January 3, 2013 § 6 Comments
It was twelve below this morning, an even dozen degrees to the underside of zero, and I couldn’t quite get the image of a full carton of eggs out of my mind. Ridiculous, I know, but there you have it. In any case, it was the coldest its been in a good long while, although apparently not cold enough to keep Penny from opening the bedroom window before we turned in for the night. Don’t get me wrong: I’m generally grateful to be married to a woman who insists on sleeping beneath an open window 365 nights per year, but I can’t quite stop thinking about all those waves of hard fought heat radiating off the woodstove, only to funnel out that two-inch gap and into the frigid expanse. But damned if I don’t know when to pick a battle and when to simply burrow deeper into the covers and try to remember that I actually enjoy splitting firewood.
During the summer and fall Penny milks, but in winter, when it comes to feel like something that approaches a chore, we split milking duties, alternating days. Today was mine. I waited until 7:40 or so, knowing that at about 7:45, the first slanting rays of sun would pop over the small rise to the immediate east of the “milk room” (which is to say, the corner of the pole barn allocated for said task) and bask me in their glow. Cold or no, there ain’t much better than milking in the morning’s first sun, the warmth of which releases the soft smells of hay and cow. When my hands started stinging from the cold, I balled them up and tucked them into my jacket pockets for a moment, and watched the sun rise another inch or two over the horizon. I could hear the boys down in the woods, already deep into some game of imagination or another, and I had to grin. Twelve below and my children were playing in the woods. It occurred to me, and not for the first time, that they have much to teach me.
I don’t write much about the little day-in, day-out rituals of home and farm, and I’m not sure why. In part, I think it’s because I’m afraid of this space becoming little more than a journal our days, and while there’s nothing particularly wrong with that, it’s not how I want to spend my time. And in part, I think it’s because I feel incredibly protective of these moments. Like most people who share snapshots of their life in public, I pick and choose which moments to share. Usually they are the ones that provoke some thought or another that feels to me as if it connects to a larger truth. Or, at the very least, a larger truth to me. Self-centered? Perhaps. But then, I’ve never claimed to be anything but.
Is there a larger truth lurking in the small, private moments I generally keep to myself? I sit there in the milk room, fists burning cold in my pockets, face tilted to the small heat of the early sun, the boys’ shrieks carrying through the woods, up across the field, and into the barn. Penny, I know, is down at the pigs, knocking the frozen remnants of last evening’s milk rations from the edges of their bowl. It’s all so goddamn familiar to me I can feel it in my gut, like the sliver of cold air sliding through the window cracked open by the woman you’ve slept beside for 20 years. A knowing that is deeper than intellectualized knowledge.
Eh, I fear I’m not saying this too well. I guess my point is this: Yes, I believe there are larger truths lurking in these moments. But I wonder if one of those truths is knowing when to go looking for them, and when to simply let the moment pass into the small history of my life.