When I Blinked
Since Friday morning, it’s been legit cold down in these parts. I’m not sure of the science behind it, but without fail, a few hours of cold weather causes livestock fur to fluff out and puff up adorably. Thursday was 90 degrees and everyone was wearing slick and shiny July coats. But by Friday morning when the front slammed into the farm, all the animals kicked and spun around their respective pastures suddenly bundled in thick, fuzzy, fur. Has anyone witnessed this phenomena? Am I hallucinating? Can I get an amen?
Whether real or imagined, the animals appear cozy and bundled as they race in between trees. There has been more tail-wagging and snorting than ever before. Even the chickens seem fluffed up and more energetic as they stomp around the place, mostly eating the winter rye seeds Jer spent hours spreading. It’s gotten so cold, in fact, Jeremy made a serious pronouncement: “It is wood stove weather,” and he has been busy between the stove and the woodpile ever since. Occasionally I catch him walk through the living room before doing a double take and then stopping in a trance to watch the flames. His annual love affair is, literally, rekindled.
Having her fired up again has unexpectedly brought forth a rush of memories from the house build and the early months here as we crammed too much activity into too little time. It was as if we feared it would all suddenly go away so we tried frantically to do everything at once. The stove reminded me of the months spent without a proper kitchen and cooking meals on the wood stove that we later ate on the sheepskin rug. It reminds me how we’d turn off the lights just to look at the stars out of the living room windows. We don’t do that kind of stuff anymore.
I always suspected that, eventually, we’d take it all for granted. At first glance, one might classify this as one of the greatest flaws of human nature – to take things for granted. And, no doubt, it is a great big glaring flaw that each of us is guilty of to a certain extent on a daily basis. But then, in those moments where something here happens that is so beautiful, so sad, so wonderful that I’m knocked down to my knees – then I realize: I’m not taking this for granted – I’m just getting accustomed to my reality. Thank goodness I’m not constantly breathless like I was at the beginning. At some point, I needed to stop drooling over the sunrise in order to start the day (full disclosure: I spent one hour this morning sitting on a log in the forest just to photograph leaves). The balance to strike between awe, gratitude, and acceptance (but never indifference) – it’s tricky. Over the course of late summer and fall, for the first time in a year, my job overtook some of the goals I’d set here. While it was appropriate to focus on work in that way, it meant I momentarily lost my balance. For three solid months I’ve been teetering between things and have had to physically remind myself why I am here.
Jeremy lit the first fire on Friday night and in the evening when we walked outside to lock up the chickens, the smell of woodsmoke wafted down from the stovepipe, curled through the trees, and wavered above the driveway where I was walking. It met me square in the face and smacked both my cheeks repeatedly as if shouting, “Snap out of it!” The smell, I swear, the smell it reminded me of last winter’s teeth gritting, pain-inducing work. I suddenly remembered how damn good it felt to work hard finishing something we’d started. Or starting something we wanted to finish? If that’s the case then, well, we’re not really finished yet, are we?
I’ve spent lots of time perusing old posts from the winter into spring time when the goat babies came home, when I was exhausted from bottle feeding and worrying and cleaning goat bottoms and puppy fur (casualties of goat bottoms). It seemed that they would never grow. Back when we pulled the big red barn onto the property and Jer started building the shelters against it and it seemed he would never finish. Now I have a huge animal shelter and goats in a pasture, almost completely independent of me (sniff). This week, as the goats followed me to the chicken house for chores, the puppies ran to the large pasture fence whining and pawing frantically at the gate. There in the brush, a coyote gazed steady back at them. I opened the gate and they chased it away in earnest. Suddenly I realized the puppies are working dogs, grown up right under my nose – poof! I peeked back even further during the year(ss) that we considered twisted variations of methods for finally living here. And if you think we didn’t discuss tent living, then you’d be dead wrong.
Now, today, we’re here. I’m sitting in the big chair in front of the woodstove – the only part of this house that was installed correctly (!!! true story !!!) and which kept us warm and motivated through cold, damp nights when we were wrist-deep in frigid mortar. I’m full from a dinner of spaghetti and meatballs; a meal based almost entirely from our own ingredients (eggs, herbs, tomatoes, beef). And it occurs to me now – the meal that took me one hour to prepare this evening was four years in the making. The saying about blinking and missing things – it’s true – you know? Sometimes I long for that steel-bellied focus we both maintained from last September through this summer, and I miss mixing up goat milk formula, cleaning bottles, and watching the new babies learn how to jump. Those phases seem to streeeettccchh out into forever but in an instant, they are mere detours on the road map. They become anecdotes shared over dinner with friends. In retrospect, I wish I had known to inhale all that chaos, just sink right in a little longer. It’s good to claw at dreams every once in a while.
An impossible suggestion, but what the heck: try hard to wrap your arms around (and find the beauty in) the present. It slips by real, real quick.