Tuesday, January 25, 2011

Winter on Toad Hill

I am awakened in the dark to a cup of coffee being set gently down on my nightstand. Fred goes to his bath. Old dog Spike asks to go out and in a few minutes, gravity carries him around the house and down to the kitchen door, where he barks. I make a reluctant dash downstairs to let him in, trying to ignore the three cats who try their feline best to waylay me the moment I rise in hopes of being fed. Then, because reading is part of my work as a writer, I go directly back to my counterpane office where young dog George is still snoozing under the covers, and set to work on both coffee and book.

As of December first, our daily walk has become our daily ski tour at the top of the hill. We love the old Keeton Homestead. It must have been a beautiful farm once, a self-sufficient world of its own. The well is so close to the cellar hole that we think it might have been incorporated into the dwelling. Cuckoos and blue winged warblers sing among the thorn apple trees in summer. Now George races through the snow hunting field mice and playing stick. She tried biting a small porcupine in a brush pile the other morning. We were able to get the 20 or so quills out on the spot. The next day she barked at the same porky, but refrained from making her muzzle a pincushion a second time. Spike lags far behind, but he still wants to go, so we wait for him back at the car. Yestderday it was seventeen below when we got up. Just for kicks, at 8:00, when the thermometer had zoomed up to negative five, we decided to ski anyway. I wore my usual two salvation army sweaters, an ancient turquoise chashmere and a thick alpaca, over a tutrle neck and topped by a windbreaker parka. Goggles helped keep my face warm and my eyes from tearing. With a neck muffler and warm gloves, I was toasty, eeven sweating by the time we finished.

These days I have been working on a story about a puppy learning to be a good camp dog, playing with some rhymes about my childhood, submitting to agents, and promoting Moose Power! Fred has worked up some new table designs, shelves, picture frames, and lamps. He goes to shows and I go to book festivals, signings, and presentations. Come five o’clock now, it’s nearly dark. I give Shady, the old pony, her senior feed. She lets herself from the run-in shed into the tacking-up area, eats, and then lets herself back out. The two horses, Katy and Star, have yet to figure out how to nose open the gate with its hydraulic hinge, so I can be sure Shady gets her chow without having to stand guard. Then I walk down to the garden where we keep our two hens and one rooster in their tiny coop. They are already perching quietly, and as I shut them safely in for the night I like to stoke their glossy feathers and thank them for their gifts. We’re getting an egg every other day now—always a precious, warm miracle in my hand as I return to the house. Every few days, Fred and I each breakfast on an egg with a yolk the color of an orange nasturtium. We dine on veggies and venison—bounty from Irish Hill.

Fern is in Pine, Colorado with Scott, and their dogs Sylvie and Addie. The big news is that we will welcome Scott as a son on their wedding day next July! He manages the restaurant at the Golden Hotel. Fern works as a massage therapist, runs many races, and is applying to the CU Boulder MFA program for next fall.

Spring, friend Christopher, and their dog Chloe are in Northampton, MA. Spring works mornings in a school infant care room and loves her babies, but sometimes seven diapers in a row are a bit daunting! Afternoons, she teaches at a YMCA after-school program. Chris is now the brewer of fabulous beers for the People’s Pint in Greenfield.

We are well. We are happy. We wish such blessings to each of you in 2011. Cheers!

Sue/Sus and Fred/Wiz

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