First and very foremost, let me tell you this:
As of July 9th, I am an Aunt, for the very first time.
Gemma Grace Gibson is now part of my life and flesh and blood.
I already love her.
And I have never wanted to buy baby clothes so badly in my whole life.
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The world seems bursting with life, fresh eyed and tender footed, and in far greater profusion than last year. Last summer all my preparations, my energy, my preoccupations were focused on the swift approaching winter of my heart. The winter of my body, the time when death in small doses would claim bits of my flesh. I could not see the glory of the sun for my fear of the snow. And while I harvested summer's bounty, put up stores and made note of blooms, my thoughts were filled with winter and I shivered in the light.
But this season, this time around, the stakes have changed. New life surrounds me.
Just yesterday I sat in focused stillness watching a starling teach her young to forage. In the suburban expanse of the front lawn, she was iridescently black, sleek, and hopped on two stiff legs through the unmown dandelions. Her single remaining offspring, a fluffy mushroom colored thing, squawked incessantly. His gapping pink tongue would be a dead giveaway in dry grasses or squatting with the awkwardness of youth in the cedars, but here in the bounty of green fescue he was ready for every morsel she dropped into his waiting mouth. She would pop, pop, he was squeak, she would produce a small mystery the color of cherries, he would flap messily to her side and she would neatly place the treasure right down his gullet. This carried on as long as I could stay still. I lost count of the minutes in my adoration and childlike amusement. As an outsider, it seemed a silly teenage ploy for freebies, but deeper down I knew he was learning to survive. But aren't we all? Silly things, learning to survive?
Then last week, standing in the lingering heat of the valley as crickets sang, I watched the deer. A leggy doe, large-eared as any I've seen ambled just on the far side of fence. Her fawn, spotted brightly, spooked at leaves drifting down from the oaks, at fat and lazy bumblebees, at the sound of tires on asphalt from the road down the hill. I watched them with purposeful intent, trying to etch their forms in my mind, the tilt of an ear, the light in an eye in order to later record them. They picked along through the field, the doe leading the fawn towards the greenest shoots hidden alongside embankments and circling the trunks of trees. I tried to follow silently, but placed a heel right into a crackling mound of dry leaves. The fawn startled and tucked but the doe snapped her gaze right into mine. She raised her neck to full height without breaking her focus and pulled in long, slow breaths, testing the wind and my very human scent. Halting, the fawn followed suit, before they both turned tail and disappeared into the brush.
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