Beside Bright Waters
Updated: Apr 2, 2021
As the last part of February gave way to March, winter finally loosened its grip on the shrub steppe landscape. What was--for the most part--a mild midwinter had turned suddenly cold and snowy at the end of February, leaving us wondering how many more weeks of gray bleakness we would have to wade through. But as the first couple weeks of March unfolded, snow turned to the rushing, bubbling waters of spring.
Each year we wait with anticipation for the snowmelt to flow down the valleys. The highlands of our property are divided by draws that join together at the valley below. Water pools up in depressions between the sagebrush until the rocky soil is saturated. When the soil can hold no more water, runoff flows in rivulets across the landscape, gaining strength as it goes.
On a windy afternoon, Greg and I hiked the property with my dog, Shadow. We made our way across the muddy plateau, watching for sheds left behind by the ever-present deer and elk herds. The first grasses, which had sprouted before the snow, had recovered from the temporary setback and were quickly gaining length. Wildlife, as eager as we were for the signs of spring, were gathering in large herds on the sunny southern faces of each ridge. A flush of green could be seen across the slope, illuminated in the afternoon light.
Our route took us across the windswept plateau and then down into another valley, this one with louder and swifter water than the first. Where the rocks formed basins, the water smoothed and created shining pools, which were colored by the blue of the sky and grey of the hills. Reflected sunlight created shimmering patterns on the mosses that clung to basalt boulders rimming each pool.
Days like these breathe new life into our spirits. Each year, our minds and bodies need reawakening, just like the land around us. As winter's clenched fist loosens on our hearts, we think through the year ahead with apprehension, then acceptance, and finally with hope. When the land turns green and bright waters flow, we feel ready for another year on the homestead.