A Batch Of Chicken Soup From The Past

A Fierce Practice 11 3 17

There's a batch of chicken soup defrosting on the stove. From laying hens who ate my grass and bugs years ago, and gave their lives to be soup stock back in December 2015. The blue masking tape label on the plastic lid reads CHICK 3-11. This could mean quite a variety of things, most and least likely that I made a batch of chicken soup on March 11th, of which year I could not tell you.

The magical soup is warming in a small, red Le Creuset cast iron pot. Gifted to me as part of a complete set a few years back when one of you was downsizing. Talk about gifts for which one can not even quantify the gratitude other than to let them bring joy each day. The lid is mismatched, a too-big stainless steel number that matches the resident cookware collection at the nest, not belonging to my interloper. My right-sized lid is maybe in the back of the cabinet, or in the kitchen tub in the garage, or in the other garage, or with its red cast iron kin in another storage tub somewhere. 

This is how much of life feels in this moment, that everything is somewhere. Somewhere else. And that everything that is here belongs to some long lineage of seeds planted years and years and years ago.

That red pot, from a friend of my Mom from college. The chickens from the first iteration of the farm. The soup from steaming over the stove last year. Indigo Girls through the speakers, a thread pulling way back. A new knit hat, sent from Miss P on the western coast. 

Fall has set in, with winter impending just around the dark morning corners. This change makes me scour for mittens and gloves and hats and scarves and boots and coats. Nothing is exactly where it seems it should be, and not in one place at all. It all reminds me how out of sorts I feel. How place-less. I set out, again and again, to wear down and pare down everything I own (one more time. one last time.) in this last month and a half of nesting in interim space and being physically so away from the farm.

What I am trying to say is, I am bringing in less new. Making do with what I have. And still stripping away to less and less. What remains is what I am most connected to. What is most useful to me. What serves me. I take stock of what remains (I defrost stock too). This feeling of less and less is so often connected to loss. But it shouldn't be. Letting go of the extra weight, the burdens that hold us down - that is the opposite of casualty and catastrophe. Instead, it is freedom.

Everything that is here is knit to the past. Somehow. 

Two years ago today Miss Fierce, my dear sweet dog companion of eight years took her final adventure. Losing her, and so unexpectedly, was the saddest loss I have every experienced. There is no way to spin that lessening as a positive, ever. She was, without a doubt, my most loyal companion and best friend. If you doubt me, don't. I buried her on the farm, in what used to be the far pasture. A place that is not that far from the new house at all. A place which I can see from the bedroom windows on the second floor. A place I hope the daffodil bulbs I buried with her body on that very warm November afternoon will remind me exactly where her bones are resting each spring. This summer I took the grave marker down, the small flags too. Not exactly because I was ready, but because it was time. Time to mow the pasture to maintain the thistles. Time to take some sort of other action. I don't know exactly where she is now, I can't find it by sight. It is not just that she is somewhere. This allows her to be everywhere. 

There are days that pass now when I don't think of her. This is neither good nor bad. It just is. This is what happens when seasons change and days get shorter and longer and shorter again. You can't find your winter hat and you can't remember where the dog is buried. And that is how it is supposed to be. The seasons keep tugging on, knitting our threads looseley behind them. 

I don't believe that new animal companions, or people, take the space of those preceding them. Those dog-shaped and human-shaped marks on our hearts are always here. Maybe our hearts just get bigger and stronger to accept more, new kinds of love. 

If you'd have asked me on this day last year, I knew I was not ready for a new dog companion. I waited for Charlie until my heart was begging again for more fur to sweep and long walks in the morning. I knew I had to get over something, instead of replace a gaping hole. Charlie is perfect in this way. She is absolutely nothing like Fierce, whatsoever. I'm not sure that they have one single thing in common, except perhaps that at moments they each look like different wild animals. (Seal, Bear, Wolf, Mouse between the two of them.) I like this. I appreciate it that I look at Charlie and she is her own crazy and bonkers adventure. That there is no way to mix them up, to place emotions where they don't belong. The only thing the same is that Charlie wears Fierce's collar. 

The soup's barely cool enough to eat, a skimcoat of chicken fat wrinkles across the surface when I move my spoon. The shreds of meat are tough, just like the chickens they came from. The deep green thyme leaves dotting my spoon like tiny arrows, trail markers. It is old. An ingredient list from the archives. It is real.

This is what nourishes me.

There's a little bit more to read HERE.