotional responses and decide that we want to feel something else other than what our primitive brain says we should.  We have the power to change what we feel, simply by putting our attention on something we enjoy, rather than on what we don’t.

Waldo doesn’t just show me that it’s possible to be happy at baseline.  Watching him be happy also makes me happy.  Focusing my attention on his happiness morphs my mood into one of happiness.

Even when I stub my toe.


At least it’s easy to walk out here.

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