Fritzie Sparks, my best friend’s mother, was fond of saying “Stress is the thing,” whenever the topic of illness came up in conversation. She’d tap the tips of her fingernails on the table or countertop to drive the point home. That was back in the ’70s, and it was just one of those things teenagers would find amusing about parents, but now that I’ve drifted into the older generation she once occupied, I can better appreciate her wisdom. In my teens the only things I recall being stressed about were acne and getting better grades than Mike Sharmin and Doug Shaffer, my high-school rivals. Now I have a long list of worries from an ongoing pandemic and pants growing ever tighter to meeting work deadlines and living in a 100-year-old house in an earthquake zone that’s bracing for the “big one.”For the past month, as the gloom of winter’s coming has darkened the skies of shortened days, I’ve chosen to take refuge not from the rain but in it. I’ll put on a couple of pile jackets, a knit hat, and my cagoule and sit in the back yard on a boat cushion set on an upside-down 5-gallon bucket—an orange one from Home Depot. The raindrops falling on my hood sound like salt sprinkled into a paper bag.

With the sides of the canopy pulled up, I can row with enough shelter to keep my head and hands dry. Even though I have good rain gear, I feel less soggy with a roof over my head.

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