Today it’s raining. Not a winter rain, but a true spring rain, one that smells like dirt turning to mud, one that lingers to soak the ground, not a lick of wind, it feels warm even though it’s barely above freezing.
Last Sunday I took my daughters out to the hilltops to look for crocuses. I knew it was probably a bit too soon, but when the first calves of the season are born and the snow disappears from the high spots, it’s time to check. And we did find some, though they were still sucked up tight into their buds, not quite ready to open up to the sun. But that was good enough for us. We’ve waited all this time, we could wait one more day. These are the rituals that come with the seasons, and they take patience.
Our hike around the hilltops on that 60-degree day found us next in the barnyard to greet the horses. After winter months out to pasture and bribing them in for scratches with oats and sweet feed, it was time to put on their halters and brush off their thick coats and get reacquainted.
In these moments, it seems like last fall was a lifetime ago, back when their coats were sleek and shiny and us humans were confident on top of them. It’s been months since we last saddled up the girls’ old geldings. Seven months now that I’m counting.
Seven months is a long time in the life of these little girls. Since then, both have turned another year older, they’ve stretched out inches, they’ve built new muscles and found the answers to new questions. They were ready to see what they could do with these horses now that they were all grown up.
Seven months in old-sorrel-horse-years has made them better, more understanding, a little more gray around their muzzles, and just fine with the task of trotting and turning around the still-sorta-muddy-but-dry-enough arena.
My husband and I stood shoulder to shoulder in that dirt watching our daughters get tested for stubbornness and will by their animals. I think we both held our breath, equally excited for the months ahead and lonesome for those springs that have passed, replacing our tiny, chubby, giggling daughters being lead around the pony pens with these creatures, lanky and independent and capable enough to do it themselves.
Oh, I know from experience, there’s nothing like being a young girl out here on this ranch in the spring! Nothing. The possibilities stretch out before you like that creek full of spring runoff, winding and glimmering and equal parts rushing and patient. Everything around you is waking up, and you can go out in it because you’re a part of it, reaching your bare arms up to the sun, unfolding out of your winter bud like that crocus today.
This spring, my daughters will take to the trees behind the house without having their mother as their guide. They will find a favorite, secret spot, they will wear down their own trails. They will take their baby dolls along and pretend they are mothers out in the wilderness. They will build forts and bring picnics and pick ticks off their jeans and drag mud into the house, and the world outside these doors will turn green as their skin turns brown and their hair turns gold.
They’ll scrape their knees running too fast on the scoria road, they will slap at mosquitoes, they will fight about silly things that are their most important things, and they will come in crying.
And they will have each other and their horses and the hilltops and the budding wildflowers blooming along with them. That’s all I ever wanted.
That’s all I ever wanted to give them.