The stars surprised me when I swung open the back door and stood in its frame Monday morning. They were there. They hadn’t been there Sunday night, hidden by clouds during my five-minute walk through the crisp, clear air in an attempt to shake the stir-crazy of being snowed in for two days. But they were here now, some drowned out by the security light. I walked in the shadow of the smokehouse to greet them properly, the Big Dipper most prominent.
“I didn’t see the Big Dipper for a year — more than a year,” I said to no one in particular. “Isn’t that crazy?”
Fog accompanied my drive to the farm. I slammed the truck door shut to reveal stars unveiled by human light, a planet in the east the brightest of all. Red tinges peeked over the trees, the rest of the world silver and silhouettes, silver snow blending into silver mist blending into dark tree tops. Fence posts stretched and disappeared into the fog. Horses trotted through the snow toward me, gentle thuds of hooves the size of dinner plates against the powder. Ice had created a wild hairstyle for them, bangs frozen arced up, stray strands rigid in every direction. Noses pointed toward me.
The water heater hissed when the ice rose to meet it as more water was added to the tank. The level had dipped too low for the water to keep warm. Steam rushed upwards.
The ATV wrenched the silence from my ears, the sleeping dragon only roaring to life after three harsh turns of the key. I rumbled down the lane. One filly reared up on her back legs and began sprinting the length of the field to the feed trough.
The red tinge over the trees grew thicker as each group was fed. The mist rose higher, above the truck now as I drove to the second farm to feed chickens. I pulled from the main road to the long lane, and two deer silhouettes pulled their heads up and froze to a standstill. One behind them lay down. I drove closer, and the three bounded toward the fog, nearly disappearing. The truck drew even with them, and we raced under a ceiling of mist.
When I returned to my house for breakfast, silence reigned. Then, a bird woke up outside my front door and wanted to chat.
I wrote in the morning, and then in the afternoon, I drove to the barn to clean my chicken coop. A bald eagle circled against a brilliant blue sky along the main road. Stopping at the end of the driveway, I tried for a picture, but the national symbol had disappeared in the few seconds it took me to park and get out. I stood on the running board, hands cupped over my eyes, seeking the bird, but it was gone.
My own birds were excited for the change of bedding, long overdue, and the food scraps: some old corn, apple cores, and bread. I’d had to scoop the scraps back into the bucket from the rug in my mud room after buckets tipped over and scraps splashed over the edge.
Then, it was Golden Hour, and the light touched everything with magic. The trees in front of my house, the snow, the fenceposts, the horses watching me set temporary posts and polywire, the white barn walls, it all turned to gold. I tried to take a picture of the golden, wavy snow with my phone, but the colors turned grungy, yellow. I stamped everything in my mind. Fed the animals. Took out the trash, kicking aside the snow in search for the rubbish bin lid.
The stars reappeared. Orion began his nightly hunt over my grandmother’s house, where she cooked vegetables and meat loaf for supper. When I walked in, she declared, “I was just thinking about you! I was about to call you and tell you not to slide on the steps,” her front porch steps I had just walked up.
She had made a decadent carrot cake and said it had real carrots in it, so I had to be prepared for those. We watched the news and Antiques Roadshow. Winter nights are good for that.
I had to wear my coveralls even for the brief trip home as I had no other jacket, and as I bundled up, my grandmother packed sacks full of leftovers.
The stars were gone now, clouds taken over.
It didn’t matter.
I sang “Rainbow” all day.