A longtime friend of my son has joined us for Christmas for several years now. His parents are divorced, and maybe a little dysfunctional in their lives, and our friend cares for them deeply but knows that they cannot be there for him. They just don’t have it in them.
So we welcome him with love, give him presents, feed him a big meal, etc. He is one of the family.
The morning after Christmas this year, he sent me a message on Facebook. He thanked us for his wonderful Christmas, for always welcoming him into our home, for his gifts, etc.
But he also said I have become a second mother to him. He thanked me for always talking to him, counseling him, caring about him, and helping him find his way in the world. I was overjoyed to read this and to know that he cares about me the way I care about him.
We love you Sean. You’re family.
My old Corgi, Mackintosh, was humanely euthanized just a week before Christmas. He was beginning to be paralyzed in his back legs, was having some breathing problems, and had a urine rash. Without even taking a blood sample, the vet gently told us that he was in the end stage of his life, and this would be the kindest thing we could do for him. So after eleven years of being my best friend, I held him as he passed.
My yard is a freeway for animals. We have four acres, mostly wooded, and we leave the wild places alone. That’s where the wild things are. We host a flock of 10 wild turkeys, quite stately animals, and put lots of sunflower seed on the ground for them. We also host many squirrels. They eat a lot of sunflower seed as well.
If we are up very early in the morning, we sometimes see a deer quietly wander through the yard to the other side of the woods. That is always a moment when we hold our breath and just stare. They are so beautiful. Eat my hostas. I don’t care.
While I was doing fall clean-up this week, I looked at one particular tree, and remembered the gorgeous red-tail hawk who summered there for many years. He’s been gone for a while now, and I hope it’s because he found a nice lady hawk and settled down.
This year, our oaks have produced no acorns. This is a winter food for wildlife, and I am worried they will suffer. I am putting out hay bales (not straw) and lots of sunflower seed to help them through the hard times.
And there is always a little magic in the sky when the geese fly overhead. Mary Oliver wrote a poem called “The Wild Geese.” These words make my heart sing. These words have saved my life many times:
You do not have to be good.
You do not have to walk on your knees
For a hundred miles through the desert, repenting.
You only have to let the soft animal of your body
love what it loves.
Tell me about your despair, yours, and I will tell you mine.
Meanwhile the world goes on.
Meanwhile the sun and the clear pebbles of the rain
are moving across the landscapes,
over the prairies and the deep trees,
the mountains and the rivers.
Meanwhile the wild geese, high in the clean blue air,
are heading home again.
Whoever you are, no matter how lonely,
the world offers itself to your imagination,
calls to you like the wild geese, harsh and exciting —
over and over announcing your place
in the family of things.
Dear Cat Named Cat:
Last night was a big deal in your world, right? Did you sneak out to sit on the flying broom of some old dame with a pointy hat? Did you get to warm yourself by the bubbling pot of toil and trouble? Did you have fun howling at the moon and hissing at little kids?
Halloween at my house is a non-event. We have lots of decorations, but the sad fact is that we get no trick-or-treaters. Part of that is because we live at the end of a gravel road, embedded in a forest. It’s a long walk down to our house for little kids.
However, the upside is that we are a sort of animal sanctuary. Right now there are 10 wild turkeys feasting on bugs in the backyard. We have seen coyotes (and lost cats to them), raccoons, the ubiquitous squirrels, gorgeous red foxes, and on very lucky early mornings, deer. In fact, we buy hay each winter and put it in the woods to feed the deer.
Since we have four dogs, 5 guinea pigs and a rabbit, we are cat-less at the moment. Our last cat was the sweet Prudence. She was happy to the end.
Someday the dogs will have passed on, our little backyard grave site will welcome them, I’ll plant flowers around them in the spring, and we will have cats again.
A late Happy Halloweenie to you, Cat. Hope it was fun!
ps – Your human is a writer and Cat is the best name he could come up with for you? Huh.
Well, yes. My part-time job is performing the assistant sexton duties at my church, which means cleaning. I clean the pulpit, I clean the minister’s office, I clean the kitchen, I clean five bathrooms, I clean all the Sunday School classrooms, and I clean the stairwells.
Sometimes this means sweeping up a lot of crushed Goldfish crackers, scrubbing finger paint out of a rug, wiping handprints off the woodwork. And sometimes it means there is a nasty note in the office from a parishioner: “Please tell whoever is cleaning to mop the stairs. They look atrocious!” Cranky old lady!
But there are rewards for me as well. My minister loves how I clean her office. For me, it is a mitzvah, an almost holy act, to clean her office. She saved my life several years ago…
However, the thing I like most about cleaning my church (other than my OCD being gratified) is the myriad of spiders I meet. Spiders love church! I don’t kill them, but sometimes I urge them to find a better hiding place. Life is where you find it, and sometimes it’s in a web.
We have had a long summer in New England. Even today, it’s blue skies and sunshine and no humidity. We’ve gotten a bit spoiled. I realized summer had ended when I saw a young deer and a coyote crossing the street in one day. They are looking for a winter bunker. And in my garden, planted with echinacea, hyssop, daisies, and lemon balm, the bees and butterflies have disappeared. They were busy all summer storing up for winter.
I sometimes feel more in touch with nature than people.
Here are some photos from my garden this summer.