Finding Gratitude in a Winter Storm

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As expected, we were hit by another winter storm this weekend. Rain fell all night then changed to sleet after sunrise. My husband had transported three chilled calves before I even prepared breakfast.

“It’s just ice falling from the sky and the wind is blowing it aside. Worst thing possible for these guys,” he said as he put the second on the floor of the entrance.

I quickly ran out of dry sheets and towels. And the floor area. The third calf ended up in the cab of the pickup, the heater blowing on full blast. As the ice turned to snow and the wind picked up, I started to cover my tracks, load the washing machine, fill jugs with water in case we lost power. Outside, the whole world was as white as a sheet; we couldn’t even see the barn across the yard.

After a hastily prepared lunch, my husband finally came in, his coat soaked, and said, “We did what we could. Now we just have to wait.”

Keep calm

My husband could give a master class on how to stay calm when worrying won’t change the outcome of a situation. I could teach the opposite, but I tried to act normal so the kids didn’t start worrying too.

I took them to the basement to check on the chicks we had brought home the night before. We watched a movie. I added onions and carrots to the roast in the slow cooker. The puppies asked out, then asked to come in, their coats completely covered in snow. I did another laundry. Then another.

Finally, darkness came and I lay down with the children. I read them a story before going to bed, but I could barely hear the sound of my own voice above the howling wind. We turned off the lights and I stayed with them until they fell asleep.

Bottle-feeding

When I went downstairs to give the last bottle of the night for my little bottle, a twin whose mother had rejected her at birth, I didn’t even know if I was tired. I was feeling the kind of tiredness that I knew sleep wouldn’t solve, but in the barn my little calf was dancing with joy at the sight of me. She is so small – half the size of an ordinary calf – and since she had spent most of her short life in the barn instead of being out with the rest of the herd, her white face was so clean that shone in the shaded barn.

She immediately latched onto the rubber nipple and slowly blinked her long lashes in pleasure as her belly filled with warmth.

After feeding her, I fed another calf who was also spending the night in the barn. Once the storm broke, he would return to his mother, but after a rough start, he needed extra care until then. He didn’t really want a bottle, though, and by the time I finished feeding him I was drenched in sweat under my winter coat and coveralls.

Spring

That’s when I realized: Wow, it’s spring! It really won’t last much longer. And now we have humidity. We won’t have to sell all our cows. We will have green grass. I let myself expire for the first time in… weeks? In a year?

The calm stayed with me as I trudged through the yard, an empty bottle under my arm, the wind blowing wildly through the branches of the trees. I looked up to see the light from our windows, a comfortable circle against the darkness. How we still had electricity was a mystery, but I’ve never been so grateful for the warmth of the fireplace, for the comfort of these rooms.

I often write about actively cultivating gratitude in this column because, above all, I need the reminder. Sometimes, however, gratitude rises to meet me when I least expect it. Like in the middle of a storm, in the middle of the night, when I finally realize that everything is really going to be okay.

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