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Returning Home

Nicking a beaver dam requires some knowledge of physics were it to be an efficient endeavor, that is. More physics than I remember from high school. Will I lower the water faster if I cut a deep narrow notch, or if I lower a large swath, wider but more shallow? Time is a factor here. There is only a limited amount of it for such invigorating tasks as flinging mud and sticks from a well built dam to the brush pile, mud to the pasture. I love the rushing sound of the water when it is finally opened. And the warm, then cold of it as it inevitably soaks clothes.

Today I tried something new. I dug out a hole below the water line in the face of the dam, and worked my way up to the top edge, in effect, draining the center of the pond for the first time. The beavers are running out of trees to cut down. Have found plenty of mud, and have attacked the sedge, for which I am grateful, were that all that they destroy. I lowered the water level a good six inches today. Didn't see a beaver. Although I saw one last night, swimming a great distance with a large tree branch in his mouth. He saw me. Slapped his tail. Abandoned the trunk and swam around to assess the damage I had caused. They have taught me that they believe a curve is stronger than a straight line because they've made a very nice curved shape to this dam. And it is holding very well. I just cant let them flood my pasture. Nor can I allow them to eat my buffer zone plantation. They have to go. On the other hand the pond they have built is lovely. I shall hate to see it abandoned. There is no middle ground with beavers. Nor with coyotes. Nor deer for that matter. The fence around the water has, this year, at least kept the deer away. Unfortunately, for me. I used to love watching them.

The sheep have been growing fat on a combination of the baleage Wendell Hotaling has been providing me with, and the short, protein filled grass with which nature has been providing me. The goats look good. Tomorrow I shall start walking them up to their own little pasture. Goat Heaven. Brush and berries and browse to their hearts content.

They are not the best of dairy goats. Yet. But I am working on it. Little Merriweather Merriman remains to be sweet. She hadn't forgotten me in the six days I was gone. She is much bigger now. Amazing what a week can mean in a dealing's life. But she still snuggles in my arms. I may take her and her grandmother and mother to the goat pasture tomorrow. Life is good.

I am sitting in the morning light in my outdoor living room. Still another room in this house of many rooms. The early light here is enchanting. My favorite tree, a willow at the top of the stone steps leading to the carriage house's back yard, leafed out late this year. All spring I was heartbroken. I thought it had died. Indeed, some branches were dead. But the tree is gleaming in the morning sun. I've watched it since I first came here. Lovely in all seasons. Its branches have been hand holds for me, winter, on the icy steps it shelters. And the light on its leaves has delighted me spring and summer. With any luck I shall soon have someone cut the dead branches out of it. Or shall I be the someone? Too many "I's." Too many "perhaps."

I came home from California Wednesday night with a surprising new perspective about life here. It isn't what I expected. Nor did I realize that it would happen when I was there. But I see things differently. Not the differently that I experience when I go to cities. Another kind of differently. My daughter and son-in-law live in Berkeley. They are experiencing the first days of a long felt dream. My daughter is a pastry chef. She studied at the French Culinary Institute in New York and apprenticed in France. My son-in-law makes pizza. He owned a restaurant in New Orleans where he was chosen by Zagat as the best pizza maker in that city of incredible

restaurants. She is also a decorative painter. They both share a charisma that is a joy to see. Their dream has been to open a café where all of their skills can be employed to good use. I have been a mother and mother-in-law about all of this. It is a natural combination, of course. Occasionally disconcerting to all but natural, none-the-less. And so, with all of the love in my heart, I got up at four a.m., arrived at the Trailways bus far too early, (the only way I could get there) on time was to arrive an hour and a half early. The bus was 45 minutes late. I had a number of wonderful adventures, and arrived at "Pie in the Sky" in Berkeley, California at eleven o'clock in the evening. It was worth every minute of the trip. Every aspect of their talents have come into play in the charming, delightful café, pizza place they have created. My son-in-law's pizza was beyond the delicious I had expected. It was the best I'd ever eaten in my life. To my gratification, as I spent my days there, the customers were saying the same thing. It was the pleasure and joy of my heart to show them my love and support by being there in the first days of "Pie in the Sky". My son Joachim and his wife Sharon were there as well. Some things in life are good. These few days were most deeply that.

My daughter's way of creating a home is a combination of her father's fine hand, my make-it-pretty and feed-everyone-joyfully basis for living, and her own exquisite sensibilities. Her hand is more elegant and sophisticated than mine will ever be. Her sense of color more refined. Her eye for the unexpected, totally her own. Her apartment was reminiscent of the one she had lived in for over thirty years, the one I raised her in, but far, far, far more beautiful. My taste is more ordinary. Has no subtlety. And while I tend to make a wall or table setting pretty, it never has the touch of whimsy or refinement that hers so beautifully has. So it was a surprise that I found I had come home with a slight variation in the way I perceived things. Oh, of course I was inspired to try to be neater. Put things away. And things like that. But it was my eye that became slightly more like my daughter's, and even more intensely mine. I was surprised.

Arriving home I found the expected number of disasters to be of a moderate nature. Nothing was too irreparable. Some things were even good. No-one was dead. Thank God. Fly Flanagan tore up a basket I liked very much. It was apparent he hadn't been walked as often as I had instructed. The beaver had rebuilt his dam. But all-in-all I wasn't greeted with the despair that has confounded me some of the times I've been away for an afternoon, let alone a week. That helped.

I received a letter today from a woman who farms goats and sheep in Kansas. She has read my book. Her family contacted me. I've called her and now we correspond. Kansas would have been a separate country were it settled by Europeans a thousand years ago rather than two-hundred. And it is indeed another world. It is fascinating to one to hear about her life and experiences on her farm. They are so very different from mine. I have coyotes. She has coyotes and bobcats. She's set traps for bobcats and caught coyotes in them. Hooray for our side, anyway! Dennis Buel has set traps for coyotes here for me and caught coyotes. She had eleven inches of rain in a day. We don't have that in a month. Her goats were so muddy the kids couldn't nurse. Metal roofs blew off and lay around like "playing cards." Her spirit and hard work are incredible. She is becoming a friend. I consider myself the fortunate one that her daughter wrote me and asked me to write to her. Rosie. A woman farmer in Kansas.

When I was on the plane I turned on the television to the tracking channel. It showed the states over which we traveled, the miles per hour and altitude. I scrutinized Heart-land America both on the screen and below one to try to memorize where the central states are in relation to each other and to New York. The mail from readers of my book often is postmarked Indiana, Kansas, Ohio. The plane flew over Nebraska, north of Kansas. I had misplaced them all in my muddled sense of geography mea culpa. Rosie wrote me she thought of me while I was in

California. "We girls don't get off the farm too often," she wrote. "Hope you had a great time."

I did Rosie, I did.

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