Oftentimes when I am immersed in various chores, I compose thoughts, phrases, ideas which I intend to share in this journal. For several weeks I have been mentally working out a description of how I feel about early morning breakfast feeding of the herd. But until this morning, I hadn't actually felt ready to write it out. I decided to write about how chores went on Friday morning, which is very similar to what it was like for us this morning, except we had the pleasure of not having to shovel away snow first.
I will break up the rambling text with photos from past winters, some from days that were not so harsh and we actually had opportunity to play.
When its very dark and very cold and early,
and I contemplate layering up my body with weighty outer wear, then pulling open the door,
to step across the threshold of what is glowing, snug warmth into the exact opposite,
with every fleshy cell recoiling against the harsh transition saying, "Don't go!",
and every nuance of my heart pulsating, "You must go, they await you and they are hungry,"
of course, I take a breath, put both feet outside and shut the door, shrinking and shivering...
I hear them before I see them.
Their impatient, hardy hooves provoke curious, otherworldly sounds out of the especially cold, fine snow.
It's a marvel, really, how many moods snow has, warmer, heavier snow muffles...frigid snow creaks and complains.
The snow complained loudly today, hearing it I rub my fingers briskly within my double mittens, worried that they are already too chilled.
The lights from the porch reach out and trace subtle lines of illumination across fluffed up equine backs.
Mistral is pacing the gate. By his calculation I am already late.
By my calculation, I am already cold and much effort is ahead to make things right for the herd.
And the wind is up.
The door opens and Kevin crosses the threshold, leaving behind the fragrant warmth.
He doesn't shrink. He doesn't shiver. Just grabs a shovel and begins to dig.
My toes are already flirting with numbness, but I begin moving dense, drifted snow away from doors and gates, too.
The dogs' feel the wind, hold up cold paws, and ask me to open the door. They cross the threshold, seeking out their beds, still warm, with the fire nearby, warmer still.
The shoveling is tiresome, but I no longer shrink and shiver, heat comes from within and has found my fingers, and they tingle. Now and I know I can keep up with Kevin. My toes are warming back up and I know I can do what needs to be done.
Cleared, the shed is once again accessible, I fumble for the hanging switch and timid light pushes back a little on the dark interior, just a bit, but well enough. Hooves bang on the back wall. Teeth bite down on the wood. Their irritation is palpable. I try not to take it personally, it is the conditions of their morning that have put them in ill humor, they are not angry with me. I try to hurry. It feels like my movements are half-bound, clumsy and slow, and the feeling is an accurate sensation of what is. I can hear Mistral pacing. Fourteen pans for thirteen horses, the usual number, but extra scoopfuls in each. It is very, very cold. And the wind is up.
Kevin has one toboggan stuffed and bungie-corded, is working on the second load. I distribute the pans as best as I can, not a hint of anything artful to it, as I dodge anxious bodies between curious shaped shadows and awkwardly cast light and trip on uneven snow and think myself crazy for doing this in conditions where I really cannot see. But there is no waiting for daylight, or lingering over extra cups of coffee when they are waiting and hungry. We serve them, by choice, and according to their sense of time, not ours.
The wind makes it unpleasant for the horses to eat their oats and I am surprised they came up for them at all, there is such a bitter bite to the air.
While they reposition themselves repeatedly seeking any break from the frigid wind, our caravan of two humans and two heavily laden toboggans of hay pick out the snow-swept remnants of the trail to the north copse of cedars. It will be pleasant there, protected. But to get to it, we must bend and lurch straight into the life-sapping wind. At least its not snowing. We've done this gig during snow fall, its a brutal assault. It's easier today than other days and last week's crazy melt transformed most of the snow into shallow ponds and tributaries, which quickly froze. We are walking over ice with a short foot of snow on top. No need for snowshoes, and we can move a little faster than we would otherwise. The wind has swept some sections nearly bare and I can see dried stalks of dead grasses.
Halfway across the open land, we are swirled upon by snorting horses. Kevin stays steady, keeps moving on his path and I follow him like a shadow. The horses settle down and pick their way forward alongside us, taking care when we are over ice, snitching mouthfuls of hay, then dashing off ahead to wait for us in the shelter of the trees. The mules plod along behind, rarely getting caught up into capricious dashes like their shorter-eared mates.
You feel it incrementally, the lessening of the knife-sharp wind on exposed facial features, until the quiet, fringed limbs of the wooded realm forbid the wind's passing altogether. It is like crossing another threshold from one environment to another. It is sweet relief, so worth the effort. And now the laying out of piles, taking care to not walk into an unseen branch. It is dark yet, but we see well enough, at least larger shapes. The frigid wind song carries overhead, but the lower, mellow music of jaws masticating dried grasses makes the human heart swell with pleasure.This was from Bella's first winter here on the island, and she gives us such a lovely image in this photo, don't you think?
We are both so warm now, we have to loosen scarves a little, let a bit of fresh air in and marvel at what a fine existence we have here at Ravenseyrie.
Arm in arm, we look upon the herd in the comfort of their natural "barn" and all the earlier sensation of recoiling against this bitterly cold morning, all thoughts of preferring to stay on the inside of our house door, where the warm glow remains, have dissipated. I am right where I want to be in this moment. And as I observe the settled herd enjoying their breakfast, I get the sense they, too, are right where they want to be, and this makes me feel especially thankful. How lucky a woman I am!