“Can’t feel fingers.”
This persistent, painful realization plays on repeat in my brain as I move slowly through the snow.
My core is toasty warm, in almost insulting contrast to my frozen extremities.
Perhaps, my fingers are succumbing to the cold water seeping through my gloves as I dump yet another small bucket of nearly frozen water from the next calf hutch?
Or perhaps, it’s the ice forming over my gloves from the aforementioned water?
Or perhaps, it’s simply because it was 60 degrees last weekend, and today I’m wearing 10 pounds of clothes and in denial about the single-digit temp?
No matter, because I still can’t feel my fingers.
These hurt too. But my new $107-on-special winter boots aren’t to blame.
I will admit my toes are just a tad cold, but there is only one toe I’m really stewing about.
It’s my baby toe, left foot, and I’m not sure if it hurts more from being inside my running shoe one too many miles or from being stomped on by a nervous heifer.
Either way, I just hope I don’t loose the toenail.
In the midst of my trek to collect empty bottles and dump out water pails, I look up and realize the clear, crisp beauty of the night. It’s still and it’s cold and it’s clear enough to see millions of stars.
I can also see my breath coming in great clouds, and all the little calves are blowing their own steam puffs through each nostril. I’m thankful for this breath that fills us all with life. In the midst of what now feels like a frozen world, there is still so much life.
And, I know I have much to be thankful for. Not the least of which is a warm home to go home too, where I can thaw my cold limbs and nurse my angry toe.
This trek also brought a startling thought to my mind.
Nights like this, where I battle cold or pain or sleepiness for hours, are just part of my life. At the farm, when there’s a job to be done we must do it.
Sometimes I take breaks when things get hard, but usually I know it’s best just to push through. I’ll get done faster and the animals will have what they need sooner. Then I can warm-up or rest or whatever is necessary.
Perhaps, this is why when I ran my first marathon, I didn’t think it was the hardest thing I’d ever done. I didn’t think it was the ultimate test of my endurance.
Perhaps, just maybe, my life on the farm has already tested me to the limit. It’s on cold, dark nights when yet another newborn calf needs care and all I want to do is quit. But I don’t.
It’s on days when we stare at numbers and talk about dollars and wonder why farming can be such a financial headache.
And it’s on lonely days when the rain falls and the wind howls, and we’ve got to keep our farm running as normal.
I’m not saying running isn’t hard, and I’m not saying 26.2 miles isn’t a crazy long way.
What I will say is many thoughts pop in my brain as I do nightly chores. And now, I think I may have solved my personal mystery of why the marathon didn’t beat me down quite as I expected.
Maybe this whole farm life is making me stronger than I realize. Maybe (or surely) God’s hand in where I’m at right now is perfect and right, in spite of my own questions and doubts.
I’ve tried to capture the night and the night’s thoughts in words, so I’ll show the day in photos…