After Winter (A Short Story)

The farmer’s wife had just finished her morning chores. In the quiet of the morning, she shuffled silently across the snow back to the house: out from the front of the barn, past the chicken coop, across the frozen driveway, and toward the old white farmhouse.

As she neared the back door, she glanced sideways, stopped suddenly, and turned. There in the naked branches of an overgrown forsythia bush, she saw something new she hadn’t noticed before.

It was old, actually but new to her.

What she saw there brought a flicker of movement in her winter-wearied heart: a tiny bird’s nest.

It’s so tiny. Is it a hummingbird nest? she whispered aloud and to herself.

How did I miss this?

She asked, but she already knew. She was busy.

Busy preparing for what comes after winter: lambs, the summer garden, new piglets and chickens, haying time, animals moving to pasture, and on and on. There were logistics to coordinate, chicks to order, inventory to count, pens to clean out, dates to schedule, and communications to be sent.

And she was busy with what came before: their fall farm expansion had depleted every reserve of energy and resource she had, and her body was showing the signs of neglect and stress. Her breaths often came out in sighs. Her mind traveled outside of the room where her hands were working. Her eyes stared, not at the people and places in front of her.

She was busy living. What else?

So the nest had gone unnoticed amid the hustle. For a whole year, it had rested and waited, patiently, to offer its message. Until now.

It was a jewel of a nest. A humble gem of beauty in the perpetually desolate landscape that she had come to know as a northern winter.

And as she stood there and gazed at this miracle of life and nature, she remembered: spring.

And she remembered to hope.

She remembered what was available to her all along, the hope of transformation. She remembered that all things will be made new, that death will bring forth life, and that there is a season for everything.

And as she stood in the cold, admiring with minutes she didn’t have, she slowed. Dread was displaced by expectation, and she breathed deeply. A veil of haze parted, and her mind fixed itself on promises that would be kept. The fringes of her surroundings came into focus, and her eyes began to see again.

I’ve got to slow down, she told herself. Or I’m going to miss it.

(The now, the present, the real.)

Despite what is not, there is still what IS.

Then the farmer’s wife turned aside and toward the door. Her family had been waiting, for more than her physical presence. She was glad to go back, for her inner life had revived.

She hoped again.

The day had uttered its speech at the sight of a hummingbird nest, and its voice was heard.

It declared that after winter, comes spring.


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