That was 2010, shortly after Stellaluna arrived here on the farm. Actually, it was also shortly after we arrived here on the farm, for Stellaluna was here before we even moved in! She was, in fact, a fifth birthday present for Adelaide from a friend, and the very first farm animal we had. Stellaluna came with another duck, who I'm sad to say (and maybe I've said here before), wandered off into the woods within hours of her arrival! We never found any sign of that duck though there is still a tall tale told that she lives in the wild of the woods on our property. The kids swear they see evidence of her when we go for walks back there sometimes. And so, Stellaluna lived with the chickens that were to follow, and she was therefore named Stellaluna after the children's book about a fruit bat who is taken in by a family of birds, and comes to believe herself one (before eventually finding her way back to her family and all the other bats). Even after we got ducks, a few years later, Stellaluna still preferred to be with the chickens, we think. At first, a lot of Adelaide and Stellaluna's time together was spent like above, with a whole lot of attempts at love being given. Eventually, Stellaluna trusted her and the two of them could sometimes be found together in the pasture. She was everybody's favorite - I mean, how could she not be? A duck amongst chickens. And ducks are just so silly anyway. And awesome.
I suppose you know where this is going. Stellaluna passed yesterday. And I might as well rip off the bandaid and tell you that Almanzo (the beautiful fluffy gray cat who was born here) went missing in the woods four weeks ago and isn't likely to return. AND Bluebell (the goat) miscarried last week too. Our rooster (funny fluffy footed feather that he was!) didn't survive the owl attack that happened last month.
I know, right? When I realized Almanzo probably wasn't coming back before the kids had realized it themselves, I had that familiar and awful feeling in my stomach alongside my instinct that says "never again! We can never have another cat, the heartbreak when we lose one is just too much for me to ask these kids to bear! Entirely unnecessary heartbreak that can be avoided!". And I imagine it's a similar feeling than the one Steve felt for a quick minute when he found Stellaluna in the barn, snuggled into a cozy corner and decidedly not alive yesterday morning. Or when he found what was clearly a barely formed goat on the barn floor a week earlier. It's heavy sometimes. Intense often. Even on this level of 'farm lite' as we call what we're doing here, there is just a lot of death (planned and unexpected both). And with that, comes heartbreak sometimes too.
In each of these moments, as we've done every time before, we take a deep breath and dive into the telling. Sharing the news, sharing a hug, sharing space with our kids. And I hold my breath just a little, waiting for the flood of emotion and sorrow from them and my corresponding guilt in even giving them an animal that they could then lose..... But then, like each and every time before, my children surprise me. Or perhaps they just remind me who they are and what they know. Because yes, there are tears and sadness. But there is also always celebration of life - whether grand or small in gesture. And then there is moving on - not forgetting, not ignoring - but moving forward. They know - better than I do, having spent more of their growing years here than not - that this is part of the circle. That part of loving also includes letting go, and with the joy of course comes sorrow too. They know it plain as day, as well as their every season, every year rhythm here at home shows them.
We ordered chicks last night, not as a filler for that sadness, but because we needed to do that anyway and it seemed a good time. For a moment, I couldn't help but think (morbid and worried Mama that I am) that one of these little chicks will become someone's favorite and eventually it will die (I know! This is what February does to my brain, I tell you. This February most of all!). And yes, that's the truth, of course. Heck, there might even be a dead one (or two) upon arrival. That happens. But also true is that we certainly will enjoy the little chicks when they first arrive and celebrate what they give us each day, and without a doubt, we will rejoice in the life we are living here, alongside each and every one of these beings we get to share it with, and whom make our days so bright. This, my children know in their hearts, and this is how it goes. Over and over again.