Being nestled in the fullness of winter here in Virginia, memory flashes of past winters have been filling my head. Hence, my last post with the poem, Caledonia Winter. But my rememberings haven’t stop there. Bringing my home in Vermont to mind, fills me with more of the richness of that precious time.
A stay at home mom, I raised chickens, a few sheep and Angora goats, for their eggs, wool and mohair, which I spun into yarn, then crafted into a variety of goods … wall hangings, sweaters, purses and pillows that I sold at area craft fairs.
The cold, dark winter season, seemed to sometimes last up to six months. One year there was snow on the ground from October 1st and it never completely disappeared until May 1st of the following year. At Halloween, Mark and Lisa usually dressed up as ghosts … a white sheet being the only costume that would fit over a heavy snow suit.
The wind howled and temperatures were often below zero, not including the wind chill factor. At times, snow drifts would close off our view from the picture window in our family room. We heated our 125 year old farm-house with an old oil burner, backed up by several wood burning stoves, one in the kitchen which I cooked on during the cold months, baking bread and slowly simmering hearty stews.
Winter days were mostly gray and snowy, followed by one or two exquisitely cloudless, arctic-blue-sky days. The sun, hanging low in the southern portion of the sky would set the icicles on the eaves to dripping. Those were favorite days. I’d often go off on cross-country skis, finding my tracks to be the first across newly fallen snow, except for those of tiny mice, a fox or some other wild creature looking for food to bring back to its den.
Yet, I was depressed much of the time, often had cabin-fever when the weather was cruel and cold … when being outside was not a realistic option. I suffered from what is now called Seasonal Effective Disorder, which at the time wasn’t recognized as something that might cause one to think that they are loosing their minds. One March, after the days had warmed a bit, I went out with an axe and tried to chop away a 3 inch layer of ice on the driveway. I’m still surprised that I wasn’t hauled off to the loony bin, but I know others suffered as I did through those long, cold days and took measures of their own.
Winter, was followed by mud season during April and early May, when the snow would slowly disappear leaving many yards and dirt roads mired in mud. When grass started sprouting in melted places, daffodils began to blossom and maple trees came into bud, I knew the long haul of winter was over and warm summer days would soon follow.
Still, one of the richest times of year for me was during March and April, when the lambs and kids began to drop … tiny, soft creatures sent from above to fill those last excruciating months of snow and ice with wonder and excitement.
As with birthing my own children, I felt these events were miracles … teachings on the essence of life, love and existence … in a scientific world, the result of sperm meeting egg. In my heart, it was so much more.
I have never experienced such warmth and joy as when witnessing a new life being brought into the world … when a lamb or kid, slowly slips from its mother’s womb, covered in a thin, blue veil, which mom slowly removes with gentle strokes of her tongue. The small bundle of life unfolds, bleating as it finds its legs, reaches a staggering balance and butts its tiny head in the direction of mama’s teat.
It is hard for me to find words for what seems to be a healing of the spirit. Envisioning this newness fills me with the sweetness of life and the mystery of our being. I find it similar to what happens when words seamlessly flow from some unknown source onto a blank piece of paper; or when a paint brush, though held by the painter, finds its own way across a canvas, bringing to life a work of art.