Winter is gone. But so, says Sara, are the little foxes. She is concerned that the gray foxes (who are only distantly related to the quick red fox I used to try to type about) are no longer seen near her coastal home. They were there: the townsfolk watched them play with their kits and climb trees--gray foxes climb trees, and like fruit as well as mice. She saw them a year ago in February, when they were mating. And then she went away for a journey, and returned, and no one saw foxes. Not anywhere.
Being a methodical and curious woman she is in touch now with the local university and is trying to figure out what is happening. That I have seen foxes in my woods does not console her for her loss.
My friend Woods, when I talk with him about the foxes, supposes it is loss of habitat. Lots of beautiful expensive homes being built out along the coast, lots of brush and trees being cleared. He doesn't worry much about foxes. No, he is worried about the amphibians. Where are the newts, he asks? What has happened to the frogs?
I have a goodly population of newts in my shaded forest, and I hear the frogs and toads calling their mating calls every place I walk, but Woods--who is a scientist and should know--says they are gone from his area of the forests, north and west of my own.
I am pondering, along with many, the situation of the bees. Honeybees, that is. As Woods is quick to point out, we have lots of native bees around here who are doing quite well. The honeybees, he sneers, aren't native. Over the years I've known him he has been prone to lecture me a lot on my loves. I love the wrong birds, the wrong flowers, the wrong mammals. He has stopped short of telling me I love the wrong people...but someday he might continue to that as well. Stellar bluejays, european roses, star thistle--all wrong. I will never make it to naturalist's heaven, being unrepentant of my sins.
Certainly others are quick to tell me I love the wrong people. The young pregnant woman living in a tent with her husband in the worst part of the winter miscarried her child. She left her husband. Her husband left the area. She has found work at a local restaurant and drops by, ever cheerful, always hopeful.
The frail guy with the eyes the colors of the summer sky, known as Hobbit, was released from the hospital and is back on the streets. Still alive. He may make it through another summer, or perhaps not. "I don't walk so good anymore" he tells me "that's why I haven't been by to see you".
The mother who was living in a van with her daughter and her boyfriend, just down the road a bit--I passed the van often, greets me with a warm smile as I go to the market where she works. We trade casual good wishes. Her boyfriend raped the daughter, who bore a child, who was placed in foster care. The mother and the daughter--she's 13, think of it, just turned 13--did finally find a place to stay. The boyfriend was arrested last week, as the gossip murmured below the surface.
My friend Pat died last week, with her daughter and her long time companion at her side. Kevin sent me a poem of Emily Dickinson's as the news--the one about the going of the inland heart to sea. He and Pat met when she happened by his boat building place. I recall her saying what a delight it was to see these strong young men working on the graceful wooden boats. They did a lot of sailing over the years.
The neighbor whose apartment adjoins the bookstore broke down last week. At midnight we heard him howling and sobbing and screaming and crying. I have never heard a soul in such distress. We called the police. I walked one of the young officers back to the side of the building to listen (you reach the apartment from another road). He turned pale, there in the moonlight, hearing the lamentations and screams and the sobbing, sobbing, sobbing "I killed her, I am so sorry"
My fears were great, for the guy has a daughter...but in the end it was a drug trip, and possibly a broken heart, and possibly the weight of this universe pausing in one soul for a night. He's okay after some time at the hospital.
No one died this winter of exposure in my hills. No one died of hunger. Some people felt better for a few minutes.
Yesterday a beautiful young woman dropped by. We talked for quite a while, about books and life and travels. She said "4 years ago you let me stay overnight at the bookstore; I've never forgotten; it saved my life". I had forgotten. My memory is such a sieve when it comes to these encounters--but as she spoke, I did remember; she had mentioned a contact up north, and we couldn't bear to leave her to sleep in a strange town, a very young and pretty woman by herself, stranded for a moment.
She said "I've thought of you everyday for four years" and hugged me, and hugged my partner, and left to continue her journeys and her studies. She is studying to be a doctor, and wants to come back to this region to work.
Meanwhile my partner went for his first hearing on his trespass case; he'd spent the night at the congressman's office and was arrested after 20 hours. They've brought the charges down to an infraction. I read the charges...something about crossing a closed gate into a field, which made little sense. I read the arresting officer's report, in which the young man repeatedly mentioned the "elderly protestor"s respectful, serious, and nonviolent demeanor. Paul had told me, after the arrest, that the police had been close to tears.
It's a strange world, my friends. These days it seems a patchwork of light and dark, of beauty and pain, of wonder and sorrow.
But it is spring, and the air is heavy with blossoms.