For the 35 years that I have lived in Maine it has been a kind of house axiom that by my birthday there would be a snowfall. Oddly, that seemed to prove itself more often than not, specially when I lived up in the central part of the state. Now that I live in the southern region of the state, this is not so common. I don’t even think about it. Until this morning.

It isn’t much. Only a dusting. The temperature is dead on 32˚. If the sun shines, and the rumor is that it will, it will be gone soon. But right now it’s there specially on elevated surfaces. What does it mean? Nothing much. A little precipitation is a good thing.

It’s more of an emotional ceremonial thing. It’s only late fall. Actual winter is a month away. But this is its harbinger. I have already moved the snow blower out of the cellar and into the spare garage for easy access to the work it will have to do. All I have to do is run the door up, crank the machine and head out into the white world of blowing snow. Whoa there Pard – Don’t get carried away in pre-season ecstasy. It’s highly likely that I’ll be cussing the stuff before the daffodils bloom. But for now, we have turned that proverbial corner. The holiday season begins now. Seek out the warmth of family and friends. Pay attention to the things that matter.

We’ll begin the season by climbing the local mountain later today. Then we’ll pick up a couple of live lobsters for our dinner by the fire. It’s entirely possible that there is a nice bottle of wine in the mix, all in celebration of 85 winters and that first dusting of the season.

If you pressed me about what I considered to be the most valuable possession I have, I’d have to say it is friendship. I wouldn’t hesitate.

It isn’t money. I never had any and still don’t. It isn’t influence. I never had any and still don’t. It isn’t power – I don’t even know why that came up. Believe me – if I had power, I’d make a few changes. But, moving on, I can’t imagine life without friends.

That being said, over the past several years, I have experienced a quiet withdrawal from my “normal” active participation in a social life among friends and acquaintances. I can’t say it was unconscious, but it borders on that. I had become aware of how poorly we articulate our words and how seldom we focus on the process of communication – the art of being understood – not just understanding.

I found myself in the paradoxical position of being anxious around friends. It was tiring, frustrating and discouraging. This didn’t happen overnight. It took decades of slowly becoming aware of my disability and adjusting my life to compensate for that. Not altogether unlike a person bound to a wheel chair searching for access.

I have friends, of course, who “get” it and who understand what I need in order to participate in conversation. I also “get” it about others. You don’t change the way adults speak or behave as communicators. Most people do not see themselves as communicators. It is my opinion that most people think that being understood is somebody else’s responsibility. Of course, we know it’s a partnership – a two way street.

I’ve taken steps to treat my hearing loss. Over the years, I have had a half dozen sets of hearing aids, each a little more powerful than the last. In May of 2016 I received a cochlear implant on the left side. I now have frequencies I have not heard for many years. It is not perfect. It will never be perfect. It is better. I am still anxious around friends – wanting to understand and participate. I have a better chance at those goals now than ever.

Advanced Bionics, the maker of the device in my head, have a wonderful web presence. On that site there is a link to a forum called Hearing Journey, which you can find at: https://hearingjourney.com It is a journey. It’s different for everyone. No two stories are alike, but they all share one thing – the desire to understand. Check it out. You would be welcomed.

I’m not a dog type person. In my mind this is neither a good nor a bad thing.

I grew up in a dog free family. There were no dogs on either side. My mother had two siblings and my father had twelve. No dogs that I ever knew about. What would you expect?

I remember asking my parents about having a dog and without the slightest deliberation they said, “NO!” That was that. I also remember being quite afraid of dogs as a child. I think dogs knew that.

I actually had a dog back in the mid sixties. I knew this woman who had AKC miniature poodles. Out of a new litter there was one whose birth was not witnessed – apparently a big deal – so it could not be registered. She offered him to us. My kids were ecstatic!

I convened an executive session of all five family members and laid down the law about caring for the dog and received unanimous agreement that Sam – they named the poodle Sam – would be cared for by THEM! It should be said that I have laid down the law countless times in my life only to be disappointed an equal number of times. Nobody ever gave a rap about my law.

Sam was a short timer in our family for a variety of reasons, most of which clustered around the issue of taking care of a pet and an uncomnon level of ignorance about that. You can fill in all the blanks you care to.

I have long since concluded that my best experience with the canine crowd is when the dog of record belongs to someone else. In light of that principle, I can say that I have had excellent relationships – all tangental, of course – with a number of fine dogs over the years. Here are a few.

There was Daisy, a cocker spaniel, that barked ferociously upon my arrival and then settled down peacefully. As I recall, Daisy was a tad flatulent, and that made me feel right at home. Then there is Lilly, a standard poodle who takes me riding in her boat. She loves the boat. Also B, an Australian sheep dog who is in the throes of adolescence and may not survive that. What a beautiful face. She lives in Florida and may put me up when I am down there in the spring. Then there is Ellie over in Topsham. Lives in a new condo. Nice place! There are always good things to eat when I visit her.

My son, David and his wonderful wife Alice are dog people on steroids. It seems that over the years they have had dozens of “golden” type dogs whose life and escapades have been chronicled to me faithfully. They are my grand-puppies. Sometimes we do Face Time with them. Currently there is only Beauregard, but perhaps not for long as a companion is being aggressively sought as we speak.

There have been other dogs, but space, as well as your tolerance, is limited. Remember: Be kind – when out and about use a leash and pick up your poop.