The View from Mattie’s Pillow

Rainy days now that the solstice is past.  We’re so greedy for light here in the Interior that we grumble about rain after three days of cloudy skies, even though the garden needs it and is drinking it up, transforming it into green.  We want sun in summer to make up for all the dark days of December and January.  We store up vitamin D—some sunny days I can feel it fizzing there under my skin, like a stockpile of caffeine saved for later.

But now it’s raining and gray.  Sam stands muddy in the corral, thinking up mischief.  He’s rolled and the freckles in his white coat blur beneath the gray mud crusted over his coat.  When the wind blows—or sometimes for no reason—he startles and bolts across the corral, while Mattie, on her side of the fence, breaks into the running walk, her fourth gait.

I’ve been in the greenhouse, transplanting tomatoes, peppers, cucumbers.  As they move from smaller pots to their final kitty litter buckets or five gallon buckets, the greenhouse first looks orderly, then crowded.  I’m giving away plants as fast as I can, but then another problem arises.  As I give away plants, I also give away dirt and I’m about to run out of last year’s potting soil, even mixed with this year’s composted manure.  Strange as it seems, I now need to buy potting soil to mix with the manure in order to have enough for all my plants.

Still, rainy afternoons in the greenhouse are pleasant, with their own rhythm.  I bring a go cup of hot tea with lemon and honey, then dig my arms up to the elbows in dirt, mixing last year’s soil, this year’s manure compost, some dolomite lime and fish bone meal.  All the while, I’m thinking of the meal it will provide the plants and how they, in turn, will provide meals for us.  In fact, in the greenhouse, separated from the phone, the radio, the computer—just the drip of rain on the fiberglass roof, and the sound of Sam walking by the corral fence, checking on what I’m up to—every part of this life makes sense.  I dig in the manure that Mattie and Sam produce from the hay we load out of our neighbors’ fields, thinking of tomatoes, so sweet and tart.  It’s not a perfect cycle—I have to buy more dirt after all, and I pay for the hay.  But it’s a cycle with its satisfactions.

And there are other satisfactions of life in the Interior.  Moments ago, I went to the back door, headed out to feed the horses, when I noticed something on the railing on the back stairs landing.  A Boreal owl, slatey brown, speckled with white.  It swiveled its head to look at me, yellow eyes that looked wide with surprise from the circle of feathers radiating out from each eye.  It didn’t move, but contemplated me, and I it.  Then it swiveled its head around, staring down at the wild strawberries that grow there.  I had time to find a camera and take one photo before it tilted its head down intently, fidgeted a little, then spread its wings to float down to land on a vole, nibbling on a strawberry.

I went out on the landing.  I could see the owl there behind the delphinium leaves, his head turned to look at me once again.  Then he gathered his wings and brushed the air and soared over to land on the cab of the truck.

I’ll keep an eye out for him again.  He’s too small to be a danger to my skittish new cat, but I’m glad for his help with the vole population.  Maybe I’ll get beets and carrots this year, not just the tops.

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