The Advantage of Knowing
September 23, 2013 § 8 Comments
The pasture is going fast and the cows have been let loose to graze the fringes. They wander with noses bent to the ground, in search of what small succulence remains. We’ve got a week or maybe two of grass remaining before the daily ritual of hay throwing begins. It is ok. True, I like throwing hay less than I like moving cows, but if I never had to throw hay, I might not like moving cows so much, anyway. Moving cows without the knowledge of throwing hay would be like living without the knowledge of dying. Ok, so maybe that’s pushing it a bit, but you get the point.
Right now, this property is home to two chimneys spiraling wood smoke, and that is as sure a sign of the season’s change as the cows cut loose, or an apple tree folding under the weight of its own fruit (egads, what a year for apples: On Saturday, we gathered better than four bushels in barely an hour), or a sugar maple gone yellow, then orange, then red, then bare, like a butterfly crawling back into its cocoon. Right now, the boys are dyeing their traps over an open fire, preparing for the season to come. I both want for them to be successful and I don’t, and I suspect this is not the first time I’ll be faced with this conundrum in their lives, or at least the portion of their lives I’ll be privileged enough to bear witness to. Right now, Penny is cooking down a 5-gallon pot of chopped apples on the cookstove; she tells me she wants 50-quarts of applesauce, and when Penny says she wants 50-quarts of applesauce, Penny damn well gets 50-quarts of applesauce. Actually, she thinks it’s likely to be 60 or more, and I can see how pleased this makes her. Single male readers, my relationship advice can be summed up thusly: Find yourself a 60-quarts-of-applesauce-women. Your life will be ever so much better for it.
Two weeks ago, I was not ready for the weather to change. I do not know why, exactly; my fondness for winter is secured by equal measures of history and irrationality. But for a few days there, when the first series of sub-30-degree mornings were granted visiting rights by whomever grants such things, I experienced a small sense of dread for the months to come. It is gone now, and I am back to that cozy anticipation of flannel and wood smoke, of movie nights and reading, of early morning skiing and plow truck extractions from whichever ditch I happen to slide into. Whatever the case, you will hear no complaining from me; I have little patience for those who live in northern climates and then gripe about the weather. I mean, really: There are far, far easier places to live. If you don’t like it, you ought just get the hell out. (is complaining about people who complain about winter any different than complaining about winter itself? Hmmm.. I ‘spose I ought just shut the hell up).
So here it is. Not winter yet, but close enough there can be no doubting its intentions. There is still much to do: Kimchi to be made, pigs and lambs to be killed, potatoes and carrots and beets to be harvested, bacon to be smoked, gardens to be amended and mulched, firewood and sawlogs to be skidded, and so on. Each of these we’ve done so many times before, the motions are etched into muscle and memory and I suppose this, more than anything, is the advantage we hold over winter and what she will bring. It is the advantage of routine and ritual, of habit and practice, of sensing and feeling the when and the why and the how of all these tasks.
It is the advantage of knowing.