The Best Way to Be

Town church in the early hour

It’s warm enough to drive the tractor three miles to Smith’s to fill it with diesel while wearing only a tee shirt (well: pants, too, for sure I’m wearing pants), and so that’s what I do, my spindly, winter-pale arms soaking up the late afternoon sun as I rumble down the mountain road in high gear, then swerve right over the bridge onto Norway, where I see another tractor coming toward me beneath the canopy of budding maples. The driver of the approaching tractor is also wearing only a tee shirt (and pants, too, presumably, though it’s hard to tell for sure from my vantage point); he waves and smiles as we pass, and so do I, and I imagine that he’s thinking the exact same thing I am: Ah, spring. The season of tractors passing on a road just wide enough to do so without complications. The season of sunburn and a frantic last dash to finish cutting firewood for the winter to come. The season of turned-over earth, of the sweet dank scent of last fall’s decomposing foliage, of lying in bed at first light listening to the distant rush of the mountain stream, still swollen in its banks from the very last of the snowmelt and last week’s rain.

Down at Smith’s, I fill the tractor and buy an ice cream (two fat scoops, hell yeah) and head back up the road, licking at my cone, shifting gears, smelling all the smells: the drips of diesel fast evaporating from the tractor’s hood, the rich exhaust, the dirt of the road, the sweet ice cream, even the sweat dried on my skin. And then, back on Norway, my cone now down to the nub ends in my sticky fingers, here comes the other tractor again! It’s the same one, same guy, same wave, though now the smile’s more of a chuckle, both of us just a bit delighted at the little ways the world compensates.

And really, isn’t that the best way to be?