“It cracks me up that you took pics of all of the messy places,” she texts.
“Those are all of the beautiful places,” I text back.
And it’s true. Every corner of her home held beauty. All things burst green with the late northern spring in the Oran Valley. We stayed at her place even though she was away, but her family members that remained at home were charming and perfect hosts.
Bruce gathered eggs from the hens’ favorite corner of the barn (why they don’t lay in their coop, no one understands, but chickens are complicated people) and served them up for our Saturday morning breakfast. Tilly had each of us (in genteel rotation) hurl a chunk of tree bark into the brush for her to retrieve. Monty caressed my girl’s neck with his? her? forked tongue and was a welcome, dense, comforting weight in her hands. Not about to be superseded by Thomas Merton, Jag pushed my book aside, curled up in my lap, and dug her claws into my thighs, teaching me something new about pain and pleasure.
(And then there were those chickens. I couldn’t stop myself–I took about 900 pictures of chickens that weekend. Why? I have no idea, but who wouldn’t take pictures of giant pet birds that wander around outside the house and inside the house and start making noise at 4:30 AM and keep going all day?)
When we were away from the house doing family things, attending the events for which we’d made the trip north in the first place, we talked about what Tilly, Monty, Jag and the chickens might be up to back at the house. And when it was time to leave, certain of us planted kisses on all things canine, feline, and anguine, and there were tears, and long pauses while taking one last look up the hill before closing the car door.
Weeks later, I stand in the kitchen while the tulsi steeps. I reach out and touch each picture and remember sweet birdsong, the squeak of trampoline springs, the crack of a bonfire, the quiet of a stairwell.