As a havoc-filled 2020 continues to unfold in all its dismal glory, I am, like everyone else I suppose, doing my best to keep calm and carry on. Pandemic and lockdowns, a crazy president refusing to admit he lost, climate change breathing down our necks, ridiculous conspiracy theories deluding millions. 2020 will surely be a year for the history books, and we’ll all be able to say “yep, I was there…” and have a story or two to tell, hopefully stories where everything turns out ok.
I find that keeping busy helps, and so I do, falling asleep each night planning projects and spending my weekends accomplishing them. There’s work too, to fill my days, and chores, and once or twice a week there’s errands off the farm. It’s thankfully easy to keep busy around our muddy valley.
Yesterday after some deep coop cleaning in the barnyard, I finished tucking in the garlic bed for winter with a thick blanket of leaves; going forward I will focus on raking leaves for chicken pens. I wish the leaves would dry up a bit, the birds enjoy scratching through dry, crackly leaves so much more than damp ones. But it is November after all, so I’m not holding my breath.
November as usual has been cold, and wet, and dark, and yet I love it so much. One of my favourite months, November provides plentiful opportunities for savouring the chill alongside warmth’s sweet contrast; for labouring in the crisp air until I must peel off first one layer and then another to cool myself; for long quiet evenings in front of a crackling fire, listening to the rain tapping on the skylight. One dusky, slightly surreal day last week, heavy clouds dimmed the light so dramatically from sunrise right through to sunset that it felt like a day long eclipse. There’s just so much potential for cozy in November.
November was my mother’s least favourite month. A prairie girl born and bred, she much preferred the sunny winters of her youth. Our rain forest weather was hard on her at times, although she loved living on the coast. Mom’s been gone for many Novembers now, nine to be exact, but of course I think of her often. Like the other day, as I was traversing the soggy, slippery northeast field dragging my empty wheelbarrow pony-cart style, having just spread another load of leaves on the garlic beds.
There was this perfect little puddle, you see. Not a run-of-the-mill mud puddle, rimed with muck and no bottom visible, this was one of those short lived mudless puddles that briefly appear in low spots after a heavy rain. A crystal clear miniature watery valley, a freshwater tidal pool, each blade of grass and bit of colourful leaf litter suspended as if in glass; silent, peaceful, still. It looked to be just perfect for stomping in, so I gave in to my childish impulse. Dropping the wheelbarrow handles, I went all in, swishing the water over the toes of my boots, rinsing a layer of mud away and stirring up the depths into a most satisfactory squishy, muddy stew. Take that, 2020! And then my inner voice spoke up, “For goodness’ sake you silly old woman, you’re almost 59! What are you doing?”
Stomping in puddles is what I was doing, like a little kid. What an idiot I am at times. As shamefulness began to creep over me on its sharp little claws, a stray thought came too, a gift from my mom that made everything ok again. The memory of her advice, given in the toast she made at my 21st birthday party, “Value your inner child, don’t ever grow all the way up. Hold on to her magic because you will need her sometimes.” Yes mama, I will. I do. Love you. Thank you.