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Magnetic North - April 25, 2018

Vicki Biggs-Anderson
Vicki Biggs-Anderson

Magnetic North 4/23/18
Of Mud and Memories
 
Welcome back to Magnetic North, where memories trickle, then rush through our minds like the thousand streams returning to Mother Superior.

While away last week, I planted flowers in my California daughter’s garden, even as I shivered knowing that soon I would be in for another month of frozen ground and maybe even a snowstorm before I could do the same at the farm back home. From six to twelve inches of snow fell hereabouts as I basked in sunny warm weather.

Imagine my surprise when I stepped out of the car at the end of my road and sank into, not snow, but a good five inches of wet clay. Worse than mud, clay fastens to our feet, as gravity weren’t enough to bind us to the earth. Ordinary shoes turn into clay platforms on which to teeter around on. Still, I was thrilled. This meant that the stream surrounding the meadow and running into the pond would soon be roaring under and then over the ice. The little spring under the tamarack tree on the driveway would open it’s arms to my remaining mallard ducks and drakes, with new ducklings sure to follow. Best of all, the fence I’ve been dreaming of all the long winter nights can now be staked out. After 27 years of suffering goats eating my roses and the small crops I plant in raised beds, I think I’ve got them licked.

Chuckling at my brilliance and the goat’s chagrin, this weekend, I stomped through the soggy grass around the house with lengths of orange baling twine - saved in my ‘string too short to be saved’ box  - tied end to end. And as I went, I found the usual assortment of flotsam, small hints of lives lived and lost, even as I sat inside by the fire, snug and unaware.
There was the expensive monogrammed dog collar for Jethro, worn only once after Christmas, then gone, forever I thought. But no, there it was just off the south deck, intact with tags, where his sister dog, Zoey must have gnawed it off his skinny neck. 
Nearby, the evidence of a less funny encounter. Tufts of deer tail, hunks really, with bits of hide, the edges ragged. As I paced off the fence line farther into the yard, more deer hair and hide. Enough to fill one pocket of my barn coat. Did the dogs bring these trophies in from the meadow and was the carcass still near  -  near enough to attract predators close enough to endanger the goats?

The irony of these thoughts wasn’t lost on me. Here I am fencing the goats out, while worry nagged at my mother’s gut imagining slavering wolves in the night feasting on goat meat after polishing off the poor deer they’d taken down. So far, twenty-seven years of having goats and not one lost to a predator. Still......
 
As I made my way around the corner of the deck, a bath towel sized shadow on the steps down to the basement entry caught my eye So that’s where that throw rug I hung out last November got to! Next to reappear. a carved bit of deck railing winked at me from beneath the spent hay by the woodshed. And so it went. Found objects and memories of other spring thaws showed themselves, one by one. 

The most unpleasant discovery this year is the sinkhole over an old dug well is caving in again, despite the load of rocks piled into it last summer. I know Paul would never allow such a hazard to exist and probably would build some structure over the depression before tackling anything so optional as a fence. He also would have replaced the fallen clothesline poles, big cedar jobs that surrendered to the pull of the clay beneath two years ago. And that old outhouse by the coop? Set originally on two cedar skids, it now lists crazily to one side, making for a precarious perch inside, to say the least. He would never have tolerated such a wanton waste of a good biffy. And then there are the shards of green rolled roofing that left the roof of the coop last month on a wild night of even wilder wind. Wasn’t the roof red when we bought the place? Paul and his friend Art put the green on in an afternoon. Or was it his friend, BJ?

By the time I’d rounded the house, tying the last length of twine between the coop and dog kennel, I was ready for a large mug of coffee and spring. The stream was, as hoped for, growling awake across the road, promising the pond breakup within the week and spring peepers serenade perhaps by month’s end. All in all, a Sunday very unlike my last, planting flowers in Los Angeles. Still, just as fine in its harvest of found objects and fond memories.
I found this little poem by one of my favorites, Edna St. Vincent Millay, that captures the essence of such a simple day in early spring. And while it’s too soon for butterflies and flowers here, the same vivid sense of what is coming and what is past shines in her words. Here ’tis.
 
Song of a Second April
April this year, not otherwise
Than April of a year ago,
Is full of whispers, full of sighs,
Of dazzling mud and dingy snow;
Hepaticas that pleased you so
Are here again, and butterflies.
There rings a hammering all day,
And shingles lie about the doors;
In orchards near and far away
The grey wood-pecker taps and bores;
The men are merry at their chores,
And children earnest at their play.
The larger streams run still and deep,
Noisy and swift the small brooks run
Among the mullein stalks the sheep
Go up the hillside in the sun,
Pensively,—only you are gone,
You that alone I cared to keep.

For WTIP, this is Vicki Biggs-Anderson with Magnetic North.
 

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