Dear IS,

Being with you and DS in the cow shed, filling the bucket with gruel and feeding the cows — I will never forget this. You, with your hitched up skirt and DS with her eyes that were soft, particularly in the presence of animals, and always slightly watery. Your devotion to her. Your laughter as we played Ludo. The way you sat with your back to the wall and your legs stretched out. Your shiny teeth.

I wondered why you wore white. I wondered how you and your sister didn’t look alike.

You always welcomed me, and when you scolded me, it was quick. I remember your place at the dining table. I don’t remember your room. I remember walking into the kitchen with the chimney and being fascinated watching the smoke rise. You let me feed the fire and I watched it crackle and hiss and when I carried my pail of hot water to the outdoor bathrooms (it was an adventure bathing there, near the well, hearing the birds), I looked at the cow shed and the field beyond. I was too young to know or want peace, but it was always there and I slept without a care, because of all the women who rose early in the morning. What a luxury, to be the kind of child I was, loved for nothing and everything. This wasn’t home, it never could be without my mother there, but I think you always understood that and because I always saw you as the one who laughed, I didn’t until now, realise this. Thank you.

 

The Peace of Wild Things
Wendell Berry

When despair for the world grows in me
and I wake in the night at the least sound
in fear of what my life and my children’s lives may be,
I go and lie down where the wood drake
rests in his beauty on the water, and the great heron feeds.
I come into the peace of wild things
who do not tax their lives with forethought
of grief. I come into the presence of still water.
And I feel above me the day-blind stars
waiting with their light. For a time
I rest in the grace of the world, and am free.

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