The animals of winter…

Well the wind blew winter in this weekend and I breathed in the frozen air, a kind of sigh of relief that the season didn’t skip us altogether. Nope, the snow and the cold made it just in time to keep us wondering if there will be lions or lambs trotting in for the grand opening of March.

Oh, it doesn’t really matter much anyway. Around here we can’t trust in spring until the first weeks of June no matter how easy the winter season was on us. But on Sunday morning I was reminded of how much I missed winter all of these months when it was supposed to be snowing. The months I have come to call the extended fall…the early spring…

But we had winter yesterday and I couldn’t wait to get out in it. I squeezed into my long underwear, pulled on layers, tied my scarf around my neck, made sure my wool cap covered my ears and zipped my coat to my chin. The snow was fresh and the wind was blowing it in sparkly swirls around the barnyard. The hay bales were adequately frosted in neatly stacked white drifts, remnants of the small blizzard that blew through the ranch in the evening and was lingering into the late morning hours.

I stuck out my tongue to taste the snowflakes and snuggled down into the collar of my coat like a turtle as I walked toward the horses munching on hay below the barn.

I wished I had their fur coats, thick and wooly and brave against the wind.I wished I had their manes, wild and tangled and smelling of dust and autumn leaves, summer heat and ice. They keep it all in there, all of the seasons.

They nudged and kicked at one another, digging their noses deeper in the stack of hay, remembering green grass and fields, tasting warmer weather in their snack. I lingered there with them, noticing how the ice stuck on their eyelashes and clung to the long hair on their backs.

I scratched their ears and pulled some burs out of their manes and imagined what grove of trees they picked to wait out the storm last night, standing close and breathing on one another’s back. A herd.

I followed them out of the protection of the barnyard and into the pasture where the frozen wind found my cheeks and the dogs cut footprints in the fluffy snow in front of my steps. They played and barked and jumped and sniffed and rolled in the white stuff, like children on a snow day.

I found the top of the hill and  remembered that I hadn’t felt this cold for months.

I had forgotten how my cheeks can go numb, how my fingertips ache, now my eyelashes stick together at the close of a blink and how the wind finds its way through the layers of clothing and freezes my skin. I forgot that sometimes it doesn’t matter that you took care to wear wool socks and three pairs of pants, we are never as prepared as the animals. Sometimes the weather just wins.

I wished I had fur on my ears, tufts on my feet, whiskers to catch the snow.

I wished I had hard hooves to anchor me in the snow, my own herd to lean against, to protect me from the wind.

I wished I was part of a pack, chasing and jumping and rolling through the drifts.

Oh, I would have stayed out longer if I had these things. I would have explored how the creek had froze, stuck my nose in the snow, walked along the banks of the coulee, leaned against the buttes and followed the indecisive sun.

But my scarf wasn’t thick enough, there was snow in my boots and my skin is fragile and thin. No, my body’s not wooly and my nose is not fuzzy. In fact, I wasn’t sure if my nose was still attached to my face. And my fingers? Well, I decided then as I turned my body back toward the house with a billowing chimney that there was a reason for those fingers I wasn’t sure I would be able to keep. Yes, those fingers knit sweaters and sew together blankets, our hands build fires and houses to protect us, our arms wrap around one another, our feet propel us toward shelter or sun and our brains invent things like warm, spicy soup and hot coffee and buttery buns.

No, we might not have fur coats, but we have opposable thumbs.

I pointed my frozen feet toward the house and flung open the door, stripped off my layers and stood over the heater vent, happy to have experienced winter, happy for my warm house and man-made blankets.

And happier still for a promise of spring that isn’t too far away on this winter day…

12 thoughts on “The animals of winter…

  1. We have a herds of miniature horses a few miles from here, and I refer to them as the bushy babies. Although they are in the barn at night, they get out in the daytime, biting and kicking and eating the hay. I worry about the animals in the snowstorms, but, they manage to survive. Meanwhile you can go back to your new home and curl up with a cup of hot chocolate and your hubby. I’m glad we had this taste of winter, too.

  2. Always an adventure—and a joy reading your beautiful prose. I agree with you about winter. Even if we get cold when we’re out in it, we would truly miss not having the season.
    Jesse, I had a marvelous time with your G and G Blain in Arizona a few days ago. They are enjoying NOT being in winter, believe me.

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