Friday, April 17, 2015

spent more time looking

It's that strange time of year.  It's melting and brown and not quite green yet.  I find myself stepping outside the house and just standing there for a few minutes, listening, watching, and feeling the return of warmth, sound, and movement.  

A day can be so warm, and then suddenly, when the sun gets to a certain angle in the late afternoon, so very cold.  Then the cold from the ground overpowers the warmth in the air.  During those warmer hours, we are pulled to do things we have not done for months, and therefore, we spend a great deal of time digging around the barn, looking for missing items.  Like bike helmets.  And one lost knee pad.  And cleats.  Lifting bikes over a pile of tipped over snow shovels and sleds.  Discovering our dog has chewed every right handed beekeeping glove I own, but none of the lefts.  Encouraging children to at least take a fleece with them in case they get cold.  Any activity undertaken involves a process of preparation for, searching for, wondering about just where or how or when.

And because of the quickly changing light and temperature and frustration levels and fatigue, I feel as though some days I am spending more time looking for things than actually doing the activity that we need the items for. Then I begin the activity already exhausted by the searching.

After rooting through, tripping in, and lugging out of the barn the things children need for a bike ride, we headed off.  Bare skin saw the sun for the first time in forever, and these pale and bruised and dry skinned legs wobbly whizzed past the last snow banks.  Remembering how to keep one's balance. Where the brakes are. How to turn.

It was wonderful.  And fun.  And had us all laughing and planning to do this every afternoon.  And then so suddenly, it was cold.  Someone had fallen and needed a bandaid.  It was time for homework and dinner.  And quickly the breathless joy ended with a quick retreat.  And I wondered, was the time spent preparing for the ride worth the brief minutes out there?  I think so, seeing the pink cheeks, bodies more open and movements more fluid, their sleep deeper.

Another example, from the early spring chicken coop clean out while the chickens roamed in the garden.  Our flock is healthy and they all survived this cold and snowy winter.  And they are so eager to be out and about, digging in the thawing dirt, looking for bugs and bits of green shoots.  And they are getting the garden turned for us all the while.

But the time it takes me to convince them to come to me and then carry them from the coop area to the garden, moving, slipping, falling in the squelching mud back and forth, back and forth.  Well, just that was exhausting.  And then the lugging of seed and bedding and tools to follow.  But I did manage a full cleanout of the coop, breaking up the last of the snow piles down there.  Hauling the winter's bedding and compost from the coop area up the hill and spreading it in the garden for the chickens to work into the soil for us.  I spread fresh straw in the coop area, took out and coiled up the electricity for the warming light and water feeder.  Emptied and then refilled the coop itself with fresh bedding.

During my work out there, I discovered a place in the garden fencing through which chickens were escaping.  I collected them three times and put them all back in the garden, a rather comical scene I am sure if anyone had been watching.  We hand raised these hens, but given a chance for freedom and bugs they are not at all interested in letting me pick them up.  And they can fly.  One chicken in particular, Tiny, was quite persistent about breaking out of her terrible grub, worm, and bug infested prison, what we call the garden, and seemed to be more interested in heading straight toward the road, and those curiously shiny moving objects upon it, and so I caught her several times and returned her to the garden.  On her fourth escape, I decided that I could not put her down until I took care of the fencing issue, so difficult to catch was she.  

Which was fine.  She's good company and very gentle and calm.  As far as chickens go.  But she and I had quite a walk around the inside of house, to the kitchen, basement, and even the attic, looking for the tools I needed to fix the broken fencing.  There I was, with a chicken under my arm, roaming the house, looking for a hammer.  Singing a don't poop in my house song.  It was...pretty funny.  

And having spotted ducks and beavers and three energetic and skittish river otters a few days ago, I am back on river watch, sneaking down there as the light begins to fade each evening.  Trying to catch a glimpse of the otters, which I have not again, yet.  But the beavers are out, doing their own beaverish version of rooting around the barn, of just needing to collect a few sticks to shore up the lodge and dam.  Chew, slide, splash, paddle while holding a very long stick in mouth.  Pant.  Back and forth, back and forth.  Though I have yet to snap a good enough picture of them, I am watching the ripples, as they move slowly away from me and my clumsy tripping noises.  

Having a few minutes of quiet down there while the homework and dinner and music swirls around up at the top of the hill.  A few night owl honeybees are down there with me having their last sips of water for the evening.  I can hear the chickens hopping about the coop, fluttering and settling into their roosts.  Different bird chatter, evening bird calls, replace the songs of the daytime.  I sit and take a few deep breaths.  Force myself to sit quietly and wait, hoping my stillness will be rewarded.  Which it is each night, sometimes with a beaver swimming by, or a pair of ducks landing right next to me on the water, or a spectacularly colorful sunset.  And always, I am rewarded with feeling calmer, noticing more, feeling more open to the sounds and sensations around me as I walk back up to the house and enter the kitchen cacophony, step over the lacrosse sticks and mud covered cleats and bags of seed starting soil and muddy snow pants that need to be washed and I return to the stove where something is simmering.  Listen to the mommy I just need a and a mommy can you just help me with's with a bit more patience and openness and see it all as a part of the transition to the next season.

And so, in this wonky in between time of warmth and cold, changing activities and remembering skills, feeling the warmth of the sun on bare skin while partially covered in fleece, I am going to accept the time it takes waiting, watching, and searching for the things we need to enter this new season.  I am going to spend the next week, a school vacation week for us here, enjoying it all, taking a break from writing here.  Because it really does pass so very quickly.  It will all look quite different soon.  And the watching for a glimpse of the return of the warmer months ahead, actually, the time spent searching, waiting, and hoping is certainly an important part of it all, and almost as much fun.  And has a rhythm and a beauty all its own.

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