Out doing chores yesterday afternoon, I was faced with all the remains of the snow. There are still large areas of ground, roof, and deck that have large amounts of the white stuff, some of which is packed and hard, other spots which are still soft and surprisingly fluffy.
In between the white patches there are border areas of lacier white lying on top of cold, brown mud. A few areas are red mud mixed with white. Beyond the lacy areas is the bare ground, nothing but mud and wilted winter grass. Strewn helter-skelter across this vista are what I'm calling hoof packs. Many of them. Apparently, when horses are barefoot, as ours are, the snow packs into the hoof until it reaches a certain overstuffed point and then it simply pops out. That big clot of snow and earth has the perfectly formed hoof on one side, and brown on the other. They will be the last to melt, as they have now frozen hard as rocks.
I have to say it: as beautiful as the snow was, it is now the ugliest I have ever seen it here.
In an effort to find some lasting beauty, and to get rid of the manure and hoof packs I'd mucked, I trekked the wheelbarrow down the long path several times. The path hadn't melted, and the snow in the woods was still fairly pristine. It was a wonderland of animal tracks: deer, birds, the bobcat. Most had blurred a bit but were still quite visible. At every fence and gate I saw something which amazed me: the deer tracks would go right up to the obstacle and then reappear directly on the other side, as though they had walked up nose and nose with the fence or gate and then popped over as if on springs.
It occurred to me that each time I went up and down the path, it got harder and slicker. And then I remembered the best time of sledding I ever had, when I was 12 and a neighbor packed down our road from top to bottom with his 4-wheel drive jeep. We had two weeks off from school, we had good sleds, a bonfire, treats at every house along the way, and a sledding track that seemed to go on forever, with curves and a few dangers (our creek was one of them) to avoid.
I called my daughter, who was in the barnyard giving sled rides to the Mystical Kit and Dickens. She brought her sled to the path and down she went. Had we thought of this the day of the snow, we could have something akin to those luge courses I used to watch on Saturday afternoons on TV. She convinced me to take a turn and down I went, laughing and shrieking. When I emerged back up at the barnyard all the horses and donkeys were looking, ears pricked. Salina especially was riveted on me. I've seen her run with the donkeys, moments when she is with them, but recalling something from her youth, a long stride, the pleasure of movement, a buck and a head toss thrown into the mix. She understands, I suspect, the pure unbridled joy of an experience from childhood, shared with one's child of close to the same age.
When we finished the last of the barn chores, a bit before sunset, the geldings came in from the field where they'd been playing. There was 5-year old Cody, the 8-year old pony Apache Moon, and 19-year old Keil Bay. Who do you think had the muddy legs up above the knees? I guess all of us middle-agers found some fun yesterday, even in the melting mess of snow and mud.