Just as it was getting light this morning, Ira got suited up, grabbed his gun, and left to go squirrel hunting. There’s only a few more days of squirrel season left, but I think the child has shot 56 squirrels so far. Admittedly, I won’t be sad when the season ends as we have eaten so. many. squirrels. They taste fabulous, don’t get me wrong. And I am proud of him for always cleaning them with care and relish seeing how proud he is when we sit down to a meal that he harvested and often prepared all by himself. But I have strange moments of wondering when the natural balance in the squirrel population could be upset… or when hungry squirrel-eating hawks decide to pay a visit to our chicken paddock when they find tree-dwelling rodents are in short supply. Hmmmm.It was 12 degrees this morning. The cold weather doesn’t seem to bother Ira much, he refuses long underwear (well, any underwear for that matter) but he has actually taken to wearing socks with his rubber boots. If you know Ira, that is quite a revelation. When he returned from his hunt and set in giving Papa his report (again, if you know Ira, you also know that he always always has something to say.) he said it felt like a summer morning. Summer. He has a particular keenness for birds and pays attention to what they have to say. Apparently, this morning the birds’ chatter, and gobblers calling in the distance, alerted his brain to the fact that change is in the air. The inevitable change that happens when winter gives way to spring. And spring to summer, for that matter. And it is inevitable, too. The change. There is no stopping it. Even though there is still snow on the ground. Even though more snow could be falling this evening. Spring’s return is inevitable. And I’ll be glad for it.
The weather has changed again.
After so many days of the children running outside barefoot, talking about Spring. After a roof and walls went up on the outbuilding so large I think we could almost move into it. After surveying the damage of the last big freeze and being very grateful to still have some kale. After days of sun and wind and hawks and owls calling in the big trees.
We woke to the sound of drizzling rain.
The weather bounces like a yoyo. Or maybe it’s a boomerang. There’s a chance of snow tonight. I welcome it, having known through those balmy days that Winter was still underneath it all.
Welcoming the change seems the best option, now and always.
The seasons unroll themselves, cresting at times in wonderful moments of full expression, then dipping back into shadows or shades of the season behind, or to come.
Sort of like children. We watch them crawl out of their baby fat. They spring up like weeds, trying on every characteristic in their genetic code as they grow, amazing and challenging and delighting us all at once. Just when a behavior seems to have arrived to stay, it is gone again. Like the open toothless smile of an infant, so fleeting. One of the perks of being a mother, for sure, is to still be able to see the baby inside the person who grows out of it.
And I see myself in them too, as I was or might have been. I see in them fragments, gestures, flashes of who I am, and have been. They are not me, and I am not them, but we are present in each other in a way that, though constant, always changes.
It helps remind me of who I might be now, too. (It is all too easy to lose track of myself – a sense of myself – in the care of feeding of a family.)
There, in the old photos, I recognize the baby, the little girl, the young woman. I remember being her, sometimes.
What is it that holds together all these people we have been?
Slippery substance, mostly of our own creation, that one. But there it is, running through the seasons, through the years, stringing clouds, rain, sun, days, nights, laughter, anger, tears and hugs all together in an endless beaded string.
Some days, I have a rough ball of clay to thread onto that string as it passes. Other days, there is a delicate iridescent pearl. Both add texture and depth to the un-finishable creation of life.
Cold weather is coming. Today the temperature rose to the low forties and when I left the house for afternoon chores, it still felt almost balmy down in the protected hollow around our homestead. I had been busy doing this and that most of the day and had not felt the slightest chill whatsoever. Feeling chipper and carefree, I opted to leave my heavy coat behind and head on out for chores without that extra burden. Big mistake. When I got up on the ridge and out into the open pasture, the air was changing. The cold air was skipping merrily in from the north. The livestock also happened to be situated in a north-facing paddock today, and the sun was mostly masked behind thick, cold clouds. It didn’t take much time before I was pulling up the hood of my sweatshirt and shoving my hands deep into my coveralls pockets (my gloves were also in that heavy chore coat I was not wearing…). The temperature is not supposed to rise above freezing until this weekend, and tomorrow night we could be kissing the zero degree mark. I know for many of you hard core northern-types, you are probably rolling your eyes at my laments. One day at zero… big deal.But, but… here in Kentucky we live in this simultaneously magical and frustrating zone of the planet. We can graze our animals year-round on pasture and don’t have to house them in the barn for half of the year. We do feed hay also, but each paddock has some grass for the grazing. Sometimes, even, the grass will actually grow just a bit in the winter. Not a lot, mind you, but some. On the flip side, since we can graze the livestock year-round, pasture water-systems are seldom set up for long stretches of below freezing temperatures. It would cost an absolute fortune (primarily in time/labor) to freeze-proof all of that pipe, and we aren’t very flush in the time/labor/money department right now. Installing and engineering the hydraulic ram pump powered water system that services our pastures was enough of a task back in the day. And it works perfectly 99% of the time. We certainly have pretty reliable “back-up plans” as far as getting water to the livestock, but none are as easy as plugging a hose into the pipe that bisects each pasture. So this evening during chores, Eric had to fill up extra water tubs in anticipation for the coming frozen days. Every morning and evening, we will be busting the ice in those tubs so that the perpetually thirsty bovines can get their precious drinks.The ever undulating mercury and the constant freezing and thawing that this region experiences also brings forth mud. Lots of mud. But I don’t want to think about that right now. Right now I want to think about cold. I want to think about hard frozen ground. I want to think about the deep penetrating freeze we are about to experience. It feels good and right and necessary. There is work happening amidst the freeze. Good work. Cleansing work. From my gardener’s point of view, I know that my garlic crop needs a certain number of chill days in the winter so that it doesn’t form, what we call, “club roots” (one giant single clove/bulb, non-segmented). I know, also, that a good hard winter will knock next year’s insect pests in the garden down a notch or two. The maple sap will run harder. I will be more ready for spring.The changing of the calender year, coupled with this coming cold weather, has got me fired up to clean my personal slate. I’ve been hell-bent, bound and determined to get my household in order.
Maybe it’s a resolution of sorts, but I don’t really make resolutions. (Except maybe to knit more, hula-hoop more, and just be nicer. There. Those are my resolutions.)
Maybe it’s because I can sense the slightest shift in day-length, each day just a little bit more; each day one step closer to crazy spring.
Maybe it’s because I know the cold weather is coming and I know the whole family will likely be indoors more and I know first-hand how much better everyone behaves and gets along when the house is orderly.
Maybe it’s just because I am a Virgo and I can’t help it.
Anyhoo, today the girl’s room got the one-over. And while I was busy there, Ira decided it was a perfect time to make gingerbread cookies. So all three kids quickly set to mixing ingredients and flinging flour and rolling out dough. And licking their fingers. Again and again.
So while I was cleaning one slate, another one found itself in dire need of cleaning. Isn’t that just the way it goes? Round and round and round again. The days. The seasons. The years. Do the dishes, turn around, do the dishes again. So, I guess the jokes on me. I’m the one hanging on to the neat and tidy fetish. But at least there was gingerbread to snack on while I tackled the kitchen mess!