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Is She Really Going Out to Maine?

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.


Yes, we thrive by having both roots and wings, and Phoebe has an abundance of both. She has so much to bring to the world outside Whipple! You are all lucky indeed.
Now go have another beer.

And think of all she'll be bringing back each time she comes home. You will marvel!

Lovely. I look forward to watching Phoebe soaring.
And I agree about the two beers thing.

No, you don't.

Julie and Bill,

Good luck with the partly empty nest syndrome. We had our youngest child for an extra 5 years after the two oldest left. Unfortunately only for us, her school had skipped her from KG to 2nd grade. When she left for prep school it was tough, but we are all still in touch, had a 1.5 week come and go beach house stay this summer where *everyone* showed up for at least the first weekend, and life goes on. The "girls" call several times a week, the man-child not so much. We now include two spouses and two grandsons and life is good.

it was actually part of the master plan for the kids to mature and fledge, after all.


Posted by Tina Tolins, Chautauqua friend August 10, 2014 at 6:11 AM

Oh, my loves. A joyful/painful posting. Thinking of you. Xxxooom

Posted by Anonymous August 10, 2014 at 6:13 AM

You make me cry and smile all in one moment. Blessings to all of you. Blessings to Phoebe as she fledges and finds her place to soar. Blessings to the three of you ( Yes ! That includes you, Chet Baker) maintaining the nest. All human fledglings need to know the nest is always there for them.
Darlene Shamblin

Posted by Anonymous August 10, 2014 at 6:45 AM

Best wishes to Phoebe as she launches on this amazing college journey. She seems so very ready and she is going to a place that will suit her so well.

Our nest has just one precious fledging and only three more years that seem to be passing in nano seconds. I feel very blessed to learn from fine parents in my real life and in the digital world like you and Bill on how to support and celebrate this inevitable fledging.

What a perfectly full day of love all around. Wonderful in every way.

Your daughter is such a lovely lady! It is so tough to see them spread their wings & fly. Alas one chapter ends and another one begins. Liam is going to be quite the handsome young man too. I cried for 2 months when my son first left home. Then 5 months later, he wanted to come back home. Then, I cried again for another 2 months. ;-)
It is wonderful that you were able to rescue the juvenile hawk. Yes, just another reason to be hatin' on feral cats. I sometimes think the outdoor domestic cats are worse though - they are well fed at home and usually pretty healthy, so they're stronger and faster and able to run down their prey much easier than a feral.

Oh goodness, I can so relate. I sent my first son off to college this time last year. Don't forget to send a lightweight rain jacket with her. Last I knew, they still have to walk to class when it rains, and it was an item that we didn't think of. She will blossom and grow in ways that she cannot if she stays home. Congrats to Phoebe. It is such an exciting time in her life. I know that she is more than ready to face the new challenges ahead and will be a raging success. To Mom and Dad, I will say that you eventually do get used to them being physically absent. In this high tech communication world that we live in, you can easily stay close and connected. She will come to appreciate and love her family even more than she already does, and you will be more proud of her than ever! <3 <3 <3

Posted by Angie Luebben August 10, 2014 at 8:44 AM

Julie, I feel as though I've watched your beautiful ginger girl grow up alongside my own kids on your blog. My eldest son starts his college career this year; we move him in on Friday. It's a strange mix of joy and pride and the tiniest bit of sorrow, for the missing. The house empties and the heart expands, unbelievably.

Blessings abound for all that is to come, and for the deep satisfaction of the roots you have planted. Best of luck to Phoebe!!

We sent our first son to University of Maine last year (from Philly) and he truly blossomed there. Maine is also a great state to go to school - love the combination of academics and wilderness. Best of luck to your beautiful daughter.

No, you don't get much luckier than to send off a young independent person to face a new future.

This stage of the journey is hers. You and Bill have done a fine job of getting her started.

Deep roots AND wings to fly....

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