She gave her daddy a boomerang for Christmas, a photograph of herself with a little smirky smile taped to the front of it. “Sorry,” she said as he opened his gift. After being away for 4 1/2 years, seeking knowledge and seeing a different part of the world, she came back – the boomerang child. She wants to experience Vermont farm life one more time-a full year of snow, mud, and sugaring – lambs, sheep, and wool -barn chores, shoveling, and shearing – planting, harvesting, and preserving – festivals, tourists, and leaves. She wants to photograph it all and write about it for all to read…
Outside, it smells like spring. The January Thaw has arrived a few days early, and the road is slick, the forest dripping like the eaves over the kitchen window, the paddock growing muddy as the layers of snow melt in a slow progression. Bits of December’s hay and the icy cocoons where the sheep lay one frozen night last week appear, undisturbed by the gentle archaeology of the weather. It’s beginning to rain…
We gave her new work gloves and spikes for her mud boots in her Christmas stocking. We washed her faded purple barn coat, and wiped the cobwebs out of her wellies. We dusted her book shelves, and I knit her a new wool hat with our wool. “Chore time is at 3 in the afternoon,” I said.
She has been rediscovering the woods across the road, and life with a busy border collie. The rhythms of farm life come easy, routines from childhood, like old friends, are familiar. She finds her place, once again, on this farm. She is learning the sheep, each by name, and indulging in long afternoons of manure on jeans, and lanolin covered hands. She finds the work satisfying and soul quenching.
Kai thunders through the woods, down the road, across the fields, running and running, heedless of snow, the wind and the warmer weather making him wild. Both ears up for once, nose in the air, he seems to know something I don’t. … Kai finds a downed tree, tries to bring me the whole thing at once, gives up, settles for a crooked branch broken loose, trips over himself, gallops proud…January Thaw
I tell my friends from school that I got to shovel manure in the barn today, that I was privileged to do so, that this hard work and mess is the deepest of blessings, and their mothers laugh from the kitchen, and I know it’s not easy to understand, the way that all of this work is good and pleasing, and I don’t understand it either. Kamilla puts her smooth, till-baby hooves on my knee at chore time, and the rest of the evening, the smell of the barn follows me, and I love it. … my hands are sticky, fingers blackened with dirt and lanolin from rubbing beneath the chin, behind the ears, down the backs of these woolly creatures. … Kamilla gives me kisses, pressing her warm nose into my face, insistent. …January Thaw
I am eager for spring, for mud season, for sugaring and sap-collecting, for shearing, for new lambs. I am eager, but content to wait.
Come wait with Anna…experience Vermont through the eyes of a young farm girl, between horizons, come home again.