Listen Now
Pledge Now


Magnetic North: Ruin and Treasure

Peaches, the elderly housebunny
Peaches, the elderly housebunny

MagneticNorth_20141219_RuinAndTreasure.mp38.43 MB

Welcome back to Magnetic North, where all creatures great, small and in-between waken to a white with new snow. And thank heaven for that. For, as much as I detest shoveling snow, blowing snow and falling face down into snow, I dread the prospect of my septic system freezing due to not enough snow.

Not that such a thing has happened to me ....yet. But Paul and I spent a good number of our winters here fairly obsessed with the temperature of our sewage. And we were not alone. The local providers of straw bales ran out as folks spread the stuff over drain fields and mounds. Sometimes repeatedly as wind and deer unmade the straw bedding overnight.

Paul’s Norwegian ingenuity went into overdrive at these times. One year he even bought three enourmous bright blue tarps and covered the straw he’d spread over the septic field.

It was hideous. AND of course, visible from the road and all of our living room windows. But Paul was comforted, having outwitted Mother Nature yet again. And that was worth going into Christmas week with what looked like a cartoon landing strip for a Smurf Santa Claus.

But this year, I can look out on the cozily snow covered septic field and smile, both with relief and memories of my sweetheart, struggling with windblown blue tarps, cursing the clumsiness of gloved hands and the weepiness of his eyes and nose. Even after the tarps were pegged down so as to resist all but an atomic blast, Paul fretted. Scanning the meadow for thieving deer and bounding to the door should one so much as set a hoof on the lawn.

Fun memories are often woven from times like this, aren’t they? On this, my second Christmas without Paul, the good and funny times are gifts I seem to find everywhere.

As I sit writing this at my dining room window a handsome buck - a six-pointer I think - appears at the corner of the goat corral, placing each hoof mindfully as if walking on eggshells. He is heading for the new hay strewn on the ground by my back deck. This is where I feed the goats now, after spraining my ankle doing that two winters ago. 

One day I had an aha moment before even starting to shovel the path to their corral and dumped their hay on the new show, calling to the five expectant goats awaiting their meal, “no more breakfast in bed - come to me or die!”

They came. Along with a number of whitetail deer every now and again. A win/win in my book.

The other critters transition into winter with much less effort on their part. The four angora bunnies in the room off the garage hunker down under an old shower curtain hung close to one wall. I feed and water them once or twice daily, giving them extra energy boosts of oatmeal and dried papaya bits in their kibble just to keep their little internal furnaces going. And I resist combing their gorgeous silver and grey/brown coats for fear of robbing them of any warmth in these subzero days. The fifth bunny, Peaches, is now a house rabbit, having lost the use of her back legs, apparently due to age. A loss that seems unimportant to her. I plan to learn a thing or two from Peaches this winter.

As for the assorted chickens and ducks, with one guinea hen thrown in for sheer chaotic effect, all greet my appearance in the coop as if I were a rock star. I don’t know if they like the grain best or the huge trough of snow I haul in for their water. They shriek. They fly. They trip over each other and peck peevishly. And, best of all, a few of the darlings lay eggs. I still feel rich whenever I pluck a freshly laid egg out of a nest box.

As for the three gray geese, Ziva, Abby and Ducky, they bed down amongst the hay and straw bales in one garage and seem to thrive in winter. Their only complaint being the lack of a kiddy pool for bathing. Each day I open the garage door and they come zooming out, wings spread and feet a-flying. Sadly, their feet are the only things flying as these domestics never get more than a few inches off the ground. But the three head straight for the safe ground between the dog kennel and the coop. A place sacrosanct to my two big Labs, Zoe and Jethro who set up outraged barking and harooing should even so much as a chipmunk dare to show itself.

Yes, life is good.  Funny at times - if not at the moment, in retrospect.  Recently, I found a marvelous quote by the mystic, Rumi, that speaks to this. He said, “where there is ruin, there is hope for treasure.”

And while I would not exactly label my losses and challenges ruinous, I guess I’ve always hoped for, even expected treasure someplace in the day - even if only in a lowly next box or a snug septic field or, the presence of a sweet elderly rabbit cuddling in my lap at night.

Blessings to you all for now and the new year.