It’s been one of “those” days.
You know the ones…
It’s the sort of day that feels a bit like three. Nothing goes catastrophically wrong, but things don’t go quite right either. Minor inconveniences twang at the edges of your nerves like a curious toddler smacking the strings of a slightly out of tune banjo with their open hand. There is nothing intentional or melodic about it, but there is a lot of noise.
It’s the sort of day I tend to have out here at the tail-end of winter, when it is just too fucking cold for roughly the millionth day in a row, and all I want to do is shut myself in the house for three or four days with cozy blankets, a warm hot chocolate, a roaring fire, and a great memoir, but I’ve given up sugar (so no hot cocoa), I can’t get a fire to catch without a starter log that I forgot to buy, the horses need round bales put out and the ponies are hungry, so I have to brave the frozen tundra just long enough for my fingers and toes to go numb through my gloves and boots instead.
It’s been that kind of day.
It’s been a difficult winter.
Cold, snow, and ice have been tracks playing on repeat this season, a symphony Elsa herself would be proud of. Outside of the polar vortex with it’s -55 wild chills–as though that wasn’t enough all on it’s own–we’ve also had record breaking snowfalls, winter storms gracing the forecast with alarming regularity, and ice. Lots of ice.
The Midwest is a place that NEEDS its seasons. The summer is too summery to last forever. I couldn’t handle the horse flies or poison ivy or 100 degree days with staggering humidity all year long, even in exchange for the fireflies, wildflowers, and warm summer nights. By August, I’m looking forward to the drop in temperature, bonfires, and pumpkin everything that are coming around the corner. Likewise, I start getting stir crazy at the end of winter. (For the love of all that is good and holy, give me just one day that I don’t wind up feeling cold!) Right now, I am aching for 45 degrees, chores without a bulky winter coat, and a slow slide into spring.
There are bluebells and daffodils tucked under the frozen dirt somewhere; I just know it. Gardens to clean up. Chicks to raise. Native bee houses, bat houses, and bird houses to put up. Seeds to sow in ground that needs tilling. Raised beds I was given for Christmas that are just waiting for me to find them homes. There are bikes to ride. Horses to groom. Ponies to begin socializing. There are a thousand plans swirling around in my head, more than one summer can possibly contain, but I feel like that’s half the fun.
In the meantime though, my clay rich dirt is as hard as rock. My full bale hay nets are frozen to the ground and completely unusable. The chicken coop is desperate for a good cleaning, but I won’t be able to do a thing with it until the thaw. Until winter begins to release it’s freezing grip, the only thing I can do is continue.
I was cranky when I met my hay supplier at my horse pasture around 5:15. I think maybe he was too. Not at each other, mind you, at the cold weather and the setting sun.
“How are you holding up out here?”
I tried not to look at the hundreds of dollars of hay waste on the ground. Without my nets to slow them down, the horses have been going through hay like a trust fund baby going through cash on their first trip to Vegas. This winter is costing more than emotional energy.
“Hanging in,” I replied. “Sick and tired of the cold.”
Larry looked up, searching the skies for just a moment before replying.
“I saw the geese flying north earlier.”
That’s the sort of thing we look for out here, the same way that we pay attention to the number of woolly worms in the fall to give us a clue about the coming winter. The geese, I can assure you, know something that Larry and I do not, and the geese are on their way back home.
The wild things are stirring. Last night, as I filled the horse trough, hands going slightly numb through my gloves, I heard the barn owls call to one another. One was behind me in the woods on the creek side. The other was across the horse pasture in the woods towards the neighbor’s corn fields. They cut through the silence with their call and reply, a sound I’ve gotten used to in my time out here on the ridge line. I only occasionally see them, but they’ve been my neighbor’s for years.
I’ve started hearing the chorus of just a few plucky songbirds in the morning when I walk the lane to start my chores. Most of them are relatively quiet through the winter. By mid-summer they will make up an orchestra.
For now, I’m only hearing solitary notes, but the song is coming. The song and the bluebells are on their way.