No, not that really gay men's magazine. Come on, really.
Many years ago, Jess and I built a hearth with moss rock in the basement of Bending Tree Lane for mom and dad for a wood burning stove. Jess was the mason, I was the hodman. I think that was 1991.
While we sat by the stove one winter night, with the dogs laying close, she told how when she was little and staying with her Kading grandparents, her grandpa would come in from his winter barn chores, his favorite collie close behind, and would lay his barn jacket on the floor of the kitchen close to the stove, and the dog would curl up in it. Iowa winter winds are the stuff of legend.
This past Sunday, Jess, Al and I threw 3 chainsaws all up in an old elm that had fallen in Al's north field along his creek. We loaded up Jess's truck with almost 6 weeks of heating fuel and headed over to my place where we unloaded it neatly with much satisfaction in our work when we had finished.
We went inside where I rekindled the fire from the morning, visited for a bit, mostly about rototillers, chainsaw maintenance and snow removal. Jess took off shortly after to get back home before too dark.
It was a bitter cold, snowy, windy evening, so I got the fire roaring. Moonpie dog came in, finally, from her evening perimeter sweep. I looked at the pile of winter coats Jess and Jane had brought me from their closet the weekend before, and saw a big fake sheepskin coat that's way too big for me. I looked at Moonpie, who was looking at me, and I laid that coat on the floor close to the stove. She slowly sauntered up to it and curled right up in there and didn't move for nearly 3 hours.
It's hard for me to describe just how moved I was at that moment, a sort of perfect mix of sorrow and joy, pain and elation. Dare I say, redemption? It didn't last long, but it was unmistakable. The sun had just come out only long enough to set and cast the rose color on the snow that we used to call alpenglow in Winter Park.
We've repeated the ritual every night since. In fact, she's curled up there right now as I write this.
A very blessed New Year to you kind, decent, generous people, and I'll endeavor every day to deserve you folks.
P.S. I gave myself a wireless device for The Internets, so y'all aren't quite rid of me yet.