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To Everything There is a Season…

Mar 19th, 2010 by Mary | 0

“To everything there is a season . . . .”

“To everything – turn, turn, turn

There is a season – turn, turn, turn

And a time for every purpose under heaven

A time to be born, a time to die

A time to plant, a time to reap

A time to kill, a time to heal

A time to laugh, a time to weep”

These lyrics by the Byrds, based on the book of Ecclesiastes, written probably two centuries before the birth of Jesus, become more strikingly and vividly true living in the country, where it is hard not to rub noses with nature every day. We managed to move here a few weeks before one of the worst Iowa winters ever recorded. We went over three months without seeing the ground under its cover of snow and frost. The bulbs I planted in the fall still have a foot of ice on them.

A few days from now we will be celebrating the spring equinox, the time when night and day are equally balanced, then night — either gracefully or begrudgingly, but always inexorably – must yield to spring. So, despite the sub-freezing temperatures that still visit us from time to time (last average frost date here in western Iowa is May 15, quite different from the west and northwest!), I optimistically went to the upper level of our hilly property last week to sow wildflower seeds on top of the snow (some gardening experts said this would work and I figured it was worth a gamble to sow $50-dollars’-worth of mixed wildflowers for the birds and butterflies).

I envisioned wildflowers springing up, turning the muddy/slushy/snowy ground into a bouquet of poppies, lupine, black-eyed Susans, coneflowers, bachelor’s buttons, columbine, phlox, nasturtiums, cosmos . . . the list was endless.

So Sheryl’s eldest daughter, Janet, and I, seeds in hand, put on our boots and trudged up the hill. As we neared the field, I noticed pieces of fur scattered in the snow. I assumed a rabbit had made its transition there, perhaps by a feral cat or fox. Then Janet said, “Look out for the deer.” I turned, to confront a deer, who had obviously not died of old age. Its back leg was broken and bent backwards, the hide had been pulled away from the rib cage. I couldn’t even imagine what could have not only brought down a deer but eviscerated it the way it was lying there. Something big. Something wild. Something I did not want to meet face to face. I had seen a couple of Labrador retrievers roaming the property, brothers whose owners let them run free, but they would both scoot off when I so much as raised my voice to them, and I never saw them together. I learned that there are lynx in this county that can fell a deer, even verified sightings of mountain lions in the counties both to the north and south of us. I still don’t know what killed this particular a few yards from our house.

The stark contrast between the yet-to-be-sown wildflower seeds in our hands and the gutted and broken deer brought us both up short. I still haven’t figured out what to do with the carcass, whose rib cage I can see from the window as I write this. We buried a redtail hawk we found in the meadow, but a deer is another matter entirely. So now the deer will become part of the fertile earth that brings forth new life, even its dying being a blessing to what comes after. Life always bursts forth, eager to jump, and shout, and grasp the sweetness of this earthly experience.

In the midst of winter, in the darkness, in the snow, two little sparks of divine life were kindled, Sapphire (named after her one blue eye), and Sutter, her brother, foundlings whom I have been fostering this week.

I volunteer once a week and they were recent additions, found abandoned by a country byway, to fend for themselves. They have brought me much joy this past week, with their tails always wagging, their little yelps, not yet full barks, summoning me to their kisses whenever they hear my voice, their puppy breath on my face as if the breath of God. Not for them the ruminations of life and death, no worries for the future, just this perfect, precious moment. And for today, as one season turns into another, day and night, life and death, equally balanced, it is enough.

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