Monday, February 8, 2010


I'm convinced. More than that, I'm delirious. How can such a simple thing as horses shedding gobs of long coarse hairs, clogging up the curry comb and sticking to me like velcro, elicit feelings of glee?

And, there were geese poking about in the bends of the river, and song birds arrived to flit and scurry in the brush, and, yes really and truly, there are buds on the willows and birches.

The final note to convince me arrived on Saturday night, when I heard the bouncing calls of the screech owls, returned to the locust grove to mate and nest and raise their young. The stars were fierce and I dragged Mike out of the warm house to help me look for constellations and listen to the owls. The blanket of stars was so thick it almost felt suffocating, like being outnumbered and scrutinized by a gazillion other worlds. Innumerable tiny sparks and closer to us, several large stars sharply pulsating in brilliant blue and orange.

I was searching for my old friends, the Seven Sisters. It's odd how stars befriend us, become like members of the family who you miss when they are gone and welcome back upon their return. When we lived at the equator, I felt little kinship for the night sky, even though I still longed for and appreciated seeing the stars. Where was the big dipper? I felt displaced, a stranger. By the end of the year, the Southern Cross was my new companion.

In the canyon, sky is reduced to whatever opening the ridges grant you in the particular spot where you are working. Places on the rivers, like Dug Bar on the Snake, or at Magpie on the Imnaha, give us more to consider. But tucked away in a narrow draw, like up Pumpkin Creek,there is only a sliver of sky to befriend us between the dark pines and heavy basalt walls.

So Saturday night as I stood under a span of sky, saying hello to the Seven Sisters, listening to the screech owl calling from the ancient locust tree behind me, with a carpet of cast-off dun horse hair beneath my feet, it was unmistakeable. February, the dying month, is also the harbinger of change.

Red and brown and tan will soon become the backdrop for winsome buttercups, then all manner of pink and white and yellow and purple and blue and orange will spring up, and shoots in every shade of green. I'm getting ahead of myself.

But one last thing. I could smell it. I could smell the river banks, coming to life, the mud and ooze, the day-warmed rocks, the rot. Glorious.

From Sara at Magpie Ranch, home of Bunchgrass Beef