Tuesday night felt like the last night of winter to me. I went out late to do the chores so it was dark even though the days have already become so much longer. The moon, just above the eastern horizon, was a pale orange and so bright.
Sassy, our younger dog, delights in the snow. As soon as the storm came through on Sunday, her spirits soared. This is our extremely focused working dog. She takes her job of protecting the farm so seriously and commands respect with her business-like manner, even as her big brown eyes and floppy white ears invite me to cuddle her. Because of the snow, she danced as she walked with me up to the hen coop. Like she was riding some kind of invisible waves, her front and back legs rose off the ground in turn. It was amazing to see such a huge, powerful animal move so gracefully. It was as though gravity had been optional for her all along, and her sturdy feet might stay firmly on the ground by her choice alone.
She kept me company as the snow crunched under my boots. Up in the sky, the stars shown in their familiar patterns, and the moon made the crystalline fields glow with a quiet radiance.
Winter chores can be difficult. Most of us have a weak spot where we can’t keep the cold at bay no matter how carefully we dress. For my husband, it’s his feet. For me, it’s my hands. Serious cold often becomes pain in my hands before the chores are done, and I try to work faster as the pain grows stronger and makes my shoulders tense.
Last fall as I thought about the coming winter, I remembered the pain in my hands and grasped around for stories that make me brave enough to fight through another winter. I settled again on a slogan from a Carhartt advertisement: “For the rugged at heart.” I repeated to myself the winter is no match for me because I am “rugged at heart.” For most of my life I would not have claimed that title, but I claim it for myself now, and not just because I wear a Carhartt chore jacket. The slogan fits, even if I have to remind myself of that fact now and again.
On the last night of winter chores, with a cheerful dog beside me and the moonlight spilling across the land, I felt sad to see the season go. I wondered why I ever approached winter as though we were rivals. All along, the stars were above us, and the pure arctic air swept faithfully across the land. Snow came and went, and I watched it all every day as I walked back and forth from the hen coop. My hands hurt from cold sometimes, but I wore several layers of gloves and made it through. If this season was a competitor of mine, it was a beloved competitor. I will miss it dearly.