Every year I forget what a lapwing sounds like. Last night, walking Leonard after sunset I heard a familiar voice literally circling me. I spun around, following the direction of each call, to try to get a glimpse of the bird flying low to the ground: lapwing?

But I slowly realized it was an oystercatcher. They’re back.

The lapwing won’t be far behind.

This morning the sky is such a convincing blue, you’d swear there’d never be another day of white winds and sleet.

I am ready for a change of season. Even if it means clearing out the greenhouses and beginning again.

Not going in to the school to work these weeks has been slightly disorienting. I lose track of the days. The months, even. But I have managed to pack all of those concerns into a box and stick it in the corner of my headspace. I’ll get back to it. But for now, all is quiet. There’s no kicking from inside the box. No noise. I am hoping when I open it again all the drama will have sorted itself out. When I am ready to open it, I will dig around and pull out Hope first. And let her sit beside me while I sort through the rest.

I’ve been waiting for a nudge from the gut. A little sense of lack, a desire to “get back to it”. I should be missing my students by now. But not yet. A cup of tea, the tapping of the keyboard’s keys, the squawk of the crow out the window is enough for today. Again.

Leonard drops onto the rug in this tiny library and sighs. This is enough.

I am easing back into my old routines with yoga and meditation before writing. It’s still not easy. I keep thinking of Sisyphus getting that rock going. And of Jack and Jill and the frightening joy of tumbling down. When was the last time I lay in the grass and rolled down a hill?

Spun until I fell down?
Chewed on a dandelion?
Let an ant crawl on the back of my hand?
Shook sand out of my hair?

Yeah, all this “forest bathing” I do, and I am still just observing.

I watch and listen
as though being separate
from the world this way
were the safest thing to do
– this way to preserve a life

Leonard has something in his mouth after his trip around the edges of the garden. I don’t notice until he’s in the dining room, his nails clicking on the floor as he walks in circles – clearly unsure of what he’s supposed to do/wants to do.

I press the sides of his mouth gently, just in front of where his jaws hinge, “Slipp“. (My youngest son has always been annoyed with my code-switching, but my dog doesn’t mind.)

It’s a rat. A very dead rat. I wish I could write mouse because that seems less disgusting. But it’s a rat.

I think about living in Kentucky as a teenager. In a little house at the bottom of a hill, surrounded by farmland. An anachronous 4 years of shovelling coal into a furnace every morning before a quick shower in the corner of the unfinished, unheated basement. A quick shower because the cistern was low in the winter. I’d try to remember to look in the mirror before leaving for school every morning: to check my nostrils for coal dust.

Every spring those four years my mother’s cat would wake me in the middle of the night. She’d bring a mouse into my bed, then let it go – chasing it into the hallway and living room, before bringing back and repeating the game until the mouse died of exhaustion. Then I’d get up and dig an empty can from the trash to scoop up the furry corpse and put it in the trash. And go back to bed. It was “just” a mouse.

Maybe Leonard wouldn’t be overweight if I let him chase mice around the house. Or rats.

What is it about rats?

Last spring a cat raised her litter under our deck. So the whole thing could be much more macabre than it is.

A few months ago I ranted a little about someone claiming in their TED talk that a poet would choose “hare” over “rabbit” for the associative value of hare/hair. I pointed out that a poet might well know the difference between a hare and a rabbit. I wrote that I expect hare here, but if I were to see a rabbit, I would know a pet got loose.

When I walk Leonard through the fields around here, I know to be aware he could catch the scent of a hare and his hunting training kick in. But yesterday, rounding the corner near the house, he suddenly shot into a hedge and then nearly dragged me off my feet – a rabbit ran across the street back to its hutch no doubt.

Apparently, Leonard isn’t concerned with the hare/rabbit distinction at all.

when I write about
coal dust, it is coal dust and
not the wet topsoil
of the kitchen garden, not
the dry shit-dirt of the coop