An August Day
I woke up around 7AM with a headache and the voices of Bryan Safi and Erin Gibson. I fall asleep listening to podcasts and theirs was last night’s. I also had a headache, which had nothing to do with them but did have something to do with drinking a Moscow Mule (heavy on the Moscow) the night before. I have drank so little over the past few weeks that one decent serving of vodka was enough to wake up feeling it. What can I say? It was Friday night and I own a copper mug.
Coffee. Coffee is the thing.
When Friday realizes that I have remembered that coffee exists in the world she crawls, army-style, from her spot at the foot of the bed to directly between Gibson and I and licks my face. Gibson is out cold. I don’t know if this is common for Border Collies but Gibson’s sleep schedule is mine, and unless I stop and take a nap during the day he is up and moving when I am up and moving. So after a long day of being a sheep dog and helping run this joint he sleeps like a corpse. He sleeps so hard sometimes I don't even see his breathing and worry he's died in his sleep. Friday is happy to nap any time any place - so she is fresh as a daisy. (She's also just one year old so this morning thing is still new and exciting to her.) She's eager to run outside to bark at geese and jump in the creek. Gibson is still a log. His back is to us with his head on a pillow. Friday rootched right up between us and puts her head on my chest and looks at me with her coyote yellow eyes to finally get up. I do. Gibson rolls over in a disturbingly human way so he’s on his back laying in the exact same position as a person sprawled on a bed would, yawns, stretches his front paws up in the air and looks at me for decision.
"Coffee. Let’s go."
“Let’s go” is the trigger and before I am dressed they are downstairs waiting at the front door. I let them out and the cats run in from their night of red-painting or whatever it is farm cats do. (Cats and I have a very strict don't ask don't tell policy.) I load up the percolator and feed the kitties their chow and then head out with the dogs. They are right by the front door. Gibson is watching the last place the light’s reflection landed from the glass pane on the dirt. Friday is watching Gibson. If it wasn’t so obsessive compulsive it would be cute. They have paws, so okay, it’s still cute.
Chores are done in our usual fashion. I grab a bucket from the well overflow and carry it to the barn. I rinse and refresh the pig’s water and feed the five piglets in their pen. Wait, there are only three in the enclosure? I turn around to the sound of oinking and two black gilts are parading into the barn, dogs trotting behind them. I watch them sneak back into the pen with their tails wagging, watching me for their breakfast like nothing wrong just happened. They found a way to jump and squeeze in and out of the pen at will, but were close enough not to miss their morning Postmates chick. I make a note to let all the piglets out later to see what they do. If all they want to do is graze and snuffle like chickens I can let them out when I am there to mind the sounder.
Coffee is heaven. I drink it and sit in front of the computer in the living room while the dogs chew on their breakfast bowls with a fresh egg cracked into each. That floor spot is my station ever since my laptop died. I check email, update logo sales & deals on fiddle lessons on Facebook. Most mornings are about marketing. My eyebrows raise at a note send via Facebook message and I get excited when a woman and her daughter show interest in a day at the farm for Fiddle 101. We chat and set up an appointment. I see some interest in the sheep I am selling, too. There is a promise of income and I feel victorious for the possible sales and my Russian headache is now gone. Caffeine and hope is an amazing cure-all.
I turn on Chelsea Handler’s talk show on Netflix and enjoy a second cup. I grab a Fiber One bar because I don’t feel like cooking up eggs and don’t want to eat anything substantial. I find the more active I am and the hotter the day is going to be - the less I want to be weighed down with food. The energy bar is more than enough. I feel the sun coming through the big glass doors and look down at my tanned arms flecked with hay chaff and a chicken feathers and I hear my horse blow out a sigh outside. That alchemizes into a gut desire. I want to go riding.
I head outside again, this time in proper riding boots instead of farm muckers. No wait, my riding boots are my farm muckers. I really need to buy new boots but have been putting it off. There are cracks and holes in the much-loved Dublins I am wearing, but these boots are true fighters. I have splashed through creeks following my hawks, ridden hundreds of miles, mucked pens, delivered hay, butchered pigs, and a thousand miscellany farm chores in them. They did more than I should dare ask a piece of clothing. So I forgive my choice of shod and head outside in a tank top and favorite jeans. I head to the pasture to get my horse.
I ride Merlin for an hour. We take our usual route through the trails on the mountain over on my neighbor's property. When I bought my land I had no idea I had moved next door to a large animal vet and a retired chief of police. I also didn’t know that I’d be allowed to ride my horse and hunt with my birds on nearly everyone's property. Sometimes this whole mountain feels like my own. I feel amazing as he runs up the mountain. It's just starting to get hot out and his black neck feels warmer than the sunlight. His face and mane have gone a little whiter this year but he’s still fit and lovely. The bugs aren’t so bad either this early in the day. I ride to the outcrop of field that looks over the whole valley, the highest point we can reach. We take in the view, all clear blue sky and summer’s promise. Then I look behind me and see that my neighbor’s parents are at the cabin up high on the hill and I wave to them and they wave back at me. I ride off back to the trail to give them their untarnished view. The tiny imposter in me feels like I shouldn't be on their hillside and I feel a little guilt as we trot away.
We ride and I think about the next bit of the book I am writing. Merlin picks up speed and I get the idea to write about the perfect hollowness I have learned from riding and/or listening to music when hungry. How it pulls my center better. I know that makes no sense right now, but I’ll come back and hash it out on my computer. I make a mental note and keep riding.
We cross through field and wooded paths. We duck under trees and jump fallen logs. Merlin stops to drink from the creek and splash in the water. We hear the cries of a red tail hawk and both of us look up to see a juvenile bald eagle fly above us. There is drama in the skies, but here on land there’s just a horse, a girl, and some cottontails in the brush. No signs of young bears but the plott hound hunters are out and about. I see the trucks with the dogs in box crates in the beds and know they are out baiting bears and training their dogs to tree them. I don’t know enough about bear hunting to have an opinion on it, but I know I don’t want those dogs near my farm again. Last year they tore apart the chicken tractors and tried to eat $600 worth of meat birds for sport. Bear dogs my ass.
I ride home and feel good. So good I throw on running gear and head out for 6.5 miles. I'm fine with admitting right here, right now, that this was a stupid idea.
I love running but the temperature and humidity had risen hard and fast. It's easy to not notice in the shade of mountain trails on a horse. But by the time I was pounding the pavement I had spent a morning doing farm chores, freelance work, and trail riding all on one energy bar and two cups of coffee. I should have at least drank some water before I headed out with my old iPod nano. I didn't. I was on a pony high and feeling summer in my bloodstream. I just wanted more heat.
About an hour into the run I realized my headache was back and I was ready to throw up. This isn't normal. Monday I ran 13 miles without so much as a side stitch, but this morning I was low on energy, sweating bullets, and very dehydrated. I ran home feeling dizzy. When I got there I sat in the shade of the large maple and felt my heart rate slow down as I counted slow breathing. My skin cascaded in goosebumps as I shivered through the cooling down process of body temperature regulation. It's a weird thing, to feel yourself get chills on an 88-degree afternoon with 78% humidity. Too hot, not enough fuel, alcohol the night before and coffee in the morning and zero water. I told you it as a stupid idea.
I recovered fast enough though and drank enough water to smite a small god. I stretched and let the dogs out of the house to run around the yard. I checked all the critter's water supplies and that no more piglets were rampaging. When all was five by five I threw on a swimsuit and headed to the river. Take that, heat stroke.
When I got to the river I saw a lot of cars at the Georgi's Parking lot. Maybe 10? For a public park that is practically empty but being a weekday swimmer I am used to being in the river by myself. What can you expect though on a hot Saturday afternoon? I walk out in my flip flops, swim suit, and running shorts. No towel. I walk past a retired gentleman on a bench overlooking the river. He is sporting a pony tail and playing Champagne Supernova on acoustic guitar, singing his heart out. I love it.
I jump in and my body nearly convulses from the cold. Holy crow! The recent rain and the cooler nigh (it was 56 degrees when I woke up) gave the river a chill and more speed. I am swept down and glide into a breaststroke, dodging rocks and enjoying the ride. Some people just find pools to lollygag in but I love jumping in upstream and swimming with the current. It's the opposite of running - which is all fighting to stay forward. Here I am being carried by ice and power. I enjoy each extreme and can see brown trout five feet below me, swimming in the clear river water as I hover past like some fresh-water sea lion.
Now I am tired. Something about the baptism and restoration of the cold water (which now is just pleasant, not cold at all) makes my body want to curl up on a blanket in a sunny spot and pull off a cat nap. I walk back to my truck and sit, sopping wet on the towel - which is only there to protect my seat cushion from getting river wet. I roll down the windows and blare the Hamilton Soundtrack as I air dry on the 4 mile ride home.
At home I flirt with the idea of a nap but realize only my body is tired, not my brain. I change into a kilt and clean tank top and let my hair air-dry in the sun. I slide on a bracer and archery glove and grab my bow and arrow. I shoot a few dozen arrows into my target near the barn and am happy with the accuracy after a few days off practice. If the target was a deer it would be dead. I relate most of my successes with whether or not I'd be fed.
Now it's heading towards late afternoon and there is another round of evening chores to head into. I let out the dogs and notice the two cats lounging in the sun like a pair of lions on a hot rock. They have zero interest in doing anything at all. I nap vicariously through them and head back into chores, but this time before I feed the piglets I open their pen. They run out like hooligans and do wonderful piglet things. The dogs, who are not used to herding swine, just watch them like fellow canines they don't want to associate with. This is how my collies feel about Labradors and Terriers - they cut them a wide berth. So the dogs are doing dog things. The pigs are doing pig things. The sun is out. The chores are mostly done. And I decide to go and fetch my ukulele. I sit and strum for them.
My evening winds down. I don't dare drink a Moscow Mule or any sort of booze at all. I do enjoy an easy quick dinner of steamed broccoli and seasoned beef tips. One meal a day, usually in the evening, always plants and animals - is my new normal. I decompress with a movie. I a working my way through Edgar Wright's list of 1000 favorite films (not in order, but as inspo) and feel the way I did in college being introduced to new experiences and titles. I consider myself a movie buff, but not 1000-favorites-of-a-favorite-director list. I resent Up in the Air not being on it. I get over it, quick. So far this week I've seen Walkabout and Phantoms of Paradise for the first time and fell in love all over again with Love and Death. God, I love movies. And I love them even more tired from a long day with food. I watch the glowing screen like a child, all wonder.
I head to bed when I see Gibson head up first. If a border collie is ready to pack it in, take the hint. We turn on the fan in the window and fall asleep in clean sheets. Tommorrow looks like rain but there is still a hay delivery to get into the barn before the storms, and a couple coming to see sheep they might buy. I'm taking the day off running but not off caffeine. I fall asleep already excited for coffee and another start. When your adventure is your backyard and your neighborhood is your sound stage for the movie of your dreams - you sleep well.