I didn’t want to go to the barn this evening.
Not even a little bit.
Not even at all.
It’s below freezing out here on the ranch. I woke up to snowflakes meandering to the ground in that slow, spiraling, iconic, movie-snow kind of way. The sort that wafted through the air, as though exploring a relationship with gravity rather than falling for it outright.
Chores this morning reflected the cold. I snapped two of my llamas into jackets, despite their protests. I bundled myself more than usual and still felt the sting of the cold, damp air through my jeans. When I went to fill the horse trough, I found that the hose had been not-quite-correctly drained and had frozen overnight. I found this out when I turned on the spigot, and the water that couldn’t make it to the trough sprayed out all over my jeans. I was reminded of this for the next 45 minutes as the water that had saturated my jeans chilled to almost freezing while I cleaned the stalls.
All of this was followed by something of a hectic day at work, the sort where I find myself correcting my own mistakes with no one to blame but me.
By the time I got home, I didn’t even want to think about the barn. I wanted to be one of those normal people with a condo and a television, maybe a dog to walk, but, like, a smallish dog, or just one cat who didn’t need to be walked at all. I wanted to veg out. Eat my own dinner. Worry only about my own comfort. Go to bed without having to venture back into the cold. Without having to deal with a hopefully unfrozen hose and a 100 gallon trough.
Not to sound ungrateful, because I am well aware that I am literally living my childhood dream, but sometimes, I just want my life to be a little more normal.
I did not want to go to the barn this evening, so when I did it was begrudgedly. I pulled an hoodie over my hoodie and a down jacket over that. I pulled on boots over the nicer pair of pants I had worn to the office, and I grabbed the good gloves.
I marched up the lane mentally calculating the best way to get everything done as quickly as possible. Feed the ponies. Feed Sky. Mix grain for tomorrow. Close in the moms and babies…and CeCe…and make sure the babies aren’t cold. Close in and feed the cats. Check the haynets. And, of course, deal with the damn hose and trough.
The ponies nickered when I walked in. I tossed hay for them over the stall. They were preoccupied with it as I walked out, a heavy rubber hose slung over my shoulder and dragging on the ground behind me. I stopped to throw an extra flake to the littlest one who was standing outside looking sad while his friends chomped away at the hay I had thrown into the stall minutes before. I walked down the lane, connected the hose, and hoped that I would be done with everything else and back to disconnect it before the trough overflowed.
I bustled through the list, completing tasks by rote that I had committed to memory years ago. Animals were fed. Doors shut. Grain mixed. Check. Check. Check.
Nothing new. Nothing different. The same set of chores I do every night. All the while, I wished I was done. Wished it were going faster. Wished I didn’t have to do this tonight.
The trough had filled slowly. For a moment, I was afraid that it hadn’t been filling at all, that, like this morning, it had simply sat in the trough with back pressure in the line while I had been working, but small ripples in the water assured me that the water level was indeed rising.
I stood watching the water for a moment before realizing that you could hear the ripples as well, that the night was so quiet I could hear the water moving through water. Maybe that’s when I first looked up.
The full moon shone through a break in the treeline in front of me, as though it had been placed there for the express purpose of illuminating the lane.
All of my outdoor lighting seemed dim against it’s shining. The ground, dusted with those lazy, almost lyrical, snowflakes from this morning shone out in chorus, pinpricks of light radiating up in response to it’s great glow against the night sky. The sky itself seemed to transition across it’s own expanse, showing off and shifting in color from azure to velvet black.
My breath caught in my throat for a moment, and I had to remind myself to exhale.
My trough still filling, I decided to walk out into the dark.
Except that the dark wasn’t all that dark.
I wandered down the lane, stopping every few moments to take in another slice of the world around me. The otherworldly glow from the snow where no tracks had been made. The silhouette of the pine trees against the sky. One of my horses, Phoenix, followed me along the other side of the fence, reminding me in his own way that he considers me to be part of his herd. His gray dappled coat glowed in the moonlight; I could make out his every feature.
I felt utterly and completely connected to the world around me.
I wondered, briefly, how long I could stay out there. How long would it take for the snow to soak through my jeans if I just sat down in it and watched the night be night? How long before the cold overcame the peace and silence and exchanged it for discomfort? I wasn’t sure, but right then, in the barn lane, in the snow, I wish I could stay in the moment of connection and peace. In the herd.
I can’t do justice to these moments of connection out here. The moments when time seems to stop for a while and nature reminds me that I am part of a much bigger whole.
My camera can’t capture the light of the moon, and 1000 words won’t quite paint this picture.
It was the water trough that pulled me back. It would be full soon. Water would spill over and make a slushy mess of things.
I walked back, turned off the spigot, and drained the hose. It seemed like far less of a chore than it had an hour ago when I had to talk myself into heading outside.
I turned around for a moment after that and watched the snow sparkle the light of the moon back up to it, illuminating a path through the woods that is usually invisible during the night.
I didn’t want to go to the barn this evening.
But I went, because it was what I had to do.
Sometimes, doing what you have to do turns out to be exactly what you need.