I walk up behind the Bearded One and kiss his neck. “I’m hitting on you,” I say.
“Ouch,” he says and grins.
I laugh but I get the message. I’ve gotten a little mean this week. I start out nice — asking him to make the oatmeal this morning please — and then the temperature rises and I am compelled to imply that this behavior is actually expected, once in a while.
There are excellent reasons for my bitchiness, of course. Dream demons, twitchy legs, squeaky doors, football, the weather, hormones. I’ve been cleaning and putting away holiday decorations, assessing my life and wondering about the New Year, and hauling around a pile of gardening books hoping to learn by osmosis. All indoors. The truth is that I can plan all sorts of projects for winter, but there’s nothing for the psyche like just being outside.
“I’m working outside today,” I announce, and the Bearded One nods. He has seen cabin fever before.
January garden jobs in the Pacific Northwest are busy work, I think as I troll the wet grass and scan the bleakness. It’s stopped raining and the wind is blowing.
I see the wood smoke from our chimney heading straight east. It flavors the balmy air with unmistakable cedar. It’s a warm 40F degrees.
I brush Sage for a long time. It’s been a year this week since these lovely goats came to our farmlet, and I can see huge progress.
We could barely touch their noses while feeding them last year. And now I’m the one who breaks off our session. Time to move on. I strap on my kneepads for the first time in weeks. I have no real plan, just hoping they’ll lead me to another outdoor activity, and they do.
The wheelbarrow squeaks almost as badly as the front door. I back in between the two firewood stacks. A series of tarps cover the stacks, overlapping like shingles on a slope to shed the rain.
I pull the tarps back. Moss and fungi grow on every available surface. The huge cedars overhead creak in the wind, and I begin loading the dried wood. I can hear the Bearded One adjusting the metal extension ladder against the house. He lives outdoors.
I’m trundling the load up to the house when the Bearded One appears on the roof with his broom and soap. The laundry powder, which has no bleach, kills the moss and then washes off in the rain. He does this once a year.
Lunch is easy tuna casserole leftovers, and after we eat, the Bearded One suggests we fix the squeaky front door together. There are 3 pins in the 3 hinges and the Bearded One explains the steps he envisions — even though I don’t envision, my style is to just do — knocking out the pins, setting the heavy door aside, and rubbing Gulf Wax on the inner hinge surfaces. I make an inner vow to be extra sweet to him just for this chore.
I stand at attention as he studies the pins and talks to himself. I tap my mental foot, waiting to get started, wondering exactly what my role is here. What I’m supposed to DO.
Garfield watches from the couch. He meows loudly for a treat. “No,” I say to the cat.
The Bearded One and I maneuver the door out, and I hold it while he explains every step to me ahead of time again, every potential problem and snag, the future hell of putting the pins back in after he slowly doctors the hinges. I pray to the rainbows and unicorns.
Garfield meows again. “NO,” I say. He shuts up, and I look over at my kitty and he then actually moves his mouth — Meeeee-owwwww — but makes no sound whatsoever. Such a smart cat, I think as I take the lesson and listen and nod throughout the entire pin replacement procedure.
Finally the Bearded One swings the now-silent door back and forth. “Done and done,” he says, and I move my mouth, but make no sound. My cabin fever has been turned down.