The wild plums are ripening in the brush patch below our house. Just a few months ago those thorny branches were covered in white, soft blossoms bursting with excitement at the announcement that winter was officially over.
Now those plump purple berries are whispering something about fall, but I’m not sure I’m ready to hear it.
This life out here is measured by seasons, and I’m not just talking about the drastic changes in the weather. I’m talking about the ways we define our time out here on the ranch by the shift in the light and the length of the day, by the height of the grass or the color of the leaves.
Because we have so many ways to designate and define our time here. We have seasons for calving, crocuses, planting, branding, fencing, bow hunting, deer hunting, roundup, harvest and canning – all before we get to the holiday season when we celebrate, fill our plates and make plans to start all over again.
And these are just the seasons of a year. Don’t forget about the seasons that quietly shift and move and turn into seasons of our life.
Last weekend we hosted a little get-together at our house. I called friends and neighbors, and I put some hamburger in the crock-pot for slush burgers and hoped for the rain to let up a little so we could sit on the deck and the kids could play outside.
It’s late August; it’s not supposed to be raining. But it rained anyway. So we gathered inside the house, around the kitchen table and on the concrete of our under-construction garage, guests surrounded by tools and sawdust.
I looked around at my friends, many of whom I grew up with and, like us, found their way back home again. Each was toting a child or two under their arms, filling paper plates with small bites of watermelon, a Scotcharoo and a half of a sandwich. They placed a plate in front of their kids, who would take three or four bites before heading out the door to the nearest mud puddle where they soaked their feet and splashed one another.
My friends have kids who splash in mud puddles.
Kids who aren’t babies anymore. Some have kids who go to school.
In a few years these kids will be wrestling calves during branding season, helping us pick those plums in the brush and learning to make jelly. In a few more years some might be off trailing behind their dads on her first bow hunt.
Kids that change with these seasons. Do we know enough to teach them these things?
Next summer, a week or so after branding season and right in the middle of wildflower season, my little sister will get married in front of the old red barn where Gramma’s farm cats used to hide their babies and where we would play for hours in the hay loft. My little sister who used to spit plum pits at my head off the back of Jerry, her white pony. My little sister who was supposed to stay little forever.
Next summer, our nephew, our big sister’s son, will be almost 5 years old, almost learning to read and write his name and start on growing up.
Next summer the ranch will have been in our family for 100 years – a century of picking crocuses off the hilltops, wild plums, branding fires, harvest, hunting, fencing and family.
And just like that, between the rain, the slushburgers, the mud-puddles and the unprecedented August rain, I stepped into a new season of my life, a season when we are not the ones splashing in those puddles, because we are the ones responsible for dressing, feeding and keeping these wiggly, wild children out of trouble.
We are the ones making plans, pushing dirt and raising things – roofs, kids, marriages and a pretty good plum crop out there, quietly whispering something about fall.