My truck is an '08 Nissan Frontier,
4-door so I can load up my daughter/s, friends, granddog.
It has a 6' box. Eighteen bales of hay isn't much of a load
but it's all I can store in my goat/pony shed.
This last load I got was fresh from the field,
right out of the hay wagon. I put my face into it and inhaled.
The deep scent pulled me into the past.
Into dozens of summers.
Hundreds of mornings riding a horse along newly mowed meadows.
Afternoons spent steering a tractor to follow the swath,
hay rake clicking behind as it tossed the drying grass into windrows...
or balancing on the swaying deck of a hay wagon to pull each bale birthed from the baler and throw it back to be stacked.
Sore fingers that turned calloused from the twine.
Arms with the prickly "rash" of someone who knows how to handle a bale, how to place the first so that you can drop the next ones off the wagon and watch them bounce off that first to roll strategically close to the stack.
Sore muscles that rebounded for the next day's work, muscles that grew and became defined in my shoulders, my arms, my abs.
Those were perks. Along with eating as much of whatever I wished whenever I wanted.
And sleeping deeply at night.
Though more than once I woke to find myself standing next to my bed,
swinging invisible bales.
Yesterday I wheeled a chair
through the wide hallways and conditioned air
of the respected local clinic/hospital.
The orthopedic surgeon agreed:
my x-ray was a dead ringer for the one on the laminated flip chart labeled
The Arthritic Knee.
We set the replacement surgery date for July 24.
I think probably the pain between now and then
will be equal to or worse than those dreaded days after the surgery.
I'll get back to you on that.
Well, bring it on. Maybe you've noticed: I love a challenge.
(It's a character flaw.)
I don't know how many thousand hay bales I handled through those summers
but the smell of drying hay is a narcotic to me.
It hypnotizes me.
It yanks me back to when I was younger and stronger,
when unloading a hundred or a thousand bales in one day was
the best thing I could imagine.
Now, June of 2012, I roll down my truck's windows when I drive
and take that deep breath
reed canary grass.
Every summer is distinct.
Maybe I'll look back to this year and think
that was when I had grace enough to accept my body's limitations
and faith enough to respect my own imagination
of a future
with an older but less painful body.