Tonight I donned a heavier jacket and double-walked the dogs.  It was sprinkling and windy enough to whip the cold air right through the fabric of my clothes.  As miserable as fall weather can be sometimes, I love autumn.  I really do. 

And tonight as we were walking down the quiet neighborhood streets, I remembered how last year at this time is when I started cuddling my jacket hood into my neck and walking with Cosette, and the year before that.  This year, though, Trooper joins the walking parade.  For some strange reason, I tend to walk the dogs more in the fall and winter than I do in the spring and summer.  I think it is because I'm outside with them so much more in the spring and summer, water retrieving until they tumble back to the car, exhausted.  In the fall and winter, however, we spend our mornings and afternoons hiking local trails.  But, I love taking the dogs for a walk at night.  I'm not sure why.  It's not particularly pleasant, what with the wind and the cold hands and the shivering breath in the frozen air.  But in another way it is very pleasant, because it brings an opportunity to feel the change of temperature from the indoors.

Just like at my grandparents' house for the past twenty-some even years, I'd have the same experience at Christmas time while the entire family was packed into a three-bedroom, two-bath brick house with a metal carport, and the temperature control would be set at 78, and the kids would yank it down to cool the house down, and the older adults would crank the heat back up, and the house was full of life and energy and excitement, and it was palatable and real.  During the height of the evening, I'd push against the metal screen door and take myself outside, out into the freezing, still night air.  I'd suck in a deep, lung-shattering blast of air, grateful for the experience in my throat and the coolness on my hot face.  And I'd stand out for a minute or two, looking up at the stars and wondering about all the rest of the families around me, spending Christmas with their loved ones.  I'd start to shiver and delay my entry just a few more moments, savoring the coldness on my cheeks.  After a few delicate moments, I would sneak back into the house, shaking off the shivers and my coat.  I'd feel the rush of the heat to my face, instantly warming my body and tingling my toes, and I'd begin to savor the sounds and the energy emanating from the house again. 

A few years ago my grandmother passed away, and this year my grandfather passed away, so my hands will no longer touch that screen door handle and escape for just a moment, only to be enveloped back into my family once more, savoring the chill in order to experience the heat more fully. 

Perhaps that is what feels so familiar to me, that experience that is so solid and real.  While walking the dogs, I'm uncomfortable but I'm loving the intensiveness of the chill, and am imagining myself in all the warm houses I pass, the families gathered around the tv screens, a board game, their pets, doing laundry, tucking the children in goodnight.  I warm myself in the cold night with the knowledge that when I walk into my own house, my shelter from the elements, I will have everything there that I need and I will experience those feelings more intensely because I made myself slow my steps on the dark, cold pavement.

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