Yesterday I woke up cheerful. Jane joined us early in bed after having slept the night through in her big girl bed. Rather than demanding to nurse, writhing and kicking while we try to sleep, she snuggled close to me. I think I even drooled on her pretty head. We enjoyed morning coffee and play with Daddy. Then we went to hell in a hand basket. I took too long to do my morning chores. Jane became restive. I tried to remedy her attitude and mine with some fresh air, but put on boots and socks she hates. We enjoyed the beautiful morning, the strange new light in the yard, but I was thinking about wilder wildlife than Bete, who was hunting in what's left of the tall grass. Jane refused to walk, and once in my arms, kicked off her boots, so I had to carry them and her. I took this as a sign it was time to go in. She took our approach to the house as a sign it was time to sit down in a patch of frost and yank out the remaining sunflowers. I hauled her in--she waving a sunflower stalk, roots and all, like a lash, spraying the entryway, which I had just given its bimonthly vacuum, with dirt. She wouldn't eat. She whined and threw a fit. I put her to bed. Rather than the two hour nap I expected her to take, she slept 35 minutes, just long enough to transform us both into raving lunatics. I sat her in front of It's the Great Pumpkin Charlie Brown, oh yes I did, and turned my attention to the chutney I'd started while she slept.
All said, it was really only your average cranky morning. But I couldn't handle it. That's how it happens for me as a mom. I go and go and go and feel fine, and suddenly I can't take another, not a single, not even the tiniest screechy whine. As this thought formulates in my head, it touches off a great doomsday machine of "I can't handle this anymore. Everything is wrong." So I zoned into the chutney. Stirring....stirring.... So beautiful. Raisins, apple, squash and quince; cinnamon, clove, onion and horseradish; vinegar, vinegar, vinegar--so many favorite aromas. Jane watched more Charlie Brown. I stirred, I sterilized, I canned. I got everything wrong today, said the little voice as I washed the dishes. Like popcorn beginning to pop, slowly I heard each lid seal, pop, pop, pop. There now--there's one thing you got right.
We finally made it outside again, into the beautiful cool sunlight. I found my special mug smashed on the drive. I'd left it on the hood of the car the day before. I passed a broken bird in the grass. We never thought she'd ever catch a bird. She's grown wilder, more catty since we've lived here. All day I wanted to cry a little. All day, small things hurt at my heart.
I was lucky enough to have a girl's night scheduled with my sister. We went up to Ikea, an hour drive or more each way. I bought the train we'll give to Jane for Christmas, and other things for the house. Two new lights for my studio, to extend my days. On the way home from my sister's house, I listened to a station playing all the jazz standards I sang in high school--warm arrangements. I thought of the fire, of my husband already asleep in bed, and how nice it would be this winter to stream the station on the radio, to sit by the fire with candles burning and a glass of sherry.
The porch light was off when I got home. We never turn it on. The moon was so bright. I've never known such a moon, only in books and movies. I decided to leave everything in the car. The first key I tried in the door was the wrong one. I always do that. As I fumbled with the keys in the dark, I felt, before I saw, something drawing near. I looked up as the coyote came around the corner of the house, two feet or three feet away from me. It must have been walking close to the wall of the house. We looked at each other. The coyotes have been on my mind; I've been hearing them at night, watching for them from the kitchen window during the day. The question flashed through my mind--is this a meeting with spirit guide, or is this a meeting with a dangerous animal? The coyote answered. It growled at me, deep in its throat, and bared its teeth, and raised its hackles. In the second I decided to run to the car and climb it, the keys slipped through my hand and hit the concrete. The coyote turned its head and trotted through the bushes--silent--crossing the street under the streetlight.
I let myself in the house. I locked the door. I checked the lock on the back door. I brushed my teeth. I tried to cry. I climbed the stairs, and tiptoed into Jane's room. I needed to see her. In bed, I looked at the stars through window and listened to the coyotes howling and barking along the creek. I indulged my feelings, and saw the events of the day as subtly significant. I imagined the little broken things as omens, or warnings. I thought about the times in my life I have faced real danger. Eventually, I slept.
The house looks different today. The leaves on the two big trees in our front yard changed overnight to bright yellow.
It's hard to say what I feel. Not the bear scat in blackberries, or the bear seen on our street; not the cougar shot nearby; not even the coyotes in the yard on a sunny afternoon could change the way I felt about our home. But a meeting on my doorstep in the moonlight...
I feel heartbroken.