Sunday, June 23, 2013

Red & Green

There's a red line across the lawn, subtle and loud at the same time. The arterial blood is sparse but so bright against the June green that I can't help but think of color wheels in my elementary art classes. "Listen up girls and boys, green is the opposite of red." and this was proven on a chart. It made sense to me in ways math never did. I suppose those more mathematically minded were just as confused at the random circle of colors on a chart. At least in math you were trained to know exactly why everything was the way it was. Certainty was a given. Us artists were forced to believe.

The red blood trail is from the necks of the two pigs I had raised since late winter. Their names were Rye and Whiskey, after two libations I very much appreciate as a single writer on a mountainside. They grew up to a fine size and today a team of slaughterhouse workers from Stratton Custom meats (including Greg Stratton himself) arrived in 90-degree heat to kill, skin, gut, and divide the two hogs. This all happened just a cookout was wrapping up. I had company over, friends who co-owned the pigs and wanted to be there for the slaughter. Before the big show we decided to have a cookout and six of us sat outside under the big maple with Standard Farm's Beef Hotdogs and Venison sausage, homemade potato salad (Cathy even made the mayonnaise from scratch) and strawberry shortcake. It was a feast and exactly what we needed in the humid heat of a day suitable for baling hay, not for killing pigs.

But the pigs were killed and the work was good. The line of blood from barn to the driveway was red as could be. All along it chickens picked at it, proving to the world they were indeed omnivores. They ate up the red blades of grass as if someone had poured balsamic vinaigrette on them.

When the company left and the pigs were hauled off to the butcher shop I cleaned up from the picnic and realized I was dripping with sweat from every pour in my body. Two days in a row were spent working outside and in this intense heat. I had earned a sunburn of some account. Blessed on top of that red skin was blood, both mine and the pigs. I had loaded fifty pounds of entrails, heads, skins and hooves into the woods in a garden cart and dumped it where coyotes could sing to it, far from the farm house and chicken coops. But the trip out to that lonely orchard left me bleeding all over and some rose thorns were still sticking out of my skin as walked back to the house. I ignored them. Complaining about scratches was as pointless as complaining about heat. I accept any and all discomfort as normal, part of being the range animal I am. I never prefer to be hot or cold, dry or wet, alone or in company. Whatever life throws at me I just accept and trot through it. It got me this far.

In this case I was ready for a river though. Bloody and tired, sun burnt and dripping, I craved the Battenkill. I jumped in the truck with a book and a towel and drove the five minutes down the road to Pook's swimming hole. It's a parking area near a cornfield where locals go to fish and swim. I was one of twenty two trucks and pulled into an open spot. Children, dogs, and adults were swimming. Tubers and fly fishermen alike kept us company. I didn't have a swimsuit on. I had on the tank and sports bra I was wearing to kill pigs in and a pair of nylon capri pants. I jumped in like the river was where I belonged.

And it was! Cold water, running current, friendly faces. I knew a few folks there and chatted. I swam and fought the flow. I sat waist deep in the running water and read my book. It was the perfect baptism. When I left I had a towel wrapped around my waist and a grin on my face. It was only 4 in the afternoon and practically the Solstice. I had hours of daylight left. If this was October it would only be noon.

I air dried in the hammock, swinging and reading. When I couldn't take being still any longer I grabbed Merlin and changed into a kilt and riding boots. We headed up the mountain and the wind from his gallop dried my river-wet hair. He was soon covered in sweat and so was I and when we stopped in a stream for a drink I leaned over his neck to rub him and tell him how amazing he was. His sweat ran into mine between my fingers and I thought of an old college friend who used to share with us in dorm rooms the utter disgust he felt when he learned (from a play) that horses sweat. I tried to find that disgust and like the math from my childhood its logic wasn't there. Merlin and Jenna were green and red, grass and blood, opposite and necessary. We trotted back to the farm.

A few hours later I was back in the hammock. I had a cold drink, a good book, and Merlin and Jasper were high on the hillside eating grass in the pasture far from the house. I was finally tired. I could feel the wind lift up my thin hair between the cotton ropes of the swing and heard the distant rumbles of thunder. I smiled and curled my spine deeper into the hammock's arms. This day was all mine. The work, the sacrifice, the river, the horse, and now that sound I crave with such hope and force. When I hear thunder I am physically excited. Rain started in drops and then a torrent. I went inside and Gibson curled up at my feet certain I could protect him from the ruckus. I did. I held him close and asked him the same question I always ask him, 'Are you getting all the love you need?'

It's nearly dark now and the rain is over. The fireflies are coming out, gently but with purpose. I once glowed at the prospect of sex, myself. I welcome them in this wild, wet, world. Outside, barefoot and distracted, I realize I have walked across the bloody line on my way to the well to carry buckets to the horses. I check my feet and realize the blood is now gone, washed away. Everything is green again, damp and pumping with life. Fireflies flash alongside stray cries of lightning. I think to myself that I hope there's a thunderstorm right after I pass from this world as well. What could be more of an affirmation of the continuation of energy than an electric storm heard by thousands satiating a whole world?

Fast, fast dog.