Magnetic North: Snow happens - so do joy first

Bosco eating around the snow on Vicki's homestead
Bosco eating around the snow on Vicki's homestead

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Welcome back to Magnetic North, a place still thawing out after the longest winter in living memory. At least at this house. Where snow is now just another four-letter word.

Just last week, my husband, Paul, appeared at the breakfast table and issued this edict: “I know what is on the ground outside. I don’t want to talk about it. It does not exist.”

Well, Paul might be able to avert his eyes from the meadow in April, but not me. The migrating waterfowl began flying over and dropping in weeks ago. A pair of Canada geese were our first guests. As usual, I swore the female was a prodigal goose, a rescue gosling I raised after she was washed out of her nest some years back.

This pair hung around the pond, looking to nest in the willow grove, I’m sure, before a hard freeze took over the pond surface and snow covered up the tender shoots of meadow grasses. I saw the geese go with a great honking “goodbye,” as they twice buzzed the farmyard. Maybe next year...?

My hopes picked up soon after when three mallards sat down on the pond, now open around the edges. Again, I am convinced the birds are “MY” mallards, raised by me last year. Just as did the honkers, the two drakes and a duck flew low over the farmyard before alighting on the pond. Tourist ducks just hit the water, giving the house and coop a wide berth.

Oh, joy! Mating behavior began almost instantly. The males immediately got super-snarly with each other. Running at each other, necks curved like a teapot handles and bills nearly scraping the ice…while the dreamy little duck sat demurely nearby, thrilling to the sight of her suitors pecking the heck out of each other’s tailfeathers. By nightfall of the first day, one finally flew away in search of another mate. But the mated pair is still here and I have my fingers crossed in hopes of a first-ever hatch on our pond.

Staring at the pond to see who is coming or going is a big part of each day. So too is compiling a season’s to-do list, a chore I relish way more than shoveling snow.

This spring I have three rock gathering projects, all of which require a daily stop with our Lab, Scout, at the big lake. I look for big flat stones to hold the soil under the deck where an unwanted stream is beginning to form. Golf ball-size stones are sought for a small sinkhole over a culvert bisecting our driveway. And rocks with heft and right angles are just the ticket for shoring up the holes dug under the coop run fence. Our domestic ducks are tunneling out, or so they think. More likely they are simply opening up their safe haven to some skinny fowl-thieving varmint.

Besides my rock work, I have brush to gather and burn. A fence to mend. Baby trees to plant and woodland trails to re-blaze. Each night, I fall asleep turning the next day’s possibilities over in my head - could a single strand of wire keep the llama in the meadow? Should I tear down the old dog run or rehabilitate it for berry bushes? And where will the guinea hens live until I can turn them loose on this year’s tick crop?

Notice I haven’t even touched on expected and unexpected guests. A given in the months to come, even though we are far from the big lake and town. The first month Paul and I lived here, we had 17 overnight guests. It’s tapered off since then, even before we got the White Chinese attack geese.

This week, after our rock picking and Lab swimming stop at the big lake, Paul and I made a promise to each other to do at least one fun touristy thing for ourselves a day during these golden months to come.

*Gather the rocks for the coop repair, but look for agates or perfect cairn rocks to line the deck railing as well.

*Plant those baby trees, but for Pete’s sake pack a picnic lunch or dinner on a sunny day and then find a big tree to sit under and dine.

*And as for that burn pile, lay in a good supply of marshmallows, graham crackers and chocolate bars for s’mores.

Because in the end, to-do lists are just a waste of a good life unless they include joy. We must not, ever, ever, ever, forget to do joy.

C. S. Lewis even went so far as to say that he thought the refusal to experience joy is the only mortal sin in this world of ours. I’m with him on that. So joy is first on my list each day. Maybe even last. Even when snow happens. Or perhaps, especially then!

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