Saturday, January 16, 2010

Season's Greetings

I have a passion for seasons. I don't like the vaseline-smeared-lens-fantasy of always-summer-at-the-beach ideal of eternal joy.

Let there be fall, with the wet-leaves smell, the crisp bite of the first fire that scents the air with a smoky promise of good warmth, to challenge that fresh clean first cold snap. The rustle of leaves that betrays the squirrel in the tree, or the sneaking deer coming up to the pond for the evening drink. The 'settling' conversations of turkeys in the trees outside my bedroom window as the night moves in ever earlier, ruining their little foraging plans and causing them to grumble. The deep lowing of the cattle over the hill, clearly heard in the evening chill, as the coyotes howl and whine and complain around them, looking for a victim amidst the sharp hooves and willing horns.

Let there be spring; the tulips pushing through the ground as mightily as they can, hard green heads against the hard gray grass. The gray branches of the maples and cottonwoods suddenly covered in soft green fuzz as the new leaves struggle to stretch to the sky, juxtaposed against the cedars and loblollies, blacker and more ponderous with the gentle new growth around them. They are the old dogs, the sturdy dogs, who have survived another winter with their foliage and dignity intact, and now hover over the giggling new growth, growly and protective over the spring growth, guarding it from the sudden and capriciously violent spring storms. Small fluffy chicks peeking out from uinder their mothers, shy and skittish, while the hens dare the roosters to come one step closer. New calves are staggering and investigating, running too far and bleating, returning to a lowing and comforting, never perturbed mother.

Let there be summer - a brief one, anyway. One that lets the garden tumble over itself in wild abandon; the lilacs bushy and throwing their purple raiment about like careless silk scarves, draping the burgeoning sunflowers and shy salvia with extra color. Green beans snapping in the sun, heavy tomatoes hanging in red Christmas-ornament colors, begging to be picked to free the branches to reach higher. Pumpkin, watermelon, and canteloupe vines sprawling across the rows in wild abandon, throwing out first the golden flowers as big as your hands, then the green balls of fruit that hide so much promise in their juicy interiors. The potato plants reaching for the sky, burying their gold like misers underneath layers of mulch and sand. The ground-hugging strawberries that nestle together like gossips, sharing their pollen and secrets with the bees, pregnant with the hope of a red and glorious birth. The apple, cherry, blueberry and gooseberry trees and bushes that rise disdainfully above them, waving their arms full of flowers and then proud and multicolored fruit. The calves are playing next to their mothers or dozing in the hot afternoon sun, the chicks are becoming aggressive as their teenage temperaments emerge; either trying to crow or racing each other endlessly after whatever bug enters their domain. The rush to can or dehydrate or collect the bounty, put it away to be enjoyed all year long. The rush to fatten, arrange, prepare to butcher or smoke or skin or defeather before the long-hanging sun finally settles into a brief and cooler nap. The endless sweat puddling in the clothing, drawing dirt and bugs, dripping in salted brine from your hair and face, so that a sudden plunge into the icy trough is a welcome but brief relief.

Ah, but winter! Winter is the best! Stomping in from the ice and snow outside, stripping off the layers of coats and snowproof overalls, thick heavy boots and gloves endlessly soiled by tramping through the toil. One makes quick work of feedup time; keeping the heated trough full of water for the big critters, knocking off the ice from the chicken waterer, piling up the snow from last week's blizzard as a wall to protect the chicken coop from tomorrow's predicted snows. Brushing the glittering snow from the cows' and horse's backs where it has melted to their heat, then refrozen in a winter ice cap to their heavy winter fur. Tracking rabbits in the snowy moonlight, scanning the sparkling starlit sky for any sign of those elusive wonders, the Northern Lights. Bright sunshiny days where 'diamond dust' - those glittery sparkles of frozen humidity that dance in the breeze, too light to fall to the ground - swirls around you in a softly billowing cloud of glory. Long black nights where the only sound is the crackling of the wood in the woodstove, the "ping" and "pang" of the cold metal stovepipe heating under a new assault of freshly blazing firewood, the rumble of the slowly collapsing log pile as it sacrifices itself in agonizing slow-motion to heat and light. Days of planning, days of dreaming over the seed catalogs and order books - what shall we have this year? What new adventures shall we undertake once the frost line permits the plow to cut instead of bounce? Endless evenings in the sewing room working on the next quilt, or in the ceramics room, painting pictures of sunlight and shadow on smooth clay canvas. No rushing, no hysterical to and fro, no gotta go see-buy-have-possess. Just the slow drowsy glide of one short day into the next long night; a chance to dream, to read, to think, to plan. Like the earth, a knowing that spring will come, and a restful preparation for that coming. A conviction that perfection can be attained, that this year and every one following can only get better and better, as the seasons slide into each other with graceful endless subtlety.