Ready For Anything

With good reason, many Wisconsinites are agonizing over the blast of Siberian like cold passing through the region. Temperatures with the wind chill plummeted to 50 below zero in parts of the state last night, creating exasperating problems in our daily existence. We have descended downward to temperatures that could surely freeze hell over.

Dressed in the wool of two sheep, I found myself sweating before I finished feeding and watering the horses. At times, being over-prepared can be no better than being under-prepared. Sweating was my body’s voice of common sense, telling me to restore the balance between the outside and inside climates. Taking two sheep’s worth of sweaty wool clothing off was more of a relief than the warmth that consoled me at the wood stove. Extreme cold weighs heavy on the mind and body. Clothing adjustments will be made, a last minute decision to throw on a pair of ski goggles— borderline genius.

I am grateful for the bitter cold’s wide opening to feel compassion’s inexhaustible warmth. Folks are filling bird feeders, checking on the elderly and helping each other, two-legged and four, survive the cold. Duchess my 23 years wise Pinto mare, insists on standing outside. Even though I’ve hung two heat lamps in the shelter and laid down a good two feet of shavings on the floor. I did blanket her, more for my comfort than hers. She spent most of the night standing in the shelter of spruce trees bordering the pasture; out of the wind, underneath the light of stars, in a good two feet of snow. Who am I to argue against 23 years of horse sense?

I am also thankful that the jet of glacial cold is forecast to leave the area tomorrow afternoon. By the weekend, meteorologists predict the temperature to be in the upper thirties. Mother Nature’s playground is the weather and she has two pieces of equipment in it, swings and teeter-totters.

I am walking in two winters, one outside and one inside. How well I can balance the climate changes in each has intense implications on my life. Winter invites us to explore the hidden closets old thoughts get hung up in and forgotten. Temperature fluctuations outside, mood swings inside, both create chaotic conversation within us. We become uncomfortable but they are necessary to “feel” what we’re wearing. Adaptability is fundamental to restoring balance in one’s life. It is the sheer definition of preparedness— for anything!

The Red Ranger

She’s not much to look at on the outside; bare bones on the inside; stick shift on the floor; no cruise control; no heated seats; no automatic nothing. On her tail gate are two bumper stickers. I’M A VIETNAM VETERAN and NO FARMERS. NO FOOD. What she lacks in appearance appeal is made up in the heart that pounds under her hood.

“She” is a red 1995 Ford Ranger, Reggie White Signature Edition, complete with floor mats bearing the Green Bay Packer “G” emblem. Reggie White played defensive end for the Green Bay Packers football team in the early 90’s. He helped the team win Super Bowl XXI with a game-ending sack. Green Bay, Wisconsin raised his standing in the community to sainthood after that.

I’m borrowing her from my brother Eddie while my daughter is home from college during winter break. She was fortunate to have the opportunity to earn money during her time off but we unfortunately are short on vehicles. Thanks to my brother’s generosity purchasing another vehicle can now be put off until spring.

On the first morning behind the wheel, I spilled most of the coffee in my mug trying to find the cup holder. Its awkward position almost completely under the dash and behind the stick shift on the floor created the dilemma. No worries. When I tried to wipe it up I couldn’t tell where the coffee spilled. I found it’s quite difficult to drink coffee driving a manual transmission anyhow. Every time I reach for a sip it seems I have to shift.

Adjectives to describe the complex interior aromas cover a wide range of essences. The prominent odor emanates from the three-inch long, one-inch round cigar stub balanced on the edge of the ashtray. I don’t think they put those in vehicles anymore. Do they? I love the scents that swirl around inside an old pickup. The Little Tree air freshener dangling from the rear-view mirror is long past its freshening stage. I was a little sad. I wondered what Black Ice X-tra Strength smelled like. My brain is constantly deciphering the potpourri of airborne wonders wafting past my nose. One deep breath in and all those cherished childhood memories bumping around with my Dad in his pickup truck were revived.

A two-inch round chip in the windshield with an uncanny likeness to a bullet hole, lines up squarely between my eyes. Highway speeds give me a palpable feeling of vulnerability as my body slowly slouches down into the well-worn hollow of the seat on the driver’s side. Seventy mph seems like I’m exceeding her engine boundaries so I keep her five miles under the speed limit. Traffic passes me; make that everyone in the slow lane behind me, with an aggressive attitude. I notice their vehicles roll slightly from side to side from the sharp steering maneuver to cut in and out of the lanes at Nascar speeds. “How rude of them,” I think to myself. With a quick glance from the passing lane they think they know where the Red Ranger and I stand in the world. I take her daily doses of humility to heart.

I’m going to genuinely miss driving her when Sophie goes back to college at the end of the month. I didn’t expect the driving experience to be so fun. Her energy was more zoom zoom then chitty chitty bang bang. She’s slowed me down and sharpened an awareness with my surroundings. Every shift in our lives, up or down, is impeccably timed to slow us down or speed us up. On the winding road of life freewill may be doing the steering but a higher power is working the clutch and stick shift. Getting us where we need to be. When we need to be there. We are all vehicles of Spirit.

Divine Hands

Mild temperatures gave my husband and I an opportunity to check on our beehives. For the most part, we leave the bees be; only interrupting the hum of the hive when necessary. On this occasion, we wanted to remove mite medicine placed in the hive a week earlier. We felt fortunate that only two out of the four hives had mite counts high enough to warrant treatment.

As we approached the hive we could see the bees were very active and agitated. On closer inspection, it was obvious something had removed the entrance reducer, possibly a skunk or a raccoon. Wasps were trying to enter the hive and raid the hive’s winter stores of honey. Guard bees were protecting the entrance but the large opening was giving the wasps an advantage. Once we replaced the entrance reducer the bee’s demeanor quickly calmed. Our human help must have seemed like divine intervention to the bees.

As we watched the bees come and go, we noticed that some were bringing in pollen. I was astonished to see them collecting pollen in November but there it was! The robust yellow-orange bundles clinging to their hind legs was hard to miss. It felt as if a much greater hand was working with ours to help the bees help themselves survive the winter.

Helping…no matter who or what or how much…creates connection. We energetically weave another strand into the web of life, strengthening humanity. You know there is sacredness in the act of helping. You feel the intervention of divinity stir in your heart and spirit. We lend our hands to the Divine when we intervene on behalf of the helpless.

Note: In the featured photo you can see the pollen clinging to back leg of the bee in flight.

Bee Joy

The cleanup crew has arrived! Easy access to a food source doesn’t go unnoticed for long by the honeybee. After the honey extraction is complete, all the equipment and empty honey supers are set out for the bees.  I took delight in watching the bees collect every last hint of honey. I could hear and feel their joy vibrating through the air. Maybe they even felt some relief. Knowing they didn’t have to “make” all the honey that will sustain them through the cold dark days ahead.

As I sat mesmerized by ceremonial procession from frames to hive, it occurred to me that I was feeding on the bee’s joy. We have easy access to joy’s existence. It’s all around and in everything. We need only to allow the joy, imagined or real, of other beings to be ours.

Joy increases each time it’s shared. Share your sweetness. Grow joy in the world. Allow the joy of others to be yours.


Saint and Angels

At the time little did I expect a slight deviation from my usual route home would have me wrestling with a Saint and hitching a ride with two angels!

The distant horizon sizzles with hues of orange and yellow as the sun burns down for the day. My five-dollar sunglasses do nothing to relieve the discomfort so I resort to looking through the slits of my lowered eyelids. Further on, I vaguely make out a four-legged animal crisscrossing the road. As the distance diminishes, I see a large St. Bernard dog. Oblivious to the angry honks and near misses of passing cars, the Saint seems to have a guardian angel sitting on his shoulder. I decide that taking the Saint out of harm’s way will be worth the slight interruption to my commute home.

I pull onto the gravel shoulder. Half my car still protrudes into the lane of traffic. In the dwindling light, the glow of my car’s yellow hazard lights provides intermittent protection as other cars zip by.

His nose hovering just a fraction of an inch above the earth inhaling the sweet essence of virgin ground. The Saint doesn’t even notice me. I pat my hands on both knees and, in a high pitched, soft mothering tone, I call out, “Come here boy! Come here! Aren’t you a handsome fellow.” Not even a glimpse my way. It didn’t take long for me to realize that I was no match for the sights and smells of the impending adventure of unfettered canine freedom. Hmm. What to do? I return to my car and take the ten-minute old sub out and, like magic, I have the Saint’s attention!

The Saint lumbers over to me. Grabbing his collar is the easy part, reading his tag proved to be as infuriating as the buzz of a mosquito when you’re trying to fall asleep. A phone number is printed on the tab. Sub devoured, he wants to go where he wants to go. There’s my dog, Wally’s, leash. With a Houdini like maneuver, I manage to get the leash snapped onto his collar. I take out my phone and call the vet. The secretary has no luck contacting the owner so she gives me the Saint’s home address. I decide the easiest option is to simply take him home.

After several long minutes of trying to coerce the stubborn Saint into the back of my car, it’s obvious he’s doesn’t want to get in a vehicle, much less ride in one. OK, I say under my breath. I’ll just walk you home. By my best guesstimate, I figure his rural route address is East of our present location.

After a few steps I realize our fate is sealed. The adventure begins. His familiarity of being lead on leash is even less than that of his time riding in a vehicle. He proceeds to drag me in and out of the ditch at will. I get soaked on the first ditch detour but I’m not letting go. Stiff dry weed stalks are cutting my arms. At points he lies down and refuses to move. After catching his breath he’s off and running. I brace myself against mailboxes to hold us back from heading into traffic. I am as determined to hang on as he is to make me let go! My breath is heavy and hot, the salty taste of sweat on my lips. We tangle and untangle in the cord tethering us together like a choreographed dance between capture and escape.

Finally, as the glow of the sun’s dying embers burns out I find his house. My guesstimate was terribly wrong. After heading ¼ East we had to double back and go another ¼ West. Of course nobody is home so I confine him to the garage. Satisfied my punishing ordeal is over, I give myself a once over. Mud covers my numb arms and the constant jerking motion has given me a sore shoulder. Beneath the cool mud balm the sting of tiny cuts and scrapes works its way through the dried blood.

I am a hot mess. I mean that literally not figuratively. As I shake my head in disbelieve, a giggle wiggles its way out of my belly. The giggle quickly turns to hysterical laughter. I tuck knotted strands of hair riddled with weeds behind my ear. As I struggle to regain my composure, far in the distance, I see the faint pulsing glow of yellow hazard lights. The good laugh seems to have cured all my wounds, seen and unseen. Satisfied my Saintly mission is accomplished, I head out carrying its good medicine in my memory—laughter.

Exhaustion is setting in and each step is heavy and slow.  The smile still stretched across my face, I ask my guardian angels for protection and strength as I walk down the silent country road. The gleam of headlights gone. With a chuckle, I say out loud. I guess you never know where a good deed will lead… you…Angie.

Then out of nowhere, a car appears! The arm of its passenger frantically waving me over. I can’t believe it! Two wonderful women offer me a ride back to my car. As we drive, I recount the St. Bernard story to rousing laughter. Laughter has a way of  lifting the weight of our humanness off our spirits. As we depart I had an amusing thought. Not all Saints are angels and not all angels have wings.

“Every time you do a good deed you shine the light a little farther into the dark. And the thing is, when you’re gone that light is going to keep shining on, pushing the shadows back.” ~Charles de Lint



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