Updated: Mar 24, 2021
This time of year, the rhythm of morning and evening chores blends together into one long pattern. The shortness of days and necessary adjustments for ice and cold make our routine a cycle of chores, warming, housework, and going back out for the second round. A few nights ago I was repeating the routine. My dog, Shadow, and I had taken our daily trek to the highlands, surveying a landscape in which the snow outlined the texture and contrast of every ridge. (Read more about the snowscapes here.)
The increasingly thick bank of clouds in the valley was swallowing the ridges, turning the landscape to grey blankness. But here in the mountains, the clouds were breaking up, and the last light of day was highlighting every barren sagebrush and every basalt boulder that protruded from the snow.
As the light started to wane, Shadow and I turned our steps down the slope. She raced ahead of me, zigzagging to follow scents and playfully rolling in the snow. My mind was already turned toward the work yet to be done: Refilling the cow water. Putting away the chicken food (where the opportunistic elk can't eat it in the night). Scooping manure in the loafing shed. Feeding the rabbits. Changing the duck water.
By the time we were back, the temperature had dropped. My numb fingers gripped the metal bails of the buckets, and I focused on each slippery step around the farmyard. With the cold came a clearing in the clouds overhead, and to my surprise, I found that I didn't need a light. A stunning winter moon was glowing over the landscape, illuminating every smooth mound of snow and each silhouetted black branch. The sudden, unexpected beauty broke through my routine and filled me with thankfulness for this place, these creatures under my care, and the brilliant winter moon.