Posted in Nebraska Sandhills

A spring rain

First rain,
then snow,
then rain again.
Soothing balm of answered prayers, a drought breaks
(maybe?)
as promise fills the air.

Now
spring
arrives full
in western Nebraska.

The green wheat blades bolt
rejoicing,
the verdant grass jumps
singing,
the tired seed bursts
life and sprouts two tiny leaves.
I wonder what plant it will be?

A pair of geese parade their hatch,
peachy yellow goslings
tumble
fuzzy and sweet
through the grass near the road.

My grey cat nurses kittens,
tiny springs of fur
purr
bouncy and spry
kneading paws in the cardboard box.

Tadpoles and larvae swim in the pond,
tiger salamander and leopard frog
dance
reeling and circling
sambas of metamorphosis.

Life begins
in spring
with rain.




Posted in Nebraska Sandhills

Saturday, April 30th

Rain.

The last couple of days have brought us moisture—nearly three quarters of an inch in this location. That’s more than we had in all of March and the first half of April put together. This rain is a godsend.

Rain in the Sandhills

Jon asks me to step out and check the corralled heavies at mid-morning. There are about twenty percent left to calve now, and we are branding in a week. My morning has been busy working on food preparation for the dinner I will serve next Saturday to family, friends, and neighbors who will come to help. The excuse to step outside and take a break from cooking this morning is a welcome one.

I grab a coat, a stocking cap, and muck boots. It has rained enough that the corrals are muddy, and puddles sit in the roads and ditches. A northwest wind is brisk and bitey; grey clouds billow and hide the sun.

Green shoots bolt from recent rain

I walk through the corrals and a few cold raindrops pelt me in the face. The air is filled with the scent of everything soaked—sand and grass and cattle. The alkali mud at the edge of the pond blooms its sulfurous odor into the wind. It feels so much like spring now it is shocking, contrasted with last week’s heat and drought. Spring always seems a violent oscillation between summer and winter and back again. The in-between makes for days like this—all wet and chill and bursting with weather and life. I walk by the flower bed where lambsquarters already bolt from the rain, and the dog dish harbors a stray earthworm swimming in the collected rain. I halt at the backdoor, then fire off a text. I’m going to take a little detour to prolong my break.

Puddle-ducks 😊

Hopping in the side-by-side ATV, with more cold raindrops splattering against the windshield, I head to the Brown meadow. Just this bit of rain has filled the low spots again, and the lake seems higher than before. Two ducks—a pair of Mallards—shovel their bills through a puddle in the road. Puddle ducks, I say to myself, then mentally add the hyphen for a last name. Perhaps, I think, I will call the female Jemima, since this day certainly would deserve a watercolor painting from Ms. Beatrix Potter if she could see it. Soft new greens and yellows and browns melt together on the landscape, while white and stormy greys mix in the sky and lakes. The heavier colors settle in the undulations like the watered medium. The cows and calves are black and red dots on the slopes of the distant hills; the world is all translucent colors from rain and clouds. Water is an unpredictable, active partner in painting the landscape today.

A watercolor day

Back to the house, and at the end of my break; there are three large pans of lasagna to finish today, besides the laundry and dishes. I brew a cup of tea. It has certainly been a wild week. From the crazy weather—here and across the state—to our trip to Denver and back, to working in the classroom and corral, I feel stretched thin and tired. The wind screams across the prairie again, but this time the sand holds. What can be learned from this watercolor day? Tears, like rain, fall as I drink my tea. The colors of the room smear together soft and fuzzy. These prairied hills have never left people soft; you learn to endure and go on. But being resilient doesn’t have to mean being unforgiving and harsh, and there can always be room for watercolor days.

Posted in Nebraska Sandhills

Friday, April 22nd, 2022

The winds start up fierce around 2 p.m. here, rattling the windows and shaking the house. Jon says it must be blowing 40 mph sustained and gusting 50 to 60. We are watching the white caps on the pond out south and I can hear the vent flaps on the west side of the house rattle wildly up and down. He asks Sam if he wants a tractor ride, then looks at me and asks sheepishly if I would mind helping him. Can I come push the heavies in and help corral them? He will lead with the tractor and bale processor. I say sure and grab my ball cap, securing it tight to my head and twisting my hair into a pony tail through the back.

My phone says its 90° Fahrenheit and I wonder if that’s right as we make our way through the Pair Patch Pasture that we are finishing calving. Jon says leave the pairs if I can and bring the heavies only. We have to move them from north to south to our corrals, right into the driving wind. I start at the northwestern corner of the pasture and start trying to get the heavies up. They are all laying down on the north sides of the hills. They are big, black, and very pregnant, and it is sweltering and windy. They do NOT want to move. I hah and huzzah, whistle and coax. Finally I start laughing, telling the heavies, loudly, that they might not remember the last time it was April and 90 degrees during calving, but I sure do. That I feel bad but I have to get them in behind windbreaks and shelter before it gets even worse tonight and snows tomorrow. I realize I am talking to cows and probably have lost my mind. Yep, I’ve gone bonkers, just like all those stories about women long ago. I go back to whistling, some of them I have to get down and pat them on the haunches to get up. They rise, reluctantly, stretch and if a heavy cow can give you a dirty look, well I get about a hundred of them. And literally too—every time one of them stands, I get a face full of sand.

Finally I start getting some of them to move. I am realizing this is not going well, and I text Jon that I may have bollixed up some pairs. He has arrived with the tractor and bale processor. He tells me to do what I can and that he will sort it out later. So I keep going, trying to shoo and whistle at cows to move, hoping they can hear the tractor above this infernal wind so they realize there will be a reward for moving.

I am able to drive a bunch of heavies to the windmill and they take long gulps of cool Sandhills water. The windmill is spinning crazily and water sloshes up and over the tanks edges, making little puddles around the tank. Its tempting to dip my hat in the water, but I know if I do, it will be caked in sandy mud in a few minutes. I push the heavies away from the tank and start them down the sandy trail.

There’s a few more heavies scattered up in the hills west so I start back up that way once I have the large bunch of heavies moving with the tractor. Try as I might, I simply can’t get these girls headed the right direction. They keep going back west and can’t hear the tractor. Finally, I overheat the side-by-side ATV getting stuck in a sand bank. Lovely. Jon calls our hired man for back up, he comes on another ATV quickly and begins expertly rounding up the remaining heavies. Sigh. Sometimes I really am more hindrance than help.

After a few minutes, I start back up and follow the main bunch behind the tractor, pushing the stragglers and dropping any pairs I can. Sand kicks up behind all the cows in a cloud, I look at the horizon to the south and see something dark rolling in… clouds? Or dirt?

A weird cloud rolls in from the south as we move the heavies into the corral

We march slow to the corrals. I look up at the sun, so strange looking in this sultry wind, watch this bizarre cloud roll in front and begin to shade the sun. I can smell smoke. Faint, but its there. And the sand and dirt has picked up. It’s a cloud of smoke and dirt. Unreal. I’m thinking how I love that book The Worst Hard Time, and how I’m actually experiencing a dust storm like my grandma who grew up in Smithfield told me about when she was a little girl. Theirs were much worse, and she told me she remembered the dirt being red, that it came up from Oklahoma. She said her dad would tie a rope from the barn to the house, not just for blizzards but for the horrible dust storms. She said some were so bad, you couldn’t see much in front of you. For days after a duster, she said she would help her sisters clean the dirt from inside the house.

When I get back to the house, I’m coughing like crazy, and the mucus that comes up has streaks of dirt and sand. I cough like that for a good thirty minutes and my chest and throat burn. Now I can see how people got pneumonia and died from breathing in dust. Yuck. The hills look foggy, but I know its not fog.

Later, I get Sam to bed and the rest of us shower. The house is a sultry 80 degrees since I refuse to run the air conditioning in April when we have to run the heat tomorrow. I’m last to shower and the power flashes during my cleanup. I hurry to wash the grit out of my hair in case it goes clear off. No power will mean no water for washing. Getting out, I see lightning flashing and Jon is standing in the doorway watching to the east. BOOM! A bolt hits the fence in the valley, the sound shaking the house and windows at the same time we are blinded by its light. Oh man, it better start raining. We watch and wait to see if a fire starts where the lightning hit. My phone is blowing up with thunderstorm warnings, wind warnings, texts from friends and family. I realize none of us will be getting much sleep tonight.

Lightning strikes across the valley

The lightning is constant now, with rumbles distant and near. The hills are lit up in the distance with all the flashes and I don’t dare step outside for a video or picture. Finally I hear it—ping, ping, ping—drops of life-giving moisture falling on the roof. A few drops, but then the sidewalk is wet. It’s not much yet, but we are praying it keeps the fires at bay.
Jon runs out to park the car in the shed in case it hails, and comes back extremely troubled.

“I’m going to lose that north shed,” he says, slumping in the chair.

“What?”

“The wind is tearing the roof off. I don’t see what I can do to save it now.”

I stare at him, then reach out to pat his arm. “Oh honey, I’m so sorry,” I say, knowing now is not the time for talk of rebuilding, or to say it will be ok—because it will—but just to sit with him in his hole. Sometimes we just have to sit in the moment with the ones we love, to share the burdens together. Then share in picking up the pieces later.

The persistent high winds ripped the hurricane straps and nails off the roof and lifted it from the shed. We saved it, but it needs repaired now.

In the morning, as dawn’s light filters through grey clouds, it’s wet and drizzly. Jon is already out, trying to do what he can to fix the damage from last night, since more high winds are forecasted today. I text him to ask how bad it is. He responds that he tacked down the block barn roof and it is okay. He thinks maybe, just maybe, he says he can save the north shed. He and our hired man put up emergency purlins inside the poles and attached the trusses of the roof to them with 2×6 boards in an attempt to keep the roof from lifting off more or collapsing in today’s weather. The drizzle turns to snow as the wind kicks up again. Will the efforts be successful? We don’t know, but we thank God for the moisture we are getting.

Praising God for much needed moisture
Posted in Nebraska Sandhills

~Wind, drought, and sticking it out~

We’ve reached the land of desert sweet,
Where nothing grows for man to eat.
And the wind it blows with feverish heat,
Across those plains so hard to beat.

That’s Nebraska Land, Sweet Nebraska Land!
Upon thy burning soil I stand.
And I look away, across the plains,
And I wonder why it never rains.

Sweet Nebraska Land, song by Roger Welsch

The thermometer says 71° Fahrenheit. A beautiful day for April—for anytime of year—except for this darn wind. I know I sound like a bad meme about stereotypical Midwesterners, but it’s true. It is hard to want to go outside when the wind is sand-blasting your face the second you step out of the house. Thirty days now of this nonsense. Most days it kites along at least 25 mph or more, and the gusts are higher. The worst days, those gusts have been over 60 mph. There have been a few momentary reprieves—a calm night a couple weeks ago smoothed the waters so I could watch the muskrats swim and last night the wind died down enough I could hear the geese honking. The relief is always short-lived; the wind kicks back up morning or afternoon. Last night it started up hard enough before midnight that it rattled the roof and woke me up. 

Calves stay with a cow alongside a road as the wind blows hard again today

Strong spring winds are a regular part of living in the Sandhills of Nebraska, and, for that matter, any of the prairie states. But this year, it has been awful and relentless. And we aren’t just imagining that it is windier; scientists say this spring is one of the state’s windiest on record, since state meteorologists began tracking it in 1948. (“Yes, it has been windier in Nebraska. Scientists are trying to figure out why”, Nancy Gaarder Omaha World-Herald Apr 18, 2022) Cheyenne’s National Weather service—which issues radar reports, data, and watches and warnings for the western panhandle of Nebraska—recently stated that they have issued more high wind warnings this spring than they have in the last seventeen years. The high winds have caused problems for drivers across the state in dust storms and accidents with high-profile vehicles, fanned the flames of large grass fires in multiple locations, and caused significant structural damage and loss. For us on the ranch, we have had more problems this spring with cows stepping on their calves and causing injuries or death to those calves, and cows acting goofy and “on the prod” (as Jon puts it) than we have had in years past. We are chalking up the anomalies in their behavior to the weather.

A cow that has just calved on another windy spring day

On these most blustery days, I cannot spy a single deer or pronghorn. They retreat up into the hills, skittish and shy, hiding from the howling winds. The geese and ducks hug the shorelines, and I’m more likely to see the red-tailed hawks and turkey vultures on the ground or on a fencepost than wheeling high in the sky. As I watch a ring-necked pheasant scurry across the road, his long tail forced straight up behind him from the wind, I wonder if the animals grow weary of it like we do. Do they ever tire of the relentless winds?

A turkey vulture stays on the ground on a windy day rather than soaring the skies

Humans do, of course. There are tales of people—women especially—going plumb bonkers from the wind. In his book The Last Prairie: A Sandhills Journal, Stephen R. Jones writes of a young housewife in the 1880s who hung herself after complaining of months on end of wind and drought. I can more easily imagine it right now, as I, too, have grown weary of this daily onslaught. If I didn’t have a warm and cozy house to retreat to, with a hot shower to wash away all the sand from my hair and face, with stout walls and creature comforts to drown the incessant wails pressing down on us each day, perhaps I’d go a bit crazy too.

Clouds race across the sky behind a windmill on a windy spring day

Along with the never-ending wind, this spring has been notably dry. In March, we measured thirty-five hundredths at this location around Ellsworth, and so far in April (as of the 20th) we have measured eighteen hundredths. I know other places in Nebraska and the Midwest are reporting much less. The combination of the high sustained winds and dry conditions has rapidly deteriorated some of our pastures, especially the ones that we calve in or were already on the rougher side. For the first time in over fifty years, we will not finish calving in the Calving Pasture at Ellsworth. Without moisture to hold the topsoil, the high winds have blown it clean away in spots and exposed a hard dirt underneath, scrubbed clean like a homestead wife took a bristle broom to it. Places where hay is fed the day before lay bare; the cattle eat their fill and the rest tumbles across the prairie.

Topsoil blows away out of this pasture road, even with hay being fed on top of it

Like many ranchers across the drought and wind-whipped Midwest, we are making plans to sell cattle. Late calving heavies will be sold this spring rather than retained and, if dry conditions continue, we will sell deeper through the season, reducing cow numbers on the ranch. I see advertisements for local drought meetings and know the situation is dire for many. And while we will continue to be proactive in response to the weather if it remains a drought year, we will strive not to despair. Yes, there is no denying this spring is one for the record books. The relentless wind and drought is hard on everyone and everything, and there are hints of harder days possibly ahead. But being married to a rancher in the Sandhills of Nebraska for going on twenty years now has taught me nothing if not endurance. I’ve learned—sometimes the hardest way—what it is to stick things out and bounce back. I’ve seen drought years where the sand piled in drifts in my yard and grass wouldn’t grow, and wet years where the water rose in my basement and turned the meadow hay into lakes. I’ve seen storms tear through and rip windmills from the ground, twisting them to rubble. I’ve seen blizzards barrel over the prairie, killing calves, killing cows, destroying much more than it gives to us in moisture. And with all the crazy weather over the years, the cattle markets rise and fall, banks loan us money or tell us no, grass grows or doesn’t, and we rebuild and tear down. We keep going, year after year; we don’t give up. Even when the hard times come. Even when the weather beats us down. Because like all ranchers, like all people in agriculture, we believe in what we are doing. We truly love this way of life. We love these animals and this land. And we hope and pray, not only to live through these hard times and succeed, but that we can pass it on to our kids for them to love as well.

“Why do we do this? No one ranches for the money, and it’s not that we’re all masochists. It’s as though we have a covenant with nature, that we’re bound to see it through, to figure out a way, every year, in every emergency, to survive. It’s less like a battle than a marriage. The problems perhaps serve to enhance our feeling of accomplishment when we succeed, and the more complex or dangerous the situation, the greater the exhilaration when we live through it.”

Linda Hasselstrom, Windbreak: A Woman Rancher on the Northern Plains

Posted in Nebraska Sandhills

April 2, 2022

This morning started with fog in the low spots, a calm and beautiful spring morning. Fog like that, it heightens the mystery of the Sandhills.

I get done flipping pancakes for breakfast, and Jon asks me to ride along to help tag some calves. He tells me that the wind is down today, but is supposed to blow again next week, so we’d better get out and enjoy the nice day. Sam and I load up, light jackets in hand. The sky is blue and the sun is warm on this early April day. I grab my camera, hoping maybe, just maybe, to spot a curlew today.

We ride around, checking pairs and health of calves. We drive through the heavies and laugh when we see a calf kick so hard inside that the heavy cow lunges forward. No curlew are spotted, but I see mudhens scooting across the water, and along the shore a wading bird walks on long, graceful legs. A meadowlark perches on a fencepost, singing its perfect song while Jon gets out to tag a calf.

At noon, we sit outside so Sam can play in the dirt. I do some yard chores, and suddenly Jon tells me to stop and listen. I stand, silent, and then I hear it: Sandhill cranes flying overhead. I scan the deep blue sky and cirrus clouds, but the cranes are so high or far I cannot see them. We enjoy their trilling calls nonetheless.

Later Jon asks Abigail if she wants to try driving the little tractor up to the Brown pasture so he can load bunks. She says yes and we all head out for the tractor and the pickup. He helps her up into the tractor, she sits in the seat and smiles. She drives the tractor slow but steadily up to the Brown pasture, a mile or so north of our house. Jon helps her back down when we get there, so he can load the bunks onto the flatbed trailer. Both kids walk over to the tank at the windmill. I walk with them, steadying Abigail as she walks through the sand, and I’m so happy and buoyant that she is with us on this fine spring day. She shows Sam the snails in the tank, the newly hatched water bugs skimming through the water. And me, I can’t say a word. My eyes brim with tears as I relish the normalcy of this moment. My kids. Both of them here, at the tank in the Brown, just messing in the water and scooping up snails. And I can’t help but wonder, as I stand here watching them, if I will ever get over this. If I will ever stop crying at little things like this. Crying when she holds my hand in church, crying when she tells me about her day at school, crying when she laughs and hugs the cat. I suppose I will, eventually. But right now, it’s so crazy-normal-wonderful that I wish I could hold this moment forever.

Tonight, I put Sam to bed and head outside, wishing to enjoy the last moments of this gorgeous spring day. I head down to the pond while the sunlight wanes, the water gently stirring from the evening breezes. Ducks and wading birds call, and there at the edges of the quiet I hear a frog croak. Maybe I didn’t get to see a curlew today, but the promise this day held far outweighed any bird sightings. I needed this. I needed this day and this hope. I needed this assurance from above that it still can turn out okay, that God is holding me, guiding me through all of this. That even in the busy noise of this spring, I can find quiet moments to be still and know his love for me.

Posted in Nebraska Sandhills

March 25th, 2022

It’s warm today, in the 50s now this afternoon. The sun feels good on my bare arms as we putter along looking for calves. The wind has died down to a breeze—rather than the gusty gails it has been for days on end—and for the moment it isn’t whipping my hair or sand into my eyes. March in Nebraska can often be like this with the wind, blowing like mad out of the south for days, then turning and screaming at you from the north.

We are looking for several calves in a pasture north of our house. We did not intend to calve in this pasture, but some cows began calving before we were prepared and had moved the herd in closer. And so we are on what Jon calls an “Easter egg hunt”, driving the hills and looking at each shadow, each cow chip, each swale, each bunch of grass to see if a calf is hidden there. Unlike the heifers—new mothers who will check every three feet to see if their calf is following—a cow will tuck her calf someplace after his belly is full of milk in the morning, and she will strike off to graze or head in to water. Since we need to look up the calves for health and identification purposes, our search ensues. A few cows give us general direction of their well-hidden calves by glancing at us then turning eyes and ears off somewhere else then back to us again. We head in the direction the cows looked, hoping to find their calves.

Here and there, where the grass is grazed or clipped shorter, green shoots have begun to emerge from the ground. A meadowlark trills its perfect song somewhere nearby and a dozen or more geese honk as they fly overhead, veering south for the large Shubert lake. Spring has erupted once again here in the Sandhills; this year, though, it feels a little off to me. No, not weather-wise, but that it is here already. How is it spring already? This winter was the strangest, hardest we’ve ever had. Last month, I was savoring the little glimpses of the spring to come, but now that it is here I feel like I’ve been caught off-guard. Calving and spring have found us completely unprepared on the ranch. Just like not getting these cows moved before they started calving, many projects that we normally would have done before calving, sit undone. I find myself wishing for another few weeks of winter, for me and the ranchwork. After embracing that season of quiet solitude, I find I want to retreat back and hide away again.

We eventually find all the calves, each one looking healthy and alert. Jon writes down numbers, lamenting all the work that still needs done. He tells me he was relating some of this work to be done to the new hired man, who responded assuredly, “We’ll get there.”

We’ll get there. Amen. The hope, assurance, and grace in that statement is so refreshing. Not just for the ranchwork, but for us personally. My family and I are going to counseling right now, and through that process I am being asked to recall and begin healing from many deep-rooted hurts in my life. I’m learning to see Jesus as my tender-hearted healer, who is walking with me through all things good and bad. He knows I’m not there yet, and loves me in the process and mess and hurts. He holds my hand and says assuredly, “You’re not there yet, but keep holding on to me and we’ll get there together.”

And I am sure of this, that he who began a good work in you will bring it to completion at the day of Jesus Christ.

Philippians 1:6
Posted in Nebraska Sandhills

~Seasons of Life~

Above all, trust in the slow work of God.
We are quite naturally impatient in everything
to reach the end without delay.
We should like to skip the intermediate stages.
We are impatient of being on the way to something
unknown, something new.


And yet it is the law of all progress
that it is made by passing through
some stages of instability—
and that it may take a very long time.       And so I think it is with you;
your ideas mature gradually—let them grow,
let them shape themselves, without undue haste.
Don’t try to force them on,
as though you could be today what time
(that is to say, grace and circumstances
acting on your own good will)
will make of you tomorrow.     

Only God could say what this new spirit
gradually forming within you will be.
Give Our Lord the benefit of believing
that his hand is leading you,
and accept the anxiety of feeling yourself
in suspense and incomplete.

Pierre Teilhard de Chardin

It’s a beautiful last day of February. A blue sky holds fast to wisps of cirrus clouds and contrails, stretching them long and slow into the azure expanse. Most of the snow has melted, and the temperature today is already near sixty before noon. A westerly wind flips tendrils of hair around my face, and the sun is warm and pleasant as I step out of the pickup to talk to my husband while he straps the bunks to the flatbed trailer.

Standing in the meadow, I find I feel a little out of sorts. Today is my daughter’s first day back at school since her automobile accident in December. I’ve helped a little with ranchwork since she began getting better—tagging along for feeding, giving a ride to help move machinery, one day I even helped trail some cattle across the highway. But this feels different to me. A returning to our normal lives. A crawling out of the slog of doctor appointments and hospitals and her being wheelchair bound. An ending to this winter that I had fully embraced, with hints of the hopeful spring and better days ahead for all of us.

Jon says he always feels like winter takes forever. The month of January especially, he says, drags on and on. The winter feeding gets monotonous, and we all get a little bogged down in the daily drudgery of it. And this year, for us, has felt even more so. I think, in some ways, when we go through difficult times or hardships, it can feel similar to a long winter. A season in our life of sorrow and darkness and pain. Some of us want to claw out of it as quickly as we can, getting back to those rosy-glow days as soon as possible. And really, no one signs up for days of difficulty—who in their right mind would ask life for a big heaping plate of hardships? What I found, though, this year—in really sitting quiet and seeking God in this tough season of my life—is that there is unseen beauty and work being done in winter. A restoration and replenishing in the dormancy. Perhaps I needed this winter. Perhaps I needed to be brought to my knees and humbled to learn the things that God wanted to teach me. To see that a spring is not possible without a winter.

Later, I drive in to town and pick up my daughter from school. She is exhausted and says she nearly fell asleep a few times in class. She lays her head back on the seat, closing her eyes, and I let my mind drift as we drive home. I am anxious for the spring—both the literal and figurative—ready to move forward and be done with hard things. I scan the hills, looking for any signs of green. I find none; it is too early. Underneath, I know it waits. The verdant shoots and tender sprigs are there, forming within the roots and seeds in the ground. Ready and waiting for the right time to burst forth. Waiting for God’s good and perfect timing. And so it is with me, as I wait and learn patience. Trusting in the slow work of God in the soil of my soul, for the spring that lies ahead.

And I am sure of this, that he who began a good work in you will bring it to completion at the day of Jesus Christ

Philippians 1:6 ESV

Posted in Nebraska Sandhills

~February 19th~

It’s 5:30 p.m. and I am outside for a walk. My dear friend got me a Fitbit for my birthday—one of those smart watches that you wear on your wrist, that tells you how many steps you go each day and how poor you sleep and how much more you need to be getting off your duff and moving each day. As a consequence, I am outside walking. Trying to move more, trying to sleep better, and trying to get these steps in before the day is through. What is remarkable about this—not necessarily that I’m outside walking—but rather the time of day I’m doing it. Five-thirty in the evening and it is still light enough for me to go outside for a walk. A month ago, it certainly would have been too dark.

I hoof it up and down the asphalt section of our road, then head north on the gravel part. The road turns soft and springy under my feet, the sand and gravel are wet with recent snow melt. The air smells damp, the scent pushed along by a southwest wind skirting across the meadow, and the breeze makes the grasses and naked sunflower tops dance along the prairie. The cloudless sky softens with cool blues and purples, and the little ponds and wet spots in the meadow reflect the calm evening colors of the sky in the narrow water rims that surround slumpy ice in the middle. Three geese waddle lackadaisical across the valley, dipping their necks and probing their bills into the soft ground.

I know next week is supposed to drop to sub-zero temperatures, but right now the earth hints and teases at a coming spring. I think of years past, in the later half of February, when temperatures tenuously peek into the 60s and the sand and dirt begin to thaw. When you kick over a cow chip in the meadow, surrounded by dormant yellow grass, and reveal verdant tender shoots in a tangled mashed web underneath. When those first few geese and ducks fly in, and you feel that sleepy pulse of winter quicken, all those initial little tastes of spring that make a soul so hopeful.

The temperatures will dip, I know. Snow will fall again—soon—I know. An entire month of winter remains by the calendar. But tonight, I’m savoring these nibbles of spring floating across the evening breezes, as my dog and I leave soft prints in the road as we walk. I’m breathing deeply of the spongy dirt, the damp sand, the melting snow and new mud. I’m relishing the geese in their dapper suits parading across the meadow, wondering if they will stay through the coming cold spell. As I approach the yard, the security light flickers on. My whole being feels alive with the rhythm of the promise of this evening—spring, spring, spring will surely come again.