Sunday, December 23, 2007

Full Moon and Snow

Alas, I cannot convince my digital camera to record what my eyes see outside tonight!

So plan a trip to the nearest Public Library and check out a copy of the children's book, "Owl Moon," and spread it open next to your computer screen as you read this entry. If the library doesn't have it, give it to them for Christmas. It shouldn't take much convincing.

Tonight looks like that, doing chores near midnight. And it feels like that...esp. sneaking out without the dogs or a jacket to try to snap a few pictures. And it even sounds like that--I heard a great horned owl, just once, in the distance, while I was feeding sheep.

This morning we had a special training at work--scheduled for 4 hours, 8-noon--back to back with my regular driving shift, 12:45 - 8:16 p.m. About 10:30 it started to sleet a little, then pellets more like hail (or ball bearings, on the road). Thankfully we got off an hour early...and it took that full hour to slither home in my not-sufficiently-weighted rear-wheel-drive pickup for dryer socks and warmer boots. I rode back with my housemate in her front-wheel-drive car.

Precipitation continued all afternoon, shifting to fine then fluffy snow driven by a sharp north wind, keeping it up until around the time we finished...close to 9:00...with a total of about 6" on the ground. Extensive blowing and drifting, extremely poor visibility at times, slick roads with inches of mud-like snow on top. Awful driving! The 30' busses I usually drive do pretty well--they are heavy with a lot of weight in the rear. But I was driving one of the smaller busses, which acted a lot like my pickup, and there were 4 times I got mired in deep areas and really wasn't sure I was going to be able to get the bus moving again. Finally DID get stuck in the bus yard, when directed to back into a narrow spot filled with a snow drift.

As I crept around town, terribly behind schedule, I kept thinking, "The only thing that makes this day unpleasant is that I'm trying to get somewhere. If I didn't have the time pressure--the obligation--if I wasn't in a motor vehicle--it would be a lovely day, in its own way. I could relax and enjoy it."

At home, the sky was clearing. I went out and shovelled the entry area and porch for awhile by the light of the full moon. Though it was cold, I was soon opening the door and flinging my jacket and hat inside, much to the surprise of my shivering housemate. (She's moving to Texas tomorrow. Really.)

I've liked shoveling snow at night for as long as I can remember. Go figure. I guess it's always so peaceful when it snows--the traffic is at a bare minimum, and the snow seems to mufle sounds anyhow. This is even more so at night. The little sounds--the hiss and clank of the snow shovel, the rustle of the broom, the distand owl, a dog barking on a far street, the ram's bell, a stick snapping in a Border Collie's mouth--stand out as brightly as the stars that twinkle in the vastness of the night sky. And shovelling the snow before people walk on it is always so much easier than when it's been backed down by tromping boots.

Later I suited up again and went out to feed the sheep and close up the chickens for the night. It's the sheep, in part, who really taught me to accept weather as it comes, by their example. As I throw flakes of mixed grass/alfalfa hay over the fence to them, they eagerly gather around. The snow is thick on their backs--their fleeces insulate them so well that not enough body heat can get out to melt the snow. They have sheds to shelter in, but the snow on their backs shows me they have spent a lot of the day outside. Caring for them, over time, I've learned to stand tall in my own version of a "fleece"--Carharts, or a leather jacket--and let the weather be as it may. If I relax into the particular rhythm of snowiness on the farm--the light playful slithering of the sled hauling the hay to the sheep, the unique weight of each individual snowfall against my boots, the slight impediment of many layers of clothes--then it is a fine dance we do. Not at all like the tense, alert focus of driving.

In this weather, I truly appreciate the fruit of the many little things that have become absolute routines for me at the farm--routines I try to inculcate in everyone whose path runs near them. Things that make others roll their eyes, or worse, at my "compulsiveness", my "unreasonable insistence on doing things my way," my "controlling," my "nit-picking".

Because of these little habits, tonight it was a pleasure, in the sparkling beauty of the moon on the snow, to take the bucket off the hydrant, slip the hose off the top of the fence and hook up the quick-connect, and lift the hydrant handle to listen to the robust splash of the water into the stock tank. The sled for hauling hay was in the barn, not "somewhere" completely covered with snow; the pull rope wasn't frozen in yesterday's mud. I didn't need to use the headlamp--just did everything by moonlight--because, among other things, I knew there were no hidden loops of loose baling twine to trip me up. The plastic placed "just so" kept the snow out of the feed barrel when I stocked the hens' feeder. A hundred other little details that make life easier, if not actually simpler.

Waking the fire in the woodstove, however, I reached for a handful of kindling from a box packed this fall by someone who had scornfully disregarded my plea to "please don't pack kindling until I show you how I do it." Instead of a neat little handful of twigs, just enough to efficiently rekindle the fire, with no lose sticks to fall out of my hand--I ended up needing both hands to wrestle loose a clump that took up half the stove firebox. Little twigs went sproinging off in all directions across the wool rug in the living room. One stringy, twiggy branch of a species that is about as snap-able as stiff rope--a species I avoid for this use because of that charactersitic--had been folded several times and placed in the box, then covered with other sticks.

I'm looking forward to some peaceful hour tomorrow, snapping neat short kindling twigs of the best species from the brushpile that came with the new barn. Maybe I'm OCD. Maybe I've just learned a thing or two over the years, about how to make some of the little things in life easy and pleasurable, in their own small ways.

It's those little things that make up the mosaic of a complex but "simple" daily life that I find incredibly rewarding.

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