A fox came into our yard last week.
Last week, while the chickens were ranging freely, while I was blissfully indoors and pretending like that was adequate supervision.
I didn’t even know anything was wrong until I came out to a pile of scattered feathers and not a chicken in sight.
Something is wrong. Something is very, very wrong.
Three of the six are corralled. Athena, Calliope, and Hecate the rooster. I call out for the rest. The high pitched call that used to give me a welcome wagon is met with silence. The dread is creeping in. I’m doing everything I can to not succumb to the panic bubbling beneath my skin.
Neighbors see our search. One comes out to tell us about the fox, the chase it was giving my girls. My husband and I spread out into the woods. Another neighbor finds a fourth — Demeter — and herds her to our property.
We keeping searching for the last two — Tyche and Persephone — but to no avail. We decide to lock up the coop but keep the run open with food. Later that night, my goddess of fortune finds her way back and I break down with relief.
But Persephone is no where to be found. My pantheon stays a bit emptier than before.
I try to lean on the poetic irony. Of all the chickens and their namesakes, it’s Persephone who might’ve been kidnapped and dragged to the underworld. It does nothing to alleviate things. I’m my own version of Demeter, just wanting her daughter back.
I knew the risks. Our last chickens were attacked and eaten, right in the coop. I knew letting my Greek goddesses out to range increased those risks.
I knew the inevitability of it all, the likelihood of loss — but I thought I had more time.
I have to smirk to myself when I think that. Didn’t I say something along those lines just a month ago?
For a life with so many twists and turns, the lines are shockingly parallel sometimes.
We do what we can. We search the woods the next morning. We both do our own little acts of superstition. I pray to St. Christopher even though I’m not Catholic. I pray to the Lady of Light. We leave the porch light on at night. Every rustle in the leaves is met with my high-pitched call (and every time the rustle does not result in return, I’m reminded that dashed hope is its own personal hell).
I go out that night and open the coop door and stroke the feathers of the remaining flock, telling them that Persephone is still missing but we are still looking.
My husband catches me doing that, asks if I was letting them know why their sister isn’t around. The weight of it all catches up with me and I collapse under it.
I knew when I signed on how inevitable certain things would be. But witnessing them come to fruition creates a moment of doubt. Was it smart, placing so much emotional investment in something so delicate? I stopped having mice and other small mammals for pets because I couldn’t take how short their lifespans were.
(But — oh — to this day I’ll talk about Fievel’s bravery, the snuggly nature of Dezzy, how Annabelle would shake her cage for attention and fearlessly approach the cats.)
Maybe. Maybe it’s not smart, but that doesn’t mean it isn’t beautiful. I find I keep coming back to a lyric in a song — I’m a lucky man to count on both hands the ones I love — and all the parallel lines in my life are making a staff for the song’s notes to land on.
How lucky was I, to have that little ball of floof, to fret over the temperature of her cage, if she was too hot or too cold. To cry big, pendulous tears when I realized they’d all lose their beautiful face markings, when it was their last morning in the house and snuggled in my lap one more time — to feel that gentle heartbreak when they got older and needed to rest less and the lap snuggles in the run became shortlived.
How lucky was I to be able to give out that kind of love — to love like the world isn’t tenuous and perilous, like it isn’t filled with metaphorical and literal foxes waiting in the woods.
Grief is the price we pay for love. It’s a saying that borders on the cliched, but it’s cliched only because it’s true. Some use it to focus on the negative, the warning that sorrow is an inevitability. To be vulnerable is to leave yourself vulnerable. For some it’s akin to, “abandon all hope, yee who enter.”
But I see it a different way. To love — and to love with abandon, to sink your soul into the wellbeing of another creature on this planet — is to tap into what life is about. To love others is to love life and life is a full spectrum of experiences. The sheer fact that all things, including and especially life, are temporary, means that grief is, in fact, an inevitability. The cost of admission into life — to really live it, not simply sleepwalk through it — is to accept that. To love is to embrace life and all the beauty it can temporarily contain.
Even through my tears I know I’m one of the lucky ones.
The one upshot is I’m no longer on the fence about whether or not I’m keeping Hecate.
Hecate — the goddess who witnessed Persephone’s kidnapping and went in search of her. The goddess of ghosts and necromancy. The hen who turned out to be a rooster, whose crowing has had me up at the witching hour, repeating to myself that I can’t keep this up much longer.
But in the wake of losing Persephone, it’s a no brainer. I adore this little rooster, with its sweet disposition, with its easy access to my heart. A rooster I once nicknamed Phantom because their face markings covered one side of their face like a mask.
I lost one. I refuse to give up another.
Keeping Hecate will make things complicated. I will have to keep worrying about the crowing, the neighbors complaining. Fertilized eggs. Waking up to the noise and knowing I won’t get back to sleep anytime soon.
But it’s the cost of admission. If there is one thing my soul will always be adamant about, it is that I will never — ever — try to simplify my life at the cost of cutting out love. If anything, my soul will always tug me — and tug me harder than my heart ever could — in the direction of love, come hell or high water.