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My Place

I am fortunate to live in a place where I can freely view the stars each night; vast skies, unpolluted by light or other human vestiges.

This place has space enough to grow vegetables, plant an orchard, gardens to potter in and explore & space to run freely. I feel blessed to live in such a place, blessed that we can bring our eldest daughter Tienne up here and keep our youngest Saskias’ memory alive. Often when life seems to get me down I remind myself of this fact.

This place of late has borne witness to much death and as I shake the darkness that threatens to envelope me away I look around at so much that is living and remember that life is about balance; and death is part of that balance regardless of how tragic and heartbreaking it can be.

We think our seventh baby guinea fowl has died today. We suspect taken by an eagle visiting us from a nearby eagle rehabilitation centre. Stripes’s not really a baby any longer… only slightly smaller than the other adults… but obviously still the weakest and therefore easiest pickings. She had survived six other siblings and we had hand reared her along with her smaller brother Overnight, who sadly died three days ago when he flew into a glass window in confusion. How quickly life turns to death.

Stripe has been Tienne’s ‘pet project’ – she literally saved him, taking a scratch to her little face by the mother bird in trying to return her to the group after he was left in the nest. She cuddled her and looked out for her long before we knew she was a ‘she’…when she was just a small amount of fluff and quiet cheeps, not recognisable as a guinea fowl at all.

Tienne asked ‘which one is Stripe?’ when we gave the guinea’s their daily wheat just before dinner. I gently explained that we couldn’t find Stripe but couldn’t bring myself to say she had died as we still haven’t found her…and I still hold onto the slimmest of hopes although in my heart I know she has gone.

It seems Tienne has helped bury more birds in the past few months than I have in an entire lifetime but then her take on death seems somehow healthier than most people’s and she is not afraid to speak of death and those that have died and speaks openly and freely as thoughts enter her head. As always, we can learn much from a child and their innocent, honest ways.

I share here one of her many drawn/painted pictures…nearly always depicting a rainbow which resonates strongly with her in relation to her baby sister.

In reading my favourite magazine (Barefoot) recently I came across a poem towards the end which struck a chord and I’d like to share it here now…

The Things I Value at This Time by Karen Throssell

(taken from current Barefoot Magazine Issue 10, Winter 2011)

The soft, slow drip of autumn rain – earthy damp gives us reason to sleep at last with pounding dreams. I’m grateful that we live with seasons.

With slips of mist suggesting more, and darkness closing up our doors, I’m thankful for the summer’s end. Fire and smoke at last are friends.

I plant my crops in pungent soil, protecting them from those who’d spoil my pleasure. And though I know I play a role, I’m grateful for the earth and the weather.

Unlike my hurried city friends, with concrete, towers and creeping grey, I have wrens and frogs, and morning mist. I’m blessed each time. I greet the day.

My youngest sent a message: MUMBO! MISS YOU! And whilst I sighed – she’s away in the world, I thank gods (unknown) for my gorgeous girl.

I had a kindred spirit once. He could always make me smile. He went too early – and yes I’m sad, but grateful for the time we had.

I’m very pleased my body works, as time creates its normal strife – to walk and sing, see fuchsias, clouds. Most of all I value life.

On my way to work last Saturday I took a back road and came across a kangaroo on the road…she had been hit by a car and when I parked and walked back to check she didn’t have a joey in her pouch found she was still warm with only small amounts of fresh blood seeping from her nose and damaged back leg…otherwise she looked perfect, peaceful…and so young…too young to have a joey. I caught my breath and the tears welled…without thinking I ran back to my car devastated and continued on to work. Moments later the guilt flowed through me…why had I not moved her off the road? I fretted but was already late and continued on, opened my shop and started my day, promising I would go back to the kangaroo following work and move her under a nearby tree. I wondered why I had not been able to move the kangaroo and realised I held fear of death and was horrified that I hadn’t been able to do what I considered the respectful thing to do in honouring the animals too brief life (as well as from a safety point of view for other drivers). After work I picked the first of my red camellias blooming in the large wine barrels outside my shop and drove back to the kangaroo. Some kind person had already moved her and I gently placed the flower between her two front paws and said a few quiet words. I drove off feeling despondent but feeling I had still learnt something both about me and my feelings towards death. It doesn’t get any easier, this dealing with death…regardless of how many times you sadly bear witness to it.

And I’ve realised this post is somewhat of a ramble, not unlike life…some good, some bad, some positive, some negative…and yet again it strikes me that life is not about what happens to you but what you choose to do in relation to what happens to you, whether you choose to live life, really grasp it by its horns or allow yourself to be bucked up and away in something akin to defeat.

…I must reach for those stars I can view on a clear night from the place I choose and am lucky enough to live…I must live with life and also the death that comes with all life…I must love for the moment and not miss a thing that is within my grasp…and as I type these last few lines my faithful dog Lottie has rattled down the stairs and is expectantly wagging her tail next to me, come down for a pat and to keep me company…the simple things…

Post Script: Stripe did die. Although we never did find her body we have seen a large eagle repeatedly visit these past few days. The older guineas quickly cry as one and hide each time. Nature can be cruel but the cycle of life continues.