Tuesday, December 24, 2013

Missing the Old People

It is appropriate that a woman born at the winter solstice, during the longest night of the year, have an affinity for winter. Though I deeply appreciate the pleasant and green days of spring - the dramatic and beautiful thunderstorms of summer and the flowering prairie - it is the cold of true winter that I love the most. I enjoy bundling up in warm clothes and boots and going to the barn to tend the horses. Unless it is brutally cold, they prance and buck and gallop their joy as soon as the back door opens. They know their oats are on the way. Wally arches his neck, tossing his head and mane as if he is the most handsome guy alive. And my bossy little mare, her copper coat dusted with snow, is beautiful in the clear yellow sunrise, her shapely nostrils flared and steaming as she vocalizes her impatience with the slow human trudging up the hill.

Winter is silent and pristine, with or without snow. A woman can hear her own heartbeat in the deep silence. Sometimes the happy memories of my childhood come calling as I lean against the fence panels listening to the horses. Their simple pleasure in the nutritious oats and fragrant hay is tangible. In that simple, sweet space I easily recall the smell of smoke from my Grandma's wood-burning stove. It permeated the house year round - a sweet and familiar incense tracing far back in our human genes, unfailingly reminding us of comfort and safety and warmth and family.

In the closet by the back door, (the only door ever used by anyone) Grandma kept old jackets, hats, scarves, mittens and sweaters. These old clothes, smelling wonderfully of wood smoke and hay, were for city folk who did not know how to dress for the farm - or for a granddaughter who would get in big trouble for ruining her "good" clothes.

Grandma was a simple woman, beloved of just about everyone who ever knew her. She was loving and kind, and had a bit of mischief in her, a spark of something good that filled you up. She loved me perfectly. She loved me exactly the way I was, and never in all the time I spent with her, did she ever make me feel bad about myself.

She taught me to thread a needle, to pick strawberries without damaging the plant, to scoop up fuzzy yellow peeps and cup them safely in my hands. She taught me to build a fire in the stove, and allowed me "grown up" chores, like gathering the eggs or filling the wood box. I could "help" make bread and egg noodles and pie crusts. She was dressing a chicken once when I saw two tiny kidney-shaped organs connected by a little thread of flesh. I exclaimed, "It's kidneys!" Though it embarrassed her, she explain it was a rooster and those were his manly parts. My grandma always told me the truth and gave me the information I needed at a level I could understand. She never told me to wait until I was older, or in school, or to ask someone else.

If the theoretical physicists are right, and in reality there is no such thing as time, and everything in the universe happens now, it means Grandma's kitchen, blessed with the smell of baking bread and boiled coffee, still exists. She is there carefully making four depressions in the snowy white flour where the egg yolks go in order to make egg noodles. That poor unfortunate rooster is just about ready for the kettle, and soon Grandpa will be coming in from doing chores.

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