Well into Michigan’s sedentary season, I awoke this morning wanting a muddy walk. Other than a hike downhill to the henhouse and back uphill with eggs in my pockets, I’ve not spent much time outdoors the past several winters.

After my bathroom scales found the five pounds I’d lost while gardening last summer, I laced my hiking boots the second time this winter. I resolved to walk at least twenty minutes before my desk impaled me for the day.

An occupational hazard.

During Christmas vacation, Kelly, my California daughter (the offspring who gifted me a 1,000 piece puzzle) asked if I’d like to take a short walk. Our favorite route, a long, steep downhill/uphill trek, features the restored, historic Townsend barn on the hilltop.

Kelly and her younger sister learned to drive on Townsend’s rutty, dirt road, often avoiding potholes deep and wide enough to bury them in our used Chrysler Le Baron. Ruth, our youngest child, the family’s “Braveheart,” learned to drive during the movie’s release and pothole season in 1995. Twenty-five years ago.

Enough time to forget that walking in the morning revives such blessed memories. I also recalled my two trees who hold each other, which I forgot to greet when Kelly and I passed them. Per my former ritual, this morning I touched the trees, a hand on each, felt the furrows in their bark.

Praise God, they still stand.

In the quiet, leafless atmosphere, I aimed again toward the sound of hammering, just as Kelly and I walked toward the whine of an electric saw several days ago. When we turned onto our neighbor’s drive, we beheld the most magnificent barn graced with a cupola.

My neighbor worked amongst piles of wood with his saw.

“Hello, Sabastian! I brought my daughter to see your barn,” I said.

He offered his usual smile. “Go on inside!”

We climbed the stairs from the lower floor of horse stables to the upper room of the behemoth building.

“This is huge!” Kelly said.

“Sabastian dreams big,” I replied.

“He sure does.”

Perhaps that’s why the hammer called my name again this morning. To witness the fulfillment of his dream and resolve in progress – with his two hands and tools of his trade in very uncomfortable weather.

A builder’s occupational hazard.

At the bottom of Townsend’s hill, I admired Sabastian’s handiwork without notice, then scaled the road back home more grateful than ever for neighbors who cherish barns and horses and hay fields.

And relieved I dream of writing stories in the comfort of a heated or air conditioned study, depending on the weather, I returned to my desk.

Dear Reader, I resisted the pull of Kelly’s 1,000 piece puzzle, one fifth completed, until after I parked my boots in the basement and completed the day’s commitment to stories.

Tomorrow morning, Lord willing, I’ll test my resolve again after hen chores with a walk, return home for sunny side up eggs and toast with honey. Sit, and dream big.

Contact Iris at irisfarmletters@gmail.com.