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How’s your summer going? Are you managing all the things? Have you achieved a perfect balance of fun, work, and level-headed, emotionally available parenting? Great!
When we moved to this small farm nearly a decade ago, there were a couple of barn owls living in the cupola of our barn. They’ve been beloved residents over the years. We heard them hunting at night. We visited them in the hayloft and watched their babies fledge in the summer. We took epic videos of them.
Long ago, before we even moved in, we were hanging around the farm overseeing some repairs and I stumbled upon a dying owlet under the barn. I bundled it up and raced to the Audubon Society’s Wildlife Care Center to see if it could be saved. It could not, and the death of that baby owl compounded by the stress of moving and the heartbreak of leaving my old home and neighborhood on a hill in the woods really broke me. I sobbed all the way home. I thought it might even be a bad omen.
But at the Wildlife Care Center I learned that barn owls lay a clutch of eggs over the span of many days. The last owlet to hatch might be a week younger than its eldest sibling and it’s not uncommon for that baby to starve. That’s what happened to the owlet I found under the barn.
The barn owl life is a hard one. I’ve since found two dead babies. One of them on an Easter Sunday with a bunch of kids who organized a funeral so moving and elaborate that I drew a comic about it. The other one was discovered by Milo and his friend Sampson face down in the barn last week in a neglected animal stall at the base of a hay chute.
At some point in the past year or so we began to notice that the owls were missing. They weren’t in the hayloft when we visited during the day. We didn’t hear them hunting at night. Barn owls don’t hoot, but they make a lot of other sounds. Their hunting call is a shrill shriek designed to chase rodents out of their hiding places. They don’t generally live to be a decade old and it was safe to assume that the pair of owls that had always been here was gone forever. We were sad. It wasn’t the same without them.
The good news is that after a year of quiet nights, we started to hear owls hunting again. Recently Colin and I went up to the hayloft and peered into the cupola rafters and, sure enough, a pair of them peered serenely back down at us. We see them all the time now, flying low at dusk or perched atop the barn, silhouetted against the night sky. I’m not sure if I believe in omens but if that starving baby felt like a bad one, this hale new pair of owls feels auspicious.
Did you hear about all that flooding in Vermont a few weeks ago? Well, my parents’ little town, Londonderry, was hit very hard. Roads and bridges were washed out. My folks live on high ground and fortunately they fared okay but it was a mess and the community is, of course, still recovering. If you’d like to help, you can donate to Stratton Community Foundation.
Good News Again
Last week Colin and I celebrated our 15th wedding anniversary. It’s a lot easier for me to write about owls than about the two decades we’ve spent together. I will just say: marriage is sometimes hard, but we still love and cherish each other and I feel lucky.
Neither Colin nor I felt strongly about marriage. In 2008, we already had a kid, a joint bank account, and a house. We decided to get married in good part because an unwed life of cohabitation and coparenting is logistically and legally complicated. Marriage would simplify taxes, health insurance, hospital visitation rights, home ownership, etc. etc.
I was almost willfully unsentimental about the wedding. I love to throw a big party and I set about planning one, but I didn’t want to be one of those people trying to engineer the happiest day of my life. I like to set my expectations low and to be delighted when they are surpassed. This modus operandi has spared me much disappointment. And, you know what? My wedding did end up being one of the happiest days of my life.
It was a really good party. We got married in the woods at Pendarvis Farm and lots of guests camped out afterwards. But the best thing about it was the people who came from all over the place to celebrate with us. I had underestimated how meaningful it is to be surrounded by the folks who love you most, wishing you well. That shit is truly powerful and now I am all for weddings. No more willful unsentimentality.
We had another rager to celebrate our anniversary last week. It was so big that I rented a porta potty and hired some teenage parking attendants, and once again I was overwhelmed with a sense of gratitude for the people around me. I have a few thank yous, if you’ll indulge me.
Thanks to my neighbors Hannah and Kelty who made me a flower crown and a ton of gorgeous, ecstatic bouquets.
Thanks to Laura and Austin who printed up scout books for everyone to take home as souvenirs.
The taco cart that I hired broke down 2 miles from my house right before the party and my neighbor Justin dropped everything to tow it here with his pick-up. Thank you, Justin! When he arrived with Marcelo, the taco cart guy who I had never met before that moment, I enfolded them both a delirious, sweaty embrace.
And thank you to the person who asked if she could “quietly pay for the taco truck” so that dinner would be free for everyone at the party. She knows who she is and I love her a lot.
Yesterday I had to do some hand-lettering for a french edition of This Story is Not About a Kitten by Randall de Sève. I’ll leave you with this quote, spoken by one neighbor to another.
Until next time,
P.S. Actually, I’ll leave you with this adorable photo of Milo in front of the barn owl themed wallpaper I designed for my house the year we moved in.
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