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January 7, 2004
photos courtesy of Lea and Nate Gibson
Winter has hit with a vengeance in the northwest, with heavy
snows closing many roads,
airports and schools, and then an ice storm blanketed us during the night, resulting in
significant tree and power line damage and over 100,000 homes in the Puget Sound area
without electricity. We're feeling pretty fortunate where we are farther north--the ice
damage was less, though it is persisting in our 9th day of sub freezing temperatures. We
awoke to to a 1/2 inch of ice coating everything, and it remains unthawed tonight.
The Haflingers have been indoors for four days straight now, happily drinking their water
slushies from iced up buckets, and munching hay all day. No one seems the worse for
wear. The number of colicking horses in our county has been astronomical, according to
our vet clinic, as most horses simply refuse to drink icy water, so they get impacted pretty
quickly. Haflingers, though, are bred to enjoy breaking ice for water--they like to thump
their buckets, grab them with their teeth and have perfected the art of breathing on the ice to
warm and thin it to the breaking point to reach the water below. Truly adaptive behaviors if
stuck on a snowy mountainside in a blizzard, and not bad if confined to a barn without heat.
The time it takes to do chores is easily twice the usual with the watering process, and we're
behind on cleaning as it simply isn't safe to try to wheel heavy loads of manure and
shavings up and down our iced-over barn ramps.
It is conditions like earthquakes, hurricanes, tornados, firestorms and silver thaws that
remind us how little control we have over our environment and how much control it has
over us. Being unable to walk anywhere outdoors that isn't coated with ice is a humbling,
helpless, feeling--today in clinic I saw several broken wrists in young healthy adults from falls.
Yet I'm grateful for the reminder of our helplessness. We dwell in this often hostile world
and try to steward it, but we adapt to it, not the world adapting to us. We cannot stop the
frozen rain from falling, but must wait patiently for the southerly winds to blow. In fact, the
warming is coming. Only 10 miles to the south of our farm tonight, the temperature is a
full 20 degrees higher, the ground is thawed and the ice is gone. When I listen out our
back door to the south, I can hear the frozen trees in our woods knocking their branches
together in a noisy cacophony as the south wind warms the ice, and chunks drop from the
branches, clattering and clacking their way to the ground. From stony frozen silence to
animated noisemakers with a steady puff of warm wind.
Yes, at times I feel iced over --rigid in my opinions, frozen in my emotion, silent and
cocooned in myself. That is when the warm touch, the empathic word, the heartfelt
outreach breaks me free. Perhaps a little frostbitten around the edges, but free again,
warmed by good food, warm coffee, great family hugs and a host of friends in touch from
around the world.
Listen for the coming of the warm wind. It is worth the wait.
Emily from BriarCroft