I got the coffee ready on the stove and placed the remaining 3/4ths of the quiche I made for dinner last night into the oven. As the percolator rocked and the cabin filled with the smells of the warming breakfast—I invited Jazz to join me on the couch. He leapt up and buried his head into my chest. His tail thumped as I held his face and kissed his forehead. It was far too early and dark to see the farm outside for chores. So while we waited for daylight to catch up with us, I pet my dog, grabbed my old guitar, and played a song with breakfast.
By the time the dogs and I had our fill (I ate like a bird; too nervous to really enjoy the food) and I had enough coffee to scare normal people into caffeine celibacy—it was time to get outside. The last day of chores as a Vermonter.
This is the swan song for this incarnation of Cold Antler. In a few weeks the cabin will be empty, the yard quiet, and not a single rooster will break into morning yodels here. I don't know if the neighbors will be heartsick or relieved at the change. Truthfully, I try not to think about it. While I went about the morning rounds of sheep, chicken, and rabbit care I listened to soft music in my headphones and let myself lack any specific focus. Then I discovered just how hard it is to meditate when you realize you just acquired 13 new animals overnight...
The big speckled doe gave birth to a giant litter of kits! Inside the nest box were 13 wriggling little babes—some pink, some spotted, some near black. They were all alive and well and the mother was doing fine. This marks the first litter of meat rabbits at the farm, and the fact it was on the day I closed on my new home seemed almost written for a script. I reached into the furry nest box and pulled out a tiny kit. I held the newborn in my palm, warm and close. I watched the rays of steam come off its fragile, chubby body in my hand. I melted at the poetry but quickly returned it to its family. I smiled at the small success. If crows didn't come; kits had.
With the blessing of the new litter I headed inside to prepare for the big day. I had originally planned to bring Jazz with me, but when I realized how much driving was involved, and how long the day might be for a healing animal—I decided to let him and Annie rest at the cabin. Yet the idea of closing alone was depressing. I wanted someone with me to share in the sublime moment. So I grabbed my beat up Gibson guitar and set it by the front door. That'll do.
A little backstory: I bought this 1957 black guitar on eBay, thinking it might be a J-45. It was bidding at a steal, and when I won it a few weeks ago, I was thrilled that my dream guitar was finally coming into my life.
I was wrong. When I opened the shipping box I realized I didn't see the instrument for what she really was. The assumed J-45 was actually an old LG. A smaller bodied, curvier, and lighter instrument than my original crush. At first I was upset. Had I known it was an LG and not my 45 I would have let her go to someone else. But time heals all wounds, and now that she's here (and what I play every night) I have grown to adore her. The old guitar had become a good friend. If a dog could not join me on this fine day, this scrappy guitar would be a fine second choice. I loaded her in the truck, turned on the music, and we drove down the mountain towards the rest of the day.
It was all starting now.
On my way I pulled into Wayside to grab a cup of coffee. I also wanted to pick up something small to walk into the new house with. The store had been my home away from home since I moved from Idaho and wanted a piece of it to join me. I found a glass case near the magazines with a pile of tiny jade-like Buddhas in every shape and size. I found a small Japanese Buddha (not the fat, happy one holding coins) and bought it for a few dollars. As I climbed back into the truck, I set the little green statue on the passenger seat. Together me, Buddha, and the Gibson drove to the bank. We had not see a single crow the whole time since leaving the cabin half an hour ago. I gripped the steering wheel tighter.
After the cashier's check was made, and my obligations met, I headed over to Chem Clean to service the truck. I pulled up next to the air and Chris, a neighbor an attendant, noticed the case in the front seat. Chris is a fine guitarist and helped himself to a few tunes on the Gibson while I checked tire pressure. As I pressed air I could hear Black Bird playing from the other side of the Ford. It was beautiful. I stuck around for a while to talk with Alan and Suzanne (who run the shop) and got to meet their two new Siberian Husky puppies. I held the little girl in my arms while her brother ran around in circles on his blue lead. Not many gas station in America offer concerts and puppies. Chem clean gets a lot of my business.
I drove faster than I should have. The music was loud and emotional. I was listening to a new passion of mine, Gregory Alan Isakov. I was drumming with my thumbs on the wheel while the violins started to shudder in The Empty Northern Hemisphere. As I crossed the state line into New York I felt the rush of quiet panic stirred with the excitement of something new. A few miles up the road, as the song galloped into the bridge, a pair of crows flew over the truck. I let out a long exhale. Everything would be okay.
The rest of the afternoon was a blur. A pile of meetings, lawyers' offices, paper work and hand shakes. The whole time I was signing the documents I could not believe this was actually happening. The idea of owning my own farm just a few months ago was unheard of. My credit score was horrible. I didn't have a savings account. I had no real plan to find or buy land...and yet here I was, four short months later, being asked if I wanted extra title insurance and being handed a set of keys. When all was said and done I stood up from the heavy wooden desk and realized I was shaking, like I was in love.
I think I was.
I drove back to the house, my house, as it started to rain. I had a thick packet of papers and a smile that would not hide. I kept checking my phone to hear word from friends and family. Two coworkers would be coming over with pizza and beer later to celebrate. My parents showered congratulations. I thanked them all over and over. But despite their kindness, I could not wait to hang up and go home. I wanted to walk around the property like an addict: planning housing, running extension cords, making the place come back to life. That dead farm was about to get a few hits of Jenna. It would resuscitate, and thrive, and feed people again. I was drunk on the dream turning into reality. I wanted more. I wanted to be in the house. I drove like it.
Then I almost hit Stumpy.
Stumpy was an aging Golden Retriever, walking down the middle of Route 22 (a busy, rural highway) and not at all swerving to miss cars. People who noticed him cut him a wide berth, and others slammed on the brakes. I knew his name was stumpy because I pulled over, and hollered "Hey! Dog!" and he trotted towards me and I read his tags. A line of cars was slowing down to watch this dumb girl try to flag down the senile dog, but I ignored them. (If that was my dog I'd want someone to call the name on the collar.) So Stumpy sat with me on the side of the highway, and we got acquainted. I called his owners and they said they'd be down to pick him up. While we waited I told him about my day. I was grateful to have met him, he got me to slow the hell down and just sit. His pedestrian ways, lacking what they lacked, let me take in what was actually happening. And I was secretly happy to have an arm around a dog. Dogs are my people. We talked like old friends. I was somewhat sad to see him hop into his owners car.
Keys in hand, dog rescued, and just a mile from my new house I drove down the road a little slower. I pulled into the driveway and grabbed Buddha and the guitar. I opened the door and stepped into the warm house, which was filled with rays of afternoon light. It was so much brighter then the cabin was; even on her best days. I set down my keys and the tweed case and walked around, trying to catch my breath. I felt the staircase like it was slightly electric. I walked the rooms like the walls were lined with impressionists. Everything was drank in. Everything made me feel brand new.
I sat down on the floor, opened the guitar case, and played a song. Upward Over the Mountain rang through the old farm house and echoed upstairs. I played it like it was the last song I'd ever get to play. I sang to no one, and that made it even stronger.
Mother don't worry I've got a coat and some friends on the corner.
Mother don't worry, he'll have a garden. We'll plant it together.
Mother remember the night that the dog had her pups in the pantry?
Blood on the floor and fleas on their paws and you cried till the morning?
So may the sunrise bring hope where it once was forgotten.
Sons are like birds flying always over the mountain.
...sitting there, sweaty and excited, daunted and alone, I sang. I was overwhelmed and happy. Really happy. But understanding and feeling those things all at once, I started to cry. It wasn't a cry that belonged to any particular emotion. It was a homily and a eulogy; hope and fear; desire and despair. I just cried. I held a black guitar against my chest, shook, and cried. Some things can't be helped.
So much of my story is about wanting. To finally have it is a relief so complicated and beautiful it breaks me to understand it.
Crows fly. Buddha sits. I farm.