seems to me that chores are sysiphisian tasks, ones that must be repeated
repeatedly. For us, my husband Dan and I, living in
our remote Pahrah Mountains sanctuary, hauling hay is one of those tasks. This
keeps our 2 scruffy burros fat and happy through the long winter months.
in outback Nevada, this
year is “the Winter of the big snow” and we are enjoying the experience of
being quite thoroughly snowed in. We must haul all supplies, grub, etc. a
half-mile into our homestead on our backs or on our spiffy $20 orange plastic
toboggan. Our toboggan routine entails one of us towing from the front while
the other tugs on a rope from behind to keep the front person from being
flattened by a runaway toboggan as we trudge down our steep hill. Luckily, the
snow is now compacted and hard enough that we can walk on it rather than
wrangle a load whilst stumbling on clumsy snowshoes.
chores are useful, even necessary, to me the goal is to make them more useless –
that is, more meditative and pleasurable beyond the obvious satisfaction of
just getting them done. I
was determined to do just that this morning when faced with the chore of
hauling the hay from the truck up on the hill, down to the homestead.
morning dawned crisp and clear, the landscape graced with yet another new skiff
of snow. We set off up the hill in bright sun, blue sky and scuttling wispy
clouds. The new snow was all crystalline sparkles and crunched with a
satisfying sound underfoot. The air was sharp and pure, the smell of fresh
water, cleansing with each breath. I indulged my habit of following in Dan’s
exact footsteps so as to mar as little of the pristine new coating of snow as
possible. I love the romantic image of a single solitary track in the wilderness
paused with gratification to observe the sinuous snake of our little creek
meandering down the hill --
the gleam of water and green of vegetation a stark contrast cutting through the
enveloping white world. Each drop of that blessed water bestows on us an ounce
more energy from our hydro-system, supporting our modern lifestyle.
continue to be amazed at the transformation of our beloved desert landscape –
once open sage and juniper covered hills, now a solid wind-sculpted,
exponentially more open, expanse of white. We never tire of gazing back at the
view – the valley below and rows of white mountains marching off to the West.
favorite activity while hiking in new snow is to watch for fresh tracks and
imagine the story they tell. Today, countless bunny tracks and a looping coyote
trail tell a story of life and death, a fateful dance between the cottontails
and coyotes. In a year of excess of cottontails, we wish the coyotes good
hunting. Still, we hope they will leave just a couple bunnies around the house
for us to watch in the early light of dawn, lippity-lopping about outside the
front window, as we sip our morning coffee.
pause at the top of the hill to catch our breath and strain our ears for a
sound, our world so silent we can hear the blood pulse in our heads. We scan the sky for our eagle and his mate –
will they grace our morning with their high circling loops? Alas, no such luck
the 2 bales of hay onto the toboggan, I’m struck by the incongruity of the
smell of summer grass here in our winter world. I take the rear rope as we head
back down the hill, slowly, so as not to topple our clumsy load. Muscles
warming to the task, I’m grateful that, even in my gray-haired stage of life, I
still have the strength to steady this 150 pound load that strains to escape
and careen downhill on it’s own. There is satisfaction in digging my heels into
the steep slope. I’m aware that, while on the way up the hill, my focus was
outward on all the world around me, but now it is inward, entirely on my body
and the task at hand.
stored safe from critters in the garage, our morning chore complete, I
experience a wistful pang of regret as I sit on the front porch to take off my
snowboots. Entering the house, I detach from the sensual pleasures of this
winter world we live in.
evening, we sip our cocktails sitting before the fireplace and watch the sky
turn cobalt, the last iridescent shade of turquoise fading behind the mountain.
I wonder now if next Fall, when we lay in our supply of hay and drive right up
to the house, will we be glad to minimize that chore or will we regret we
cannot duplicate this one exquisite morning when we felt so alive and at one
with our world?