Frankie’s having troubles with his kick-down throttle rod. Apparently when this happens you can’t get your full throw on. I nod as though I understand, but talk like this turns the poet inside me on. Imagine!—the metaphors for when the bend in your throttle link doesn’t hit your kick down linkage.
It’s April and you’ve promised the next photo of winter lilacs to a friend whose river has been running low. Almost as low as yours. You think a short hike will cure what ails you—through snow drifts to the lilac bush near that ladder still waiting for the painter who by now is obviously never coming back. Accepting that your taupe-colored house will always sport a vertical green stripe on its southeast corner puts a kink in your throttle’s bend.
And when you arrive at the lilac bush, camera set on macro, you find no snow on your bloom. So much for sending that winter lilac shot. There’ll be no cheering up now that the Snow On Bloom moment is gone. All you can do, now, is send a photo of a blooming lilac with the painter’s ladder in the way.
A photographer in Glacier National Park shares with me a photo of Bear grass blooms. It’s May and up there he has snow on his blooms. New plants shoot off from the rhizomes, he says, but it takes five to ten years for that plant to bloom.
The way the river cuts the bank after last year’s flood has all the farmers worried about their alfalfa crop this year. My sister invites me out to the farm and we walk the banks, making sure no stray sheep are caught in the chokecherry brambles. The sheep have eaten the bushes to the point where there will be no chokecherries this year. And last year’s flood has traded top soil for silt. She tells me life on the farm means constantly accepting that nothing lasts.
But still, I envy her. The garden plot renamed The Library for its soothing quiet between the willow groves—not everyone has that. And what library comes with its own pasture (The Library Pasture) with three golden horses chomping on premium grass.
Shh, she says. Let’s get closer.
We both love the sound of chomp, the sound inside a horse’s mouth. We squat down and listen. In the far pasture sheep bells bong and chime. Mama ewes baa to their lambs and the babies answer back. They know a stranger is on their farm—stay closer, the mamas warn. The ewes and lambs know each other by the tone of one another’s baa.
Ten feet away, a bay gelding grazes along the fence. My sister whispers that he won’t last another year. It’s almost more than she can bear. No more Doc Steady on the farm. And when he eats, we don’t hear chomp. Instead, we hear a sort of slide and stretch of grass pulling through old teeth. Doc doesn’t have what it takes anymore to make a clean decisive chomp. This is the horse my kids learned to ride when they were little. Past that, I can’t think.
A horse’s head can weigh up to three hundred pounds, my sister says. She scoots forward and finds a fallen limb to sit on.
In Italy there are firemen whose only job is to save Parmesan cheese in warehouse fires, I reply. The Angels of Parmesan.
She throws a sideways glance my way. I disbelieve you, her smile teases. If we were sheep we’d know each other without baa-ing. I wait a bit and then I smile back.