Saturday, December 25, 2010

Looking Back: A Christmas Memory

I remember well the first Christmas after I got married. My husband and I had moved from Iowa to Lancaster, PA at the end of November. It was just before the holiday season. Everything was feeling very strange. We had rented a house-trailer, a nice one at that, but it was the only thing that was available in that rural Amish community.

The night we went searching for a Christmas tree it was clear and cold, with many stars in the dark sky, similar, I suppose to the way it was on that night near Bethlehem when the shepherds saw a bright star in the heavens. I can remember the place we stopped. It was around a bend on one of the curvy roads that fanned out from Lancaster. We didn’t spend much time at it because it was so cold and we didn’t have much money. But it was a beautiful tree that fit well in the back seat and out the windows of our red and white 1956 Oldsmobile convertible. We had driven it all the way from Iowa only a few weeks earlier.

When we got to our trailer we found we were going to need to cut the bottom of the trunk off so it would fit in the tree stand. When we separated the branches we discovered that our tree already had a gift in it. We found a nest, hidden down in the thick branches at the bottom of the tree. All of a sudden that nest made us feel like this really was our new home.

It turned something that was so new and strange and different into an experience that welcomed us home to our new life. We would build a new nest, have children and learn to be the best we could possibly be together. And we still have that nest. It is a little bit worse for the years, like all of us, but every year for the last 30 it has perched in its own special place in each tree, reminding us of that first Christmas
Written Christmas 1994

Wednesday, December 1, 2010

In Memorium

Polka Dot
rescued August 31, 2009 - disappeared November 13, 2010
It was inevitable. At least I say that now. When I agreed to keep three rescued feral cats in my barn as barn cats I didn't think enough about how vulnerable they would be to the coyotes, fox, hawks and Owl we see around our urban farm almost daily. No, I wanted to help the Northern Colorado Friends of Ferals with placing some of the cats that had been rescued from a hoarder. Once feral cats have been spayed or neutered they can go back to their homes, called colonies, familiar areas and other cats where they are comfortable. But these cats had no other home to go to.
I have had them for a year now. They must have been 4 or 5 months old when I got them, so they matured while they were in my care. I thought I did everything I could to keep them safe and warm.
I set up a warming house in a stall in the barn with a pet heating blanket that kept them warm during the coldest nights. I was given a large enclosure that another cat rescue group didn't need anymore. Once I got that set up I kept them in it at night. They soon learned who their caregiver was and even if they kept their distance from other family members by the time I had them 6 months or so they were letting me touch them and even pick them up. It is not surprising when you consider that I was feeding them canned food at night and they knew it. I fed them insidethe enclosure so it was easy(for me) to close them in. As time went by they became friendlier and friendlier. Soon they were sitting outside the kitchen door meowing for me to go to the barn for their feeding.
The neighbors gave me glowing reports about what good mousers they were in their barn. They kept our barn rodent free as well. On our daily walks to the barn they would stop, roll over and beg to be petted. They would follow me whenever I was out working around the barn.
Off and on they had spent a night or two outside, but they always showed up the next day. That's why I was not too worried when I went out to feed the horses a few weeks ago and I found the door to the enclosure standing open. Polka Dot was gone. Moonbeam was still inside. (The third cat, Lollipop, disappeared several months ago)
It has now been over two weeks. I am still looking for her. I have convinced myself that she has found a warm place and some cat companions to hang out with. The reality is that she probably has not. I know this but I can't accept it. I think she could still come home. The bad news is that we have seen a coyote hanging around the fields nearby. However, there are lots of rabbits and mice around.
The neighbors did not see her. In fact they have two cats that they have had for several years. So that keeps me looking. I miss her terribly.