This morning I took a walk through the fields for the first time in quite awhile, feeling somehow different, lighter, than I have in awhile. The air and sky didn’t feel as heavy, it wasn’t nearly as cold. Birds were singing, busily visiting the feeders. Even my chickens were interested in coming out of their coop. I released them to peck and putter in the relatively snowless yard before I left with my dogs, Hannah and Gordie.
It felt almost like spring.
We started out across the lower field, heading toward the pond. The field is thick with grasses every summer, but almost always wet, too. My house is built on the side of a hill, and all the water that runs down ends up there. When he comes to mow for hay twice a year, the farmer’s tractor leaves big ruts around the perimeter. They stay there until the ground thaws in the springtime.
Today when I saw them, frozen gullies now full of ice, I remembered that soon, one day, it would be warm again. Everything green will come back.
We crossed the cobbled together footbridge that marks the path to the pond. It’s made out of an old metal ladder I tossed on the ground and covered with boards I found under the barn. It doesn’t sound very impressive, but it’s better than the crumbling, nail-spiked pallets that were there before, left by the people who previously owned the farm. I put my rubber boot down on one of the exposed nails just last year. Luckily, it slipped cleanly right between my toes.
After that, I decided the rotten pallets had to go. I cleaned them up (they gave way easily), and set the new bridge down in an afternoon.
This morning pond was an icy sheet, the dock with it’s swimming ladder frozen in place. The pond is small, but deep and always cold, being spring-fed. The few times I’ve actually been swimming in it, I felt cold and warmer currents moving alternately past my body in the water. It was very strange, and made me think of all the other unseen things far below me, the soft bed of leaves and mud resting at the bottom.
Today, nothing appeared to be moving. But beneath the still white surface, I knew the fish were waiting, metabolisms slowed to a standstill, along with turtles and frogs buried in the muck. Although invisible, they were all still there, waiting to come back to life.
I headed out to check on the three hives of bees. They are wrapped in black tarpaper with a piece of foam board insulation placed in the tops to help keep heat in. So far, all the extra precautions seem not to have been necessary. The winter has been mild, and I have gone out to find a bee or two emerging from the hive, heading out to do her business somewhere nearby in the dead grass.
I put my ear up to the side of the hives, listening. I could feel more than hear them, the vibration of their buzzing deep inside traveling through the wood and styrofoam walls.
I am always cautious when I do this not to make too much noise against the paper, or jostle the hive. Although they are mostly dormant, a bothered bee could come storming out and try to sting me. If she got me, more would most likely follow. Then the dogs and I would be running across the field, ducking through bushes and branches as we went in the effort to dodge them.
I know this because it’s happened before, to my boyfriend (who mostly takes care of them), and to myself. And to the dogs who should know better by now than to get too close sometimes.
The hives have, so far, not survived the past few winters. It will be a joy and a relief if this year will be an exception, if all the efforts made to protect and feed them, prepare them, will come to fruition. It would mean hope. Which is why when I felt the bees inside this morning, alive and buzzing, my heart started humming right along with them.
Leaving the bee hives behind, the dogs and I walked out to the open fields, barely covered by snow. Thin sheets of ice masked some spots on the ground, the wet and melted places. We know where they tend to be now, so it’s easier to avoid them. The wind wasn’t rough on us, and I felt again the mildness of the air. Peaks of blue sky came through the dull gray clouds, and I even saw shadows on the ground for a moment or two. My lab Hannah ran and ran, working her young legs, while Gordie stayed close beside me.
They were happy to be out, me too. I knew it was good for us all.
Ready to head home, we turned and walked the path along the old apple orchard. Fooled by the weather, a few trees were already beginning to bud, rough and fuzzy nodules forming. Not yet, I told them, be patient. We still have more winter left, so keep quiet, just in case we’re not out of the woods yet.
I realized I have felt the same way myself the past few weeks, cautious but wanting to be optimistic, hoping the dark days would soon be done. But knowing deep down, they may not.
Still now, I felt brighter, my burdened lessened, hopeful and almost peaceful.
As we returned the yard, I saw so much life gathered there. More birds had arrived the feeders, from big doves down to tiny goldfinches, feasting. The chickens were out scratching in the dry leaves, picking small blades of still-green grass with their dainty beaks. One had even dug herself down and was enjoying a dust bath underneath an old cart, something I thought never to see until summer came again.
They were making the most of the day, relishing whatever new feeling they perceived in the air. The one that I, clearly, had been experiencing, too.
On my walk this morning, I realized again that all these creatures were under my care, including the land around me. That by coming here to this place, I had agreed to steward all of it, as well as I could, from the trees, to the fields, to the water, and to all the animals and smaller things that lived in and around it. That we all lived here together.
It was a responsibility and an agreement that was meant to help me as much as them. And no matter what other sad or otherwise troubling thoughts lay in my mind, the little world surrounding me was still there waiting, needing me to pay attention, to tend to it just as much. And it, in turn, was eager and willing to give me solace, share peace, as it always has, if I just went out and simply took a walk, breathed the same air again.