AT THE MOMENT I'M TAKING A BREAK FROM YARD work to sit in the shade by the aviary, which is still full of chicks. They are adolescent chicks now, at the gangly stage, feathered out and growing, but not fully chicken shaped. They are alleged to be all pullets, but we'll see. I chose this spot, in the shade of the ancient apple tree to sit in the chairs my friend Barb found on the curb one day. We had plans, but our coffee date got sidetracked when she spotted a couple of white wicker rockers. She called me and said, “You like to dumpster dive, right?” and we drove over and somehow stuffed both chairs into the back of her little car.
They are perfect for this spot. I wanted to sit peacefully by the chickens to help acclimate Ursula to them. She tends to get excited and race around the aviary, while the lone rooster baits her. I came armed with dog biscuits and the clicker, and after only a little redirection, she is now quietly sitting at my feet, helping me enjoy the shade and the breeze.
Earlier this week I got a surprise call from another friend, another Barbara, this one in from Upstate New York. Many years ago, she brought me a little yellow puppy, and always asks about Isis. Isis' brother, Jack still lives in New York with Barbara's family. I've heard that dogs have long memories, remembering the scent of a person they haven't seen for years, and I believe this. Isis is near the end of her days. She is deaf and arthritic. She still loves a walk, but even going as far as the cemetery up the hill exhausts her now. If I want to take a long walk with Ursula, we have to sneak away. Isis no longer sheds her winter coat, so that we have to get her a summer cut, but I can see that she still loves Barbara. Isis can be rather standoffish, and generally won't allow a stranger to touch her. But she put her sweet nose right up into Barbara's face, slowly wagging her tail in loving recognition. Barbara's son, Cameron, drove out with her, and Isis remembered him, too. They reminisced about the day Isis was born, April Fool's Day, fifteen years ago. Barbara was glad to see Isis. She said she might not get another chance to visit her, and I know this is probably true.
But Isis is not the only one getting old and decrepit. I offered my friends a drink, and tried to think of some little snack to offer, but they snuck up on me and I wasn't prepared. Suddenly I remembered that the last time I made a pie, I put away in the freezer some little mini lemon treats I made with the leftover crust and lemon curd. These are fun to make, like little jeweled pastries you can pop in your mouth. I told my friends the story of my last pie while I arranged the snacks on a little plate and put them into the microwave to thaw. We caught up a little. I heard about Cameron's job in Chicago. The timer rang. I checked the pastries and they were still a little cold, so I put them in for thirty more seconds. In thirty seconds anything can happen. An egg can begin to hatch. A pie can begin to burn. A friend can tell a story or give a hug or wipe away a tear. An old woman can walk out of the room, forgetting that she put the pastries back into the microwave. Somehow we ended up in the yard again, talking, talking, talking. Suddenly Barbara looked at her watch. They had to get back on the road. A couple of quick photos, hugs and kisses, and they were gone.