I noticed the wind right away. When I run in the extremely early hours of morning, it is before the sun has even thought about making an appearance on the eastern horizon. Noticing the wind and temperature are important for me, as I have to decide whether or not I have too many layers or not enough layers, to finish my six-mile route without my body temperature getting in the way. But this morning, the gentleness of the wind was causing my Christmas lights to pattern the Northern Lights on the siding below the roof. In that moment, staring at the red, blue and green light waves, I heard the distant squeaking of the metal wind vane.
Crunching gravel kept the rhythm of my run, changing to patches of a kind of clicking sound when I ran into places where the road grater had pulled goat heads into the road bed from the ditches. High lines hummed a low kind of whine, as if passing some communication along from pole to pole, as I passed. The black sky was overlaid with steel grey clouds obscuring most, but not all the stars; the remnants of the super moon still glowed in the small crescent. What was missing were Jupiter and Mars, having been swallowed by the hungry clouds like most of the stars.
Brought up short by the sudden cloying scent of a skunk I must have spooked, but never saw, I slowed because of the small dark shape on the side of the road, just at the corner where I’d seen skunk cross the dirt road on many runs. My brain fought to pick through the darkness to tell me what this thing was and whether or not I needed to back-off. Getting as close as I dared, the scraggly stems of a broken-down tumbleweed took shape and I felt my breath ease out and my stride lengthen.
Slowing to cool down for the last few minutes, I didn’t see them, but my ear was drawn by the sound of the stock tank float grating against the wire that holds it, and I knew the horses were in the corral. I went on past the sidewalk, just a few steps toward the barn and corral, and the sweet sound of soft wuffling pulled my feet to the fence, where my young colt stood. The little light from the waning moon reflected his buckskin coat and I could see the light outline around the dark nostrils stretched up over the top rail. I would have missed the warm exchange of breath with his soft muzzle against my sweating cheek if I hadn’t been paying attention to the space.