Wednesday, December 19, 2007

Circles in the Snow

Snow, thaw, ice, thaw, more snow, more thaw.

Deep frost every night, down to the single digits, black nights of incredible twinkling stars...then muddy, springlike 40-something afternoons. Dizzying weather. I loved winter in Winnipeg at 26 C because you KNEW the weather was going to be just like that for the next several months, not all over the chart in a single day.

Tracks in the snow, tracing various lines and loops of blue shadows in the frosty sun of morning chores: coyote (doglike, in a pen where the dogs can't go), skunk, racoon, rabbit, little birds, cats....

But no cat prints in the yard. And I've seen strange feral cats lurking in the barn and out on the pasture. I have a sinking feeling that my beloved Ambrosius has found a new home--whether earthly or heavenly I may never know. It is a great loss that is sinking in only slowly: he's long had a habit of week-long hunting trips to the wilderness area, followed by bouts of demanding attention every minute I'm available. But he has never allowed other cats into his domain. I hope I'm wrong about his status, but I fear I'm right. He will be sorely missed, an irreplaceable longtime friend, companion, and co-worker.

The skunks claimed some more chickens a few weeks ago, through a small dig under the back of the coop before the ground froze. One night I actually saw the culprit eating the evidence...on returning with the camera, he had ducked under cover that obscured a clear photo. We're down to 18 hens, from nearly 80 a year ago. Depressing. I'm not operating an egg business, it's an expensive wildlife-feeding program. Probably would have come out ahead financially if I'd just butchered them all for the table before the critters got them. But--I do admire the beauty and grace and unique characters of the skunks, coyotes, and hawks I've seen this past year.

On the bright side, the anti-predator light in the chicken house has tricked them into thinking it's spring, and they are laying better each passing week. I'm starting to contact old customers for an egg purchasing rotation as they become available.

Awaken, feed the fire, breakfast, morning chores, feed the fire, drive the bus, feed the fire, evening chores, dinner, feed the fire, sleep at last. Slight variations as I'm tending a friend's home and cats during her travels, so some days end and begin there. A routine, though never quite the same. Hay deliveries some days. Lunch with a friend. Working on firewood. Helping my grandchildren learn how to ride the city bus to school.

The little details of this season deceive even me, even after so many years. Yes, each one DOES take time and space, no matter how little. And that time and space adds up faster than seems reasonable, leaving a puzzling lack of time for anything that feels like actually accomplishing something. Instead of just lifting the handle on the water hydrant to fill the stock tank, I have to first lift off and set aside the inverted bucket that keeps sudden ice storms from rendering it unuseable. Then use my hand to thaw the frozen residual drip on the brass quick-connect fitting. Then connect the fittings, pushing and pulling to be sure of a proper connection. Try to route the stiff, frosty hose without kinking it. Then finally turning the water on. When done, disconnect and drain the hose, shake off residual drips, hang it where a surprise snow storm won't bury it, make sure the ends aren't in mud or snow that will freeze to them, replace the bucket over the hydrant. Any missed detail is a gamble, likely to bring grief and frustration, sooner or later.

Each and every task is like this.

Not simply taking the twine off a bale of hay, but taking off gloves in order to take off the twine, then putting gloves back on. Brushing off hay that clings to gloves, sweater, coveralls, socks. Sweeping hay up off the kitchen floor anyhow. Hanging gloves to dry. Finding another pair to wear that's already dry. Alas, have I actually finally lost the dear pair of leather mittens that found me in Winnipeg, three years ago, or will they turn up in an unexpected pocket? Finding hay in my lunch box?!? If only I COULD eat alfalfa.....!

The world of Christmas lights and harried shopping seems remote indeed, illogical, alien.

No comments: