The first hints of light show
above the dark bank beyond the ridge.
Pink streaks will brighten to red
by the time I fill the feed bucket
and head to the horse shed.
The growing glow silhouettes
bare branches along the fence line
as I pick my way
through the thinner traces of snow.
The gelding’s sides and flanks
and lower face are spiked
with heavy lines of frost.
Our breaths eddy into the air.
Even through leather gloves
I feel the cold of steel
as I lift the latch
and open the door to the hay.
Thin drifts of steam sift over the surface
of the heated water tub;
I force the handle of the hydrant upward
and water charges from the end of the hose.
The dawns are earlier now
and the dusks come later.
Even though winter’s hold is still heavy,
and the north wind sends slivers into my skin,
this season will end,
flowers will bloom,
buds will turn to blossoms
and grass will be green again.
In the bitter testings of our long winters,
suffering produces perseverance,
perseverance produces character,
and character yields a tempered hope
that does not fracture in the quenching cold.