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March 1, 2005
Judging by the level of snow on the picnic table, we have eight inches, which is less than we might have had. The tray feeder looks like a little igloo, snow piled up on it taller than any bird. The window feeder is full of snow, too, and Mama Cardinal is sitting on its perch, wondering what she's going to do for breakfast.

I can help her, and I have a secret technique for short trips outside in the snow: go barefoot. Not to shovel for half an hour, but for those little trips -- to the bird feeder, out to get the paper, out for a log of wood. Go barefoot and you won't get your shoes wet and track in snow all over everything -- snow mostly doesn't stick to your feet. You'll also move a lot faster. And, believe it or not, your feet don't get cold.

Eight inches? Q says. I think so, I answer. If you sent Noodle out there it would be up to her chin, and that's eight inches. Noodle would like to go out, but we haven't allowed it this morning. I picture her cruising along through the snow like a little submarine, only her back visible, her tail like a periscope. Noodle goes barefoot in the snow.

The grandchildren are still asleep and their mother is already at work. Stay warm, I tell her, and drink a lot of tea. I don't tell her I have been out in the snow barefoot this morning.

Twenty-five years ago: I needed a hymnal in the middle of the night during GOES, the Episcopal clergy's gentler equivalent of the bar exam. I didn't have one in my room, but I knew there would be one in the chapel. Quietly I let myself out the heavy front door and into the darkness of the close, wearing only my nightgown and, of course, no shoes. The temperature was in the teens.

I wasn't cold. Not my feet and not any part of me: I wasn't out there long enough. It did cross my mind that I would freeze to death if I tripped on the sidewalk and knocked myself out and fell unconscious, but that didn't happen that particular time. I crossed the few steps to the chapel, grabbed the nearest hymnal, gave the statue of the Good Shepherd a quick bow and went back to my room to continue writing.

Ordinarily, you should be well-prepared and sensible. But sometimes you don't have to be. If you're only out there for a short time.
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