Comfort-eating has taken sinister hold of me. I seem powerless to resist. I conquered hunger a year ago, imposing discipline, and losing 40 pounds. With 10 pounds still to go, I moved, and hunger pounced on me and conquered. Fasting had been a key element to my success, not for the diminished calories but for learning not to be afraid of hunger. And there is an element of religious spiritual practice, looking to the Divine to consecrate my fast to help me obtain personal spiritual objectives. After shopping for the evening’s boeuf bourguignon—I had company coming—and approaching the end of my day’s fast, I determined to spend one-half hour walking in nature, in the Dell. Stepping through the trail’s new snow, I felt lean, my belly taut and my mind exhilaratingly clear and controlled. I had forgotten my walking stick, again, but found an old one leaning against a tree trunk, and helped myself. I relished being alone in nature in the crisp air as occasional flakes fell. My 15-minute turn-around timer sounded—the apricot brioche was done rising. “Bike up!” announced a cheerful woman on an expensive mountain bike with enormously “fat” tires, perfect for riding in snow, sand, and mud. She wore all the right gear, head to toe, for the weather, including goggles. “Have fun!” I called after her. A leash-less blue pit bull approached me, its owner explaining, “she’s gentle.” Being a city attorney who sees dozens of dog-bite cases a year, I become irritated when owners do not leash their dogs, and I countered, “You may know she’s gentle, but no one else on this trail knows it.” He muttered something about me knowing it now, and a little voice chided me for introducing darkness into the world and for failing to share light, to impart goodness, to lift another. The voice continued the instruction: even when irritation might be justified, choose to be kind in spite of the justification. Alright, I will, I promised, chastened. I can’t fix it this time, but I will do better the next. Immediately a huge black Labrador trotted toward me, his owner 50 yards behind. Another leash-less dog! I whined to myself, but to the owner I gave a friendly “Good morning!” The face that barely looked up at me was so sad and downtrodden and depressed—I was glad he had his dog-friend with him on a walk in the Dell in the snow, and I was glad I had not further darkened his day. I set the walking stick against the tree trunk for the next forgetful hiker. Climbing to the parking lot, two morbidly obese men with disheveled beards smoking cigarettes wearing greasy ball caps sauntered down the trail, obviously father and son, following their remote-control Hummers. “That looks fun!” I called cheerfully. “Good times,” Dad hissed past his cigarette. And I could see that father and son, indeed, were creating a good time, together. Half a day of cooking later, the boeuf bourguignon, stewed with red wine and beef stock, topped with braised shallots and sautéed mushrooms, triumphed, enjoyed by Mom and Dad, and by Solange and Ana, my two Brazilian friends, who thought the meal marvelous, and who listened with genuine interest as Dad and Mom told story after story about the family and Brazil.
Courage at Twilight: Just One-Half Hour
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