Yesterday I took my horse on a ride (or rather, he took me) through a new winter landscape. A countryside we haven't explored before. Winter this year has come on gently; no parka, no scarf wrapped up to my eyeballs. And the snow -- it's different this year. The stubble of last year's crops rises above its soft surface. It only lies deep where the forest protects it from the wind (and we rode through there, too).
I kept looking around and thinking about how things lie dormant. How they never really die, they just close themselves up and wait. There is nothing more patient than winter trees. They know the verdant life they hold inside of themselves, and they close it up and hold it tight and wait. They hold in their crooks the brambling nests of hawks, empty -- abandoned. The forest waits in silence for a season it knows in its bones will come again.
Unsure where to go in this unfamiliar wood, we followed a fence line, which took us past an old farm. The house was small, but two stories, and had at one point been painted yellow. The windows were all dark, some smashed in. Everything looked broken and warn. The shed had a collapsed roof; the big red barn had collapsed from underneath itself: the loft and roof were still intact, but the base of the structure was gone. The snow in the farmyard was undisturbed.
I looked at this scene and imagined who might have lived there. A family, in the house they built themselves and painted yellow. A clothesline, a dog. Kids running out to the barn to do their chores. Pioneers. Hard work. Their prairie lives, like the one I lie awake and think about late at night. Forging a home through the wilderness, through a stark winter with only a wood-burning stove to warm them. Only their determination to make things work.
Where did they go? Why did they abandon their life on this farm? Everything looked so right. Like it had once been idyllic. Can it ever return?
I wondered if someday someone would come across my own home and wonder the same things about the place we've left behind. What will they know about my life?