I am not always keen on accepting. I prefer choice and striving.
We accept the snow. What we have will stay, and more will stack the load with each passing storm. My boots may not touch dirt on the mountain until May.
We and the mountain scramble to prepare. We accept, not as readily as I once did. I am not supposed to be here.
The Stellar Jays are grateful I am. This morning on my return from Gunnar’s walk, the light still low and pale, two Jays are in the Aspen above the chicken coop looking cold and lonely. It will be a while yet before Forrest is awake enough to feed the chickens. The wild birds (Jays, crows, ravens and magpies) that tough it out with us through the winter rely on that which the chickens leave behind after their morning meal. Usually, that consists of scraps from our last night’s dinner.
Of course I am filled with sympathy for the birds, though I have not been feeding them yet this year. I try to wait until the ground is frozen and white. That’s usually just past Thanksgiving. This year, it is now. It has happened. It is time to begin.
Those two Stellar Jays are my reminder. I retrieve a board from the wood shed, grab a cup of bird seed and head outside where I plan to set up the bird feeder in the same place on the deck I have done each winter since we built it.
As I walk out with board and birdseed, they see me coming and cheer for joy. Mind you, the Stellar Jay is not known for his lovely voice. More like nails on a chalkboard. But I take it for what it is: appreciation that I’m there to feed them. All of them. And it’s not just those two. They were simply the bait to lure in this sucker. As I set out the board, a dozen jays appear from their hiding places within the branches of the big spruce tree. They’ve pulled the old hitchhiker trick: one person stands at the side of the road and waits, and when a car stops, a whole crew comes running from the bushes to pile in.
They are satisfied. I smile as I watch them flickering about the board, pleased with their “score” and glad life is as predictable as they anticipated.
The horses do not fare as well. Four years ago, we contemplated building a bigger barn. Far from a daunting task for us. The last little one we built took us two weeks. We had to get it done, and we did.
That was when Bob got the boot from the old family barn he had worked out of and kept up for twenty years. It was an old, dark and dusty log shed, nothing fancy, but it served its purpose. The grand dad had built it back in the day to provide for his own outfitting business. But you know how these things go. In one of these crazy covert deals this family is so good at, the mother had secretly signed that part of the property over to Big Bully Brother. No one knew why or when, and I suppose it wouldn’t have mattered. He was gone. Far enough away. But when Big Bully returned to this part of the country, he figured it was time to start pushing his weight around and show the world what he was made of. He is a very large man who makes his presence very known. On the long list of things he did to establish his presence on the family ranch was tell Bob that he was thinking of renting out the barn. His barn. Of course, he said that in May, and our outfitting season begins in June.
No problem. Bob, in his usual quiet way (used to being bullied by this guy, I’d say), said nothing, but got to work.
Within two weeks, we completed a little barn and got the hell out of Dodge.
I look around and see how much we have built together here in such a short time. No question about it: we can do it, we have done it, and we do it pretty well. Truth is, we even enjoy it. Sure beats sitting around whining or watching the clouds roll by. However… we discussed the possibility of a larger barn and decided not to. We’d move instead. Find a better environment to live and work. A better place to be, with our horses, without the in-laws.
How many years later is it now? We’re still here, still with the plan to get further away from Dodge, but still stuck and starting to feel as if this place is Purgatory.
Did we make a mistake by not building the barn back then? No. I am certain. We made the choice to move back then. It’s just that, well, we haven’t quite figured out HOW to move yet. Moving, getting away from here, seems to be this big brick wall preventing us from forging ahead with our lives. We’ve peeked over to the other side time enough that we know how it feels to be gone, away from here and this history. And you know what? It feels good.
But here we are, still facing the brick wall, and getting a little weary of banging our heads against it.
And out there are our horses. Still without the comfort of a big barn in which to ride out the storm.
Still. Have you notice how often I use that word? I’m thinking it might feel really good to use words like “fresh” and “new” and expressions like “And now…”
In the meanwhile (still?), we’re working on breaking down that brick wall. One brick at a time if need be. Or maybe one grain of sand at a time. Seems like it’s taking about that long. But it’s happening. Every day brings us closer if we keep our goal in the forefront of our minds. Pretty hard not to do that when everything we do is intertwined with the destruction of that brick wall, and the resulting paths that open on the other side. When we get there.
And we will. Yes, my friend, we will.
Some days I feel I’m getting there. Most days it feels like, well, I’m still here. And that brick wall is still there.