Strange and marvelous and dark and still and starry like last nights new-moon-ness this last month has been. The most exultant, extroverted, celebratory, look-at-us (no, literally, we require you to actually witness this thing) show-me period of my entire life followed up immediately on its star-spangled-coattails by the most quiet, peaceful, introverted, don’t-even-think-of-leaving-the-farmhouse country respite of a month. Like nothing has changed: we make the broth, we bake the bread, we stoke the stove, we don’t leave the one room that holds its heat, we lavish attention on the cat when his woodstove-fired-stupor yields exceptionally impressive languors. BUT like everything has changed: namely the absolute electric thunderbolt of telling the guy at the Stihl workshop that “my husband dropped off the chainsaw, I’m here to pick it up” which tingles to my very fingertips with strange wonder and that Tony in the shop doesn’t even notice. Having a husband isn’t something to tingle over, I guess, Tony? Except that IT IS. And. Is this what it’s like to be married? Well, I suppose it is for me at this minute by virtue that it is. That everything is. What does this MEAN? Every winter begins with me figuring out how to live within its quiet confines again, yet this one is hugely different, and, of course, eternally changeless. Luckily, I’m not in it alone.
This has been our first bee-winter, and, as the weather channel fear mongerers/anyone with eyeballs can tell you, it’s been a real beast. Weeks at a time stretched with the hives covered in snow, with me just watching from the kitchen sink, hoping it was like Laura Ingalls Wilder’s “The Long Winter” when they live in the rickety store-bought-wood house in town which, unlike Pa’s hand chinked log cabin in the Big Woods, was always drafty and freezing UNTIL the huge snow, when the drifts rose to the top windows and the girls were finally snug as bugs in rugs… or snug as bees in a hive? Aaaanyway, when the temps slowly started to rise, we saw them making forays out of the hives, sweet bumbling little flights on wobbly wings, proof that they had made it through their own long, hard winter. And, bless them, they would return to the hive, woozy, riding low in the water, laden with pollen. Full saddlebags of bright yellow alder and maple’s greenish grey or dun. In the spring, this pollen is used to make bee-bread, a heady ambrosia of pollen’s protein, a little bit of honey, and some probiotics from the bees themselves that is the stuff that baby bees are nursed on to rear them strong and mighty in time for the coming nectar flow. So, seeing our bees heavy with pollen, we knew that the Queen was holding court, and that the next generation of honeybees are being groomed to flourish. Signs of spring indeed.
So, yes, I know that Valentine’s Day was over a week ago, but but but there were literally FEET of snow on the ground on the actual mostromanticredrosebannerdayoftheyear so, I wasn’t allowed to actually break out my valentine until just this weekend, when the temperatures inexplicably were in the low 70’s. Let me just say: after an incredibly long winter of incessant snow-fall, shin-deep city sidewalk slush, and muddy-pawed squirrels tirelessly breaking into my birdseed, 70 degrees on the naked skin feels totally, utterly, soul-rising-in-the-body-like-sap-in-a-maple incredible. But, I have to say… it doesn’t feel as incredible as the revving and rumbling motor horsetremble of my very own gorgeous gas powered lady sized Stihl chainsaw. Which is what I got for Valentine’s Day this year. To be fair, Sweetheart and I actually got it for each other (and we’ve decided this is how we’re going to roll on Valentine’s Day from here on out: an excuse to buy the big-ticket-thing we’ve both been jonesing for together), but, per usual, even though it’s “ours”, he’s letting me take the reins, letting me wear the orange-kevlar-pants, only yelling from the side (he has to yell since I’m wearing safety ear-muffs) “PLANT YOUR FEET! DON’T SWITCH YOUR HANDS WHEN YOU TAKE OFF THE CHAIN BRAKE! DON’T LET THE CHAIN HIT THE GROUND”. Bellows which, honestly, are sweeter than any sweet nothing whispered into a naked ear by a moon-eyed-cassanova. Be still my beating heart, it’s revving at 2.3 HP, fully oiled up, and ready to take on the world.
You may be pushed to your limit, but you will take this in stride. Your trademark humor, faith, and talent will be your greatest asset.
Sent to me by the most marvelous Miss Rav, who is always on my team.
Our winter beekeepers meeting canceled, and Mama having left early in anticipation of its arrival, the ice storm blustered and blew and dripped and dropped and chilled and gusted and fogged and fell as I stayed nestled snug as a bug in my little old house, stoking the stove with wood fetched by Sweetheart before he left to go to the great north, and stowed, safe and dry on the covered porch for me, each trip outside to refill the rack that lives next to the old Jotul blowing in gusts of freezing wind to gutter the candles, the power flickering on and off every now and again, the radio crackling school closings, and the great everything spinning away out there in the cold wet dark and me cozy, safe, and dry under a quilt. In the morning, the world was covered in ice. A thin layer of it coating everything and bringing the branches of the trees down to kiss the ground, almost to breaking, but luckily still wick with Autumn’s sap, lithe and strong, and tiny icicles off of every roofline, the old birds nest I just discovered in the hedge, full of snow, it all already starting to melt in the morning’s quiet sun. But for a moment, a silent iceworld, holding its breath, waiting for turkish delight.
It must be getting on fall… the dogwood started sporting red leaves back in late July, we hear the geese in chevron flying overhead every twilight, and Jeff says the wooly bears started coming out last week (the fuzzies are apparently an ancient harbinger of winter). And the birds are back. After a summer of desolation at the bird feeders, the suet melting in the heat, the millet moldering behind its squirrel proof cage, the birds are swooping in again. Chit chattering all morning through to cocktail hour, fattening up their glossy summer plumage before it’s time to brown down. Dr. Russell the Cat Scientist is constantly taking data measurements and consulting his reference tomes watching them at the window, from the catbird seat.
I snapped this shot of the little birds nest in the big red maple a few weeks ago, just as the tight red buds were starting to form on the bare branches to signal the end of winter. Just this past weekend, the spiny flowers had started to unfurl, a first fuzzy pop of spring color against the sky.Then, the big late season storm hit and the branch with the nest and the fuzzy red blooms came down under the weight of the snow. The yard littered with similar fallen soldiers, the aftermath of what seems to be the last gasp of winter. Sigh.