Part 1

I have friends and family all over the country that when I post how cold, I mean really COLD, it can get here in Minnesota . . . . they think I am NUTS to live here and admittedly, it also unfortunately reinforces their awkward vision of Minnesota being inhabited by folks who live in igloos.

Confession . . . . I enjoy playing into their astonishment and fear filled tones of disbelief . . . . and I go a bit overboard in taking an inordinate amount of pride in viewing myself as a Snow Goddess who reigns supreme over the elements.

It has been ridiculously cold here lately. And living on a rural prairie hobby farm, which I lovingly call the Prairie Heart, the deep cold of winter requires a certain stamina. And that stamina is derived from a “creative preparation”. Moving into the cold taps into the mental,
physical, emotional and yes . . . even a spiritual preparation to face the cold and deal ESPECIALLY with the dreaded freezing up of the water pump, automatic horse trough and the chicken water.

A maternal energy ignites …. It is not just a good idea to open up the water . . . it is an imperative. The critters MUST have plenty of access to fresh open water during these deep freezes. Perhaps without this caretaking adrenaline . . . I might not be as motivated to deal with the icy elements as I do. But the adrenaline does reveal some magic.

Charged with the task of battling the elements and delivering water to the animals in my care . . . . there is an odd “high” in suiting up and marching out to the barn with a bucket of hot water in one hand and the iron crowbar in the other. And I do mean suiting up. I zip into a hooded polar fleece “onesie” cowgirl boots, and massive leather gloves lined with a miracle thermo-lining. Much like going into a rodeo -- my cowgirl spirit notches up to high gear. It is the spirit of winning. Icy defeat is not an option.

I have been told that I make sounds of a mountain lion approaching her prey . . . as I move to attack the ice build up on the horse trough. Charlie Horse, sometimes called Chaz by some friends, is my winter buddy. He is an American Paint Horse with a beautiful chestnut color
splash over his heart . . . this marking is sometimes called a “Medicine Shield” and some believe it a sign of being highly spiritual. My Native American friends have told me that they think Charlie is “good medicine”. I do know that he is my 4 legged brother who brings me many smiles. If spirituality is actually a deep sense of humor then Charlie has plenty of spiritual insight, because above all else Charlie brings the power of “droll” to new heights of delight and often reminds me not only to keep it real . . . but also to find the silliness in it all. Chaz
knows that all is well at life’s core. . . and as an avowed anarchist he makes up his own rules. Chaz proudly holds the role as the biggest mischief maker of the herd. He has been known to pick locks and open gates for his horse buddies to dash through and go on adventures as
well as springing chickens from their coops so that they can free range to their heart’s desire.

And it is Charlie who keeps me company when I go out with buckets of hot water and iron crowbars to thaw and smash through frozen horse troughs and the chicken waterers. He stands beside me, inquisitive but wary of the war I engage in with the ice. No matter what, he is there for me with moral support albeit with looks of incredulity at the warrior madwoman I become.

It is a two prong attack – hot water poured over the frozen top . . . . and then the wild rage of attacking the ice with a long crowbar. Most horses would be spooked by the massive blows I give the horse trough. But Charlie stands with a soft eyed observation. I look to him between
major whack attacks and he gives me a puzzled but sincere look of “wow, you’re really worked up aren’t you?” And with that, I usually take it down a notch and go back to the house for more hot water. The hot water does more in battling the ice than my crowbar crazies. But the hot water can’t do it alone – it does need me to break it up. Charlie reminds me when I may have gone a bit over the top with an overzealous exertion of brute force. (Charlie is wary of too much energy . . . as the zen master of conserving energy, he is the king of lollygag on trails . . . he has two gears: slow walks and EXTREMELY SLOW walks).

And it is not just the horse trough that needs to be opened up, the chicken water needs the ice chipped out and I need to use every ounce of energy to pull up the frozen pump handle in the barn.

But when it all gets done, when the goals have been achieved and the water is running and the horses are drinking and the chickens do their sipping and tipping their heads back and swallowing with a glee and the pump handle is pryed up and water flows for refilling all the water receptacles . . . . . there is an exhilaration of the conquering Snow Goddess who conquered the formidable ICE.

This time of year we pay a lot of attention to “goals”. Resolutions get made and . . . . .resolutions are left behind. Just resolving, making a firm decision, determining a course of action and going at it with a righteous fervor . . . . feels a lot like me maniacally hammering at a frozen water trough with a crowbar. At a certain point without pouring the warming hot water over the ice . . . . no matter how determined I am, the trough will stay frozen. My Charlie Horse reminds me that it can’t all be about my determination. Some warmth needs to be added to the equation.