I am feeding the cows on the knoll behind the barn in order to distribute seed and manure across the deficient pasture. Because this is where I leave their hay, this is where they congregate, and this is where I walk every morning to collect Pip for milking. I enjoy climbing the hill; it’s just high and steep enough to demand something of me, and I like the pressurized feel of blood pushing through my veins, the sound in my ears the steady thumpitythump of my laboring heart.
At the hill’s apex I look down onto the village: The town hall, an old church, a single residence. A line of mother maples aside the road. Beyond that, sloping hayfield and more forest.
This morning it was snowing as it had for half the night, and snow had accumulated atop the cows’ backs. I straddled their spines with fore and middle fingers, then ran my fingers from neck to base of tail and back again, leaving cow-colored stripes in the snow. I did this for no other reason than it felt good to do so, and maybe because it forestalled the journey back down the hill, where mundane tasks awaited me: The remainder of chores, finish installing the snowplow on the truck, a trip to Willey’s Hardware for finish nails. Work.
Pip started down the hill first, and I followed, the view of town slowly diminishing as we dropped, until I had no reason to train my eyes to anything but the hoof-worn path before me. My heart getting quieter, but I listened to it anyway. Maybe too closely. Maybe not closely enough. The air cold and full in my chest.