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Friday, April 02, 2010

Up to their eyelids

Oh, Risa is around, but even to herself it sometimes seems just barely. She's napping a lot, then reading a little bit, listening to music, napping again. Listen, before you send her a get-well card, she's grateful. The last three times this stuff hit her, it tried to kill her. This time around, it's just making her a little spacey. Spacey she can live with.

Not that there is much to do on the farm at present.

After almost two-and-a-half months of spring, while the rest of the country shivered, the upper West Coast is getting a late string of wild storms. The rain sheets down, and at the upper elevations and over on the east side the silent snow drifts into fir needles or hisses onto the rivers. The coots, ever our winter waterbird, have hunkered down and aren't leaving, and Risa's starts, which were growing like weeds, have all halted any vestige of activity and huddle, crabbed and irritable, in their flats, complaining of migraine. In the garden, peas and worms poke their heads above the puddled straw, gasping for whatever it is they breathe. The blooms have been blasted from the lilacs and the chickens roost indoors all day with their hands in their pockets, inconsolable.

Beloved and Risa have, it would seem, permanently lost their footing as the mud deepens and deepens, and when either one returns from barn chores, she peels off layers of disaster and throws them on the washing machine, regaling the other with aggrieved tales of how many mud angels she's just made.

Risa's compensation is Bach and Mozart: over the years, she's collected wax impressions of "old masters" at fifty cents a box from library sales, and, with a headset on, hunkers down like a coot, familiarizing herself with the Mass in C Minor. Beloved moves to the back office to practice storytelling for a gig with kindergartners. She's doing a workshop on quilts, and steals one from Risa's lap, replacing it with a down sleeping bag.

Out back, the creek roars, and things go by in it.

Things could be worse.

In '97, between eleven and twelve inches of rain fell on the pasture upstream from us in just a few hours. The creek jumped its banks in the poultry yard and in the garden, which then was over on the other side of the bridges (there were three of them then). It picked up one bridge and then the other two, shoving them downstream to smash against the road culvert, ripped out the garden fence, ripped out the garden, flowed across the herringbone brick floor of the potting shed, bounced off the foundation of the house, and went from three feet wide to eighty feet wide for a night and two days. Our neighbors' house across the street became an island.

None of this was of any interest to anyone else around here, because their troubles were worse. There were cars underwater, cellars, basements, garages, houses, barns. Cows stood on melting manure piles and took bets on how long the manure would hold up. News helicopters solicitously stood watch over the cows and over all the little pink and blue houses that were up to their eyelids in brown goo.

Now, that would have been a good year to take a little bit sick for a few weeks, neh?


And I have dreamed
of the morning coming in
like a bird through the window
not burdened by a thought,

the light a singing
as I hoped.

-- Wendell Berry, Findings

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