i am not a good listener. it’s not that i’m not interested or sympathetic; it’s because i can’t really do two things at once and my brain never stops working (just ask my insomnia). so, as someone is talking to me, i’m having rapid-fire reactions that makes me a. lose the train of the story and b. think of something that i absolutely must say. i’m also pretty terrible at being observant and reading body language and doing lots of things that other people don’t really have to think about. as a result, i have a terrible memory and lose a lot of experiences. i go for long walks, get home, and realize i can’t remember anything that i did or saw along the way. i often have to remind myself to look around, pay attention, soak something up in the moment.
we had a quick, warm thaw this week: two days of temperatures around 50ºF. snow melted, roads turned to mud, manure – oh, god! the manure! a thaw in january is usual in the northeast. it’s difficult to smell warmth on the wind, fight through muck and soft ground, have all the bad things about spring without any hope of the good things to come. not for a while yet. we’re now having a hard refreeze. everything is either bare ground or iron-hard ice.
tonight, as i did chores, i was in my usual groove. everything is done by muscle memory: hang the goat feed buckets on the wall, unstack the horse feed buckets, scoop feed into the buckets from four different feed bins, get the rubber pans for the horses, dump grain from bucket to pan, hang goat buckets on the fence, take down the goats’ hay net, etc., etc., etc. i don’t have to think about any of this. i do exactly the same things every evening every day of the year and the arms know what to do. my brain goes off on its own and does whatever it feels like doing in the meantime. once i’ve hayed the horses and rehung the goat net, checked the water tanks, and raked up the ground, i go and sit to wait for the horses to finish eating. i have to take their dishes away when they’re done or they’ll drag them off into the pasture in the night.
this waiting game is something that is nice when the weather is fine. it’s forced downtime, time to just sit and think or not think and just listen to horses and goats chewing. when it’s cold and blustery (and dark, since it’s always dark for evening chores in winter), it’s a penance. i often don’t sit at all on the bad nights; i jump up and down, run in place, anything to stay warm. tonight was somewhere in the middle: bitterly cold, but calm and quiet. i sat for a bit, but i got cold and bored and had to look around for things to occupy myself with. i grabbed a bucket and went to the faucet to fill the goats up. the faucet was frozen, so my task was in vain, but as i turned back, i was absolutely spellbound by the soft yellow light pouring out of the shed onto the munching horses, glancing off the hard, icy ground and creating a beautiful golden haze. i didn’t even have to scold myself to stop and enjoy it; i had no choice. i stood with my face to the rosy yellow glow and just watched happy, smug horses munching and sighing, they as content as i.
the spell did slowly dissolve as the horses finished their dinner and went carefully to their hay, across the icy pasture: pick pick pick. my spotted gelding chose the wrong line and ended up bunny hopping up a small, icy hill to keep from losing his footing. the mare and the bay gelding picked a better, longer line. none of them have had a good trot in days. they navigate carefully, slowly, circumspectly when the ground is this treacherous. the reflective patches on their blankets disappeared in the darkness, i flicked the light switch, and the magic was over.