The air at night smells like burning sugar, that deep, caramel smell that tells you something delicious is on the way. I don’t know what combination of plants and warmth is required to make that smell, but every summer it catches me by surprise. The light is always dipping behind the horizon when I catch this scent, I always wonder at first if it is something cooking somewhere. But then I remember, standing on that spot the year before and the year before that. Every year I remember and every year I am amazed.
I dip my head under the willow branches as I head to the chicken coop. It’s time to close the door on our girls and their guardian boy. The air under the willow tree is cool and soft, like walking through thin water. When we moved here the tree was not so broad, it’s branches didn’t dip so low. Now we weave through them, like a curtain to a secret world. It is the gateway that separates farm from home, my own little Narnia entranceway.
I check to see that the Rooster is in the coop, he won’t hop in until all the girls are safely tucked away. He’s always in a different spot and the gaze he lays upon me is imperious. I’ve done my work, he says, you do yours. I internally forgive him for his ninja lightening strikes from out of bushes or long grass, scratching my legs and getting a swift bucket to the face in retaliation. We are not at peace, but there is a cessation in hostilities as I close the coop under his watchful eye.
Winnie goes happily into the barn for her night time rest. A day of watchful snoozing in the shade can be exhausting. Our routine is familiar now, it takes no time at all. I slide the bolt across and think again how proud I am of this building my love made. I take the gravel path home, checking in on the pigs as they settle in the twilight. Stretching out on broken down hay bales they organize themselves as they wish. Their inner workings are quite mysterious, you see.
At the house I turn my head to breathe in mint and lemon balm, they merge on the cooling air. The lights of stars spark to life in the darkening sky, but everything else is lost in the wash of menthol and citrus that drifts from the garden bed. They spill everywhere and I am delight in their fragrant messiness.
The bites of bat sized mosquitoes chase me in, in to a house filled with the last light of the day. We never turn the lights on until we have to, I love that half light of all things the best. The noise of children avoiding bedtime usually drives away any freshness I brought in with me, but tomorrow I might be lucky and surprised again; surprised by the smell of sugar in the air.