Dusk in a Winter Coat
I pulled up to the house this evening right before that moment when the sun sinks behind the woods. The cows were licking the trough that hasn’t seen grain in at least a week. For cows, their memories are long and their optimism is impressive. I wonder how many times they’ve checked the trough since it was last filled with grain. I scratched Seamus’s head through the fence. He stared back, blowing drool bubbles as he always does when he sees me, since I probably appear to him as a giant bucket of feed.. Somewhere there was a fire burning. Woodsmoke came through the forest on the breeze, and the cows both lifted their noses, their curly foreheads jumbled and bouncing in the wind. Sometime last week their bodies exploded into thick winter coats, making the curls spring out in little bouquets on their foreheads.
And the sun sank just then – the pasture cast in a hue so artificially golden it appeared staged, like movie scenes shot by hopelessly romantic cinematographers. The house was behind me, also appearing there in the woods like a set. Because after so much time thinking and waiting and planning and scheming, it’s not real yet. Not quite yet.
On the drive home I noticed my fingertips were covered in a thin layer of dirt, the souvenir you take after petting the animals. I remembered those Wednesday lunch trips to the land three years ago. After an hour in the pasture I hated to wash my hands when I was back in the office. That sweet smell of musk and dirt coats the fingers. It used to get me through the second half of uninspired workdays. Just a simple reminder that no matter where I was sitting, there was this other place nearby. There were cows and hay and dried leaves and quiet spaces that could care less about deadlines, frankly. I know it sounds strange, that I smelled my hand the entire drive home tonight, just to recall the sensation of standing in silence at a pasture fence. But if I cared about sounding strange, I wouldn’t have cow dirt on my hands in the first place.