Thresholds fascinate me. Not necessarily those our culture tells us to seek—the very visible hoops through which society encourages we jump: graduation, moving away from home, employment, marriage, parenthood. I’m more interested in thresholds invisible to us at the moment we cross them.
Thirty-four years ago, I drove up this remote road, carved out of a mountain in the 1840s, with no idea or expectation of living here. That day, twenty-three years old, footloose, fancy-free and an eager explorer, I crossed a threshold I couldn’t comprehend and would have rebelled against had someone shown me I’d done it. Everything that happened since brought me back here. To create a life here. Here I am. Little did I know that alone behind the wheel of my rented Chevy Blazer, I’d fallen in love.
Some years into motherhood, which began for me at twenty-nine, I realized that I’d lived through many such blind thresholds. Many Last Days I did not recognize as such. The Last Day my son ever wore a diaper, I still had many diapers in the cupboard. The Last Day he requested a specific ritual of song and story at bath-time, I expected another such day that didn’t come. One day he needed his shoes tied for him; I was shocked when the next day my help was rebuffed. He could do it now. Oh, okay. Of course! Just like the very Last Day he asked to be guided through a picture book. The next day, he could read the story without my help. I wasn’t needed—not for that. But the fact of the moment as a threshold I’d passed—even as a new one approached—well, suffice it to say I didn’t get it. Not in the moment. Not for some years.
Now decades hence, threshold-potential haunts me—the specter of last conversations and partings, unknown as such in the moment they occur. Is this The Last? I ask, forcing myself to take note, to pay attention. To be here now. And at the same time, as I shake myself awake, and look around at all that’s happening, I ask: Is this The First? Is this the winter that will be remembered, in careful, attentive retrospect, as the year winter changed? The first winter where the earth froze hard Christmas week only to thaw by mid-January and remain unfrozen. The first winter our hens resumed laying January 8 and have continued daily since, something that’s not previously occurred before the Spring Equinox—not during my life here. The first winter Robins returned to the farm at the end of February. I watch them in the yard, pulling worms through crumbly dirt that should be covered in at least a foot of snow—according to my recollection of how winter used to be.
Are these firsts indications of a threshold passed, or a one-off anomaly? I don’t know. But unlike my younger self, I’m taking note.
Cagney and Lacey are our beautiful Golden Cuckoo Marans, those of the wonderful feathered feet! If you're not familiar with the ground-breaking women for whom these hens are named, Google it! We love naming our girls after notable women, with a thematic through-line: mythology, television, literature. And make no mistake, they live up to their names, all of them. Chickens are very much engaged with the world, curious, responsive and, yes, quite emotional when confronting the unexpected predator and the death of a member of the flock. They form a team of which I'm very happy to be a provisional member.
Having baby greens and herbs throughout the winter is a blessing enabled by grow lights and my production kitchen, attached to the house. As outdoor temperatures careen, I can regulate the environment here, a level of control not possible in the greenhouse as long as sudden freezes followed by surges into the sixties are in the mix.
All we can do to prepare rightly for tomorrow is to do the right thing today. --Wendell Berry
Want to read more of my musings about the farm? Peruse Dawn's Writing.
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