Becky Johnson, up on her Dry Well Ranch in South Dakota, sent me this photo a couple of years ago. I love its symmetry and progression, but I’m even more in love with its colors. There is something about the velvety, steely blue of the winter sky that makes it the perfect foil for those dark and hungry bays. That blue roan in the middle almost matches those bays, but its belly reflects the gleaming, snowy ground and the icy sky. I can almost feel the bone-deep cold of that winter afternoon, the horses’ gratefulness for some extra feed.
It is a tall order, appreciating winter, especially when it has been as long and cruel as this one has been. It has been nothing but extra layers, extra time on the feed trucks, and extra checks on pastured cattle and horses. It’s been extra time with the shovel and the snow plow, extra time breaking ice to keep water sources clear, and extra nights in cold barns with cows ready to calve. The piling on of so many extras is enough to cause ranchers to despair.
Joy is the magnesium of human emotions, fleeting and bright and effervescent, but I think it must be so. Too much of it and we would burn out, Icarus too close to the sun, unable to withstand the heat of our own passions. We’re given only fleeting tastes, just enough to give us hope, to stave off what we have already endured and to withstand what is yet to come. I think joy exists simply to give us hope, to get us over the hump of despair, to get through to the other side of that first warm spring day. I try to take every painful situation and learn from it, though I must confess that I don’t yet know what one is supposed to learn from a winter like this except perseverance. We persevere for joy.
Where there is beauty, there is hope, where there is hope there is room enough for joy. When I look at this photo, I see the beauty of winter and find the strength to hold out for joy. Sometimes we need to dig extra deep to see beauty, but it’s always there. You just need to be willing to look for what others have missed. Thank you, Becky, for helping us all to find the beauty in the simple things, for reminding us that it is often in the pasture right in front of us and worth that extra effort. You’ve helped me to feel the first stirrings of that chinook yet to come.