In the tail end of winter, we got one last snowfall. It was weeks ago, now, but I still feel the chill. It touches everything, every part of us, it seeped in through the shadows between my rib bones.
At some point in our shared life, we stopped sharing. I don’t know why, how. Disinterest, disaffection. Too much intimacy and no space for perspective. I don’t know. The days grew long and quiet. We speak but do not talk.
So in the rare glimmering moments when we find occasion for true intimacy, I try to take note before it slips us by.
The pictures are awful, they tell nothing.
It had snowed for days on end. I was housebound and miserable. And then, Jon came home early one night to sweep me away. “Time to feed the cows!” he cried, joyous. Mostly, he is joyous, though there are currents of darkness I see in him. Only me, though, it seems. He’s a good showman.
I am not. I’m all darkness lately. I can’t shake it.
We dressed in warm clothes and returned to the farm, loaded hay bales onto the Bobcat and drove out into the darkness. We slowly crossed the road and then the bridge, pausing to look at the black water sliding by beneath us like Styx. In the field, deer bedded down in the snow and watched idly as we passed.
We stopped at the deer feeder in the yard to load it with corn. I say corn, but I mean pellets, because that’s all the farm store has these days. I handled the controls as Jon stood on the forks of the lift and I raised him. I couldn’t believe he trusted me with the task. I hardly trusted myself, and sitting there on the other side of the glass, my heart trembled, afraid of disappointing him even further. But it was fine and then it was over.
Deer tracks laced across the yard but none immediately came and so we left.
Found the mule and the horse in some far field and gave them hay. They plodded along behind the tractor and stood under the sparse cover of bare trees as Jon tried luring them with the food. They were uninterested in that, but grateful for the crackers he carried in his pocket.
And in the end, we went to the new field, which holds mostly mothers and brand new to the world calves, and my God they were hungry and warm, steaming in the cold, desperate for more. They were unafraid. We walked out into them and they scattered only momentarily, and then returned. It made us both laugh until the hot steam floated out of our mouths and formed shapeless in the air over our heads.
On the way home, we stopped at crazy old Lorne Garren’s house. Along the back wall of his shed, beneath hung lanterns of raccoon and coyote furs stretched out to dry, they’d build three cardboard stalls for bottle-fed calves. We walked in at exactly the moment they were feeding. His wife, Linda, handed me a bottle and we fed them. They gulped the milk down and cried when it was gone, hungry for more. It made me feel so alive, to be so near to all that transparent hunger, the longing.
“I know,” I whispered, stroking their wet noses. “I know.”