Life With Horace

poetry & essays


a burst of chickadees

despite the morning’s
snow and wind,
the birds came, knowing
they would feed here
in the sheltered tuck
of our house’s ell.
when they had
picked it clean,
I ventured out
with snow drunk dogs
to heap the platform
high with seed again
and stuff the suet grid.
as I struggled,
being short,
to place the hanger
on an apple branch,
a flutter led my eye
to see a burst
of small black caps,
spread scattershot
through apple arms
and lilac upright spray,
brassy bold, waiting for
their feast,
and us to go.

not knowing what form the snow would take, it was a shock to see upwards of 30 birds (no exaggeration) together at our feeders this morning, in the middle of swirling snow and wind. mourning doves, jays, chickadees, cardinals, titmice, nuthatches, downy woodpeckers, hairy woodpeckers, a red bellied woodpecker, slate colored juncoes, the odd sparrow all came and went, constant movement, an amazing sight. our chickadees are pretty fearless, and they regularly wait (and scold us if they think we move too slowly) when the other birds have fled. the sight of 15 or so of them spread out in the branches while I filled the feeders was marvelous.


Love held close

We carry with us
an unwilling certainty
that animals we love
will leave before we do,
taking with them
pieces of our hearts,
undimming coals
that light the way
and speed their journey
to another plane.

Death is not the
end of love,
merely a delimiter
once its torch is lit.
The bond created,
its existence
even unremembered
in the living world,
cannot be undone
or the joy obliterated.
Its ripples reach us all.

So while these
cherished creatures
live among us,
love is best held close,
celebrated clear eyed
and without regret
even as we know
its glow will one day
be reflected
in the sky at sunset,
a glint on dancing waves,
or from the flash
of deep night stars.

The loss of an animal can bring us to our knees, because they often need us to make the choice to let them go. What remains to comfort us is the memory, the spirit of love.

[the photo was taken at Black Dog Farm, Thanksgiving 1994. As you might imagine, to get all those dear Lab faces so perfectly lined up, food was involved, off camera. Sammy, my heart dog and protector, now long gone, sat 3rd from the left.]


The lover

Brown eyes that relegated those of graceland’s long-gone king
to minor status, a dedicated would-be ladies man
busking for apples and caresses on his velvet nose,
infinitely curious, sidling up to eager hands to give as well as take

His middle life was night to bright days at Bedlam, his courage fable worthy
walking a path of pain and fear right to the brink, rallying when all hope
seemed gone, taking a chance at life found only in his dreams

Great will and vital spirit, embers fanned by voices of his sudden liberation
he chose life, a miracle of parts, his resurrection measured by small steps
great victories for him and for the people working to reclaim his life in full

Despite his none too patient jennys and indifferent sheep
once healed he stood his ground, they were his charges
as was any child that came within his reach, a solid presence for small bodies
lovingly benign, an echo of his youth

His friendship won was golden, taking morning kisses, braying out his siren call
sometimes fierce, he never claimed perfection nor did we ask it
he led us gently to communion with his world, departing when he knew
his work was done

The pasture slope near his beloved tree is where he rests, and we will visit
bringing love

For Simon, who died yesterday, January 3, 2015. and for Jon and Maria who shared him with us.

1 Comment

let out the old

it is gone by,
a twelve-month,
reasons to celebrate
layered with
cautionary images
and sorrow
as is only fair,
intimate flashes,
even to growth,
achingly rich
creative elation,
a dog tail’s broad sweep
of the months,
days racing like
mountain clouds,
slipping away
until now,
flinging solstice
behind us,
finding more light,
we are at the top
of the grade,
minds straining
to cross the divide
into the new,
full of impossible

my southern scottish grandmother always brought in the new year with every light on in the house, the front door flung wide, and us that were there “letting out the old and letting in the new”, punch cups of egg nog in hand. the egg nog was her family’s recipe, so full of rum and brandy (I still dilute it with cream or milk) that those who helped her make it always ran the risk of intoxication from the fumes!