The rain falls, falls. The valley is filled with mist, the ridge above my home is blanketed, the woods drip and steam. At night, I lie awake and listen to the stream, swelling past its banks at the bottom of the pasture. The river races itself, hurrying to get, well, anywhere. Fields, finally beginning to push through grey and thinning snow, are flooding. Fringes of green slip up, but only fringes. My road is oceanic, rocked by great, stationary rollers, capped with tire tracks and spattered-mud foam. Soon, we say, there will be real grass. Soon, there will be birdsong in the mornings. Soon, the mountains will come back to life.
Last year, it rained every day until the fourth of July, and every week after that until August. Farmers lost whole fields, acres of blood, sweat, and the desperate toil of our hands washed away down the Connecticut River. These early days of rain bring this to mind, and we can all only hope.
And we do. The sun comes out, at long last. In a day, the earth is brought to fullness of life again. There is grass, real, living, breathing, glorious grass. The trees begin to bud and leaf. In the barn, the lambs grow big. Snow dwindles, dwindles. In a week, the distant mountains turn from the dusty brown of late winter to the deep, rolling blue of bright summer. Spring is miraculous.
We didn’t lose a single lamb, this year. All of them, perfect and beautiful and silvery black, and oh, so sweet. They can’t stay away from us–I sit down in the paddock and they climb right into my lap, press their warm noses into my face, my hair, begging me to touch them, hold them. I pick Mattina up, put her on my lap, and she curls up with a sigh of deepest contentment and begins to chew her tiny cud. The other lambs are jealous–Minna and Marta try to jump into my arms, Maribell chews my boot, Moa and handsome Matteus paw at my knees. Even little Magnus, the tiniest lamb, third in a set of quadruplets and only just over three pounds at birth, comes up to me. They are all so precious. If only my arms were enough to hold them all together at once!
I curl up on my own bed in my own home, a cozy old third-floor apartment just off Main Street in my capitol city, and I am grateful to be here. I see church steeples from my kitchen window, the gilded dome of the Capitol from my living room, a corner of Main Street from my bed. It is very strange to live alone. Very quiet. The ticking of the clock some previous renter left on the wall is loud, and I jump the first few times the church bells ring the hour. The wind rattles the windows at night, and the radiators wake me in the morning before my alarm. I like the stillness. It is odd to me, to find it in the middle of a city–or in the middle of the town that I have always thought of as a city. Odd, but lovely. I like it, though it is very different from where I have come from.
I bring two kittens home with me–brothers, little whirlwinds of devilishly endless energy racing from one end of the apartment to the other, bowling each other over in their haste to Do The Thing. They keep me very good company, when they are not attacking my toes from under the edge of the couch, or dunking each other’s faces in their water bowl, or waking me up before the sun by climbing the hem of my quilt and sticking their spiky little paws under the blankets at me. The apartment, the kittens–it’s all a start to Becoming, and someday, by the grace of God, I will be telling my children about these days. Perhaps by then I will know what to make of them myself.
I try to find ways to call my apartment home, and yet still to speak of my family’s property in the mountains as Home. I do not want to slip into calling it “the farm.” That marks too great a division. In some way that I cannot put well into words, it pulls me out of the place, says that I find myself above the land and the labor, other and falsely superior. I will not be like the Gladston Pettits, looking at my predecessors with a condescending respect as Men of the Soil and Salt of the Earth, without ever bending down to run my own fingers through the dirt.
Photos of me are, as always, by my lovely and talented Mother.