Every winter, I long for the cozy feeling of snow coasting through the air to the ground, everything covered in white, like the glowing clothes they say Jesus wears. Sometimes it’s a white out and our world closes in to just our warm rooms and dooryard. There’s the excitement of weather folks warning, “We are under a winter weather advisory. Then a winter weather watch. Then a warning.”
I feel the storm, a tight, irritable whine that snaps at Bruce because he did something I didn’t like and we pitch into a silent fight that hurts as badly as jagged ice against my fingers when I try to break it out of a bucket. We don’t speak but the walls are up and I pray for things to ease, and they do. I remember what Larry Kart told me that Anthony Powell (Dance to the Movie of Time) told him, people make mistakes in marriages when they talk too much. I’ve held onto that line because it’s more important to be kind than fight for my rights. He feels the same way. Sometimes the less said the better. The first storm gave us barely an inch of wet snow.
But the second storm slides a white curtain across the fields. My longing for snow melts into the hard work of blocking the barn doors with shavings bags so it doesn’t drift through the cracks. Bitter, bitter cold sweeps in I worry about the barn cats because we have nothing more for them than food, a heated pan, and a heated dog bed we’ve laid under hay bales. We don’t know if they use it or not. And this cold lasts day in and day out. Birds settle inside.
I dress in coveralls that weigh my legs down that I pull up over my jeans, an old wool sweater, a turtleneck, and long underwear. Then I button a down vest over my bibs and wrap a coat over that. I put on two hats and handwarmers in my gloves. By the time I’m done with chores my feet are sore. The weather guys say that when you hurt to you should come in. But I have chores to finish.
The air burns my face when I walk out. The dogs get out, do their business, and come back in. I let Omalola loose in the snow, and her bounding and pouncing and running as fast as she can through snow is glorious joy. And then she flops down to sleep. My arms and legs feel leaden. I want to flop down too.
Morgen is happy for the extra hay I pour into the snow on the east side, the whole barn blocking the hard west wind. Because a horse needs to walk, I leave her out. I feed extra salt. I am glad to see her drinking buckets and her manure piles. I run my hand over her coat and hair falls out. She’s been shedding since Solstice.
I don’t spend time with her. But she waits, her presence welcoming, waiting. In a recent talk Paul Kingsnorth says we need to get back to nature and here she is standing at the paddock gate waiting for me. Horsewomen have said you can just sit with your horse and that’s enough. When Tessie died, Bruce and I went out to Morgen’s paddock, set up a chair and read. I opened Ted Kooser’s Local Wonders and don’t remember a lick of what I read, except his sentences are so beautiful and plain. When we have driven Morgen, I come inside wanting to live again. She has so much power. She listens to my breath.
Since I am in my late sixties, I often wonder when it will end, our time on the farm. People love my pictures, but they are easy to take because the farm itself frames the sky. I don’t want to be the person who hangs onto their place long past the time they can manage it, but I treat myself as though I am frail already and I am not. (My parents dying and 60 and 69 hovers in the background of all this.)
I want to unpack for the trip ahead, but clutter sits on tables, in the sheds. This drive to clean out shows up in my dreams—I’m going somewhere and have too much to take, that doesn’t fit in my luggage or truck or whatever. I feel the itch to move, but where would we go?
I think about Morgen, that this is her place, we are her people. Boarding her might be too hard for both of us and as much as a house mortgage. And selling her? Paul Kingsnorth says we are supposed to love our neighbors and that includes our land and our animals. So somehow, as the weather eases I need to be a good neighbor to Morgen and our young dog, Omalola. (She needs to learn enough manners to be soft with usl. I see her longing for me to turn my attention to her and play games.)
The kittens born this summer, seem to be doing all right. We see their tracks in the snow. The big Tom comes in the evening to eat. I’ve seen his tracks head north, though the other night he went south. My neighbor just said he came to her place. She leaves the door open to their heated shed and I am grateful. We are fond of these cats because they are wild. My girlfriend said she’d pray they survive this cold. Their coats are thick and rich.
The plow releases the road, snow splashing from his blade. He has made a path where I can walk the dogs and get off the road. I feel the release when we walk out there. I miss my mile walks with Omalola dropping her nose to smell the smells. I miss silence, the simple words I use to come back to hearing my footsteps, looking at the wide expanse of sky and farms.
Bruce releases the yard by scooping the snow, driving it out of the way. It is long, cold, patient work.
The spigot, where I draw water freezes shut. The sun releases it and I am grateful, fill buckets and store them in the bathtub.
I walk out and there’s a glowing pillar close to the ground–SunDog. My hands burn as I take a picture. And then another one. What if this is more than ice crystals kicked up as the sun rises? What if it’s a pillar of fire? What if these are great pillars in the temple of God and heaven has broken through in this deep cold. The Psalmist says, “He gives snow like wool; he scatters frost like ashes. He hurls down his crystals of ice like crumbs; who can stand before his word?” (Psalm 147: 16 – 17). Already I feel fire on my face, on the tips of my fingers, on my toes. Isn’t that what his presence will be? A consuming fire?
What if we have dulled our world with our worship of reason so that miracles can’t happen, kind of like Jesus who said he couldn’t work many signs because of the people’s lack of faith? What if our whole culture squelches and silences miracles, closes our eyes to the living world around us?
I’ve been reading They Flew, a beautifully written book that traces the history of levitation. Carlos Eire gives credit to the historical, matter of fact accounts of saints lifting off the ground and glowing like Jesus in the Transfiguration. The saints with this gift did not want it. St. Teresa begged God to take it away. There’s a tug in me, how cool it would be to dance into the air, but no I’d be terrified, please don’t. I am by no means a saint and sure as heck not an ascetic.
What if our world flames out like shook foil, as Gerard Manley Hopkins says and all we have to do is behold it? What if the glory, the enchantment is not in flying saints, but our eyes opened to behold the world around us, our eyes opened to see where light shows up.
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