By Christine Tailer
It was that time of year when we all travelled to be with family, or perhaps family traveled to be with us. We hugged and laughed and told stories of the recent past, and caught up on all those things that families catch up on. It was Thanksgiving.
We gathered, as we have for the past many years, at Greg's brother's house, as many of us as could sitting around the table. Others sat in the living room, still others on the floor, and we all had plates that overflowed with traditional delectables, potatoes and giblet gravy, green bean casserole, stuffing, and of course, tender, succulent slices of turkey.
We stayed and lingered, reluctant to face the long drive home, but finally, bellies full, Greg and I buckled ourselves into the cold car, cranked the heater up, and returned home to the creek. The car's electric hot seat lulled me to sleep, but as Greg turned off onto the creek road I woke up.
The road twists and turns between the creek side trees, and I love to watch the night road ahead as the bright light of the headlights casts an enchanting glow, as though we are passing through a magic tunnel.
I felt the ice crunch under my foot steps as I climbed the cabin's front steps. Even with the chill night air all around me, I was still half asleep. I brushed my teeth as Greg packed the stove tight with logs to burn through the night, and we headed straight upstairs to bed. The next morning we woke to a cold gray day.
I wished that I did not have to climb out from under the covers, and I knew that I could have easily rolled over for another hour or so of sleep, but I also knew that had to head up town to do lawyerly things.
After a cup of coffee and a bowl of cereal, I left Greg to do the animal chores by himself and I headed off into my lawyerly day.
All through the day I thought of Greg and the animals, the dogs, the rabbits, chickens, pigeons, goats, and horses. As I pulled into the driveway, Greg came out onto the front porch smiling. I stepped out of the car, and leaned back inside to retrieve my briefcase. As I straightened up, Greg said in his understated way "We have nine pigeons."
His smile spread from ear to ear.
Finally, our pigeons had managed to hatch a fertile egg, not during the calm balmy days of spring, or the over the hot days of summer, or the lingering warmth of fall, but in the middle of the frigid and freezing days of almost officially winter.
The shortest day of the year lay just three weeks away. We knew that our pigeons had decided to lay an egg, and had been sitting on it so it would incubate, but we have had many hatch-less eggs over the past year, and did not really expect that a featherless, completely defenseless, tiny pigeon would emerge from this egg to face the harshest weather the creek could deliver.
I ran over to the pigeon palace. I opened the latched door and stepped inside. The fat gray male sat in his nest box, looking at me. The other birds flew up to their perches at the top of the gazebo and peered down, but the gray male stayed still.
I walked over to him. Curiously, it is the males who typically sit on the nests and care for the young. I stood right in front of his nest box, our eyes at the same level. He did not budge.
I stood as still as he sat on his nest. And then a cold wind blew through the gazebo reminding me that I did not want to chase the male off of his nesting young. I just stood and watched, his jet black eyes meeting mine.
"You can do this," I told him. "You can raise this baby and in time I will let him fly through the creek valley sky, and after he flies he will always return."
I stood there. "We can do this," I told him. "We can do this."
The next day the sun shone and warmed up our creek world. I carefully entered the pigeon gazebo and approached the nest. The fat gray male stood up, and then stretched and then took flight to the highest perch.
The ugliest, most beautiful, gray- and pink-colored little creature wavered in the straw at the bottom of the nest. My heart melted and I wondered if I should give this first little hatchling a name. I backed away, and closed the gazebo door behind me. The male pigeon settled back in on his nest.
As I crossed the yard to the cabin, it occurred to me that the little bird's fate was far from certain. Not to name the bird would be best, but still, I could not help but smile.
This would always be my Thanksgiving bird.
Christine Tailer is an attorney and former city dweller who moved several years ago, with her husband, Greg, to an off-grid farm in south-central Ohio. Visit them on the web at straightcreekvalleyfarm.com.[[In-content Ad]]