Tag Archives: joy

Goodbyes. Hellos.

Warning: Animal death discussed.

About a month ago my Ripley Cat started going off her food. In fairly short order we discovered that she’d been hiding a large bony tumor in the fluffy hair along her jaw. She came home from the vet on pain meds. Last Monday her life ended.

Ripley came to us seventeen years ago as a week old kitten. Abandoned by her feral mother on the side of the road, she fit entirely in the palm of my hand. I fed her with syringes at first, then bottles. I named her Ripley because things were touch and go at first, and I wanted a tough enough name to get her through. What better namesake than Ellen Ripley? She came to work with me in the library, my compassionate library coworkers ignoring the large cardboard box by my desk, and helping us hide when administrators dropped by. As a bigger kitten, she would climb her way up onto the bed, and burrow under the blankets to the foot of the bed, causing us to wake at night terrified that she might have smothered there.

As an adult, she hated strangers, and talked to me in a creaky door stutter of a voice, and greeted me, always, by sniffing my breath. She had a long good life, and we were certain she would outlive us all through sheer determination. She would have, too, were it not for pain. As terrible and hard as it was to say goodbye, there was a moment as I sat there with her when I realized all the pain she would ever feel in her life was already behind her, and that made everything else bearable.

Death has visited us frequently in the past few years. We’ve said so many goodbyes that it’s become hard to remember that the world is made from more than loss, in all its many forms. The truth is that death is only one of the transitions that brings grief. We’ve dabbled in many of the others as well.

The other day a pigeon landed on the roof of our garage. This is noteworthy because we live in the woods, and pigeons are exotic birds here. This pigeon was very handsome, and somewhat bumbling as he hopped in the maple, and then came down to the walkway. My husband went out to look at him, and the bird followed the stone path down to the steps and waited there. My husband picked him up, and my daughter found a box, and we tucked him in it with food and water.

What do you do with a tame pigeon, particularly when you are not prepared to care for it? If you are lucky, you know a child who has recently lost one of her pigeons, and you drive to her house, fingers crossed, hoping against all reason that the bird in your box is hers.

It was not. But the bird in the box was beautiful to her, and she was delighted to see him, to examine his face, his tail feathers, to explain what type of pigeon he was, to admire everything about him. To take him in. And for a few minutes, standing there in the twilight, learning about the world of tame pigeons, I watched her and thought this is what utter joy looks like.

One pigeon goes. A different one returns. Beloved aunts and uncles pass away. Beloved nephews are born. Our paths through the world are always paved with goodbyes and hellos, even when the hellos feel so much rarer.

In keeping with that, we have a new family member. We are her third home in her short life. As a firm believer in the magic of three, I know that this home is the one that will count. She has the body of a little leopard, and the stripes of a tiger, and very little patience with things like typing at the computer rather than adoring her. Those are just the things we know so far. Hopefully we will have another seventeen years or so to learn the rest.

We love you always, Ripley.

We welcome you in, Coco.


The joy of art

I like this.


A picture break

Outside, it’s the kind of day that makes you grateful to be alive. Inside, it’s all pain and suffering and working on unbearably boring things. Suffice it to say, there are days when I covet the ability to write a high concept story, if only to make it easier to summarize it in an exciting way.

But I’m kind, and I won’t drag the rest of you through that particular mire. Instead, pictures! Why? Because I’m occasionally clever, and am able to not only remember to snap a few, but also to load them onto this creaking relic of a computer.

This is a foundation. With trees! There are few things I love more than old stone foundations with trees growing out of them. Actually, there are quite a few things I love more, but I also love these. The reservoir I live beside swallowed whole towns when it was built. Before the flooding began, the houses were dismantled, but the cellar holes remain, here and there and everywhere. In another month they will be filled with ferns. The forgotten patches of daffodils will have bloomed already, but the old apple trees will just be starting.

One of the things about reservoirs is that they have water. Really! This time of year, the streams are full and busy draining into the lake. They’re not as full as they are some years, as there’s been no snow to melt, but they’re running. I could easily be convinced to sit beside running water until I grew roots and leaves and had to stay forever. Especially streams like this, with the incredible green of the mosses on the rocks and the burble of the water.

One last picture. Along with foundations, there remain other signs of the lost towns. Rusty buckets, bits of pottery, random bits of metal. These stairs are one of my favorites relics. They are surrounded by periwinkle, which will also be blooming before long. They’re along a dirt road, and while they lead to an old foundation, they’re situated in a way that looks more like an invitation to a pine grove. To either side are gnarled maples, half dead and half alive, and further back is a small meadow.

That’s as much of a break as I get today. Enjoy the world.


A story, a picture

Late summer, 2010. Hiking in the White Mountains with Jon. No kids, just us, on a vacation paid for by his work in honor of ten years of service. On the way back down, we stop by a little waterfall.

My old boots don’t quite fit. They never have; they never fit either of us quite right, but I’m lazy about my footwear, so I wear them with two pairs of wool socks. This day, though, they’re not feeling kind to my feet. I take them off, stick my feet in the water until they are numb. Pull them out, and they are reborn. That’s the way cold streams are when you’re hiking: holy.

I hate having my picture taken, avoid it like the plague. This trip, I allow a few. They’re for the kids, waiting at home for us. I once read an essay by a woman who wished her mother had allowed more pictures of herself, because after she was gone, the woman had so few images of her. So, sometimes I let the pictures happen.

This picture, though, this one I didn’t notice, because Jon was waiting for me back on the rocks. It’s one of my favorites–I prefer to play second fiddle to a waterfall.

It’s also going to live on the About Me page from now on.


Sea Glass

A little more good news.

“Sea Glass” is a simple story. Two brothers, an ocean, a girl on the beach. Despair that runs like black ink through the water, joy that fills the air like kite streamers in the wind.

It’s also so much more to me. The conflicts of The Lost originate in the events of “Sea Glass”. Without those brothers, and that ocean, and that girl on the beach, there would be no novel series for me. I wrote it after I wrote The Lost, then sat on it for a long time, too chicken to send it out.

Now it has a home. The good people at Abyss and Apex will be including it in their April 2012 issue. I couldn’t be happier!


Learning to see

Once upon a time, long, long ago, I counted insects for a living. Primarily the lovely apple maggot fly (Rhagoletis pomonella), though there were many others.

The thing about spending summers deeply involved with insects is that you start to realize exactly how much life exists around you unnoticed. Mites scurrying back and forth across the undersides of leaves, lacewing eggs on long slender stalks, aphid colonies tended by ever vigilant ants. (Aphids! Really, anyone interested in science fiction should have to read up on the life cycles of aphids.) Shifting populations, battles over territory, ravenous predators, the threat of sudden chemical intervention which favors some groups over others, all playing out in a mad rush before winter comes.

Expand that to an entire orchard, an entire world, and it makes your head spin.

I learned to see during that time. I learned to slow down enough to notice the cicada emerging from the skin she’d shed, stopping to allow her wings to fill and dry. To sit and watch a cecropia caterpillar eat a leaf, as methodically as a child might eat an ear of corn. To find a collection of tiny mite eggs, clustered around the scales of a dormant leaf bud.

Winter isn’t the best time for observing insects in the Northeast, but there’s still much to be seen. Spend some time exploring the bark of a tree. Listen for nuthatches, or the soft tap of woodpeckers, or the angry calls of crows mobbing a hawk. Look for tracks in the snow, and once you’ve found them, look for places they cross under or along a tree or a rock. Find the hairs left behind on those rough surfaces.

Sit quiet. Listen. Watch.


The book, the dog, and the mermaid

The first story I ever read by myself was The Little Red Hen. I have no memory of it, but I do remember the book of Hans Christian Andersen stories I received that Christmas from a family friend. More than the book, I remember sitting at their kitchen table and reading an entire story out loud, with a rotating crew of adults staying to listen to me. It felt as though it took hours, that I expect it didn’t. Someone there had a samoyed–to this day I still have a slight association of large white dogs with The Little Mermaid.

I don’t remember much of the story, or of the party, or the kitchen table. I remember my feet swinging as I sat in the chair, and always having someone listening to me. Mostly I remember the pride, that completely unabashed childish pride over being able to read, and not just a little picture book, but something long and complicated.

Kids have it easy. They haven’t internalized all the complicated social rules about showing pride, rules with endless variations. They just announce that they know how to read and will prove it by reading an entire story in the middle of a Christmas party. They’re awesome that way.

I’ve some good news coming. I think I’ll be ready to share within a few days. For now, I’ll be at the table, swinging my feet.