A thaw has arrived, bringing with it the illusion of spring and melting. The crunchy, powdered flakes of snow have become slick, slippery ice that tricks our feet and trips us as we tumble into the warming sun.
We turn our faces to the beaming light, rejoicing in the lack of pinching and biting in the winter air. But the ice beneath makes everything seem a little treacherous, a little unsure.
As I watched the chickens tuck into their treats of carrots and apple mush, I tore apart a hay bale to cover the slippery, shining pathways that our feet have made through the snow. From our house to theirs we trudge each day, stamping down the fluffy coating that rain and sun have made hard and smooth. The hay tears apart easily, releasing its bound shape and settling on the white ground, enhancing the illusion that spring has arrived.
The brown and green path cuts through the endless white and blue of snow and winter shadow. It feels as though it sprung up from beneath, like a goddess of spring walked that way and brought life back to the earth with her magical toes. The robust scent of summer blows up from the torn bale, the grass releasing its dusty fragrance and its memories. I am transported to the field where it was cut, the sunset of that day and the gentle warmth of a dying summer evening.
The chickens watch my work with more than usual disapproval. Their judgmental gaze amuses me as I move carefully around, trying to avoid the trap of becoming over confident and slipping. I am not so young that I enjoy the sensation of suspension and the crash down, I’m fearful of it and so I go gently. They look around the edge of their canopy and regard me with dinosaur eyes; the eyes of creatures far removed yet comfortingly domestic.
I walk to the house with surer footing, I turn back and watch the chickens investigate the path. Like me they are freer outside, the warming sun inviting them to venture out beyond the confines of their shelter. They walk along the path a little, enjoying the lack of icy pinch on their feet, they fluff and cluck their approval. I laugh and feel pleased with myself, my plan has come to fruition and surprised them out of their grim, old lady frame of mind.
Suddenly the longing for spring is overwhelming in me, I feel it in my stomach and ache for the green that is momentarily resurrected in the cast down hay. The longing hits my chest, contracting my heart with the desire to run my hand across soft green blades, to be assured the miracle will return this year as it has every other year.
I cast off the stillness and go about my work, throwing ice and water away on a shovel, listening to the patter of the dripping water returning to the ground. But the longing for spring remains, it is always there a little.