There is a constant drip of melting ice, both outside in nature and inside our decrepit and leaky porch; both are maddening.  No, spring has not arrived.  Spring would offer hope and new birth and sunny warmth.  No, our spring is six months away.  And this weather is a cruel tease.  It’s only a temporary thaw before winter returns with a bitter vengeance.

For now, it can be difficult to see where the ground ends and the sky begins.  It’s often overcast and everywhere we look, there is a dingy mess of melting snow mixed with mud, manure, and spent hay.  Chilly dampness penetrates our clothing, digging deep into our very souls.  And the sunless days, makes one question if it’s morning or late afternoon.  The combination leaves bodies sluggish and minds foggy.

Yet, despite the hazy veil, it is an ugly and brutally, revealing time of year.  There are no colorful distractions like, flowers or camouflaging grasses and leaves.  Instead, it’s a season of reckoning.  A time where the many blemishes and short-comings, both our homestead and temperaments, can be all too obvious.  Every crooked fence post, sagging wire, and pile of scrap metal taunts us.  There are also worn-out vehicles, feed barrels, animal cages, and piles of scrap lumber.  And they’re all out in the wide open, too.  It’s a good thing that we have nothing to hide.

Unlike our neighbors, we don’t have a basement, barn, shed, and garage to shield it all from public view.  While we plan to have them one day, we have had to make do without for over a decade.  Our homestead is still a work in progress.  And despite what others see or believe, Keith and I know there has been progress.  Besides our critters, blisters, and scars, we have thousands of ways to prove it.  Some are already fourteen-feet tall.

Unfortunately, the barriers we have and continue to overcome are seldom as obvious.  And I often wish more people understood “starting from scratch”.  Not only is it labor-intensive, it is messy and time consuming.  Alas, the journey is seldom easy and often slippery.  Meanwhile, chores must still be done.

Twice a day, we slide over slush covered ice and drag through muck, one step at a time.  Personally, I find myself not walking as tall.  Hunching over feels like it lowers my center of gravity and lessens my risk of a fall.  Regardless, I count myself lucky, each time I don’t spill a bucket of feed.  Frankly, I’ve always felt such days can never pass quickly enough.

On such a morning last year, we had just been through two weeks of freeze, thaw, and freeze again temperatures.  It was early and still dark.  And since my aging eyes don’t see as acutely as they once did, it had taken a while for them to adjust.  Naturally, my walking was slower and more cautious.  I started with taking hay down to the goats.  Afterwards, I headed for the chicken shack.

Before I knew it, my right boot slipped out from underneath me.  It, along with my foot, went straight into the air, above my head.  Well, maybe not quite above my head.  My body is also not nearly as flexible, as it was years ago.  Then the rest of my body followed, but in very… slow… motion.  My head, arms, torso, and finally left leg and foot were all air-born.

Meanwhile, I lost my grip on the feed pan in my right hand.  It was hurled to the side and landed in a snowbank.  My whole body was suspended, helplessly above the ground.  Then the law of gravity seized me.  Sadly, I am far from being weightless.  And only the moment before impact became frozen in time.  I clearly remember thinking, “This is gonna hurt!”

There was no time to tuck and roll.  In fact, there was nothing I could do to break my fall or minimize the oncoming damage.  While I tried to relax my muscles, my body only stiffened straight out, like a board.  This ensured that every part of me made full contact, with the unyielding and frozen earth.

The back of my head hit first, followed by my shoulders, elbows and torso, wrists and hips, legs, and finally feet.  As it knocked the wind out of me, I let out a muffled scream.  Instantly, I felt like I was going to vomit.  And as I laid there, I wondered if the stars above me were those in the twilight sky or just in my head.  But it really didn’t matter, because they were all spinning.

As the endorphins kicked in, I rose up onto my left side.  Once there, I got up on my left knee and finally made it to my feet.  Apparently, my right side took more of the impact.  So, I nursed my right shoulder, arm, and wrist.  And as I groaned in pain, I shed some tears.  I also wanted to head straight to the house.  Instead, I retrieved the feed pan and completed my chores.  Unfortunately, they then took twice as long to complete.

On the way back to the house, I found myself in shock.  It wasn’t from the fall.  Instead, I was shocked to find myself wanting the comfort of my mother.  I wanted to cry a river of tears.  I wanted to run to her, 1200 miles away.  I needed her to scoop me up into her arms and hold me through the pain.  I longed for her to wipe away my tears and tell me everything would be o.k.

Once I got past our leaky porch, I checked my head in the bathroom mirror.  There was no denying that I had a lump.  There was also no denying that I was fifty-years old.  It showed.  And since I was fifty, that made my mother… seventy.  The reality was nearly as unforgiving and painful as my fall.  Alas, five decades had just slipped away.

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