Spring is ugly. It is cold and muddy. The yard is sloppy and muddy, the driveway is flooded and muddy, the dogs are stinky and muddy, the horses are shedding and muddy. Even the sky manages to look muddy. I am muddy too.
All winter, I imagine a Technicolor spring. I long for little green shoots bravely poking out of the ground, returning birds, blue skies, a photogenic season. After months shut in the house with my thoughts, I want to picnic in the pasture, to lay down on warm earth and throw my arms open to the sun. I want to thaw.
Instead there are endless days of rain, fog and drear. Roadside snow turns icy, black and toxic-looking. The receding ice age reveals eternally bright plastic bottles and flattened paper artifacts stripped of color. On our farm, five months worth of horseshit is exposed. It drives me nuts. I stand at the paddock gate and assess. Half the paddock is still under a foot of snow, the rest is boot-sucking bog. I’ll have to live with it awhile longer.
The horses, wet, mud-splashed and apparently balding, are itchy and irritable. Jetta glares at me. Styx widens her eyes in an I-really-don’t-LIKE-this stare. They look like a Humane Society ad.
I bring them into the barn for grain and to dry off. Jetta hustles for her stall, the dogs hurry to get out of her way. Sabbath purrs around my ankles and avoids wet mud on my boots. Styx plods in, then stops in the middle of the aisle. We all turn and look at her. I can hear water gently dripping off her coat. She plants her hooves, stretches out her powerful neck, and gives an almighty shake. It starts at her head—her ears flap wildly-- and works its way down neck, shoulders, body, butt and tail. Muscles and skin ripple and blur. Styx weighs a thousand pounds: this more like watching an earthquake than an animal. Muck flies. Everything in a ten foot radius is splattered. Sabbath vanishes; I hear the cat-door on the tack room slap shut. The dogs, frozen in place and stippled with fresh mud, look impressed. Jetta, safe in her stall, chews hay and takes no notice.
Styx, wet hair spiking out in all directions, lowers her head and regards me with one dark eye. She does not move. I step forward to wrap my arms around her neck; her coat is cold and dirty but underneath she is warm, steady and strong. I lay against my horse’s heartbeat. After a moment that seems to last a season, I straighten up and step back. She blows out a breath and clomps into her stall. I wipe God-knows-what off my face and go get the grain.