The View from Mattie’s Pillow

A lovely evening tonight.

Around 10pm, I went out to take a bag of spruce shavings to the horses to bed down their run-in shed. The air was cooling enough that I wore my horse club hoodie, but I still wore shorts. The sky was still clear—had been clear since Thursday—and there was a deep aqua light in the northwest sky, fading to cobalt to the south. It was deep dusk, but I could see well enough to drag the black plastic bag of shavings under the fence to the run-in shed and divide it between the two stalls. As I walked back to the corral, I could see Sam’s coat gleam in the fading light where he nibbled the last of his evening’s hay. Mattie, in her side of the corral, was a blacker spot in the deepening darkness. Above the southeast horizon floated an egg-shaped gibbous moon, pale orange, as if about to hatch more of the deep yellow birch and aspen leaves that we’re seeing increase each day. As I walked past Sam, back to the house, it felt like a pause in time, as if the season had hit a balance, a perfect pose like the moment a dancer poses in arabesque on pointe and we catch our breath and believe she can stay in that balance forever. I could stay in this season forever if it would delay what is to come.

We were haying all weekend. Yesterday we went out to the Quist farm at the end of Rosie Creek Road, the fields spread out green on a rolling bench of land along the Tanana River. To get there, we drive along a pot-holed dirt road through spruce and birch, past five-acre “homesteads,” then suddenly there’s the farm, the green fields striped with darker raked hay or dotted with squares of ten bales that tip out of the small trailer towed by the baler. Yesterday, the hay was still too wet, so today we gathered up another crew: Mike, Ira, Tobin, Peter, me, and rattled through the dust and potholes to the farm, then filled the trucks one-by-one with brome hay. The bales were still a bit heavy but dry enough that they (I hope) won’t start to mold before freeze up.

It was nearly seventy—not too hot, but warm and dry enough to dry the hay. We took turns tossing and stacking, and those of us not driving a particular truck, sat on the bales as we drove along the field from square to square. Rufus the farm dog came running up to check on us sometimes, and at the end of the field, a flock of a half dozen sandhill cranes moved slowly over the cut grass, their necks snaked down to find insects in the dirt.

When we showed up in our yard with truckloads of hay, Sam whinnied. He’s in the front side of the corral today, though I’ve been switching them about once a week to keep them entertained. When Mattie’s in the front and hay arrives, she leans into the fence and stretches her neck as long as she can to grab a mouthful as the truck backs up to the hay barn. Sam stood and watched intently, waiting for us to bring some to him. This says a lot about the difference between the two.

After we stacked the hay—the harder part of the job. I made a big bowl of penne pasta with tomato and Italian sausage sauce and carrots and purple and yellow cauliflower from the garden as finger food. We sat on the deck in the gathering dark, looking out across the river at the Tanana flats—gold patches of bright birch and aspen, dark streaks of spruce—the gold and dark green together are especially dramatic now. I said, “Sometimes I wish it could stay like this for a whole season.” Usually these colors fade in a week or two, usually with the first September rains. Then I realized that if the yellow were around long enough, we’d get tired of it and long for snow—or, as I am now, for spring again.

Robert Frost knew about yellow things: “Nothing gold can stay,” he says in his tiny poem about early spring leaves, dawn, and the sweet melancholy of transitions. For now we revel in the gold of our leaves–like the sun reflecting back to us twice—and we store it up to get us through the dark winter days ahead.

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4 Responses to “The View from Mattie’s Pillow”

  1. Caitlin P. Says:

    I’m always glad when you post–though I was only there for a year, fairbanks will always have a strong nostalgic pull on me, and you write about its beauty so beautifully.

  2. mattiespillow Says:

    Hey, Caitlin! Glad to know you’re following Mattie’s Pillow. Send me a poem for one of the Poetry Challenges!

    Hope you’re doing well. Come back to visit!

  3. Ronan Short Says:

    Hi there, nice to see you and Mike again at the Quists. Enjoyed your piece on the farm.
    Wil;l send a poem for you but not tonight-too late.
    Cheers Ron(an)

  4. mattiespillow Says:

    Thanks, Ron. Look forward to the poem!

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