It has been an unusually soggy summer here in Northeast Wisconsin. Both in rain and humidity. Instead of making 2nd or 3rd crop this time of year, most farmers are just getting off 1st crop. The worry that comes with the struggle to harvest hay was getting real. That was until a four day break in the weather was forecast two weeks ago. How quickly lack can turn into abundance if we are willing to cease the opportunity….even if it means a whole lot of hard work. The inspiration for this piece.
Bronze skin leather tough
Drenched in salty drops
I drink in the sky
Prayers pour out of my heart
Machinery and God be merciful
Long windrows lay ready to make perfect hay
Keep breakdowns and tears of dark clouds away
Bound tight with twine square bales bulge
Full wagons waddle over the bald field
Winter’s hunger aches for your green
As stars usher in night’s moist breath
I walk up to the house feeling spiritually quenched
Exhausted muscles and mind rest peacefully in gratitude’s joy
Hard work fears me
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!
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.
Here in Northeast Wisconsin, warmer weather is arriving painfully slow. Spring makes an appearance then disappears, taking her green magic with her. This time of year we experience what I call Old Man Winter’s dark white. The extended transition time weighs heavy on the spirit of many folks. As each dark white day passes, the anticipation of spring grows green in our hearts. We know spring will come but we worry about how long it’s taking to get here. It’s precisely this “knowing” that stirs up the crazy in people.
I watched a pair of robin’s, hopping through the snow, stopping occasionally on a grassy patch to cock their heads sideways and listen for worms. Later, they were bouncing through the branches of our crab apple tree gobbling down shriveled up fruit from last season. They don’t “know” when or where their next meal will come from, yet they survive on the unknown, living life in complete acceptance of what is.
Weather, a master at teaching non-judgment and surrender, gives us daily lessons on how to release control and follow the flow. The robin’s made it look easy. Following the flow is all about the awareness of whether you are flailing or floating through this fleeting moment. To arrive at this place of complete surrender, give up the narrow mindedness of knowing and widen your mindfulness of the unknown—explore the great unknowns.
“It ain’t what you don’t know that gets you into trouble. It’s what you know for sure that just ain’t so.”~ Mark Twain
Old man winter has given us quite the roller coaster ride this year to say the least! Temperatures plummeted to below zero for over a week, reaching a low of -30 several times, and then rose to the high 40’s in two days bringing thick fog. It hung like a heavy wet curtain over the sun and the spirit of folks. Freezing rain and a dusting of snow followed. The mercury once again is hovering below zero. Our coat hanger is laden with coats, thick and thin. Each morning the family navigates through mounts of weather ready footwear strewn near the door.
Old man winter is a slippery fellow. Can’t say that everyone is thrilled with the chill. We don’t have a choice except to weather the weather. We do have a choice as to the disposition in which we do it. The excerpt below from my book, Sweet Wisdoms, gives you my perspective on how I mentally shovel through the challenges of a Wisconsin winter.
We are experiencing below-zero temperatures with the wind chill here in Wisconsin. It’s freeze- your-nose-hairs-together and turn-your-nose whiskers-frosty kind of weather. As I make my morning round of chores, I’m constantly pulling my hat down and my long underwear up! You can feel the landscape’s bones on these sharp cold days. I delight in the simplicity of winter—stay warm. Bitter cruel cold, you can’t make me a bitter cruel cold person.