With freezing rain last week, then cold, with no warmth to melt it, the weather reaches for my neck, bites hard, leaving a mark. I think “batter my heart three-personed God” and the smack on my butt when I slipped on our steps a few weeks ago, jamming my finger and raising a black shiner on my bottom that Bruce asked about. I am sorry I wrote a blog wishing for an honorable winter, with lovely snowstorms we could watch through our windows. I did thirst for winter, like one thirsts for water.
(I’ve learned some about thirst, discovering that the craving I have for Diet Coke, is a craving for water. If I drink water, the craving goes away. I’ve been trying to stop drinking Diet Coke since my twenties with varying success. I think about what Jesus said to the woman at the well, “Everyone who drinks of this water will be thirsty again, but whoever drinks of the water I will give him will never be thirsty again. The water that I will give him will become in him a spring of water welling up to eternal life” (Jn 4: 13 – 14, ESV). I’ve learned what thirst feels like, and hope I learn what it means to find Jesus’ mysterious water, that will spring up like the Buckingham fountain, pulsing water into the sun, then raining down.
I am still thirsty for a good snow storm, when you stay in and read, and it’s warm enough to pull water from the spigot on the side of the house. Though Bruce drives the tractor pushing the snow out of the yard and driveway and paths to the barn and manure pile.
But this ice and now snow on top of it, doesn’t throw thanksgiving in my face like the bitter cold did. Nope, bad thoughts rise like tiny voices, pinpricks in my mind: You could smash your head. You could cut your tongue in two. You could wrench your back. You could break a hip or wrist or ankle. Bruce could throw his back out, whack his head, get a concussion, be crippled. The mares could slip.
I wear my riding helmet to cross the yard, the terror of a fall eleven years ago, still present. I walked my dogs before dawn when I hit black ice and I flew down, cracking my head on asphalt, the world spinning, my stomach nauseated. The flash of headlights. It was all I could do to stay conscious, reel in the dogs, so they wouldn’t be hit. The car slowed, asked if I was all right, if he could take me home. I waved him on. Later that day, my students urged me to see a doctor. Everything checked out fine, but that began a month of easy tears, that also had something to do with our school shooting and renovating this farm.
Joey, Ryan, and Candace, my favorite weather people, rode us hard about how dangerous the polar vortex was, but that is nothing compared to how dangerous this ice is. When I take the dogs out for one last pee break, I am aware that if I fall and hurt myself, Bruce has already gone to bed and my phone is plugged in.
Then there was the wind that whirled in right after the ice storm, throwing fragments of ice off the trees. The big barn door sounded like someone was practicing ball, hitting it over again. It sounded like hail. The wind as fierce as a thunderstorm that continued for hours.
In weather like this, I have to decide whether to leave the horses in or out. I left them in for two days, but it’s not healthy for them to be stalled until the ice leaves because horses need to move for their digestion to work right. They are sure footed. A few years ago, Morgen blasted through the gate and cantered on water over ice. I cussed at her. (I didn’t like her, those days, I thought this horse could hurt me. Those days have since changed. Her eyes have softened.)
Bruce said to keep them separated, which I did for one day, but I fear Morgen will step into the concrete tank. (To get her out, I climb in with her. Pick up a leg and push it back over the ledge. Then she will hop back out. This stepping into the concrete trough is part of why I’ve opened the gates and let them be together after five years apart. They are doing well enough, walking carefully on the ice.
When the wind is howling, hitting our west bedroom hard, we decide whether to sleep in our bed or not. We could find couches, but we decide to stay in bed, our noses cold, the antenna outside our window singing. All these decisions wear me out. My decision brain goes blank.
And then there is the food that I don’t stop eating. It is cold. I crave those carbs. I am a Weight Watcher flunky these weeks.
I worry about our trees, with this hard wind, and ice over the top of them. I worry that branches will fall, hitting a roof, hitting the horses or Bruce or me in the head. I worry that our beautiful and rare elm will be broken. Or the Linden that was brought from Berlin in someone’s boot. But the precious trees came through unscathed. A birch that was already dying had dropped some limbs, but that was it. I walk the dogs through the fields behind the shed, avoiding the plates of frozen snow that are the most treacherous for walking, and see tubes of ice, broken off the trees, like broken flutes and stemware.
The thoughts still fly up, so much so I worry they will throw my legs out from under me, so I start with the Jesus Prayer: Lord Jesus Christ, son of the living God, have mercy on me a sinner. Or thanks for the day, for water out of the spigot, the horses upright. Or I whine cry and complain.
Yet another round of freezing rain on Monday
Monday we got more freezing rain, and then a coating of snow, but the next day the weather had warmed, so I could pull water from the side of the house without sun shining on it. And there was footing, blessed footing, so I didn’t have to walk with tiny steps and the fear my legs would fly out from under me. Great plates of snow slid off the barn roof and crashed into the paddocks. I was afraid to walk out on that side of the barn.
Bruce was laying the bucket of the tractor down, to clear the snow. I walked out to him, said, “No, no, don’t. You’ll make ice.” “Okay I’ll put the tractor away.” “No. Just clear the driveway,” I said. “What will you do then?” “Walk on the grass.” So that’s what he did–plowed the driveway. And we still have footing, and it’s not a scary slippery to walk to the barn.
But the barn doors were frozen shut. My thanks turned to cursing and deep tiredness. We had to work the back door to let the horses out. Bruce had set a log against the shed door, the one with our vehicles, and it had frozen solid. I am uneasy when we can’t access them, even if the weather is too nasty to drive. I called our neighbor, Sherry Robertson and asked if her husband could come by and help us get it open.
Within a few minutes, they were here. I chatted with Sherry about her antique business The Copper Cow. She is also supplying props for weddings. I’ve been impressed by her marketing. But she is dismayed like I am because of the weather and upcoming events. Craig told Bruce to try to ram the log away with the tractor. Then he took a pick ax and chipped enough ice to roll it away. The door opened.
Doors shut. Doors open. I think about Isaiah 45 that talks about how God would open doors for Cyrus who would allow the Israelites to return to their country after being exiled in Jerusalem. “I will go before you and level the exalted places, I will break in pieces the doors of bronze, and cut through the bars of iron” (Is. 45: 2). I was talking to a life coach about my dream to publish my novel and saw in my mind’s eye big doors, like the doors in a medieval city, opening slowly and wide, my horse’s energy contained, slow trotting into it. I thought it meant doors would open for my book. In some ways they did, but not like how I imagined, and those doors were so heavy, it’s taken some time to get over being tired.
Then there’s the famous passage where Jesus says, Behold I stand at the door and knock, if we open the door, he will come in and have lunch with us. (Rev. 3:20) He’s polite. He won’t pry open the door, but it’s an awful feeling when a door won’t open and you need it to. But maybe sometimes we need our neighbors take a pick ax, and the suggestion we ram the stump with the tractor, and greater strength to open it.
As they pulled out the drive, the wind started to blow. The day would get colder and we’d get another round of high winds whipping trees covered with ice. It would be another dangerous night walking the dogs, with the fear of branches falling or ice from trees pelting us. It would be another cold night in bed, our noses cold, the cat climbing on us in the middle of the night, to find warmth.
One of my favorite set of verses comes from Psalm 55: 17 ff. “I will call upon God, and the Lord will deliver me. In the evening, in the morning, and at noonday, I will complain and lament, and he will hear my voice. He will bring me safely back…God who is enthroned of old, will hear me.” While I know God doesn’t care for the complaints of the Israelites in the wilderness, their fear taking over, fear of giants in the promised land, I don’t think it’s a bad thing to tell God how you’re feeling. It can be healing to let loose and cry. Since tears don’t always come so easily, I find they are a gift and deeply healing. I have found the Lord, the man of sorrows, acquainted with grief, meeting me in my tears and even my complaint. I have hurled some mighty anger at God and he has been able to bear it.
I was so worn out with fighting the ice, I went to bed and sprawled under my wool blanket and prayed, my mind darting from here to there, pleading with God about books that have troubled me, friends I worry about, my failures at caring for others, this hard weather, for a few hours.
I walk to the barn nearly singing, “In the evening in the morning, and at noonday, I will complain and lament, and he will hear my voice.” All that soft snow turned back to ice and more careful steps across the barn yard.