There is an intense clarity found in springtime in the high mountains. It is not beautiful, but real and raw. It hides nothing. Like a truth you cannot escape. An inner stirring as the outer winds churn cold and biting from over the Divide.
It is not a stunning time, but one of stark realities. You are left to face yourself, your world, in all its plainness. Earthen tones and unadorned branches that may snap in the strong gusts if not full and plump with awakening life and the memory of remaining flexible. A time to weed out the weak, prepare for the upcoming unfurling. Last year’s brown grass strewn with grey branches like abandoned dreams. I pick them up as I walk by and stack them in burn piles to clean up when the wind dies down and we’re ready for a quiet evening.
There is no draw here for tourists now. Instead this is the time to drag the pasture and fix fences, repair gates and clean up back roads. It is a time for work, not for fun and pretty and light and laughter and languid appreciation of abundant natural beauty though there is always that too no matter. It is quiet at first tired breath, then exhilarating in its wild rapture with roaring river and winds that blend into their own inseparable harmony.
It is not a time to blatantly behold, but rather discretely observe, for what you are witness to now is her nakedness. Soon she shall dress, slowly, in preparation for what will be.
Some days you’re fooled into believing it’s all over or just begun and then you wake to temperatures in the teens and dig into frozen ground and remember where you are in spite of longing for longer days, warmer rays and shorter shadows. Shade cast from the remaining white high hills obscures hopes of lush and green and leaves and blossoms for some time to come.
It’s quieter around here without the goose. I confess I snuck down to Ute Creek to check on him. Only once. There was a big flock newly arrived of geese, ducks and smaller birds enjoying a warm brown open pool in the otherwise still ice covered expanse. And about a hundred yards away on a stretch of frozen mud, was one solitary goose looking back towards the others. What do you think? Yeah, that’s what I thought too.
In the meanwhile, there’s this independent hen… Ever hear of such a thing? In all my years of raising chickens, I never had. But sure enough. We got one here now. One of our free range hens decided she is not in need of flock nor rooster (though he’s quite in need of her and tries often to herd her home). Instead she prefers our porch, picnic table, the wood pile outside our front door. Go figure what’s worth scratching for in there. She’s outside our cabin at any given time of day. Though I’ve never been liberal in giving credit to a chicken’s sensitivities and insight, it’s as if she knows she’s in a bird friendly zone (it is indeed with my very active bird feeder) and a family in need of a feathered friend.
Yesterday we pass by the lake of open water miles down river below our ranch. Bob drives slowly as I have my head out the window and that wind is cold. I’m looking. Carefully.
No, that’s not him, I say and he drives on.
How do you know, he asks me. I just know.
Stop. Here. No, not that one… but that one there could be… slow down… pull over!
Rikki, I call.
The one with the big head and the low honk flies off to an island a short ways away and fights with another one before landing. Rikki never behaved like that, I note to self, and then I realize this: He is a she!
And there she is, with another female. Swimming this way from the far bank.
Listen, I tell Bob. I can hear her before I see her. I know her voice. My Rikki!
She is calling to me. We holler, back and forth across the cold grey water…
She remains in the water, closer but never too close, talking together all the time, back and forth, as the dog runs along the bank and I wonder which of us Rikki misses more, but I sense that she won’t come clear to us, and she shouldn’t, and she doesn’t. And although I’d love to sit next to her and stare into her warm brown eyes and just chatter as the two of us have done so many times before, her distance feels right. I am happy for her. She has found her place. And it is beautiful.
I am humbled to realize how wild the wilds shall always be, and how domesticated I remain.
I stand to leave in the brown grass along the bank and kick someone’s spent shotgun shells littered along the spring soil.