The cold this weekend was of a serious, clarifying intensity, stripping life to water, wood, and food, in repeating cycles. I made the animal rounds every two hours, flipping their troughs to stomp out the ice, then refilling from a bucket, the fresh water carried 800-feet downhill to the hydrant by the small miracle of gravity.
I tried calling the cows over to drink before the water froze, but they ignored me the way cows will, and I was reminded of one of life’s unalterable truths: You don’t reason with cows. You can milk them, you can eat them, and if you want you can just stand there and be with them awhile, but only a fool attempts reason. So I spent much of the day stomping out full troughs, the same water I’d poured two hours prior having gone to ice before even a single one of their long, lolling tongues broke its surface. And me yelling every time: “here cows, come here cows, water for ya cows,” the spittle from my own tongue freezing to my thin beard before the words were full in the air.
My family is gone for a time. Packed up the car and drove to Minnesota to be with friends in a wall tent somewhere in the deep woods. It’s like they tried to take a winter vacation but took a wrong turn somewhere. I’ve fallen quickly into bachelor habits, eating when and what I wish from the same unwashed plate I’ve used now for three days. I stay up late but strangely wake earlier than usual, though I sleep soundly as ever. Cat on one side, dog on the other. Downstairs the whoosh of the fire.
Today I spent with my friend Michael, hauling loads of spruce and fir and cherry and maple sawlogs, and I wanted to stay at the log yard and just watch for a while as the trucks kept streaming in and the stacks of logs grew higher and higher. So, so many trees. It was stunning, really, hard to watch in a way but also captivating. But Michael was waiting, so I hurried back and we loaded up again.