J mowed for hours over the last few days, bravely (if not serenely) facing faulty starters, dead batteries, and overflowing radiators until he finished the job. The reward is a beautiful stretch of fields that remind me of a shaggy teenager who finally got a haircut.
A second reward was spending an afternoon in the company of a charming young fox. The vole population was laid bare by the mowing. I suspect that may be why our foxy friend was feasting away out there unabashedly for hours. J. called the house from his cell phone to say we should come out with binoculars. He was the cutest thing (the fox, that is, though J was pretty cute too, in his enthusiasm), stalking prey along the edge of the taller grasses, cocking his head, very dog-like, then pouncing.
He didn't seem worried by the big diesel tractor. He just trotted off a few yards when the tractor swept by and sat down on a nearby hummock of grass to wait, ears on high alert. I wish I had pictures to share, but it was too far away for my camera.
Deer, skunk, porcupine, fox, voles, a world of birds, large and small, frogs of many sorts, insects galore. What a heavily populated back yard we have! I was feeling sad after S. left for school yesterday, but I should be comforted by all the company we have just a short walk from the house.
Well. Maybe I should be comforted...but none of those other beings, even in large numbers, can begin to replace my own boy. Not even that spry, bright little curious fox, though if anyone were to come close, he'd be the one.
Since T's best friend is leaving for college in about a week, and T not long after, we did our little send-off ritual last night with the two of them. It is a tradition we started 3 years ago when N and S and their friends were graduating from high school.
I have a particular love of the ocean-smoothed stones from the beach of our island home. Just holding them in my hand feels grounding, connects me to solidity and permanence. I have made a small collection of them, the ones that feel particularly right in the hand, and I offer them to graduates as they leave home for new horizons. Part of the process is for the recipients to take the time to go through the stones and find the one that fits their own hand best. It is a gift for them, but it is also a way for me to cope with saying good-bye.
It comes along with a copy of this poem that I wrote for the occasion. There are personalized variations, but this is the general idea:
Although you may be far away
Your roots in Maine are there to stay
This souvenir should help recall,
Throughout the winter, spring and fall,
In gym or dorm or lecture hall
The home that started all your all.
As you venture on your own
This may be your worry stone,
Or a pocket rock to strum
Between a finger and a thumb
At times you’re not sure what’s to come
And you just stand there feeling dumb.
Choose a rock to fill your palm
With strength and weight to make you calm,
It also may enhance your fist
And strengthen arm and hand and wrist.
Or only be a catalyst
For memories of those you’ve missed.
Even if it’s in a drawer
Or on a desk or on the floor
Still it’s there to hold and see,
Reminding you of lake and sea
And who you are and who you’ll be--
Let it set your spirits free.