By Diane Lockspeiser
I write this as I sit cozily by the wood stove in a big soft rocker/recliner chair that my son had given me, it having been left behind by the previous owners of the house he recently bought in Windham. We are expecting the first major snowfall of the season tonight, and I am ready. Wood is stacked, fuel tanks are full, both freezers are full of local or homegrown meat and vegetables, the garden is winter-ready, the water warmer is set up and working in the chicken coop, and the shovel is on the porch. (I once had to wade through hip-deep snow because I had left it in the barn!)
No, we did not finish the chick enclosure that I need to build in the chicken coop, but the base is in place and whatever is needed to finish the project is stored in areas that will be accessible whenever I am ready for them. As most of us around here are familiar with, outdoor work takes first priority in the Fall because most likely we will be “all cooped up” for the Winter. Cooped up – protected indoors, safe and warm, but restricted to access the great outdoors.
The chickens today are wandering in the yard, searching for treats that, this time of year, are few and far between. They probably don’t realize that tonight their freedom will end for quite some time, some of them for the rest of their very short lives. One older chicken passed away in October and another is looking like she’ll be following soon. Earlier today, she was fluffed up into a ball, eyes closed, while sitting on a pile of ice, the ice a frozen remnant of the slush that had collected in some places the other day.
She reminded me of tales I heard as a child about Eskimos leaving their elderly out on the ice to die. I used to think that was horrible until I had an incident of hypothermia while hiking in the Canadian Rockies as a teenager: I had gotten a bit of a stomach bug, and so lagged behind the other hikers while searching among the scraggly bushes at the timber line for some sort of privacy to relieve myself in. Trying to catch up with them again, I got deeply tired. I curled up around a nice comfortable rock, gazing out over the amazingly vast and beautiful mountains below as I began to doze off in the cool breeze coming off of a nearby glacier. Fortunately, one of the hikers had come back to search for me and was able to get me up and walking again as soon as she found me.
I often think back and wonder at how that rock did indeed seem so comfortable and at how warm and cozy I had felt at that time. As much as I truly appreciate being around for the decades following, I also recognize that it would have been a profoundly peaceful way to exit this life.
However, sitting in this chair right now is extremely comfortable, as is the warmth of the fire, and it is definitely good to be comfortably alive…even if it means being a little “cooped up” once in a while. Bring on the snow!~