The moon rose exultant and carried me into joy. Now I don’t feel joy too often, but I did this night, so much so I tossed the hay bag over the stall wall and tipped my bucket of water across the floor. Bruce left. But I photographed Tessie standing in the door, head down, pimping me for treats. I stepped back with the phone up to my face and try to frame her and the moon just for fun, for Facebook. I think about the old saying Behold I stand at the door and knock and I see this mare standing at the door and waiting for me to make up her stall for the night, to spend time with her. Somehow she’s gotten bigger, like a stallion might, with more presence and power. Her coat bristles in the cold. She is very old as in ancient, as in cave paintings old, but I can touch my hand to her flank and she will step aside. She has walked away from hay and asked me to spend time, but I don’t. My hands hurt when I pull them from my gloves to unlatch gates or buckets, to feed treats, feel their lips on my palm.
On the way back inside I wanted to run along the shadows and hug Orion standing there, more reserved this night, not offering to take me up, but I didn’t care.
These bitter cold days, so dangerous, I could die out there if I make a mistake, make me feel alive and grateful even though the spigot on the house freezes and I have to haul buckets up the stairs from the basement. (I don’t want to water my horses with soft water. I don’t want to risk the change.) Every time I carry buckets up the stairs, my knees ache and I hope the stairs don’t collapse. I carry my phone in case they do. My hay bags have frozen solid. They take so much time stuff, and my fingers chill down to the bone, that I take them to the basement to dry. I reach in my pocket for my pink jack knife to cut open a hay bale but it’s not there. I figure I lost it somewhere in the hay or out in the paddock when I reached for treats. I use scissors to cut the baling twine and toss flakes to the mares.
Some guy on Facebook says we come more alive when we hurt, when our tasks challenge us, when we push our bodies to the extreme. I think he’s right every time the bitter air hits my face, slaps me into a thank you for being able to walk the dogs on the road, and haul water, and go inside to a warm shower, that soaks heat almost to my bones.
Then the sun comes, warms the kitchen through the window. Better yet, warms the spigot, even though the air burns my face and throat when I walk the dogs. I fill five buckets for evening chores mid morning, so I can avoid the basement. Bruce helps with giving the mares their pellets. I say, “Keep an eye out for my knife.” “It’s on the hay bale. I found it in the alfalfa bag.” Now that’s a good day. For sure I wasn’t going to find it until the snow melted and it would be rusted shut like other lost tools. The moon has started to look like a lazy eye as it rises.
But today, today was brutal with hard driving wind and snow, enough of it, to stretch drifts like taffy across my walk to the barn. All I wanted all day was a warm shower but I have work to do. Onyx asks repeatedly to go out. He shakes his paw on the porch and looks across the yard, then turns to come back inside.
I drove to work for the first time in a month, the snow flying across the road, so full of joy. My Honda Civic sliced through the moving sheets, the pavement dry and icy underneath. On the way home the snow has kicked up enough to make sun dogs to the north and south, bright luminous sun dogs.
Bruce says it’s been a hard week battling the cold, and the hard drive down this road, where black ice slips across the road and drivers will pass like you are standing still, especially in the blind spots. I tell him I’m sorry and resolve to work harder around here.