Sunday, August 10, 2014
I've made it a policy since starting this blog in December 2005 not to apologize when I miss posting. I do my darnedest to get three posts up each week, but sometimes life rolls right over me like an ocean comber and it doesn't happen. I know that if you're here in the first place you probably are happy to see a new post whenever it goes up. Especially if it has a dog in it.
Gratuitous Chet/Demon photo.
Silver-browed Chet's finally mellowing at 9 1/2. He only bites Demon about once out of every four times we see him now. But note his spraddle-legged power stance. Turd-tail out straight. Gotta be The Boss. Always overdressed in a starched tuxedo shirt, too.
Chet and his best friend Wally get along great because Wally doesn't care who's boss.
Back to the blogpost at hand. Part of what's got me so tizzied and tied up is Phoebe's imminent departure for Bowdoin College in Brunswick, Maine. Which feels like a very, very long way away from Whipple. And is. Good for her. She's stepping out fearlessly on the untraveled path.
We're buying things like detergent and desk lamps and little rugs and extra long twin sheets. And seeing other parents buying those things too, a slightly lost and stunned look on their faces. Is it really all over, this fast? In August?
Friday night we threw a party for her and her school friends. 44 people showed up. Almost everyone we invited came. It was amazing. Bill and I were hopping for two whole days beforehand. When your catering staff is but two, and you're determined to cook, if not grow, everything you serve yourselves, it's a lot of work. But we'd have it no other way, and it's so worth it. Because in our world, growing and serving delicious food is a way to love your friends and family.
The morning of the party, I got a call from someone on our county road that there was a hawk hopping around her meadow, and it had a hurt wing. Well, what I didn't need with 44 people on the way was a busted hawk. But who ya gonna call? I couldn't say no. Out I went, gloves and cat carrier in hand. The second I stopped the car and raised my binoculars to look at this young red-shouldered hawk, it began hopping toward the woods. So pitiful, to see a hawk brought low. It knew I was coming for it. Hawks miss nothing. And they put two and two together. They are not slow.
I had no trouble catching it before it made cover. It was pitifully emaciated, and according to the homeowner a wandering cat had attacked it. The cat had been hunting rabbits in her field for several days. It takes quite a cat to kill a rabbit, and I believed her about that cat, because a cat like that would attack a grounded hawk. When I examined it, I found that the @#$#%#$ cat had broken the hawk's right wrist and dislocated its elbow, too. No hawk worth its salt should be attacked by a feral cat. I knew from its painfully thin condition this bird had been struggling for awhile. Some young ones just don't get the hang of hunting, or they get hurt. And they don't make it.
Hoping I could reverse this craptastic turn in its short life, I took it home and stuffed it full of raw chicken thigh and Ensure. Chet Baker told it that I was OK, that it was safe now, and with a full crop for the first time in weeks it slept peacefully in our basement while we went on cooking for the party.
I put out an appeal on Facebook, and within minutes our wonderful Managing Editor at Bird Watcher's Digest, Dawn Hewitt, volunteered to take it to the Ohio Wildlife Center that same evening. I met her at a gas station as she drove on her way to Indiana, handed her a cardboard box full of hawk and a plate of nice party food, and she dropped the bird off that same evening. It needed antibiotics and perhaps surgery, and it would get that at OWC. If I had any extra money I would send it to Ohio Wildlife Center. Thank you Dawn. Thank you, OWC. Even if it doesn't make it back to the wild, we will all have done our best by it.
When I looked up from feeding and housing and preparing the hawk for its journey, it was noon. And 44 people would arrive in five hours. YIKES! I started dragging ingredients out of the fridge, made two quiches, prepped a watermelon to chill, set the kids to shucking some of the 50 ears of corn Bill had brought home, made two confetti cakes and the frosting to go on them (Phoebe loves my almond buttercream!), helped Bill peel potatoes for mashed (she loves those too). Bill was grilling the chicken and vegetables and icing the drinks and bam! the party started.
Arrive they did, and it was wonderful. I really tied one on. Had two beers. I'm usually a party with one. Two? Look out. Sumpin' gonna go down.
Bill climbed up in the tower (you can see his shadow!) and got a rare photo of me sitting down (just beneath his shadow!) Oh, it was magical. Phoebe's in the middle of the little clot of girls at the left side of the circle. They're all playing with her hair. The almost full moon rose on the gathering and nobody wanted to leave, but eventually they straggled back down the driveway, bellies full of smoked chicken and garden vegetable quiche, mashed potatoes, Witten's sweet corn, homemade tomatillo salsa, watermelon and birthday confetti cake.
Liam and Bill and Phoebe and Chet and I sat around the little fire Bill had built, and the katydids rang so loudly we could hardly hear the coywolves howling. And I thought about what a magical life these kids have had, growing up here, and I was grateful to have been blessed to raise them here.
As I was finishing this post, Phoebe came in, fresh and smelling of ozone, from a long bike ride on our steep foothill roads. She was bursting with the news that she'd found two stands of rose gentian and a red-headed woodpecker.
She's going to do fine in Maine. She is a creature of the moment, a creature of place, one with roots that go deep and strong. And I will miss her like I miss the summer when November rolls around.
But we will still have the irreproducible and irrepressible Liam here, and he's going to get all that extra love, and we get to watch him blossom as we did his sister.
You don't get luckier than that.