Waking up, coming back

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It really stunk when Coco died two months ago. It was all YUCK, every way I looked at it. She was only a year old and was turning out to be a really great cat. Before her injury, I said to Jeff, “She’s becoming the perfect cat – I’ve never had a cat like her. She is so affectionate, she comes in at night or when she’s called, and she’s learning how to be gentle to the house when she’s inside.” I felt horrible saying that aloud, because I didn’t want to offend Grace, who is also an awesome cat. But Coco was different. She was a great cat.

It hurt to lose her. And the way she went – was she hit by a car? All signs point to yes, but we’ll never know for sure. Here’s something freaky to think about – a week after she died (at the end she died of heart failure, if you want to get clinical about it), her litter mate, who has been living at a different place died of heart failure. He was totally healthy until the day he got sick and died. Crazy, right? That just adds to the yuckiness. Back to the car theory: we live on a busy road. Our home is in a small village and the speed limit is 35 mph, but still, it’s a busy road. When we moved here the neighbors said they don’t let their cats out anymore because too many have been hit on the road. I knew it was a possibility, but I’m such a purist when it comes to my animals that I took the chance. I talked about it with the girls – Coco is going out, I would say. She might get hit and killed on the road. We need to understand the risks.

And so she did, and she is gone. And it was all YUCK for a while as I picked up the pieces. I am still sad when I think about it.

I didn’t appreciate dealing with the unpleasant unexpectedness of her death, so I spent the summer trying to gain some control over my life. I like things to be planned out and certain, so after she died I focused on the things I could be sure of. Closets have been cleaned. School curriculum has been selected and mapped out for the year. Halloween costumes were ordered and now hang in the closet. The boiler was cleaned. It sounds crazy, but those tasks kept me on track. On the periphery I dealt with the things that are uncertain and in constant flux – the garden, the chickens, the bees. I usually embrace them but this summer I couldn’t because I needed to find my footing first.

The garden was planted but not tended as well as it should have been. So many tomato volunteers came up this year where last summer’s ripe tomatoes, full of seeds, fell. They took over the lettuce and swiss chard beds. They grew up on the pathways. I didn’t have the heart to pull them – I had experienced too much loss already. Those tomatoes looked like they needed a chance. So now my garden is full of tomato plants that seem to grow wherever they choose.

The chickens have been tended but not fawned over, not by me anyway. ‘A’ always takes her time to be with them. We started the summer with 9 hens and a number of pullets and roosters. Most of the roosters, along with Peg, our injured chick, and Carrie, our mean hen, went to a better life. Carrie is living on a farm with other hens, and the roosters and Peg were processed for dinner. We now have 8 hens, 10 pullets and 2 little bantam roosters. The chicks all have names now, except for the two that are headed off to live with a friend once they start laying eggs. There are 10 that we’ll keep, and their names are: Fred and George (our silkie roosters who look exactly alike, and have white feathers), Hedwig, Narcissa, Sunshine, Mrs. Crouch, Eliza Jane, Alice, Aunt Docia, and the last has four names, one of which will eventually stick – Buffy, Mocha, Annie, and Ellie.

I make it sound so depressing here. It’s really not like that. These are just my feelings, and for the most part they stay where they belong (until I’m talking to Jeff about them as he drifts off to sleep…). This summer has been filled with activity for our family. The girls went to stay with my mother in July (on the Cape), and they enjoyed attending theater camp there. They also loved swimming every day and liked eating dessert every night after dinner (thanks Mom). It was so nice for me to have a week on my own while they were away. The girls were safe and were having fun; Jeff was at work. I had a chance to live life on my own terms. To linger. To breathe. To be me again. I brought them there and Jeff and I picked them up at the end of the visit. We went kayaking as a family, and did some light hiking too.

We went to visit my dad in Maine and the girls experienced the Atlantic surf as never before. The tide goes way, way out each day and when it does, the small waves roll in. It was perfect for children. No undertow, no steep drop-off. Just wave after wave of fun.

This is the year of babies in our family – we have a new niece and soon we’ll have a new nephew. Babies are sure a ton of work (and a ton of adjustment) but they bring such goodness to the world, and it’s worth every moment of effort.

The land around us continues to produce an amazing bounty. I harvested and braided garlic from our garden, picked blueberries from the farm down the street, and I cook up sweet corn, green beans, tomatoes and cucumbers on an almost daily basis. Herbs are all in now. I haven’t even mentioned my herbal medicine class. That will wait for another day.

It is time now for me to get back in the saddle. When Coco died, the rug was ripped out from under me, and I’ve spent a number of weeks getting my bearings. I’m okay. I’ve been reading and knitting. I’ve been parenting with a gentle heart. I’ve been crafting and homesteading. I’ve been healing in the way I know how to heal when I feel vulnerable – by reining it all in as tightly as I can. I feel better now. It’s time for me to live life in the way I know how – by writing and documenting my time, by observing my children at work and play, by creating something new every day, by laughing with friends, and by showing love to my family.

It’s the ups and downs that make life what it is… but those ups and downs are tough to get through. I’m looking ahead.

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