My thanks to Cat – who helps in so many ways. She's an inspiration, and good with lists.
Evening was sliding down the hillside, casting long shadows behind the hills and over the mesa. Scott flicked out his bedroll, and then knelt to smooth the edges down. His brother was standing just a few feet away, his arms filled with firewood, just standing still, a faraway look in his eye.
"What are you thinking about?" Scott stood, wiping dirt off the knees of his brown trousers.
"Listen to that meadowlark. It's singin' his heart out."
Scott stood and listened, and in the distance he could hear another bird answer the call.
"Spring is here, I think." Johnny was still standing with his back to Scott, looking out into the darkness as it knit a blanket around them.
"Bring the wood over and I'll start the fire." Scott's tone was hushed as if afraid to intrude on Johnny's mood. His brother seemed distant, almost wistful, yet not sad.
Johnny did come over, finally, dropping the firewood into a heap on the ground and flicked stuck pieces of bark off his sleeves. "It'll be clear tonight, so it'll be cold."
There wasn't a cloud in the sky, and hadn't been all day long. Crystal blue skies had changed to pink and orange streaks before changed to the deepening purple of twilight.
"Do you regret coming out tonight? It was a job we could have put off for another week, and let things warm up a bit." Scott didn't look up from where he was striking his flint, but he could hear the smile in his brother's voice.
"Nope - it was time."
Scott could hear Johnny taking in a lungful of the clear night air. Crickets and frogs were beginning to sing nighttime lullabies.
"Something ‘bout this time of year." Johnny moved to where their gear was piled on the ground and pushed his saddle aside to dig out his saddlebags "Something about the green grass and the little buds on the trees and new growth. Somethin' about it all makes me think anything's possible."
Scott blew on the little bundle of kindling as sparks skipped and flashed over the dry moss and twigs. "Know what I think about this time of year?"
"I think of all the potential that lies ahead. All the things I can do- if only. If only I get organized. I make a list a mile long of all the things I'll accomplish this year. I'm lucky to cross off a half dozen before I lose the list."
Johnny laughed, not quite believing Scott's claim to being disorganized, but he understood the feeling. There was so much possible at the start of each new year. Spring for him was really the start of the new year. Didn't matter to him about January 1st, the new year was when the roads became passable after winter rains, when the birds and the flowers and animals told him, that's when the year started. "What's on your list for this year?"
"I want to write letters to some college friends, make sure I keep in touch, things like that." Scott waited until Johnny had finished peeling a hard boiled egg. "What about you? Are there things that need to be done this year?"
Johnny thought it over, and tossed an egg to Scott. "I don't really know," he said after he swallowed down his egg. "Maybe I want to learn something new."
"Learn something?" Night had settled around them, the dark making it easier to talk, the horses grazing, a comforting sound in the stillness.
"Read a book that's hard, or …." There was a grin on his brother's face. "Maybe read poetry or something and see if it makes sense."
Scott nodded. "If I can help, you know I will."
They let it lie between them, thick and warm.
"I think, too," Johnny continued,
"I think I want to do something for Murdoch. Like for Christmas or something.
Something he won't expect."
Scott nodded again, like the sound of that. "I'll put it on my list."
Water was needed for coffee and supper was waiting to be cooked, so they set about their evening chores. Just over the mesa a sliver of a silver moon rose, like the fingernail on God's hand, pointing the way home. It was a good night.