We’ve begun the adjustment into a slide I call ‘the greys’. That’s when Nature flips the switch on us and the landscape shifts to tones of muted grey and brown with skiffs and sometimes mountains of white. The whole process takes a hard turn and we begin a seep into a quiet that brings with it a not so gradual drop in temperatures. We wobble up and down for a short time then it’s on to hibernation.
What’s the temp??
This temperature business is the “not fit for man nor beast” cold. And, then it’ll follow up with stretches of holy shit you’ve got to be kidding me kind of cold. It is my curse to come from people who like to sweat. We don’t mind it a bit. Our bodies do their best when the temps and humidity are on the high side, rain or shine, our body beads of moisture. But some of us are here and we layer. It’s complicated.
I send a wish of happy hunting to the resident barn owl on my dark walk to the barn. And, last week coyotes made quick work out of a deer I found dead in the field. Take the gift and fill up when you can, I tell them. After all, it’s their adjustment too. We all shift gears. I try not to get too snitty about it all, but extremes make me so uncomfortable.
How it began
The ones that lived here a long time ago were a tough lot. For them, this was time to put the chains on their cars and carry some with them too. They were persistent like that.
In a move that took her from Chicago to rural Wisconsin, my untamed Auntie found herself living in the boonies with husband number four. Somehow, in a story no one talked about, they bought a place with enough acreage to farm. The dirt driveway was a half mile to the road. It was an area where your nearest neighbor was a few miles away. And, your phone was on a party line. Often, like during bad weather, it didn’t work.
I have a picture of her sitting on her porch, the snow so high it was even with it. She’s sitting in a rocking chair hugging a goat laying in her lap. Standing only four foot, ten inches tall, she wasn’t much bigger than the goat. She’s wearing a sweater she’d crocheted and wool leggings with suspenders. There’s a beagle walking behind her and she’s got a big, big smile on her face. It was easy to see how happy she was. And, it was that way for a while. Until it wasn’t.
It all came undone
When her husband eventually had enough, of whatever he’d had enough of, he cleared out to go back home, which was a farm in Virginia. We kids only heard bits and pieces as to the reasons why. The men in the family all blamed her. I was heartbroken he took one of the beagles with him. There were no good byes.
Face to face, toe to toe
Where we’ll stop, heaven knows
Arm in arm, cheek to cheek
Who’s to blame?
Hand in hand, heart to heart
We never should have let it start
But it’s too late, we shared it all
Now it’s time to share the blame ~ David Allan Coe
After that, she lived out there for a long time, in the quiet and solitude, on her own. There was no choice but to sell the livestock and all working equipment. The skeletons left behind became toys to play and pretend on. It was the beginning of the settling down chapter for my risk-taking Auntie. And she headed back to work a nine to five.
She drove a Rambler car year-round, putting chains on the tires in the winter, carrying more chains and a shovel in the back. And she knew how to use a gun very, very well. She put quite a bit of meat in her freezer the year she shot the biggest buck in the county. And, because she loved me so much, she never made fun of me because I was so afraid of guns.
One foot in front of the other
She got a solid job about thirty miles away. And worked a few hours at a local cafe. She was a crack bowler on bowling leagues and always high in the standings. She did all that, driving the Rambler with the chains on the tires, so she could keep her home and her dogs and the land.
Eventually, she took up with what became husband number five. He provided her with an ease of living she’d never known. She was comfortable. But with comfort came conformity and that seemed to come with a price.
She said goodbye to the land, the dogs, the Rambler, the bowling leagues. Somewhere in the compromise she got sullen and prickly. It would take some time, some adjustment, but she did softened into the peacefulness that comes with forgiving and healing. And when she left this earth, she was wearing Grace.
They brought her back on a Friday night, same day I was born.
We sent her up the smokestack, yes, and back into the storm.
She blew up over the San Juan Mountains, she spent herself at last.
The threat of heavy weather, that was what she knew best. ~ James Taylor
Into the deep
It’s not that I mind the greys so much. I don’t have a problem with the clouds moving in and covering the sky for days at a time. Besides, heavy cloud cover can feel like a brief respite. A chance to slow the breath. A sunny day can come with such high expectations and I don’t always feel up to the challenge.
It’s the extreme cold temperatures that don’t mess around with their deadliness. And, if I’m not careful, I can plunge into the rabbit hole of hypervigilance. History has proven, when something crappy happens, it’s magnified tenfold in Winter’s unforgiving elements.
Hope lives with darkness, he sleeps in her bed
And darkness fills tables with desperate friends
Now you know when hope enters, you’ve entered the end
At the all time low ~ Jesca Hoop
Wait for it
Whether it is horses colicking or dogs getting lost, who lives and who dies when the extreme weather bitch slaps us around is anyone’s guess. And during an ice storm all bets are off.
On a night in January, a call came in on emergency shift saying law enforcement were on their way with a dog that had fallen through the ice on a lake – in January – in Wisconsin.
This was all happening during an ice storm where the wind was blowing so hard it was blowing the ice sideways, pelting what felt like shards of broken glass on your face.
What do you have with you
We met the squad in the parking lot, in thin scrubs, with a stretcher and blankets. What we found was a large Rhodesian Ridgeback popsicle but with the heart of a lion and a snarling mass of teeth ready to rip our flesh. Even in her frozen icy state, her indignancy was on display. She was pissed! And she was hellbent on taking everyone with her.
Keeping the fire lit, one to the next
To this day, I think it was that dog’s own big fire that burned so hot inside her that helped save her life. Hers was an enduring heart, perhaps from a long line of enduring and resilient hearts. And, it was a happy man that walked her wagging tail out the door.
Each being that has walked through knee deep snow and cleaned barn when it’s thirty below, carries a heat from those who’ve endured. This is the smoldering hot nugget each one of us is given from a traveler in our past. A surprise gift among the many they give!
Out of suffering have emerged the strongest souls; the most massive characters are seared with scars. – Kahlil Gibran